A few days ago I was very tired and didn’t wake up at the usual time. I hit snooze on my alarm a few times, still didn’t feel rested enough to get up. Moved the alarm an hour later, hit snooze again, then turned it off altogether and decided to sleep in, even if with somewhat guilty consciousness.
Just as I decided to abandon my plans and I sleep until I wake up on my own I had a powerful, vivid dream unlike any I’ve had in a long time. The best part about it was it featured devotees and so when I finally woke up I felt my self-indulgence was justified.
The most important component of a dream is often the impression it leaves in the mind. The content might be unremarkable, even in cases when guru or the Lord make an appearance they are unlikely to say anything we haven’t heard before, unless giving very specific instructions. It’s just when these same words appear in a context of a vivid dream they impress us so much more.
I’m not sure I can convey the vividity of this one in mere words. It felt more real than my usual reality. Maybe it’s because in the dream I was traveling and so had new, unfamiliar experiences.
I stayed in a big posh hotel with two non-nondescript friends whose names I don’t remember and probably didn’t know even in the dream itself. We were on some kind of vacation, probably something like in Hangover movies except there was no drinking or any kind of debauchery at all, we were out to explore new land – it was somewhere in Eastern Ukraine where there’s a war going on. There was no war in a dream, though, we just wanted to take in the natural beauty of the place.
I’ve never been there and from looking at the photos on the Internet I don’t see how it could be reasonably described as beautiful but there was this amazing lake, big, busy, the center of attraction. I remember walking along the embankment and watching men, women, kids, and entire families swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. The water was dark and I wondered if it was salty, like in the sea, or fresh. The lake was very long but not very wide and big ships and small boats were passing not very far from the shore in both directions. The atmosphere was electrified with business, hope, relaxation, and a general feeling that karma had something big prepared for this place.
This was the part that caught my attention. Next I woke up in the hotel room, high above the lake, opened heavy curtains and took the whole view in again. It was really amazing. The hotel itself was designed with the idea of luxury from Soviet times, I guess. Big heavy furniture, high ceilings etc.
Next part was in a hotel restaurant. Me and my friends were sitting in the row of tables facing the stage. Waiters filled our glasses with cool water, we unfolded crisp napkins and waited for the vegetarian part of the set dinner. That’s when I noticed a devotee woman a few tables over. I walked up, sat in front of her and introduced myself. She was genuinely glad to see me and we both were very excited. She chatted with me like I was an old friend and even asked me how I manage to control my sex life.
I thought she was asking for my view on sex within marriage but I replied that I feel old enough to simply wait it out and give up sex altogether. She didn’t like this answer at all, it was not what she expected. There was also a moment when she asked me look inside her mouth and check if her tongue had excessive coating, which would indicate potential health problems.
Her tongue was clean, I said, and noticed that her mouth was unusually big, like a cave, but everything was very neat inside it, all the teeth were white and healthy looking, there was no odor. That’s a perfectly good mouth to belt out Holy Name with, I thought. Only devotees have those. Still, I had an uncomfortable feeling that her next request would be even more awkward.
Luckily, the subject quickly changed when she brought in her two kids, two twin brothers, dressed in while kurtas and dhotis, both lively, curious, and clearly healthy eaters. Devotees’ kids are remarkable, I thought to myself as we exchanged small talk. I also thought that Kṛṣṇa must surely like these two little boys and considers them His cherished treasure.
Then it turned out that there were plenty more devotees around. Suddenly they got up on stage and started chanting while others were walking among the guests with karatālas and little gongs. They were all dressed in vaiṣṇava clothes, nice white dhotis with elaborate embroidery, exquisite kurtas, and women were wearing beautiful saris, too. They were really a pleasure to look at and their singing was attractive but not overwhelming. I remember them singing Dāmodarāṣṭaka prayers accompanied by a harmonium.
One of them was playing karatālas with chopstics, ie they were not tied up together with string but he inserted chopsticks where the string should go and controlled them like that. He gave them to me but I had no idea how to hold them. After a while he took them back, when he saw that I was a crappy player.
There’s one important thing I noticed during this part – devotees loved showing off themselves and acted like little stars, expecting everyone to like and adore them just because they where there and made claims to everyone’s attention. This kind of pride is based on Kṛṣṇa’s mercy, I thought, not on personal ego. They do not attribute their attractiveness to themselves, I thought, but it still felt a bit off.
When kīrtana was over another group gathered around me and I found out that they were from Kazakhstan, some where from Siberia, and some where from Russia’s Volga region. I desperately tried to remember one single name but I don’t know anyone from those parts of the world.
Then I remembered a temple president I knew in the 90s and turned out they knew him, too. I was so caught up in the moment to establish good rapport with them that I implied that we were very close but the truth is that we weren’t friends in any sense, he was older than me and in every way my senior, and I seriously doubt he remembered me at all. I’ve never been to his temple either, we met elsewhere.
That’s when I caught myself completely off track. I was trying to make a positive impression, score some brownies, and misrepresented myself. It felt like lying and being caught in the lie but there was no time nor opportunity to correct myself, nor did I want to upset the devotees who were sincerely happy to meet such a “distinguished” devotee, a personal friend of one of the pillars of their Russian community.
I woke up before I could do anything about it.
Tbh, I didn’t like this encounter at all and if I had a choice to view this dream again would have probably preferred to stay hidden. They had a strong sense of community I didn’t want to be a part of, and not just because they are Russians but because they represent a new ISKCON I’m not familiar with. They have different values, present themselves differently, and I’m just too old for these new tricks.
I have no doubt Kṛṣṇa is very pleased with them and supports them in every way but it’s just not for me, not in my present body and my present conditioning.
Was this dream my subconscious telling me what I generally do not dare to think in awakened state? I’ve never had these feelings in association of real devotees but, perhaps, I actually never admitted to myself that it was exactly how I felt.
What I appreciated in my attitude that it wasn’t in any way offensive. I just accepted that Kṛṣṇa likes these devotees as they are even if I don’t. I also didn’t feel like I was missing anything by not subscribing to this “we know a better way to live” attitude. It’s better, true, but it’s still materialistic in its outlook, Kṛṣṇa engages and purifies them and it’s good but I sense He has different plans for me. Maybe I will be elevated to their position in the next life, they are practically His gotra now but I’m still not, still an outsider hoping for acceptance, and not acceptance in the material world either.
But if it’s necessary I would have not take birth again. So be it.