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Concepts II - When we dream we see concepts


Question: Which object is experienced while we are dreaming?

Sujin: Everyone, except an arahat, is sure to dream. When we wake up we say that in our dream we saw a relative who passed away. While we were dreaming did we see a concept or a paramattha dhamma? If we do not consider this we will not know the truth. It seems as if we can really see in our dreams. However, if we ask someone what he sees in his dreams, he will answer that he sees people, relatives and friends, that he sees different beings. Thus, when we dream we see concepts. At such moments the eye-door process cittas do not arise because we are asleep. However, cittas arising in the mind-door process are thinking, they “see” beings and people. When we are dreaming we think of concepts that are conceived on account of what we formerly saw, heard or experienced through the other senses.

Also, when we read about different subjects in the newspaper and see pictures we only think of concepts; we don’t know the characteristics of paramattha dhammas (realities) that appear. We don’t know the difference between concepts and paramattha dhammas. When we read or perform our tasks in daily life, there is seeing of what appears through the eyes, but we pay attention only to concepts and keep on thinking of them.

Concepts are conceived on account of what was heard. A small child often hears sounds but it does not yet know words; it does not understand conventional language. It sees, hears, smells, tastes, experiences tangible object, it  experiences pain, it is angry, it has likes and dislikes, and it cries. However, it does not know words with which it can explain its feelings, it cannot speak yet until it has become older. Can anybody remember all that has happened from the moment he was born? Seeing, hearing, and other sense-cognitions arose but we could not use words to express ourselves since we did not yet understand the meaning of the different words used in speech. That is why the memory of the events of early childhood fades away. When we grow up we know the meaning of the different sounds which form up words in current speech, which are used to express ourselves. We take in more and more impressions through eyes and ears and combine these experiences, and thus many kinds of events of our lives can be remembered. The world of conventional truth expands and there is no end to its development.

When one reads a story one also wants to see a moving picture of it and hear the corresponding sounds. We should realise to what extent the world of conventional truth hides realities (paramattha dhammas). We should consider what are concepts, not paramattha dhammas, when we, for example, watch television, when we watch a play and look at people talking. It seems that the people who play in a film on television are real people, but the story and the people who play in it are only concepts. The paramattha dhammas that appear fall away very rapidly and then they are succeeded by other realities. When we know that there is a particular person the object of the citta is a concept.

The characteristics of paramattha dhammas are hidden because of ignorance, (avijja) which does not know the difference between paramattha dhammas and concepts (pannattis). Therefore, one is not able to realise that the realities appearing through the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body-sense and mind-door are not beings, a person, or self. If we study citta, cetasika (mental factors), and rupa in more and more detail the intellectual understanding of the Dhamma will develop. This understanding is accumulated and thus conditions are developed for the arising of sati (mindfulness) which can be directly aware of the characteristics of paramattha dhammas. Thus, there can be more detachment from the outward appearance (nimitta) and the details (anuvyanjana) which are forms of pannatti.


Topic ID  289
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