Dear Dr. Alan,
There seem to be three main issues here:
1. Whether or not we live in a 'dream' which is fundamentally unreal; and
2. Whether sense experience (or experience based on sense impressions) completely covers the scope of our experience.
3. If we can indeed have experiences which are not based on sense impressions, does this mean that those experiences are evidence of the 'real' world which exists separate to the 'dream' and of which we are generally unaware?
On the first point, it must be said that the burden of proof lies squarely on the Vedantin to show that our world is actually just a 'dream'. Put simply, it is just not self-evident that we are living in a 'dream'. None of the characteristics of this world remotely suggest that it is 'dreamlike' in any way. I alluded to this in my earlier post - this world just doesn't behave like a 'dream'. It's largely predictable, and is not dependent on our imagination for its existence or character. Whoever wants to say that this world is a 'dream' has to provide some
basis for that claim - I'm not saying there has to be physical evidence, but there has to be at least some logical basis for coming up with the claim in the first place, otherwise it's just an arbitrary assertion and cannot be convincing.
On the second point, again I'd say the burden of proof lies on the Vedantin to show that there are in fact experiences which cannot be explained in sensory terms. The thing is, if you think you have had a non-sensory experience, how do you know that you had it? The only way you can talk about such experiences at all is in sensory terms. Your very memory of the 'experience' is sensory. If you have some other basis upon which you talk about these 'non-sensory' experiences I'd love to hear about it (seriously).
On the third point, this seems like a legitimate question to ask. After all, maybe the 'dream' encompasses non-sensory experiences as well. I think it would be inconsistent to say on the one hand that our perception and knowledge is limited and on the other hand use that same limited perception/knowledge to make definite claims about 'dreams' and 'reality'. The main point is this: even if we did have non-sensory experiences, this does not show that we are living in a 'dream' and that there is a 'reality' in there or out there somewhere that we're generally not aware of. Non-sensory experiences could just be yet another fascinating part of the world we already live in.
As an example, consider the world of sense experience before anyone knew about bacteria: was bacteria part of the sense-experience of those people? Obviously not as "bacteria", but bacteria didn't suddenly become part of the world of sense experience the moment we 'discovered' it. It was always there - we just didn't have the tools to see it. People still died of bacterial infections even when they didn't know it was bacteria that caused the infection/death. The same can be said of these 'non-sensory' experiences - we don't understand them yet (we don't even know if everybody's non-sensory experiences are the same), but that doesn't mean they're 'other-worldly' any more than bacteria were 'other-worldly' before we discovered them. The trend is certainly that things we used not to understand about the world that we now do have all been physical/sensory, even when we thought they couldn't be. Bacterial infections used to be put down to acts of God or some other supernatural forces. We can now control and stave off bacterial infections - not through some transcendent understanding of 'reality', but because the scientific method has enabled us to do so. This has been the case for every single instance of this phenomenon. I think it would be a bit strange not to take this into account when assessing the 'probability' of there being 'more to the world than meets the eye'. Perhaps there is more to the world than 'meets the eye', but that doesn't mean that what will eventually 'meet the eye' is not sensory.
Why postulate that this is all a 'dream'? It almost seems as if you are committed to saying it is because it says so in the scriptures - but you can't really argue that we must be living in a dream because we have experiences we can't explain, and simultaneously base this assertion on an a priori
belief in the truth of the scriptures. If you think the scriptures are true, your argument from 'non-sensory' experiences is redundant - you'd still have to say we were living in a 'dream' whether or not we had non-sensory experiences, because this is what the scriptures tell you.
I'm open to the notion that there may be more in the world than what my 5 senses 'say', but there is also a general caution that needs to be applied when people like Vedantins come along and start talking about vague notions like 'dream' and 'reality'. What do those terms mean exactly? If we're going to talk about the structure and nature of the world and our experience it's just not good enough to employ terms which are little more than poetic allusions.
I keep getting the impression that this entire conversation needs to take a step back. You're saying things like "there are only two basic types of people in the world: those who understand reality and those who don't", before we've even established that there is
such a thing as 'reality' and so forth. You're arguing from a Vedantic point of view (which is completely fine), but there is some groundwork still to go before we can comfortably talk about things like 'reality' in a meaningful way.
You say, for example, that:
Dr.Alan wrote:Seeking truth comes from a person's own repeated experience that there is something more to the world than having been told by the normal information system (education etc.). These experiences maybe due to waking a little. [ how many times have you actually known in a dream at night, that the dream is actually a dream. This does happen - but it is very rare.]
I think this is a common phenomenon, but it should also be recognised that this phenomenon should be viewed subject to the considerations above regarding the nature of those experiences. How do we know that those experiences really are non-sensory in the first place? If they are non-sensory, how do we know that the non-sensory experiences of every person are the same? If they are the same, how do we know that they are all experiences of the 'reality' talked about in the scriptures? Whatever the conclusions of Vedanta, it's pretty clear that if you're going to base your argument on 'experience', there are many preliminary questions to be answered first, before we get into the efficacy of what Vedanta says about it all. If you want to base your argument on a trust of scripture, then that's fine too, but it's a separate argument - it's not helpful to conflate the two.
So, I'm not trying to shut you down, but I really do think that you need to clarify exactly what you mean when you say things like 'dream' and 'reality', and you also need to decide which way you're going to run your argument - on the basis of 'trust in the scriptures', or on the basis of 'experience'? As I said above, either way is fine, but they are different arguments and conflating them just gets confusing (because you end up justifying one with the other, and this is circular reasoning). You said at the beginning of your post that:
Dr.Alan wrote:What appears to be missing is the enquirers questions - "If this world is a kind of dream, and I am not able to either realise it or escape from it, what would I need to help me understand more about it, and find the way out? " - "From whom would this information be best acquired?"
My answer is that we are not at that point yet in this discussion. I'm not sure if this world is a dream or not, so I can't assume that it is in order to resolve that question. To put it in context - you would be just as loathe to assume that this world was in fact real and that were was no 'dream' etc. The only way we have to clarify our positions and analyse the arguments is reason and rationality/logic. Anything else is just wishful thinking, and I think neither of us would be satisfied with that.