So I had a dream, big whoop, and yet I think that somehow dreams matter, matter much more than we usually care. Some people don’t remember their dreams at all as if they don’t have any and on most nights I belong in the same category but, I believe, dreams still have impact on our consciousness, or rather subconsciousness in the modern speak.
My main point, thought, is that dreams are just as real as an “objective reality”.
In a normal discussion one cannot bring up whatever he saw in his dream as an argument. Dreams are a fiction of one’s mind, even Śrīla Prabhupāda classified them this way, so they shouldn’t be taken seriously. This doesn’t tell the whole picture, though.
It’s true only in our conditioned frame of reference where we see workings of our minds as fundamentally different from external, observable, and therefore objective reality we all share. There’s a universe outside us and we are all a part of it. Things that happen within the universe are a common experience for us all. Whatever happens within our minds cannot be observed by outsiders and is not replicable, and therefore is not objective and inadmissible as evidence.
The actual reality is different, very different. We all are just a collection of souls outside of time and space. There’s no distance between us or between us and the Lord. The universe can be as big or as small as we can possibly imagine because our perception of it depends on our particular illusioning.
The actual reality is our relationship with Kṛṣṇa that is perverted by the illusion. At this point He serves us a virtual reality where we can pretend He doesn’t exist and imagine ourselves as doers and free willers and enjoyers. The purpose of the illusion is to satisfy this desire and it doesn’t really matter how, just that the objective is met.
When we look at the world this way the difference between external and internal disappears, those are conventions based on the false ego. Ultimately, both dreams and “real” events are based on the same material energy. We can’t observe anything beyond this world and we can’t dream of anything not rooted in our physical experiences either.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether pleasing thoughts and feelings come to us in real or in a dream world, experience is the same. We can say that in real world it lasts longer but perception of time in the dream is different. REM sleep might last only a few minutes but what we think happens to us in our dream always lasts much longer.
Dreams manifest what goes on in our subconscious, they reveal thoughts and desires we don’t have time for during waking hours. They always feel very familiar even if they are about things that never actually happened in real life, like Prabhupāda’s example of a golden mountain. I bet when one sees a golden mountain in his dream it feels very familiar and serves one’s cherished desires. We might not be aware of our subconscious but it’s ours and psychologists say that it hides our innermost hopes or fears. Dreams reveal them.
The power of our subconscious over our behavior should never be underestimated. Politicians and advertisers know it better than most and always seek to penetrate our subconscious mind. The easiest way is, perhaps, through manipulating our emotions. Deeper than that is manipulating our fears, as common in political advertising. They can also get to us through nationalism or through our care about the planet or through our identification with the whole humanity. Whatever desires we reveal in our actual lives, they seek to latch on them and sneak in their own agenda.
Once desire is planted as deep within the soul rationality goes out of the window. Or rather everything that serves to fulfill this desire automatically becomes rational. In a way it actually is because material nature has to follow the laws when accommodating our wants, it doesn’t behave in an irrational way.
Perhaps the most amazing thing about the illusion is how it manages to accommodate everyone’s desires at the same time, no matter how incompatible they appear. Fruits might not be served at the same time but processes that lead to fructification are at work simultaneously.
How does it do that? Perhaps it’s a wrong question to ask.
It does not “accommodate our desires”, we do not give it extra work and force it to adjust its plans – it does only what it was programmed to do and all “our” desires exist there already, we only appropriate them under the influence of the false ego.
These desires do not come from nowhere, they are part of an endless chain of action and reaction and it’s impossible to detach desires from conditions that caused them.
Neither it is possible to detach dreams from “reality”, they are part of the same illusion.
We can say that dreams are an illusion within the illusion but it’s still part of the same spiritual reality, without quotation marks around it – Kṛṣṇa serving our need to live a life without Him.
So, when it comes to satisfying our souls it doesn’t really matter whether it happens in dreams or in a real world. Dreams cross into reality and reality causes dreams, and it all feels about the same with only relative differences. For most of us horrors in our dreams rarely match any fears we have in real life, for example.
The dream I described yesterday affected my attitude towards evolution of ISKCON and by thinking about it I can see how it rationally follows my real life observations. The effect would have been there regardless but now I’m more aware of it, which is always a good thing.
It’s always good to disassociate ourselves from whatever goes on in our minds and find external reasons instead. Desires are our own, of course, but their manifestation isn’t. In fact, we have only one underlying desire, our rebellion against Kṛṣṇa, but it can be expressed in an infinite variety of ways, just as expressions of bhakti have no limits, too.
This underlying desire is most regrettable but I don’t see how we can effectively deal with it if we are unaware of its existence, if we throw ourselves at everything we see and misidentify ourselves with everything under the sun. This forces us to deal with symptoms, not cure the underlying material disease.
Chanting of the Holy Names goes straight to the heart of the matter even if we don’t understand how it works. The Name speaks directly to the soul even when our consciousness is directed elsewhere. It won’t be as effective, of course, but it will still work, chipping away at our coverings syllable by syllable. Little strokes fell great oaks, as they say.
That’s why patience and perseverance is of utmost importance in chanting.