Hacking Inception : Questioning Reality

17 Aug

Has it ever happened to you that you woke up from a dream, think you are awake, and then suddenly you wake up again and find yourself still lying in your bed? The problem is that you didn’t know that you were (still) dreaming, until you woke from that dream. However strange your dream may be, you do not realize how strange it actually is, until you wake up. So how can you be sure? Is this reality, or one more dream?

Inception is a fascinating movie that not only captivates you till the end, but also leaves you with many questions about the nature of the Reality. Cobb and his team use a technology that allows multiple people to share one dream, to ‘invade’ people’s minds and ‘steal’ information for clients. He is wanted by the United States government for murder on his wife Mal, and that is how he ended up in this not-so-legal business. When the powerful industrialist Saito approaches Cobb with the offer to use his influence to make Cobb’s criminal record disappear, so that he can finally go back to the U.S. and see his two small children again, Cobb cannot refuse. This is his one chance at being reunited with his children – but at what cost?

Saito asks Cobb whether he is able to perform ‘inception’ on another very powerful industrialist. Inception means ‘planting an idea in someone’s mind’. Saito asks him: “If you can steal an idea from someone’s mind, why can’t you plant one there instead?” One of Cobb’s teammates tells Saito that this is not possible, but then Cobb interferes: “I know it is possible… because I have done it before. You just have to go deep enough.”

Cobb and his team come up with a detailed plan for which they have to enter a dream within a dream within a dream, to place the most basic form of the idea into the subjects mind: the subject needs to form the idea so that he will believe it is his own. The whole planning gives a fascinating insight into how our mind works.

The movie Inception is based on spiritual knowledge from Yoga Vasistha


For this project Cobb also needs a very good ‘architect’, and he recruits the young Ariadne. Her job is to ‘design’ the dream world. However, Cobb warns her: “Never recreate places from your memory, always image new places. Because building a dream from your memory is the easiest way to lose your grasp on what’s real and what is a dream.” It is then that Cobb shows her a small spinning top. “All of us carry a totem with us. It is a small object, that you carry on you all the time and that no one else knows about – only you should know all about it.” He explains that by checking it, one knows for sure that he is not dreaming. Cobb uses the top – if it keeps spinning, without falling over, he knows he is still dreaming.

Cobb also tells Ariadne how he knows inception is possible: “My wife Mal and I were exploring the concept of a dream within a dream. I kept pushing things, I wanted to go deeper, go further. I just didn’t understand the concept that hours could turn into years down there, that we could get trapped down there, so deep, that we lost sight of what was real. To wake up from that, after years, decades, to have become old souls thrown back into youth like that, I knew something was wrong with her. Eventually she told me the truth. She was possessed by an idea, this one very simple idea, that changed everything: That our world wasn’t real. That she needed to wake up and come back to reality. That in order to get back home, we had to kill ourselves. She thought our children were projections. That our real children were waiting for us out there somewhere. She was certain. She killed herself. So I ran, left the country.”

In the end, when the job is completed, Cobb wakes up again on the airplane. His team members are sitting in different seats nearby – their job is done. They just look at him, one smiles. There are, however, no conversations, no interactions. When Cobb goes through customs, he is asked no questions, just allowed – the industrialist has kept his word. It makes you wonder, however, if the whole movie was not a dream he had while on the flight back to the United States, and his ‘team members’ are just different people on the flight that happened to smile or look at him…

Spinning Top in Inception - What is Reality?


When Cobb comes home, he almost can’t believe he’s finally home again. Cobb spins his top, to check if he’s really back to reality, but then he sees his children in the garden, he finally sees their faces again, and runs out to meet them. In the mean time, however, the top has still not stopped spinning… so we are left to wonder: is he still dreaming? And if so, was his wife Mal coming into his dreams maybe not his own projection, but his actual wife who, after ‘killing herself’ finally woke up to the real reality, and who keeps coming back into his dream, trying to get him to wake up…?

Those who have read the thrilling ancient Indian scripture ‘Yoga Vasistha’, can recognize instantly how the movie Inception has been inspired by the book.  In Yoga Vasistha, young prince Rama is disillusioned with life and Sage Vasishta gave him advice and knowledge. The book has many stories, told by sage Vasishta to Rama, that deal with the Ultimate Reality vis-a-vis the illusionary nature of the Universe.

One such story is about a lady called Leela who takes several births and dies several times and is then born as a queen. One day she goes off to sleep and dreams of dying and being reborn as a holy man who dies at an old age. Vasistha then explains to Rama that all this was happening in a dream inside a dream inside a dream in the mind of the ‘original’ dreamer, who was a poor lady in a hut and who had been asleep for only a few minutes! Rama was completely bewildered and asked Vasistha how the lady could dream of epochs in a few minutes. Vasistha said that in a moment of a dream an epoch can be dreamed of.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of The Art of Living says: “When you see everything as a dream, then you abide in your true nature. As you keep wondering whether all this is a dream, you will wake up to the real.”

Enjoy watching the movie (again)! And post any other interesting elements or dialogues of this movie that you find, as comments to this post! There are many more 😉


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18 responses to “Hacking Inception : Questioning Reality

  1. monikavpatel

    August 17, 2012 at 2:02 pm

    reading Yoga Vasishtha…and watching it again.. a new point of view.

  2. gopi

    August 17, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    grt inception into inception…..

  3. Mahesh Keer

    August 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Reminds me of the Keno Upanishads… Dream within a dream…. Mind of the mind!

  4. Mayank Sharma Dadhich

    August 17, 2012 at 4:33 pm

    Even in our life, it happens many a times when we dream for hardly few minutes we feel like we hav lived a part of life. Only knowledge can libreate from the real and the unreal part of us. In the Meditation too there comes a stage where we neither are in sleeping state nor in awaken state (where mind relax with no dreams and conciousness is still awake) named as Turya Avastha as said by Gurudev Sri Sri RavishankarJi.
    Brotha, do watch the ” Kung Fu Panda ” you may find the animated film as your base of the new article.

  5. amit

    August 17, 2012 at 6:11 pm

    i loved ur posts…this one and i watched the movie Groundhog Day…coz of the previous…thnx for posting..

  6. bhinesha

    August 17, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    Yeah that movie was really amazing and left me with these questions about our reality too. I have actually met two rare persons who could actually go back to their “dream” and finish it. I was able to do it once too. Very interesting.

  7. sugandha

    August 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Very nice!!!…when I saw the movie, this was exactly what came to my mind…its yoga vasistha!!

  8. satyam singh

    August 17, 2012 at 10:56 pm

    its a master piece Movie & a MUST WATCH.

    dialogue of the movie which i admire most — “Never recreate from your memory. Always imagine new places.”

    Plz…. next review for the movie “The Dark Knight Rises”

  9. Sachin

    August 17, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Cobb is suffering from Moh Maya (Childrens), Yog Maya (her ex wife) in the movie

  10. Ajax

    August 17, 2012 at 11:41 pm

    Pure bullshit and unnecessary fitting of a movie plot onto something abstract ..

  11. mkailkhura

    August 18, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Nice review Swamiji. In the final scene is Cobb awake or dreaming? Dont know! Right now are we awake or dreaming? I dont know! Good news is I am with someone who knows!

  12. shristi

    August 22, 2012 at 12:42 am

    Very well written. The ending is beautifully done !!

  13. Shilpa Rau

    August 31, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    I missed this article n read it nw, its very intresting n v well written…thanks fr writting it 🙂

  14. Mallika

    August 31, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    Really nicely put. Enjoyed reading it

  15. Shailesh

    September 13, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Swamiji, Harry Potter is another one worth expounding on. Brilliant examples in there

  16. Aleksandar Bajic

    September 14, 2012 at 1:19 am

    The movie is a masterpiece in terms of Director’s work. I admire generally Nolan’s movies a lot. this one, however, takes you emotionally many times through different realities, and above all, leaves you at the end with the strong doubt in the mind: Is this my reality real. ( this cinema, people, cars things I see and perceive and all that…)

    And funny enough, Yoga Vasishta is my favorite ancient scripture. It should be noted however that it is a masterpiece as well. Among the scriptures, off course, and is so pregnant with wisdom and strategic philosophical approach, that it definitely helps us to abide in that space – i”s this all really, really real? – well. it feels just like a dream”
    that’s the power of the holy scriptures. they have the potential to make it a reality for us. Sooner or later. And of course, Sudarshan Kriya makes it happen much sooner and simpler.

  17. preitythomas

    September 20, 2012 at 2:02 am

    Recently, i saw it for the third time. It gave me new insights. Most of the dialogues are pregnant with profound knowledge, like, you can’t build new dreams unless you get rid of the past memories. Finally, the last scene stunned me when an old Cobb comes to Saito & here it goes –
    “Saito: Cobb? [chuckles] Impossible. We were young men together. I’m an old man
    Cobb: Filled with regret.
    Saito: Waiting to die alone.
    Cobb: I’ve come back for you.. to remind you.. something… something you once knew. That this world is not real.
    Saito: To convince me to honor our arrangement.
    Cobb: To take a leap of faith, yes. Come back. So we can be young men together again. Come back with me.”

    Hasn’t the Master come at this time to remind all of us tht this world is not real & “to take a leap of faith”? 🙂 & was in tears of gratitude ……..

  18. Nisha

    July 25, 2017 at 8:52 am

    like her secret this one is so close to my heart!

    “She had locked something away,
    something deep inside.

    A truth that she had once known,
    but chose to forget.

    And she couldn’t break free.

    So I decided to search for it.

    I went deep into the recess of her mind
    and found that secret place.

    And I broke in..”

    ― Christopher J. Nolan

    when u know who that ‘she’ is!


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