Monastery dream

This post has been sitting as a draft for more than half a year so it’s not “just had a very vivid dream” and some details have become hazy, some disappeared altogether, but I still remember it and want to say a few words about it before letting it go. If I started this post from scratch I would have done it differently, but, in respect to my memories from back then, I’d rather edit what I started and continue from where I left the draft. So, here it goes.

Still don’t know what to do with this blog but I just had a very vivid dream that I want to save for posterity. A few years ago I had a similar dream that I still remember in detail and it became a model of our journey through this world, possibly permanently etched into my memory. These dreams capture essential ideas of our experiences and express them in unusual but highly memorable ways. Clicking on dream/dreams tag brings up probably a dozen mind blowing dreams I documented over the years. The one I mean here was the first, from 2012.

New dream was about my life in some sort of a monastery. It wasn’t ISKCON exactly because it lacked certain identifying marks – there were no deities, it was not really a temple, and there was no ideological rigidity, but there were feasts and there were some real devotees present – Bhakti Vikasa Swami, for one.

Somehow physical description of the place was very important. It felt like it was traditional cave dwellings for sadhus, like a line of caves I’ve seen in photographs of Petri or some places in India. The spirit of cave dwelling was there, the place was curved into natural rock, but it also had features of a traditional ashram – long verandas with entrances to each monk’s quarters, and top floor had windows from which you could climb out onto the roof over lower floors. That area was like a beach where residents would come out to take in the sun and relax, but what was beyond that roof was not really revealed. It wasn’t a building, it wasn’t planned this way, and it wasn’t level – I lived on a far right side where there was only the top floor and veranda leading to other monks quarters was a downward slope. Today’s insert – I remember it as a face of a cliff with ground level starting to rise from left to right, eventually reaching the top – that’s where there were windows and “rooftop” access. The dream started at the bottom and progressed to the top, or left to right. “Caves” were huge inside at the bottom but at the top, where we got windows, they turned into small one person rooms.

Because of this location I was kind of an outsider to the community – the main part where there were many more rooms and bigger halls used for gatherings and serving prasadam. They were all below top level and had no windows, it was always dark and damp inside, and very austere. In the beginning they were populated by the “first people” and I sort of knew them but not by names, and pretty soon they disappeared somewhere and were replaced by new generations. There was a hierarchy there, there was seniority, there emerged “meisters”, but “first people” were very few and they were all equal. I wasn’t really one of them, as I said, but due to me being there long enough I got to be treated as a senior myself, which will come up later. Today’s addition – physically, I saw only the artifacts left by the first people – piles of things in the corners, occasional metal dishes etc. First people appeared in the dream as shadows of themselves, or, actually, as shafts of light. They spoke, but not in words – they spoke truths. Words to describe these truths weren’t invented yet. I don’t know where first people disappeared to, but I was one of the last ones to catch their glimpse. The cavernous halls where they originally lived stayed empty and untouched out of respect. The populated part started immediately to the right (the dream always progressed from left to right, which was also up the slope) so people would always remember that their history is on the other side of the wall but never actually go there because first people’s presence there was reality no longer possible to grasp by mundane senses. 

We were all there to seek after Absolute Truth. There was no label attached, the Truth was not defined – it was a matter of discovery, not assertions, and it was obvious to all that the Truth must be found “inside”, through the process of self-realization and looking beyond physicality of our perceptions.

One of my first memories from that time is that of a female devotee who I intended to marry when I was still living in the temple. I knew who she was in the dream but she was present more as an idea – there was no face, no bodily features to remember, nothing. Just something vaguely gray, as in dressed in gray robes. We did communicate, though, and we both knew that the proposition was about sex, but we understood that spiritual connection was first and foremost. After talking about our respective paths to the Truth we realized that our roads are going to be different and physical union would be detrimental to our spiritual progress. And so I left and didn’t think about it again. She disappeared somewhere along with “first people” and that was the end of it.

When I later went to the same place it was full of devotees and they were having a feast. It was in a cave like cavern, though, so there was no light. I could not make any devotees’ faces or features, only their aluminium lottas were visible in the darkness. They were sitting in a line coiling around the room like a snake and this room also had a second floor, more like a gallery along the walls, and it was also filled with feasting devotees. I got myself a place at the end of the line but someone spotted me and invited me to talk with one of the elders, who was very kind and appreciative but I don’t remember any of that conversation. We shared memories and appreciation for the first people, much of it non-verbal. It was nice, devotees offered me a seat and fed me sumptuously, but I didn’t know anyone either in his entourage or among devotees feasting in the main room so there was nothing for me there apart from eating and I never returned to that place again.

Next I turned my attention to the girl living right next to me, literally the first room as I would go from my place down to that main area. I had no illusions what I wanted from here, it was the same proposition – sex. This time we talked for a long long time, on multiple occasions, and got really really close – only spiritually, however, as there was no descending into physicality of any kind, and it ended in the same way – getting married deemed to be detrimental to spiritual progress. Close association with that girl, however, made the biggest impressions of my dream. I saw her making progress, moment by moment, from one encounter to the next, and soon I wasn’t able to keep up.

Our community didn’t have any rules or regulative principles, we were simply searching for Truth, and if members thought that sex was part of that path then it wasn’t a question of breaking any taboos. When I was with that girl we didn’t discuss sex, we rather talked about the Truth. Initial attraction to sex itself was there in both of us but as we meditated together – I don’t have a better word for what we practiced – we both found that physical expression of our relationships would only be distracting to the “union of souls”, so to speak. We had much better time in each other’s company without descending into physicality of our bodies. As I said earlier – in our community it was obvious to all that Truth is hiding within us and is approached through introspection and transcending material bodily level, and somehow there was none of that all pervasive attitude that “bodies have needs”. We all knew that it’s not true and that it’s actually “mind over matter” in every respect.

As we spent time together I noticed that our goals and values started to diverge, that she was making some real mystical progress but I wasn’t. She was going deeper and deeper into states I wasn’t allowed into and physically it resulted in walls going up at the entrance to her room. They were like barriers I’d have to go around to see her. Then they started to multiply with lots of twists and turns to reach the inner chamber, and when I reached there she wasn’t too happy to see me. It was like passing through a labyrinth and then passages became narrower so that I physically couldn’t make turns there. These walls were not built, they just appeared there by her mystic power.

In one way I was upset at losing her association but at the same time I had absolutely no problems with my own life – I rather felt that it was her who was going in the wrong direction instead.  Her progress wasn’t a challenge for me, I really appreciated it, but I didn’t want any of it for myself. Eventually she stopped talking to me, barely acknowledging my presence, but knew I was there and that we had some shared roots.

Then it happened. Like a butterfly in a cocoon one night she came came out as a completely different creature. Physically, she was the same, a small skinny girl, but no more meditation and no more austerities – her path was complete. She stood on the roof of some building on THIS side of the cliff, not on the other side where our windows were, sort of in a courtyard. Everybody poured out to see what was going on, no one stayed in their rooms, the place was filled with people going “ooh” and “aah”. She stood on the edge of that roof and divine light was shining on her and she commanded it. She commanded everything. She shed her clothes but somehow a myriad of butterflies showed up and covered her naked body to protect her. She commanded this butterfly cloud as well. She commanded rain and thunder, she became a Goddess.

Then somehow she appeared right in front of me and offered herself. Not sexually but I was invited to take part in the spiritual union with her. She was naked, as I said, but her private parts were covered by butterfly made “bikini”, and where her body was open her skin became golden and self-effulgent. She was enticing me, displaying her mystical and spiritual opulences. She was not standing on the ground but hovering just above it. Everybody offered their obeisances, every eye was fixed on her form, but I somehow wasn’t impressed and simply passed on her invitation. I turned and walked away, up to my own room. She was disappointed but she had hundreds if not thousands of new admirers who became her servants, followers, disciples, her flock – I didn’t care.

That was the first time I was aware of my own room in this dream. It was high up, meaning to the extreme right in my dream’s geography, and therefore it had a window, a huge opening, actually, on the other side. Early morning sunlight, very orange, was pouring in and reflecting off the walls, off the bed, off the table. It wasn’t furniture, actually – it was all made of polished cement so by itself the room was dark grey or brown but the sun filled with with light and incredible sense of lightness as well. I don’t know how I meditated there before or what kind of spiritual activities I practice, but now it was obvious – the truth was on the other side of the window.

Somehow I have a feeling that, like with that girl undergoing a transformation, my window got much much bigger this morning. Like before it was small and high and therefore impossible to look out of but today it was like the entire wall disappeared and my room just opened up on that side. So I just walked out onto the roof, which was like a beach area because many saffron clad devotees were out there enjoying the sun. That’s where I met Bhakti Vikasa Swami, btw. He didn’t talk to me personally but was glad I joined the party.

This roof wasn’t wide, maybe a dozen or so steps to the edge, and it was made out of wavy roof tiles, of a reddish brown, almost orange color. Beyond the roof, however, started gardens that stretched as far as eye could see. Perhaps they were very beautiful but I didn’t really look. As I said earlier, it was like a beach – very long but not wide, and instead of the blue sea there was a sea of green trees, pastures etc. Devotees were chanting and singing there, blissfully, and it was the world unlike the caves/monastery I started this journey from. I didn’t feel the need to return to the monastery or to my room either, and yet the roof was clearly a temporary location, too.

Unfortunately, that’s where my dream ended.

When writing about my dreams I traditionally explain their connection with Krishna consciousness but at the moment I’m exhausted from typing. I do see this dream as a reflection of my personal spiritual journey, however. Actual ISKCON devotees appearing on the roof top beach was also very appropriate, but I have no clear explanation of the “goddess” part of the dream. I just feel like it’s some form of śaktism. It brings perfection but on THIS side of the border whereas the Truth clearly starts at the rooftop and then stretches into the ocean of green and that’s all I can say about it at the moment.

I just wanted to resurrect this old post before I start writing about something else, something that has been on my mind for a few days already, so forgive me for not rounding it up nicely.

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Vanity thought #1593. Stolen by injuns Part 3

The dream I was talking about for two days was awesome but without learning any lessons from it would be only self-indulgence. There’s also a bigger picture here about generic reactions and what they tell us about reality.

First, the follow up. I already said that when I woke up checked my dream world against the reality. It’s not that I was expecting to discover an ancient but still very vibrant Hindu temple in South America but I still had to check, if only to attach myself to “reality” once again.

In a wakeful state I reacted to this dream twice, first before going back to sleep, hoping to bring it back and clarify missing information, which was only partially successful, and second time when I woke up for good to make up for all the mistakes I made in the dream itself.

The most obvious thing is that there’s no mention of Kṛṣṇa in this dream whatsoever. The temple was Hindu and it was very impressive but I have absolutely no feeling about any of the deities there. I have no connection with neither Śiva nor Durgā and I’m not looking to establish any relationships with them, no more than is necessary in course of trying to become Kṛṣṇa’s devotee.

On that note, I never feel at home in Hindu temples or India itself. There was a time when I thought living in India would be great but even then I wasn’t attracted to any place outside our Gauḍiyā dhāmas – Māyāpura, Vṛndāvana and Purī. None of the other holy places I’ve been to meant anything to me and I don’t understand why Lord Balarāma or Lord Nityānanda spent so much time traveling. Lord Caitanya went on tour to preach, not to visit the tīrthas themselves.

So, while the temple was awesome at no point I felt at home there, it’s just not my scene. Kṛṣṇa was conspicuous there by His absence. Russian devotees I met afterwards weren’t welcoming either, nor did I really need shelter at the time, I just wanted a fulfillment of my desire to find my hotel. I’m not sure if I needed to find Kṛṣṇa I would have approached them for help either, they were not in the mood to channel His mercy and didn’t look like potential candidates for the Lord to force it through them either.

This is how the rest of my life goes, too. It’s just not important enough to get Kṛṣṇa involved at every step. It’s only karma, at worst it could make my life temporary inconvenient but it hardly ever presses the limits, in which case turning to Kṛṣṇa for help becomes justified. There’s another way to approach our life, too, but I’m probably not ready for it, it’s certainly a discussion for another time.

Having justified absence of guilt of not remembering Kṛṣṇa I also wanted to make something good out of it. That’s when it hit me – this story is a perfect example of how Kṛṣṇa can strip us of all our possessions and put us in a situation where we would have no choice but to become totally dependent on Him.

I mean, let’s say you’ve decided to become a sādhu. Sādhus have a legal status in India but to become recognized as one you must legally die first. If you are a foreigner with passport and visa you are not a sādhu, only a tourist. When push comes to shove it’s not Kṛṣṇa who would come to your help but your institution, your insurance, and, ultimately, your embassy. Likewise, there’s no such thing as “devotee visa”, we are all tourists there, “bhakti” is something we do as part of our tourist package.

You could say that you do not care for formalities and seek only devotion but owners of your body would still enforce their right to claim it. They will put it in a hospital if necessary or try to extract you from jail, or extradite you back to your home country. Even if you refuse help it means that you transfer ownership rights form your home government to the Indian jail officials.

In the dream, however, I was left without money and documents and with no one to go to for help. If I made it back to Kathmandu I could have gone to the consulate but up there on the mountain there were no authorities over me except karma, which told me in a loud and clear voice – you are not getting back to Kathmandu, you are stuck here.

This absence of any obligations and upādhis associated with them hit me only well after I woke up, which is a pity because it means it’s not the natural state of my consciousness but a forced one. If something like this happened to me in real life I would not have a chance of waking up and would continue panicking. Once the acceptance appeared, however, everything became simple and clear.

Kṛṣṇa wanted me to cut all ties with my present life and He put me in a new, presumably better situation for my spiritual progress. I had not prospects in this temple town, it wasn’t about settling down and getting a wife, I was brought there to practice renunciation. It was perfect for the purpose – big temple means there’s always rice and dahl with some vegetables, and the town had plenty of sheltered corners for sleep or to hide from rain. There should be plenty of discarded clothes, too, and plenty of people to approach for bhikṣā if it comes to that. Plenty of people to preach to, too – it was perfect in every respect.

I didn’t particularly like the place but that is not an important consideration, we rarely like what is truly good for our spiritual progress because liking is done by the mind, an element that stands in our way. This voluntary transgression of mind’s dictate and detached acceptance of whatever is given is an austerity at least in the mode of goodness. In fact, if we seek renunciation then it’s even better if we don’t like our surroundings because liking would naturally grow into an attachment – an opposite of what we are trying to develop.

All that was only a dream but the reality is that we aren’t ready for this kind of renunciation, we are children of Kali yuga, we are not meant to be renounced and we are told to practice yukta-vairāgya instead. This yukta-vairāgya, like chanting of the holy name, is an absolutely perfect activity effective in any age but it is nearly impossible to achieve. In Kali yuga we mostly mimic it and it still works better than any other method.

I don’t think I will ever get this dream chance in real life, our fate is struggling with mind and senses, falling and rising up again and again until our death, and I’m not special. If Kṛṣṇa offered such a way out for real it would mean He is taking me to the next level and therefore I would be extremely grateful, no matter what that level is, up or down, it just shows Lord’s interest in us and it would strengthen our determination.

Vanity thought #1592. Stolen by injuns Part 2

Continuing with my recent dream, the one about being lost somewhere in Nepal.

To recap – I was on some tour of the country, got some problem with a paperwork, had to travel to the local immigration office on my own, and got lost on the way back. The awesomest part was trying to return to my hotel on foot when the bus broke down and the driver took me through a local Hindu temple. I just can’t stress enough how amazing that experience was.

The temple was perched on a mountain slope and looked like it was from Middle Earth, with no level space anywhere. There was a town grown around it and it was the same – multilevel, very crowded 3D puzzle. Mostly dingy and grimy, with lots of nooks and corners that have never seen a sunlight, and yet it was strangely cheerful with temple deities raising everyone’s spirits.

The tour of the temple was done on a sort of suspended roller-coaster, flying from one hall to another, past the shrines, past the deities, above the crowds of worshipers, left, right, up, down. Awesome.

Then the ride was over and we were back to navigating the puzzle on foot, and that’s where I lost the driver, or rather the driver finally shook me off. I wasn’t angry at him, he was a nice enough guy, just caught between his obligation to get me, the tourist, to the promised destination, and his other plans for the evening. Yesterday I stopped when I finally got out into the open space and saw other westerners there. I sighed with relief but that wasn’t the end.

It was a sort of camp with small booths selling stuff and groups of tourists parked here and there. To the left were Americans but there was something off about them. They definitely weren’t devotees and they couldn’t have been Buddhists either. They were all dressed in white kurtas and dhotis as if some sort of a New Agey cult. I couldn’t see them all clearly as they were behind a row of makeshift shops but one of them came out to look at me and he immediately said that if I finished the pilgrimage I must offer my obeisances to this holy place, which I did.

I distinctly remember the ground – reddish clay with spots of yellow sand, the kind I’ve seen in Cambodia. When I got up the American returned to his group and I was alone again. They didn’t look like they wanted to help me with anything else so I turned to the right, where there were Russians.

They were ISKCON devotees but were busy with their own preparations. I tried talking to them but those who spoke English avoided me and others just ignored my presence altogether. Nothing useful came out of the conversation with them either. The thing was they came specifically to this place but I was asking them about some hotel way out in Kathmandu. It was too far from their minds and they thought I was a nuisance.

I then turned to locals, many of them quite friendly but still useless. Some didn’t speak English well enough to understand what I wanted, others just wanted to talk to a tourist and sell him something, not get involved in solving his problems. One or two took up the challenge to make sense of my requests but came empty handed.

To be fair, I wasn’t very articulate myself. I didn’t know where I was, like at all, I didn’t know where I wanted to go. I was too confused by the whole experience and my only desire was to see the street leading to Kathmandu so that I could orient myself. I kept asking about this street, I remember seeing it from the top already, but down here it was something no one recognized.

At this point I woke up and went to the bathroom. I returned determined to solve my dream problem and approached the matter more systematically. It was kind of difficult to get back into the dream and conjure the same people I unsuccessfully talked to earlier but I manged to recall one. “What is this place?” I asked. “Gilmatzarolic”, he replied. Or something sounding equally Turkic.

I don’t remember the name now but it was good enough for me in the dream. I also got hold of a local map where I could see Kathmandu, the “Love” place where the immigration office was, our tour’s destination “Vividdya”, and this “Gilma” place as well, it was kind of where I thought it was, off the straight way the bus supposed to follow.

It was getting more and more difficult to stay in the dream so I went to the post-dream analysis. First, I opened Google Maps. The local printed map wasn’t very useful because all the places were printed in a mix of Latin and Cyrillic so I couldn’t just type them into Google search. The map, however, had latitude and longitude lines and I had to scroll Google Maps until I found the location. It didn’t make sense, I checked again and again, I thought the problem was that I was getting the numbers wrong but no, everything was correct. Finally, I was sure that I found this exact same region in Google, everything matched. Except it was not in Nepal but in South America!

I’ll be honest here. When I woke up I did go to Google Maps for real to check if it exists. It doesn’t. In the dream it was acceptable, though, because I knew there was a big Hindu population in Guyana and Suriname, they might have the temple I just seen. In real life this part of the South America is somewhere in Venezuela, not further down the cost where Guyana is, and I checked – there are practically no Hindus in Venezuela. To be sure I’ve checked Hindu temples in Suriname and Guyana, too. They are nothing like what I saw in my dream.

The temple I had seen was thousands years old, everything about it was ancient, but Hindus were brought to South America only in the 19th century and their temples are of a modern Indian style, with garish clay statues which look like they were sculpted by eight-year olds out of wet newspaper pulp. To be fair to Guyana, their temples look a lot better and less corny but they are still very far from what I saw.

Noting the location in my mind I thought that my dream was finally over and I could sleep in peace. I’d sort it all out in the morning, I thought, and so it’s good time for me to stop, too, and leave my morning analysis for the next time.

Vanity thought #1591. Stolen by injuns

This post is about another lucid dream I had recently. Technically, it might not have qualified for all the criteria of being lucid as listed on wikipedia, and the “lucid” part was not nearly as impressive as “vivid” part of it, which was awesome.

The location was my dream state of Nepal, though the connection appeared only very late. In the beginning I was part of some tour, like a cruise but in a land-locked country. I mean to say that people on cruises are well insulated from local reality like crime and poverty, or even local food, and they come in touch with natives only under strictly controlled conditions. That’s how it was for me as well.

My memory begins with being in some chain hotel, not Hilton but something similar, and our tour guide was preparing our travel arrangements into a mountainous area. The hotel was in Kathmandu, the destination was roughly in the direction of Everest, but it was in a different state which doesn’t exist in real life. The place was called “Vividya” or “Vividdi”, don’t remember, and to get there we had to obtain some passing permits in a border town translated into English as “Love” but I don’t remember the local pronunciation.

I screwed up with something and didn’t submit my papers on time so the tour guide went along and got the papers for the rest of the group and I had to go and get them myself together with another unfortunate fellow, who turned out to be my friend from my early days in the temple.

That devotee was nice a guy with solid understanding of the reality but he was young and wanted to test it, all of it. He tried various drugs and various forms of sex, last I heard he was touting a male partner. Some say he simply blooped but I see it as him trying to top his Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he always had this “Will it break if I do this?” attitude. Now, if he really had a solid understanding of reality he wouldn’t be doing all this crazy stuff but he knows that he can get away with it because Kṛṣṇa’s mercy is unlimited – that’s what he wants to prove and that’s what he counts on.

So, when I was told to go with him I was a bit apprehensive – he already knew the place but who knows what other “adventures” he could drag me in. We had to take a local bus to reach there, and I’m talking about a hundred kilometer ride in one of those buses you see in movies about Africa, a total immersion in local culture. The “Love” town had an airport and we had to go to the immigration office there. It was still a third world experience, everything looked like it was build in the seventies and the immigration officers were acutely aware of the impression they leave on presumably wealthy western tourists like me. This means that they used every opportunity to demonstrate their power and they waved their guns the moment I crossed an invisible line between one desk I was allowed to approach and the other I wasn’t. Their desks were swamped with papers, they didn’t have computers, and they didn’t have office chairs either.

When the paperwork was cleared we went into the town to catch a bus back to Kathmandu, and that’s where my friend disappeared to taste some local culture. I didn’t follow and I was afraid of walking into the dark alleys off the street the buses passed through. We had to be back by 4 PM so that we could get on a plane to fly to the mountains. My friend told me not to worry, he would be on time, he knew what he was doing, and so I had to take the bus by myself. I didn’t speak the language, only knew the number, and when I got on and told the driver my destination he seemed to agree.

That’s where things started going terribly wrong. People gradually got off the bus until I was the only one left, and after one particular stop even the driver, an energetic young man, disappeared, too. I had to get off and look for him, he wasn’t very happy to see me when I found him but agreed to take me to Kathmandu. There was only one problem, he said.

This town was weird, dingy and poor, and very 3D – there were always some stairs, inclines and declines, and you would dive into dark holes, turn left and right, and emerge one or two levels below. The driver showed me what happened to his bus while I was looking for him – it was parked under some staircase and it turned into a stone, into what looked like an abandoned statue of a cow with wheels. “What next?”, I asked him, and he communicated that we were not too far, already on the outskirts of Kathmandu, and you could even see the city from some vantage points like roads leading down. He promised to take me there on foot.

From then on he moved very fast and I had a hard time keeping up, with all the twists and turns and dives and winding stairs it was very difficult to keep him within eyesight and I mostly followed his voice.

This is where I realized the connection with my other, half year old dream. In that dream “Kathmandu” was squeezed between the shore and the mountain range and in this dream the town I was in now was that huge Hindu temple you could see half way up the mountains. And what a temple that was! Not just one building but an entire complex perched on a mountain slope with no spaces between various halls and shrines, they just merged one into another, absolutely packed with devotees and with pūjās and chanting going on everywhere.

What was even more amazing is that they had this wonderful overhead cable car system but there were no engines or grimy gears, it worked simply on gravity, like a roller-coaster, but our seats were suspended and everything was made from natural materials, not metal and plastic. We were passing over so many people, sometimes only a couple of meters above them, we flew through temple halls and past huge deities, moving directly at them and then swerving in the last moment.

Among the deities I remember were Lord Śiva, Lakṣmī and Durgā. As we were flying through the halls there was a PA system announcing which deity was where and what kind of pūjā was being performed at the moment. All these deities were very old and made of stone that darkened with age. They were placed very high above the worshipers so flying at them on their own level seemed disrespectful. Each hall had many other deities, too, but they were located well below and on the sides, we passed them as we moved from one hall to another.

Sometimes we moved along a fellow car filled with passengers just like us, mostly ladies in colorful saris. Sometimes we were dragged upward like they do on roller-coaster rides. Sometimes we passed prasādam halls but nothing in that temple was level, even prasādam was served on some sort of stairs so we flew not above but alongside, so close that it was possible to grab something off the plates. There were some pulleys to direct our path but I left it to the driver, being busy with staring at the sights, my mouth was probably agape.

Eventually the ride stopped, we got off, and continued a convoluted path down from one level to another, and eventually the driver lost me, which I suspect was his plan all along. I called and called, I tried going after him but the number of forks and dives and possible turns was overwhelming and eventually I gave up.

I tried to find some open space and hoped that I could see Kathmandu very close but it didn’t seem any nearer than before. I looked back at the temple, hoping that I was already far away, meaning I was closer to Kathmandu, but the view up the mountain was always obstructed by something.

Then I found a clearing, a bright spot in the sun, and there were white people there, too! I was totally exhausted and I was afraid to look at the watch because if it was past 4 then the tour group would leave without me and no one would be waiting for me at the hotel. Nor did I have any money or documents with me – all was left with my friend back in “Love”. I also had no idea where I was but at least the hope was there. Turned out it was a false hope, and I’ll continue with this dream in the next post.

Vanity thought #1427. Clear and present danger

It’s a name of an old movie starring Harrison Ford, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it and, according to the Internet, its plot has nothing to do with my story today, yet the name fits. It’s about danger, this danger was clear and inescapable, it was present, but the strongest clue that reminded me of this phrase was that words “present” and “president” are phonetically close, with just one differing syllable, and the president played a central role there.

It was a dream, replayed twice and with reference to an earlier incident in exactly the same place, and the idea was that this time we’d get it right and it would end differently. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the first version, only the last, but vividly, and the original was always something from the history and not the dream.

So, I was on the presidential team, we were traveling to Nepal, arriving at Kathmandu by what looked like either a boat or a train. There are no trains in Kathmandu, of course, it’s too high up in the mountains, and certainly there are no boats, and the place didn’t look much like real Kathmandu, but that was the operative word for the place throughout the dream.

We arrived at the low lying entrance to the city, which was sprawling up the hillside with old temples competing with modern industrial structures for the domination of the hilltop. “Hill” is probably not the right word to use here because it was very high and long, stretching to the left as far as the eye could see, and probably had a plateau starting at the top. The industrial buildings there created the impression that this was where another, powerful and potentially threatening civilization beyond the visual range while the city leading to it was a typical Indian/Nepali conglomeration of low rise houses crowding narrow streets with open sewers where westerners have pavements.

Our base of operations and command and control center was near the entrance to the city, it felt safe and impenetrable, teaming with marines and all kinds of high tech weaponry and surveillance tools, but we’ve never actually seen it, we just constantly kept in touch with them trying to rescue us when things went terribly wrong.

For that matter, the Secret Service detail wasn’t visible in my dream either but I put it down to clever terrorists’ tactics, there was just presidential entourage which included one highly decorated officer, others were plain useless. I suppose we were preparing for some sort of a reception parade because even the president wore some sort of a uniform, white suit with some medals or something, but not military. Ladies were all primed for the occasion, too.

In the beginning we were in a train carriage because it felt like we had no freedom to change our course, or maybe it was a bus following a predetermined route, we were staring out of the windows, taking the sight of the abject poverty of the general population, crowded streets, and general lack of civilization. Then we were diverted and separated from our security detail and our driver had to follow his own instincts and advice we got through the comlink with the base. Everyone panicked, we were trying to escape the streets and get into an open space but it was useless. I think at this point we were in a motorcade and were losing cars one after another, stuck not in traffic but simply overrun by ever present crowds, they just couldn’t move fast enough through it to keep pace.

We got deep into the city, far away from the base and from where physical help was, we didn’t see the enemy, there was no shooting and no one to shoot at, but if we stopped the curious onlookers would just swarm our vehicle and try to get inside just to see what’s there, like human ants. Perhaps a couple of secret service agents was still there but their presence was inconsequential.

We realized that we were only drawing attention to ourselves and a vehicle like ours stood like a sore thumb in that slum of a city, we needed to hide. In an open space we could have been picked up by a helicopter but in the streets the enemy was always dangerously close, only a few feet away, separated by glass windows. Were those people our enemy? Probably not intentionally, but whoever planned this operation counted on them being there and causing us to panic.

This is where two versions in the dream started to diverge. In both we got off and continued running on foot but in the first the president was captured or lost, I didn’t see it but that was the impression, while in the second we lasted much longer and possibly survived, it ended with a slim hope.

We started noticing members of the team working on our capture, they had walkie talkies and they handed us from one agent to the next, pretty soon we could spot them in the crowd just as they could spot us. There weren’t very many of them and we thought we could try our luck on foot, hiding with the crowd that was supposed to expose and intimidate us.

Initially it worked and there was a short chase through the streets in the first version. The president changed into a Hawaiian shirt that looked close enough to what tourists would wear but we weren’t very lucky. A group of westerners still stood out and we had to split. We tried to maintain a visual contact still and move in the same general direction but the agents were quickly onto us and forced to change our route simply to avoid running into them. We lost the president and that was the end of it and a start of a dream replay.

This time I was aware of what happened and how the enemy operated, the dream spent much less time on the preamble and dived almost straight into the chase. At some point there were three of us – the president, the officer, both in uniform, and me in a Hawaiian shirt.

First, the president and the officer swapped their jackets, while still in the vehicle, we were trying to give our enemies a false target and thus give time to the actual president to escape. The officer knew what he was doing and was ready to sacrifice himself and it was a very noble gesture. When we split we kept touch with him for a while via coms but then lost him. He could have survived, he was like one of those super agents with ninja powers in the movies who can escape from anywhere.

The team chasing the president got smaller but they were still on our tail. Another problem was that the president was significantly shorter than the officer and still had a military uniform on. This president, however, was clever and resourceful, like Harrison Ford himself, and he soon ditched his jacket and got himself a shirt from one of the vendors lining the streets. I followed him closely but not close enough to suggest that we were together to onlookers. We could spot the agents with coms in the area but who knows how many others were there and we didn’t want to attract attention of anyone.

We dove into side alleys hoping to come out in totally unexpected places and merge with the crowd there but turned out it wasn’t such a good idea. The alleys were the place where street merchants prepared their wares, they were passable but not meant to walk through for the general public. Technically, they were “streets” with houses on both sides but they have been covered above to save merchants from the rain and the elements and therefore they were dark, dump, and extremely dirty. People were cooking everywhere, everywhere there were push carts, some alleys were for butchers only and running into those was horrible, and, of course, people could still see us because we just didn’t belong.

Streets parallel to the main one were okay but with significantly less foot traffic so hiding there was not a good option either. Agents were closing in one us even if they didn’t make the move yet, didn’t break into an actual chase. I saw one who was always on our tail, though, clearly being guided by his informants. The president changed the shirt one more time but I didn’t think it was helping. He just couldn’t hide.

And that’s the point of the dream – I don’t know why I was on the president’s team but out on the streets I became invisible. I saw it several times when agents simply looked over me and didn’t think I was one of the men they’ve been looking for. I assumed everyone else in our party got captured, if not for their value then at least as leverage but I, however, looked useless. They just couldn’t imagine that this particular westerner in a colorful shirt and with an absent look on his face could be connected to the president.

The president himself, however, was very different. Everything about him had a sense of purpose and urgency. He exuded energy and confidence, and he looked important. There was nothing he could do about it because that’s how he projected himself into the world. If behaved any differently he wouldn’t be a president.

If one suggests that the president could have pretended to be a chill out westerner taking in Nepal’s ambiance the answer would be that after all that he has done to become the president this image was simply unfeasible. His karma affected his demeanor in such a way that it was impossible to hide. Mine didn’t, as I’ve seen myself as I am in this dream, not as someone else. Contrary to the president, it is impossible for me to pretend I care much about anything in this life and so the pursuers didn’t see me of any value not only to themselves but to the world in general.

This is how the illusion gets us – because we want something from this world, strive for something, try to become something. This attracts everyone’s attention and creates both enemies and so-called friends. It immediately creates a dual vision of good and bad according to how it affects our progress.

Illusion doesn’t affect those who have no interest in anything it has to offer and, luckily for me, in that dream I was one of them. Somehow being on president’s team and helping him escape didn’t affect my basic outlook on life, which was dictated to me by Kṛṣṇa conscious devotees. I wasn’t personally afraid of capture either, I just had a feeling that it would be very unpleasant, probably something like what devotees in Vraja feel where there are no actual demons. I knew that I would be always protected even if I didn’t think of Kṛṣṇa much, or didn’t pray or chant.

As time goes by I unavoidably try to rationalize this dream and fill fading details but I don’t think it’s such a bad idea. I don’t think the dream had any mystical messages in there to miss and so understanding those feelings and thoughts and preparing to deal with them in real life could be useful.

Take the plan itself – our attackers didn’t go for a frontal assault but rather used the urban terrain in a way that our security hadn’t anticipated. Crowds in the streets were as much of an obstacle for them as they were for us. We were trying to escape in the open where we would have a firepower advantage while they were driving us into dead end places where we could have been overwhelmed and eventually overpowered naturally. It worked, the last sight of the president I had was when he ran into a crowd of locals who didn’t look very sympathetic to tourists. It was off the main streets and if they turned on him there would have been no help coming, that community looked completely cut off. I, on the other hand, decided to turn into a different direction down an empty street but at lest I looked inconspicuous there, like a tourist who lost his way, not a target of a terrorist manhunt. The president running into that crowd was a goner, I thought, but it was too late to stop him.

Later on, when trying to find him, I saw these no-go butcher areas again and I was horrified to see something like remains of a human carcass, skinned and discarded along a pile of animal innards. It could have been the president but it could have been my imagination playing tricks. Unfortunately, I didn’t see how the story actually ends in the dream, as it usually happens.

Bottom line lesson I’m trying to learn here is this – we are slaves to our desires and it is much safer for us to give them up and rely on Kṛṣṇa for protection. He might not come as a knight in shining armor, He’d just make māyā lose interest in threatening us. When we want nothing from her she has no power over us. When we give up bodily identification we stop seeing other beings as our enemies but rather see our feelings and perceptions as results of our karma carefully presented to us by Kṛṣṇa Himself, and He wouldn’t do anything to actually hurt us. When “dangers” come we would then ask Kṛṣṇa what He wants us to do about them rather than fighting them off ourselves.

It’s a concept which is fairly easy to understand but much more difficult to practice, but even then understanding must come first, so there, this dream is a good start.

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.

Vanity thought #1343. Dreamy reality

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.

Vanity thought #995. Drowning

A couple of days ago I had a dream, a rather long one so I won’t go into the prelude. It ended with me on some little boat with a little motor leaving the beach and going between and over heads of some swimmers. I wasn’t very careful and one of them probably had enough. All I remember is that suddenly I was out of the boat, locked in a serious chokehold and pushed deep into the water. I didn’t see who did it, I didn’t think it was an animal, I just assumed it was someone who was quite prepared to kill me.

So, there I was, unable to breath, deep in the water, eyes closed, feeling that resistance is futile, and it took me only a split second to figure it all out and make a decision to embrace my fate.

Decision was easy, following through was not.

Have you ever tried to hold your breath? It was exactly like that, except I also didn’t have any choice. Actually, holding breath is an illuminating exercise in observing mind-body connection. No one ever died that way so it’s pretty safe and yet there are practically no limits to the depth of one’s experience there.

It starts fairly easy, body still have plenty of oxygen and you can think about anything you want, including Kṛṣṇa, of course, but the test of mind over matter hasn’t really started yet. Struggle begins in about half a minute for an ordinary person so you don’t have to wait long.

It starts small, just a tiny urge to breath, perfectly ignorable, just concentrate your mind on something else. Then it grows stronger and so you have to think harder to ignore it. There are two ways to deal with the situation then – one is to consciously push yourself, use the full force of you mind to restrain yourself from taking a breath, another is to continue thinking of something else.

The first option is not very interesting and I don’t think it’s very useful. It might help to train your body for skindiving but we are not interested in making our bodies stronger and better. Exercising this brute force only perpetuates our illusion that we are doers and controllers in this world, we better not go there.

Second option opens far more possibilities because it not only demonstrates the power of mind over matter but also gives an opportunity to completely separate the two. If we think about something else we do not identify ourselves with the body anymore, we direct our false ego somewhere else. I don’t know if “direct false ego” is the best choice of words here but it will do for now.

We can literally imagine ourselves being in a field of flowers on a sunny day, with breeze blowing and bees humming, everything is perfect. While our minds are there we are not aware of what’s happening to our bodies, we can become totally separate from our gross physical existence.

Unfortunately, this distraction doesn’t last long because we keep checking on our body condition. As soon as we direct our consciousness back to our bodies we immediately feel the pain of suffocation. Actually, we can try this method with any kind of pain or discomfort – think happy thoughts, it works exactly the same way.

So, this stage is where real struggle begins – on one hand there’s our imaginary place, on the other hand there’s our body we grew so accustomed to. It doesn’t take any effort for us to feel bodily pain, our mind can return to evaluate it very very fast but maintaining the illusion of being elsewhere is a lot harder.

At some point we give up and take a deep breath. It always ends the same way and we can learn every little detail, sense every push of the mind, every signal from the body by doing it over and over again and simply paying attention.

One reason that we always fail is that our minds are not in our imaginary place, that place does not exist. When we are drowning for real the situation changes.

In the dream I was expecting death. I wasn’t thinking of Kṛṣṇa per se but I was expecting meeting my maker, as they say. This was an important observation for the future – when death is near our minds can’t think clearly, we can’t force them to make coherent thoughts and analyze things logically, so we have to make do with a vague remembrance of the Lord and not much more.

My mind itself was in a happy place, though, it was in warm water with blue all around, no sounds, no disturbances, pretty peaceful. It was where my body was but it saw it differently – as if simply taking in surroundings while ignoring the big, strong enemy who was restricting my movements.

Every now and then I was reminded of my bodily situation and I had an urge to free myself, at least grab the attackers arms, but what good would that achieve? I didn’t feel any space to get a hold on and pry his grip apart, it was obviously a useless tactic. Actually, I realized that struggle would only exhaust me faster, that until I see a real opportunity to break free I should better preserve my energy and remaining oxygen.

It wasn’t such a bad strategy – if the attacker didn’t understand my lack of reaction he could have changed his tactics, he could have pulled me back up to see what’s wrong with me and if I was still alive. I would have had a much better chance to free myself then so I waited.

So, expecting death I thought it’s better not to struggle, and when returning to my bodily consciousness I also thought it’s better not to struggle, it became a three way battle – waiting for death, intelligence suggesting ways to save myself, and primal urge to break free at any cost. Only one of those options was really worth pursuing but then I woke up.

It was only a dream but it poses poignant questions – what if Kṛṣṇa doesn’t show up until the very last moment? Can we keep our minds on Him until that happens? Without His presence we are bound to return to our struggle for existence just as it happens when we hold breath artificially. What happens if we give in to our primary instincts? Our minds are sure to follow and Kṛṣṇa will be forgotten. Will our death be in vain then?

Even in our every day life, in non-threatening situations, why can’t we maintain our concentration on the Lord or on the Holy Name? Why do we always feel the urge to check what’s going on with our bodies even when everything is perfectly okay and we are safe? Why can’t we immerse ourselves in chanting and need to come up for a breath of fresh air of illusion?

Is it because we have not yet realized that we are not our bodies and there’s no prospect of happiness in the material world? Or is it due to the power of illusion? We say we are conditioned souls and in English it means that someone else is keeping us in this condition – is it them who forces our consciousness back to our bodies? Is it what liberation means – no one forces us anymore?

Finally, is it at all possible to concentrate on chanting so much that external world completely fades away, not just for a moment but for a sustainable period of time? I hope so, but then again, every time we hold our breaths we eventually give up. Maybe overcoming this weakness is not the pre-condition for meeting Kṛṣṇa, maybe it is.

Or maybe it’s a sign that we can’t plan our death and a perfect way out and so should totally depend on the Lord, develop full faith that no matter what happens He will be there for us when it matters.

This thought might put our minds at ease regarding death but what should we do about our everyday falldowns? All I can say for now is that we should ignore them and appreciate brief moments of absorption in chanting whenever they happen. Do not take this advice as having any kind of authority, though, it’s just a speculation at this point. I still think that returning back to external consciousness is a serious step back and we should try our best to avoid it.

Vanity thought #670. Dreamweaver

There’s this famous song which, according to wikipedia, was inspired by the “Authobiography of a Yogi” by Swami Yogananda given to the song writer by George Harrison himself, so there’s a spiritual connection there. I don’t care enough to find Yogananda’s place in our yogi-mayavadi-devotee hierarchy, he was probably one of those new age types trying to merge Christianity with everything else he learned in Hinduism.

I had a very elaborated dream today that reminded me of it when I woke up. It was apocalyptic. It happens in the future but features characters I knew from primary school and it happens at an intersection I knew from the days when it barely had a traffic light. In this dream it had multilayered flyovers they build there now plus two converging underground train lines that aren’t even in city plans.

There’s an earthquake and all the flyovers come tumbling down. It’s an important junction leading out of the city and I was placed under my childhood friend command to control the flow of evacuees arriving from South and West. Some had to be directed North, some East. It was all going well until I developed some kind of conflict with another childhood friend who, in retaliation, went up the road and turned the evacuees back. My intersection immediately overflowed, of course, and extra weigh of all these crowds coupled with aftershocks caused the subway to collapse. Now we had overhead bridges falling down on buried underground trains and people pushing each other into this abyss. Pretty gruesome.

To give you an idea – we all walked on several layers of debris that contained an unknown number of people and their remains, blood, limbs, and survivors crying to help were everywhere but no one cared anymore, we had too many living and healthy people coming through to spare even a second for the dying.

Eventually I made my way North, too, cause that’s where I live now. The whole scene continued – collapsed buildings left and right, trapped cars and people, some totally new overhead train lines that crashed into the ground and so on.

Then something woke me up, I turned over, but the dream wasn’t lost. I got inserted into it again but in a different place and at a different time, and I knew before hand in which order things around me would collapse because I’ve seen them do so already, albeit from a different perspective.

I went into a department store and found some trapped tourist trying to get out, terrified to be inside a violently shaking building. I told her that we should go in the back where there’s a canal and no major buildings on the other side so we’d be relatively safe. When we found our way out she spotted an overhead train station nearby and wanted to take the train out of the city but I told her that it would crash in ten-twenty minutes and everyone would die.

She looked at arriving and departing trains and questioned my judgment. I, on the other hand, wasn’t sure how soon exactly the next tremor would bring it down. I saw it happen in the earlier version of the dream but my watch wasn’t synchronized. I guess that’s how astrologers and palm readers deal with impatient people – you know something is bound to happen but every passing moment or year undermines your credibility.

Anyway, the train station eventually collapsed, as did the department store we escaped from. It looked spectacular. I lost my tourist friend and jumped on the roof of one of those Chinese boathouses, which turned out to be a great idea – there’s no earthquake in the water, it was no more than a wave left by a passing boat and I was relatively safe. I drifted alone, observing destruction on both sides and pretty soon my dream ended.

So, how does any of that relates to Krishna consciousness? I don’t see an immediate connection, Krishna hasn’t come up even once during the dream. In a roundabout way, however, going in and out of the same dream and observing the same events from different angles and follow different paths while maintaining the sense of the self is an awesome lesson on the nature of illusion.

Normally you go into a dream and forget who you are but this time I saw myself living two different lives through the same story while being aware that I’m not this dream given body even though I was pretty attached to its safety. If it’s possible to observe this effect with dreams it should be possible to observe this with different lives, too.

We have been living in this illusion since time immemorial while the world goes through endless cycles. Same earthquakes, same floods, same destruction at the end of the kalpa, same avatars of the Lord, same Ravanas and Hiranyakashipus – everything repeats itself. Krishna comes everyday of Brahma and He is always followed by Lord Chaitanya, Details might change in every cycle but overall story and our feelings are all the same – fear, greed, lust, anger, happiness – nothing really changes. Chewing the chewed, as Prahlada Maharaj wisely said.

There’s one big, practical difference – this life lasts a lot longer than my dream so it requires a lot more patience to wait it through. This is where chanting should help enormously, however – listening to Krishna’s names takes us out of clutches of time, the more you chant, the faster time flies.

Imagine you were chanting three hundred thousand names every day like Haridas Thakur – the material lives last twenty four hours for us but for him it was only two or three, and you should also deduct the time he spent in the company of Lord Chaitanya or honoring prasadam because that stops material clock, too.

Chanting is the best way to distract ourselves from our conditioned lives, everyone knows that. Next time we have a sense of deja vu it might be a flashback from one of the previous lives. Quite possibly our incarnations don’t have to follow the time progression and we can be inserted in more or less the same settings over and over again repeatedly.

I guess in Vedic times it didn’t matter because nothing really changed for thousands and thousands of years but for us material world changes very very fast and twenty years might render it completely unrecognizable. Vedic sages telling stories of reincarnation didn’t have to adjust the details for signs of progress. They didn’t have to explain that the first incarnation happened before the invention of an arrow and everybody was fighting using only clubs and spears, for example.

If you take two successive incarnations in the modern world, however, existence of the Internet can make it or break it. If the next incarnation could actually be an insertion in the past or in the next yuga cycle then you can relive your old life again and again until you get it right, just like they do in science fiction or the movie “Groundhog Day”, or just like I did in today’s dream.

Vanity thought #355. Dreamwork

I knew what I had to write about today the moment I woke up – I had over two hours of intense dreaming just before wake up time. It wasn’t the most vivid or the most engaging of my dreams but, perhaps, the most illustrative.

I was driving a shiny new silver BMW on an elevated highway with a couple of friends. At some point we decided to turn into the off ramp and that’s where the dream really started. There was some kind of delay, a policeman showed up but no one attempted to stop us. We still could see our city a few kilometers from the highway, amid lush countryside, casting golden light into the clear blue sky. The ramp, on the other hand, led us to the u-turn underneath and it was dark down there.

As soon as we started down we met a lot of obstacles. Mostly there were concrete spikes popping from the ground, the kind that are meant to stop any cars from coming through. Our powerful bimmer, however, mowed them like they were grass. Soon there were people on both sides, too, wearing white robes like ancient Greeks, and there were a lot of debris on the road so we got out to clear it by hand.

I remember an abandoned car seat that I tried myself and I liked it very much even though it was old and dirty. Pretty soon we forgot about our bimmer and continued on foot. The lower underneath the highway we descended the less light was there and it was becoming really crowded. People weren’t wearing white anymore we felt like we were being mobbed. It was like walking into a crown of beggars but instead of asking us for something people were offering things to us. Very old, smelly, ugly things – clothes, blankets, rotten food. They were cheering us to try their stuff and as soon as we gave in we were dragged into their ranks and lost the sight of each other.

It was like in a zombie movie but the zombies weren’t attacking, they were beckoning us to join them and we did it entirely on our own, being attracted by their cheering of their revolting “treasures”. It was like settling into an under-the-bridge hobo colony – the stink, the darkness, the fires they lit to keep warm.

I got sucked in a couple of times but kept pressing on and eventually got to the on ramp on the other side and onto the highway. Again I saw my city in the distance but I was exhausted and had no energy left anymore, and it was several kilometers on the other side of a multi-lane highway – I needed my powerful bimmer, I had to go back.

This time I was wiser – the hobos weren’t actually blocking the road, they were like spectators on the bleachers and if I kept to the upper tiers I could escape both the stink and the temptation. No one was paying any attention to me on those upper levels, I even found one of my friends, plucked him out of the crowd and we continued the journey together.

When the ramp turned up there was light and people on the bleachers were wearing white again, and they were all meditating on the light, completely ignoring busy “life” down below, in the dark shadow of the highway. At that point we could really run, searching for any opening to jump one row of seats up and get even more freedom. The nightmare was over, and so was my dream, without any real ending.

I spent whole day straightening this story up and finding parallels between life under the highway and our material world. One of the most memorable things was trying some old, soiled sweater that someone was offering to me, urging me to try it on because it was so comfy. Indeed it was, but in a sick kind of way. This is all that material nature does to us – offers us some sort of convoluted comfort that truly sucks, both literally and figuratively. You start with a sweater, they offer you something else, and then something else, and with each time you accept this hobo reality your memories of your real life start to fade away.

I had an unforgettable beemer, though.

The analogy wasn’t complete as there weren’t any kind of gurus or teachers, we had to struggle on our own and it was possible to succeed but the central principle of our life in the material world – we are here because we want it, no one is holding us against our will, was very clear in my dream.

Also the white robed sages on the upper levels were like citizens of Tapaloka and similar planets. They could see the light, they knew that the world below them was inferior, but they couldn’t see anything else. They were still below the surface of the highway and they had no idea what was up there and even if there was any “up”. All they could see was the border between dark and light. As they were facing the road and had stands going further up behind their backs they couldn’t see the countryside and cities there, too, just the light above them.

This fully dovetails with our philosophy – no one in this world can lean anything about the existence of God and the spiritual planets simply through observation. At most we can learn that there’s light – Brahman.

Another important point is the interaction between the under-the-bridge people and the people from the spiritual world. I descended into their world and saw that they had no idea of where I came from. What could I possibly tell them about my glorious city? I mean imagine driving on a highway, watching towns and villages passing by – think of how much you know about this world. How many people live there, how many different people, how they sustain themselves, how they form into societies, how they connect to each other, what values they share, what history, and so on.

No wonder that our knowledge of the spiritual world is so limited – the acharyas simply have no time to teach us everything about it. We have Brahma Samhita and perhaps a couple of other passages but mostly we fill the gaps with our own imagination of what Vaikuntha planets should look like and how they should relate to each other, in our three-dimensional space, of course.

Equally, when visitors from the spiritual world leave us notes with instructions on how to get out of here we hardly recognize our world from their writings. It’s somewhat easier for the devotees but still we have very hard time understanding that this world is a place of unlimited suffering. We think we suffer only if we don’t get some urine-smelling greasy old sweater whereas for the liberated soul getting that sweater is where suffering actually starts. We still don’t see it that way, we still live on the assumption that this world can be very comfortable.

When Srimad Bhagavatam describes the dark well of family life we don’t take it seriously, and we are supposed to firmly believe in that stuff. Try to preach against marriage to the outsiders and see how far you get. There’s a clear dichotomy between how we see ourselves and our real situation as seen by the liberated persons. We should be aware of it and don’t take the differences too seriously – our vision will eventually come in line with shastra, it’s just a matter of time and practice.

The Puranic stories are not outrageous myths, they are just told by people with completely different perspective. In order to see how so many millions of people, horses and elephants could have been killed during the short battle of Kurukshetra we need to get to the different vantage point, we will never see from where we are now, it’s not the fault of the shastra.

Dreamwork is a process by which our unconscious thoughts get transformed into the dreams. I wish my dream had something about Krishna but, perhaps, Krishna isn’t as pervasive in the spiritual world as we expect Him to be. Surely He is at the center of everything there but we have examples in this world where the center of one’s existence doesn’t need to be openly present all the time.

Take American patriotism – they are always aware of its presence in their hearts but that’s not what they talk about 24/7. Or I’ve seen someone mentioned that Thai boxers lift the picture of their King when they win gold medals. The King is the center of their lives, so it seems, but they also have families, jobs, problems and so on, I’m sure the King is not what they talk about all the time exclusively. Perhaps spiritual world is the same – Krishna is at its very center but it’s filled with all kinds of interactions and phenomena that are not directly related to Him, thus seeing His city or highways linking His planets is not seeing Him directly but the connection is still there, at all times.

Well, it’s Sunday and so I have more time than usual to type this stuff but this is getting too long, time to wrap it up.

If we want to escape this world we should avoid bad association. Bad association sucks, both literally and figuratively – it sucks us into the vortex of ignorance. We should have firm faith in the words of guru and shastra even if they apparently contradict our own experience. These words come to us from an entirely different world where they make total sense, we should just wait and see. It is not possible to learn about God and His world through our own efforts, or through the efforts of other people, no matter how advanced they appear to be. Only God’s own messengers can teach us about His existence. All other learned people are useless in this regard.

That appears to be all. Hare Krishna.