As one mistakenly considers a flower garland to be a snake or experiences happiness and distress in a dream, so, in the material world, by a lack of careful consideration, we differentiate between happiness and distress, considering one good and the other bad.
The happiness and distress of the material world of duality are both mistaken ideas. In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta (Antya 4.176) it is said:
”dvaite” bhadrābhadra-jñāna, saba——”manodharma”
”ei bhāla, ei manda”,——ei saba ”bhrama”
The distinctions between happiness and distress in the material world of duality are simply mental concoctions, for the so-called happiness and distress are actually one and the same. They are like the happiness and distress in dreams. A sleeping man creates his happiness and distress by dreaming, although actually they have no existence.
The other example given in this verse is that a flower garland is originally very nice, but by mistake, for want of mature knowledge, one may consider it a snake. In this connection there is a statement by Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī: viśvaṁ pūrṇa-sukhāyate. Everyone in this material world is distressed by miserable conditions, but Śrīla Prabodhānanda Sarasvatī says that this world is full of happiness. How is this possible? He answers, yat-kāruṇya-katākṣa-vaibhavavatāṁ taṁ gauram eva stumaḥ. A devotee accepts the distress of this material world as happiness only due to the causeless mercy of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu. By His personal behavior, Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu showed that He was never distressed but always happy in chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra. One should follow in the footsteps of Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu and engage constantly in chanting the mahā-mantra—Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Then he will never feel the distresses of the world of duality. In any condition of life one will be happy if he chants the holy name of the Lord.
In dreams we sometimes enjoy eating sweet rice and sometimes suffer as if one of our beloved family members had died. Because the same mind and body exist in the same material world of duality when we are awake, the so-called happiness and distress of this world are no better than the false, superficial happiness of dreams. The mind is the via medium in both dreams and wakefulness, and everything created by the mind in terms of saṅkalpa and vikalpa, acceptance and rejection, is called manodharma, or mental concoction.