Vanity thought #1346. Another day, another dream

Actually another night but sometimes I have massive dreams during afternoon naps, too. Speaking of naps, some say they are good for health, others say that it’s a waste of time, as they require more sleep for the same result than adding just a few more minutes at night. Śrīla Prabhupāda didn’t have a problem with devotees taking rest if they felt tired.

Personally, instead of napping my body sometimes completely shuts down and I lose all connection to reality and go into the deepest sleep possible. Coming back from it requires several seconds for the consciousness to penetrate all the limbs and systems and it takes several minutes for the mind to gather itself up. It’s like rebooting an old computer.

Deep sleep is supposed to be closer to transcendental state than any other but I don’t understand how it works. When a devotee finally reaches transcendence he doesn’t go through sleep stages, he reaches it straight from being fully awake. Going to sleep, otoh, is taking shelter of the mode of ignorance, how could it be closer to transcendence? Maybe it’s closer in a sense that one is less conditioned than usually, less absorbed in the illusion, but then how’s that different from being in total ignorance? Rocks aren’t closer to the spiritual platform just because they are unaware of the world around them.

Or maybe they are.

Sometimes I entertain this crazy idea that we don’t really leave material world even when we achieve liberation. Instead we reduce the degree to which our consciousness interacts with it. Devotees get their siddha-deha but impersonalists and Buddhists might very well get birth as rocks and other apparently inanimate objects – less distraction from doing nothing. I haven’t really thought this through but it seems like a wise thing to do if one can’t get an entrance into Kṛṣṇa’s pastimes. What else are we going to do here? Suffer the illusion of happiness? Fool me once, fool me twice, but after a while people should get enough intelligence to stay away from promises of material dreams. They never work out in the long run.

So, one night I had a very long dream, much longer than usual. Maybe I was going in and out of the REM sleep and resuming the same dream from where I left off or maybe dreams really compress time. Mine lasted several hours, probably more than six, judging by the content. Just checked the internet – REM sleep can last from several seconds to several minutes and in total it could reach two hours during an eight hour sleep. My dream lasted longer than that, longer than the total time I spent in bed.

The only interesting part of it was at the end, the introduction included me hanging out with an old vegetarian friend who took up eating meat maybe ten years ago. We went to see his new business, spent a lot of time there, and were returning to my place when I spotted a school celebrating the end of the school year.

From the road one could usually see the school in between the buildings only briefly but traffic was slow and we had a good look at it. The festival was massive. Maybe thousands of students were out, on all floors, in every window, singing and dancing. The whole building was illuminated well into the evening and I noticed that this school had a new name. It’s the name that stopped me.

Some twenty years ago I regularly attended programs in the house of an old devotee, Śrīla Prabhupāda’s disciple who got his place in ISKCON’s history. He was a sannyāsī for maybe a decade but then melted away in the 80s. Everyone did. When I saw him he had a successful business and his wife just gave birth to a son, so it was a big project for him – fatherhood. And now he had bought this school and renamed it after himself. His name was written as a large sign made of lights on the school’s facade “So and So’s School”. They don’t usually name schools like this but it looked normal to me in the dream.

I remembered that I read about this transaction maybe a year ago in local news but I didn’t know about the name change. I decided to stop and check it out. We drove to school’s car park and walked to the main stage from there. What was noticeable is that despite everyone’s enthusiasm and obvious love for their “alma-mater” it was actually a sad event as the school went bankrupt and was forced to close down. It wasn’t just the end of the school year, it was the end of the school itself. Not a good news.

All the students and all the staff we saw were elated, tears filled their eyes and they were good tears, their hearts were joyous and even though there was visible apprehension about their future they enjoyed their last moments of comfort and safety of their familiar environment. The school was like a home to them and now it was the time to say good-bye and move on.

Then I finally found my old friend. Well, given the age and rank difference he wasn’t “my friend” but we’ve spent enough hours discussing this and that for me to feel being closer to him than to other devotees of his generation. Not that I was his “fan” but he appreciated me as his audience, and he certainly loved to talk.

Hmm, karma came to catch up with him, I thought. All that vanity he couldn’t escape in his life eventually crumbled. Success was gone, there was nothing to be proud of anymore, nothing to boast about left, there was time to finally seek the shelter of Kṛṣṇa’s lotus feet.

He was devastated by the failure of his school, he thought it could have been his legacy and a pet project during his retirement but it was taken away. His main business wasn’t growing anymore and it was a “been there, done that” thing anyway, and he invested all his time and energy into this school but now it failed.

He said he thought he could turn it around but the facilities were run down and needed a major capital investment he could not afford, and without state of the art facilities the school wasn’t competitive enough to survive in the modern age. It also didn’t have the right kind of vibe for the modern day parents, where I live people aren’t into tradition of something like English public school system, they want everything new, modern and a step ahead of the times.

This school wasn’t any of that, but it was a happy place for those who went through it. Hours of studies instead of cramming for tests, nurturing relationships instead of competitions, discipline instead of “let children decide what they want” – all those things are unattractive to modern parents but children who actually experience them won’t trade it for anything else.

So, my friend tried to preserve all this but failed. Everything he invested in it was gone. And yet, as a devotee, he knew that it was for his ultimate benefit and I could see it in his face – the struggle between his attachments and his conscious desire to surrender to the Lord. On one hand it was a valiant effort with good intentions, on the other hand Kṛṣṇa was signaling him to give it up and dedicate his life strictly to service.

Oscillating between his material self-identification and his spiritual identity as Kṛṣṇa’s servant was tough, it was even tough to watch – one wave of emotions was overcome by another coming from the opposite direction, then it tried to retake his consciousness only to lose again.

Gone was his usual lion-like stature, his body shriveled. He didn’t become old, just smaller in every dimension – shorter, thinner, lighter. It was as if life force was sucked out of him. When I met him first it as the opposite – life was exuding from him in every direction, every word was filled with energy, hope, and enthusiasm, and everything was going his way. Not anymore.

Unfortunately, I didn’t see how it all ended, my last memory of this dream was watching his anguish interspersed with acceptance of his new fate.

Of course it was all only a product of my imagination, I don’t believe it was any kind of supernatural connection, not an omen, not a premonition, and he didn’t actually buy any schools in real life. It would be unfair to ascribe any of these events to him at all. BUT, that’s how my subconscious sees him and this impression is based on real life events. Who’s to say that it’s less accurate than what I think about this devotee when I’m awake?

More importantly, the struggle between surrendering to Kṛṣṇa and our attachment to our mundane achievements is universal, we all WILL have to live through it sooner or later, so we better be prepared as it won’t be easy.

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