Understanding and overcoming the vital recoil from life that thereby considers everything to be vain and illusory is one thing, but when we come to the mental level, the justification and arguments are much more potent and hard to dispel, due to the very nature of the mind, which is not an instrument of knowledge. The mind can entertain both sides of a proposition and justify them equally well. Thus, when the mind takes up the question of the illusory nature of the world and our efforts, it is generally a compelling argument and one that cannot be overcome at the level of mental understanding.
This has led to various philosophical statements and systems that utilize the analogy of the dream as a way of describing the life in the world. No matter how real it seems, no matter how important our goals may appear, no matter how much we strive and struggle, no matter how much we progress, the argument goes, in the end, it is all just a dream, and when we wake from that dream, we recognize it as such.
Sri Aurobindo discusses this issue in the following passage: “It is difficult for the positive physical mind to admit the idea that ourselves, the world and life, the sole thing to which our consciousness bears positive witness, are inexistent, a cheat imposed on us by that consciousness: certain analogies are brought forward, the analogies especially of dream and hallucination, in order to show that it is possible for the experiences of the consciousness to seem to it real and yet prove to be without any basis or without a sufficient basis in reality; as a dream is real to the dreamer so long as he sleeps but waking shows it to be unreal, so our experience of the world seems to us positve and real but, when we stand back from the illusion, we shall find that it had no reality.”
Of course, this is not the sole or final possible answer to the riddle of life and the world. We shall explore the analogy of the dream further in the next post.
reference: Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 5, The Cosmic Illusion; Mind, Dream and Hallucination, pg. 419