Nigun Brahman, Sagun Brahman and AvatAr

Swami TadAtmAnanda of Arsha Bodha Center, in one of his talks on Bhagavad Gita, explains the above three with the help of the metaphor of a dream. I have attempted to improve it with a lucid dream, i.e., the dreamer knows that it is a dream. X sleeps in a bed. His mind projects a dreamer Y and a dream out of vasanas. Y is different from X. They belong to two different orders of reality. X is in the waking world and Y is in a dream world. There are many characters in the dream world and for them, the dream is not a dream; it is a waking state. Y is a special dream character as he knows that it is a dream. To avoid confusion, the dream character Y is named Z. Y is the creator, sustainer, and destroyer of the dream. The dream characters have no idea at all about X of the waking world. X belongs to a higher order of reality. X is transcendental so to say and is like Nirgun Brahman. Y is like Sagun Brahman (Ishwar). Z who knows that it is a dream is like an Avatar.
Note: As it is a metaphor it has some limitations.

3 thoughts on “Nigun Brahman, Sagun Brahman and AvatAr

  1. Dear Bimal,

    Interesting! I have wondered why no traditional teacher has ever (to my knowledge) referred to lucid dreams. There must certainly be scope for incorporating these into a metaphor to explain something!

    I feel you need to expand the above explanation, however. I am not clear that it actually explains any Advaita teaching. (Although it is quite late and my mental clarity declines through the day!)

    Can you actually equate the characters in your dream with jIva-s in the waking state? After all, they are imaginations of your mind and you cannot say that jIva-s are imaginations of Ishvara. It seems to me that the use of the metaphor in the way that (it seems) you present it has to pre-suppose eka-jIva-vAda. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Best wishes,

  2. Dear Dennis,
    A lucid dream is uncommon and perhaps because of this, it is not used as a metaphor in Advaita teaching. However, a lucid dream seems to explain AvatAr posited between Brahman and Ishvara on one side and jivas on another side. Dream characters correspond to jivas of the waking world. As I do not know much about Eka-jiva-vAda, I searched some posts and tried to understand them. It seems that in EJV, each jiva sees the world as his/her
    dream. I do not think it has any meaningful relevance to the lucid dream metaphor. Personally, EJV does not impress me.

  3. Dear Bimal,

    EJV doesn’t impress me either (or Shankara)! Which is why I queried your explanation. In my dream, all of the dream characters exist only in my mind. So, to draw an analogy with the waking state, you would seem to be saying that all jIva-s exist only in the mind of Ishvara. I could not see any other way of making the comparison.

    By ‘avatar’ I understand ‘someone’ like Krishna in the Gita; i.e. a God incarnated as a jIva. So are you saying that Krishna is the ‘lucid manifestation of Ishvara in the waking state’, with all of the jIva-s being the ‘dream characters’ of Ishvara? This would make the entire creation the dream of Ishvara?

    Interesting but not quite Advaita as I know it…

    Best wishes,

Comments are closed.