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 #1344. Dreamy reality 2

So I had a dream, big whoop, and yet I think that somehow dreams matter, matter much more than we usually care. Some people don’t remember their dreams at all as if they don’t have any and on most nights I belong in the same category but, I believe, dreams still have impact on our consciousness, or rather subconsciousness in the modern speak.

My main point, thought, is that dreams are just as real as an “objective reality”.

In a normal discussion one cannot bring up whatever he saw in his dream as an argument. Dreams are a fiction of one’s mind, even Śrīla Prabhupāda classified them this way, so they shouldn’t be taken seriously. This doesn’t tell the whole picture, though.

It’s true only in our conditioned frame of reference where we see workings of our minds as fundamentally different from external, observable, and therefore objective reality we all share. There’s a universe outside us and we are all a part of it. Things that happen within the universe are a common experience for us all. Whatever happens within our minds cannot be observed by outsiders and is not replicable, and therefore is not objective and inadmissible as evidence.

The actual reality is different, very different. We all are just a collection of souls outside of time and space. There’s no distance between us or between us and the Lord. The universe can be as big or as small as we can possibly imagine because our perception of it depends on our particular illusioning.

The actual reality is our relationship with Kṛṣṇa that is perverted by the illusion. At this point He serves us a virtual reality where we can pretend He doesn’t exist and imagine ourselves as doers and free willers and enjoyers. The purpose of the illusion is to satisfy this desire and it doesn’t really matter how, just that the objective is met.

When we look at the world this way the difference between external and internal disappears, those are conventions based on the false ego. Ultimately, both dreams and “real” events are based on the same material energy. We can’t observe anything beyond this world and we can’t dream of anything not rooted in our physical experiences either.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether pleasing thoughts and feelings come to us in real or in a dream world, experience is the same. We can say that in real world it lasts longer but perception of time in the dream is different. REM sleep might last only a few minutes but what we think happens to us in our dream always lasts much longer.

Dreams manifest what goes on in our subconscious, they reveal thoughts and desires we don’t have time for during waking hours. They always feel very familiar even if they are about things that never actually happened in real life, like Prabhupāda’s example of a golden mountain. I bet when one sees a golden mountain in his dream it feels very familiar and serves one’s cherished desires. We might not be aware of our subconscious but it’s ours and psychologists say that it hides our innermost hopes or fears. Dreams reveal them.

The power of our subconscious over our behavior should never be underestimated. Politicians and advertisers know it better than most and always seek to penetrate our subconscious mind. The easiest way is, perhaps, through manipulating our emotions. Deeper than that is manipulating our fears, as common in political advertising. They can also get to us through nationalism or through our care about the planet or through our identification with the whole humanity. Whatever desires we reveal in our actual lives, they seek to latch on them and sneak in their own agenda.

Once desire is planted as deep within the soul rationality goes out of the window. Or rather everything that serves to fulfill this desire automatically becomes rational. In a way it actually is because material nature has to follow the laws when accommodating our wants, it doesn’t behave in an irrational way.

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the illusion is how it manages to accommodate everyone’s desires at the same time, no matter how incompatible they appear. Fruits might not be served at the same time but processes that lead to fructification are at work simultaneously.

How does it do that? Perhaps it’s a wrong question to ask.

It does not “accommodate our desires”, we do not give it extra work and force it to adjust its plans – it does only what it was programmed to do and all “our” desires exist there already, we only appropriate them under the influence of the false ego.

These desires do not come from nowhere, they are part of an endless chain of action and reaction and it’s impossible to detach desires from conditions that caused them.

Neither it is possible to detach dreams from “reality”, they are part of the same illusion.

We can say that dreams are an illusion within the illusion but it’s still part of the same spiritual reality, without quotation marks around it – Kṛṣṇa serving our need to live a life without Him.

So, when it comes to satisfying our souls it doesn’t really matter whether it happens in dreams or in a real world. Dreams cross into reality and reality causes dreams, and it all feels about the same with only relative differences. For most of us horrors in our dreams rarely match any fears we have in real life, for example.

The dream I described yesterday affected my attitude towards evolution of ISKCON and by thinking about it I can see how it rationally follows my real life observations. The effect would have been there regardless but now I’m more aware of it, which is always a good thing.

It’s always good to disassociate ourselves from whatever goes on in our minds and find external reasons instead. Desires are our own, of course, but their manifestation isn’t. In fact, we have only one underlying desire, our rebellion against Kṛṣṇa, but it can be expressed in an infinite variety of ways, just as expressions of bhakti have no limits, too.

This underlying desire is most regrettable but I don’t see how we can effectively deal with it if we are unaware of its existence, if we throw ourselves at everything we see and misidentify ourselves with everything under the sun. This forces us to deal with symptoms, not cure the underlying material disease.

Chanting of the Holy Names goes straight to the heart of the matter even if we don’t understand how it works. The Name speaks directly to the soul even when our consciousness is directed elsewhere. It won’t be as effective, of course, but it will still work, chipping away at our coverings syllable by syllable. Little strokes fell great oaks, as they say.

That’s why patience and perseverance is of utmost importance in chanting.

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 #1249. Illustrations

I’ve had a couple of episodes demonstrating the truths spoken in Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s article in the eighty year old issue of the Harmonist. Nothing special, I just want to look at them from the perspective offered there.

First, an unrelated case – about a week ago I dreamt about Vṛndāvana. Seriously. I didn’t see much, all I remember is going down the slide which felt like one of those old playground slides made of metal, except this one was decorated with lots of flowers. Lots. It was more like sliding through a tunnel of flowers, that’s how many were there. I have no idea what they were called but they are big and bright. I don’t remember any smells, though.

As far as I remember, I was testing this slide for Rādhā and Kṛṣṇa, just checking how it works. They were not present themselves, in fact no one else was present there at all, I was all alone and that worried me – what’s the point of being in Vṛndāvana without association with devotees there? It didn’t feel special in any way at all, save for those astonishing flowers.

I don’t believe I had a glimpse of actual Vṛndāvana in any sense, just a mental concoction, and I didn’t even like it very much. I remember I was upset that I was doing the testing myself and it was like I was actually enjoying the dhāma, not serving it.

The reason I mention it at all is that I was fairly pleased with my attitude – no enjoying the facilities, and lack of association as a big bummer. It was all in the dream, I wasn’t consciously directing it, maybe my mind finally learning something useful.

The dream I woke up from this morning, however, was directly related to Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta’s article. I had some altercation with a couple of Muslim guys, there were those big, curved Muslim sabers waved and a lot of stabbing that somehow wasn’t fatal. The Muslims had finally had it with me and tried a new tactic – they converted me to Islam right on the spot and then called on their friends to kill me for rejecting the conversion.

I don’t remember what the ritual was, but, apparently, my consent wasn’t necessary, they just recited some hymns and I was a Muslim. When I protested they called for help in enforcing no denouncing rule. Now I had a whole mob on me and I had no time to explain anything, not that anyone was going to listen. Death was all that was on their mind. I didn’t feel any kind of animosity towards them but I ran for my life as fast as I could.

That’s what Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta called “latent partiality for untruth”. Being protective of one’s life is an all-pervading instinct that is bound to manifest in all kinds of dangerous situations. I was really scared in this dream. Petrified. And I hadn’t had a single thought about Kṛṣṇa or not being this body or about anything, just primal fear. I ran and ran and was about to get away when alarm rang.

I have it on sneeze, however, so I postponed it and went back into the same dream. Situation changed somewhat. I was watching a football match with players and spectators from the same Muslim mob. It wasn’t played in a stadium, just a field among the trees, and it was televised. Then I saw myself as a sneaky figure dressed in all black, from head to toe, hiding in a hollow of a large tree.

I was caught on camera, everyone watching TV saw me, and I wondered how long before the mob was informed of my whereabouts. Somehow I was watching it on TV, too, while absolutely sure that I was also inside that hollow. I really felt for myself while watching from outside. Then the alarm rang again and I had to get up.

The point is that unless we relinquish this animalistic attachment and false self-identification we won’t be able to perceive spiritual reality of any kind. This horrifying dream reminded me how much work is still ahead.

The last episode was more positive. I think I got some kind of food poisoning, probably bad oil or something. My stomach has been battling with it whole day and there’s no end in sight yet. My body temperature shot up to 100 Fahrenheit or 37.7 degree Celsius. It stabilized now but when it was going up I was out of commission, cuddled under a blanket and wanting to fall asleep.

Chanting in this condition is never good, mind was absolutely out of bounds, and I had no willpower to control it.

On one hand it showed again how difficult it is to overcome my “latent partiality for untruth” but I realized something else, too – sickness affects only my body and my mind but not the Holy Name.

My every thought was somehow colored by discomfort but the Name stayed pure. Nothing can touch it. Even if the sound coming from my mouth might be affected by pain, the Holy Name stays transcendental.

One way or another, I had moments when I was above the pain and there was nothing between me and the Holy Name. Nothing as in no love and no devotion, but that it still better than appealing to Kṛṣṇa from the bodily platform.

There were moments when I stopped being myself and just listened to the Name, and in these moments I realized that nothing can possibly affect our relationship, if I manage to eventually build any.

Material nature cannot come between the soul and Kṛṣṇa. She will always be on the outside, unable to touch the Lord. The Lord never gets covered by her illusion and we can see Him with all clarity if we stop looking at the material world.

We can forget the Lord ONLY if we identify ourselves with matter, for it will be out of our hands – whatever is on TV would occupy our minds instead. Free from this false identification, however, the Lord is always there, pure and transcendental and completely unaffected by whatever seems to be troubling us in our material existence.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean that the Lord will automatically reveal Himself, for that we need genuine devotion and all the help we can get form our ācāryas. Without it all we have is the sound of the Holy Name, which isn’t very different from what we hear in everyday life, we just have learn to treat it with a bit more respect and have full faith that eventually it will reveal more of its transcendental nature.

Source (p34)

Vanity thought #1203. Sadr city dream

In real life Sadr city is a suburb of Baghdad but the one I saw in my last dream was nothing like that and had nothing to do with Iraq war (real Sadr was a place of a fierce battle a few years ago). I don’t know why it was called Sadr in my dream, probably because I don’t know any other names like that. Something like Al-Qatab was close but it sounds too Arabic while my Sadr was prehistoric, but let’s start at the beginning.

I was a kid and a part of some kind of boy scout outfit or more like a field trip thing. There were like a hundred of us and we were moving through the streets of some kind of Muslim town. Crowded does not even being to describe it, if you seen pictures of Hajj, with millions of people packed shoulder to shoulder as far as eye can see, it was like that, and we were all moving.

We couldn’t look where we put our steps, we were told to hold onto each other and move as a unit, support each other if someone tripped on something, and there was a lot of stuff lying on the ground. It was a typical third world Muslim town somewhere in the desert. Typical one-two story buildings, sewage running on the side of the road, and the road itself wasn’t paved.

So there we were, following the crowd towards this “Sadr”, which was the most amazing structure I’ve ever seen. It was an ancient tower, maybe fifty stories high, and it was evidently pre-Arabic, probably a leftover from Babylonian times. Unlike the gray, dusty town beneath it was build from some dark, rich stone, it was huge, with a square footprint and it just went up and up. It had this overwhelming personality about it, being in total contrast with busy modern life. It didn’t care if people crawling at the bottom were Muslims, Arabs, Iraqis, Afghanis, it had this immutable dignity of its own.

Basically, it was just a giant staircase to the top but with a twist – it was built as a puzzle. You wouldn’t know how to get to the next level, you had to try everything, every passage, every nook, until you found a secret opening somewhere. Being thousands years old it was also heavily damaged, with visible gaps and debris everywhere, which made climbing even more difficult. If I were to compare it with anything it would be a giant Jenga tower just before it’s about to collapse.

So we were making our way to the top, not as a unit anymore but sharing discoveries and passing clues to those still stuck on the level below. Being young and energetic we weren’t really tired but we couldn’t wait until the climb was over. It so happened that we emerged to the top level in a wrong place and didn’t know what to do next until someone said that we are already there and there’s dinner served at the north-east corner. We ran there enthusiastically, and this is when my dream really started.

It was a massive hall, something like at Hogwarts, people were eating enthusiastically and the headmistress of our school was waiting for us in our designated area. I was one of the first to reach our table but it wasn’t ready yet – food was there but no chairs, no plates, no utensils, nothing. The headmistress sternly signaled that I should behave like a civilized human being and wait until everything is ready and we are properly invited. I just froze at the table edge, disciplined, waiting for proper arrangements.

That’s when the rest of our party arrived and they couldn’t be stopped, they just jumped on the food, eating it with their hands. The centerpiece was a huge cake in the middle and no one waited for knives and plates either. Eventually chairs were provided, one by one, but I didn’t get one and still stood there, waiting, following the orders of the headmistress.

Nothing ever came, I stood and stood until the cake was gone and table was nearly empty. I signaled to the headmistress but she looked at me sternly again, as if I was an annoyance. “You want a chair,” she said, “get a chair,” and she asked someone to bring it for me from an adjacent room.

“What’s the point,” I retorted, “there’s no food left, there is only a pile of leftovers and I don’t even know if all of it is vegetarian.” I planned to ask the waiters for clarifications but it was out of the question, the dinner was almost over. Most importantly, cake was gone, completely cleaned up.

That’s where I went completely off the rails, ranting and ranting, almost screaming that I did everything I was told to and got nothing in the end. I threatened to write about the cruelty of the headmistress when we were to write essays about our trip back at school. I started pacing all around the dinner hall, looking inside every booth by the perimeter but the picture was the same everywhere – happy people stuffed up to their necks having lazy conversations about how good their lives are.

At one point I ran into headmistress again and started my rant again. She went to some teachers at the table, told them about my problem, and asked them for their leftover cake that they put in plastic boxes to take home. They didn’t show any interest in my fate and simply waived their hand. Headmistress brought the cake to me but I screamed that I don’t want their cake, I wanted MINE. “Where is MY cake!”

Then I declared that I will not be eating tonight at all, even after the long march and tiring climb up the tower, I would fast, and if anyone cares, the karma should go to the headmistress. I was like a brahmāṇa cursing the king for mistreatment. I wasn’t a brahmāṇa, of course, but as a child I felt perfectly entitled.

I woke up on the way down, still angry and also ashamed of this anger, of letting it take over me. I knew I was in the wrong but this temporary identification with a child expecting food and care was very strong.

I suspected that the headmistress hadn’t eaten her dinner yet, too, and neither had she had cake. She took it as an adult, though. She knew it was her responsibility to provide me with food and she knew she failed but that was her problem, not mine, I had no right to lash out at her like that whatsoever. She didn’t mean to leave me without dinner, it just happened, but I behaved like a child and acted out of sense of entitlement.

So here’s the point of the whole dream – sense of entitlement. It’s bad, it ruins our spiritual lives. When I woke up I felt like I did something really really wrong, felt a very heavy burden on my heart. Luckily, chanting was just minutes away and I took it seriously, hoping to cleanse my mind from this pollution, and it worked.

Right now I can’t replicate the same emotion anymore while right after I woke up it was still there, ready to be recalled. Dream or not, but I really invested myself into that false identity. It felt very real, and the dream was in colors, too.

I feel that this sense of entitlement and resulting anger is the stuff that gets us booted out of spiritual world – no one ever owes us anything. We are only entitled to results of our karma, nothing else. Even if we were sitting in a row of Lord Caitanya’s servants and He was personally distributing prasādam with His own hand, we would not be entitled to it. He could just pass us and serve the next guy in a row, we have no right to protest whatsoever.

Kṛṣṇa is the only enjoyer. “Only” being the key word there. Sometimes He makes us happy and satisfied but we cannot get attached to it and can’t stake our claims on it. We should be prepared to look after His pleasure, not our own, even when everyone around us is happily enjoying their lot.

Normally, kids at school always get their food. It’s easy to overlook someone when things get messy but, generally, caretakers manage to feed everyone. No one gets left out at family dinners either. It should be certainly within the capacity of our spiritual leaders to make sure that all devotees in their charge are provided for and looked after. If they fail in that they’d probably suffer the consequences but their fate should not be our concern – we can be sure that we get overlooked on purpose, that this is what Kṛṣṇa wants, and He is always right by definition.

Sense of entitlement puts us into an illusion that we get to make calls of what is just and what is not, that according to OUR calculations things should go this way or that. Nope, only Kṛṣṇa is the controller, we just have to follow regardless of whether we understand His reasons or not and regardless of how we personally feel about it. He is always right and we have to enthusiastically embrace whatever fate He prepared for us.

We always have this urge to step into our own shoes and see the world through our own prism but it’s an illusion. Our shoes are not for serving Kṛṣṇa, we should take them off, they’ll only make everything worse.

I was hoping to somehow connect this to pride I was talking about yesterday but I don’t think it’s necessary anymore, I feel the above arguments are compelling on their own, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Vanity thought #1165. Guru dream

We don’t usually care much about dreams but when either the deities or the guru makes an entrance we should notice. I’ve never heard of anyone seeing Kṛṣṇa Himself and I don’t know whether we can take such dreams seriously. I think not.

Deities and gurus are legitimate representatives of the Lord’s spiritual form, which is invisible to our senses, so if they appear in a dream or in person they don’t break any particular laws but if Kṛṣṇa Himself shows up we should be suspicious. He should not be visible in any of the material states of consciousness. Of course He can always reveal Himself but He won’t be part of a dream, it would be part of a fully transcendental experience.

Deities and gurus, OTOH, can always penetrate our subtle bodies because, like us, they have ones, too. With them the question is only whether their entrance is legitimate or is only a part of our imagination. We imagine all kinds of people in our dreams and we never assume we had an actual connection with them, I guess we can dismiss dreams with deities and gurus in the same way but, as I said, we should take notice on the off chance the communication is real.

This dream that I had the other day illustrated this point rather well.

I don’t remember how it started, it’s just that devotees mentioned that my guru was in town and he had a darśan. At a train station, of all places. I didn’t recognize anything in that dream, not the temple I heard the news in, not the city, not the train station itself.

Anyway, I went there with a friend but the station was empty, there was a guard walking inside and he said there were no trains scheduled, there were no people, and most of the lights were off. So my friend whipped up his phone and started making phone calls to our senior godbrothers to find what was going on.

A few texts later he had a content expression on his face and we went into a basement, the guard didn’t stop us. Down there was some sort of a VIP lounge, because it was rather well appointed, with carpets and couches instead of plastic chairs in the common areas. There were no more than a couple of dozen people there, our guru sat on the sofa in the far end, there was someone else sitting next to him, some devotees grouped in front of him on the floor, the rest was scattered on other sofas. It looked rather informal, the guru wore karmī clothes, and there was no sign that it was a Hare Kṛṣṇa gathering.

I was about to offer a full daṇḍavat but then remembered specific instructions on greetings in public places and decided not to hit the floor. The guru noticed our group and accepted us with a smile. I did the right thing, I thought.

For a minute or two I just silently drank his appearance, his eyes, his face, his lean body, glasses, signs of aging, wrinkles, etc. He lost weight, I thought, but mostly I was just wondering that if that’s what God’s representative looks like then this should be standard of spiritual appearance, not the other way around. He was perfect, just as I expected and just as I remembered.

Then I also remembered that guru is there to be listened to, not just watched, and tried to concentrate on what he was saying. At this time he invited questions and one of my friends moved up and asked one.

This is where I realized that my friends were actually my old schoolmates, not my godbrothers. The one who was talking on the phone was now a policeman, I heard, and the one asking the question was one of my old jock friends.

That’s when I realized that I was in a dream and when my mind took over. It wasn’t anymore about listening to what my guru had to say but about directing my dream in the best possible direction. I wasn’t after the answers anymore but tried to imagine the answers I would wanted to hear.

That’s when I woke up and lay in my bed, stunned and trying to remember each detail. My mind was still into it and I tried to formulate my own questions and see them answered but eventually I realized that it has become my own mental effort rather than a surprise entrance by my guru.

Now plenty of time has passed and some parts that were very vivid started to lose shape. I can’t remember the one word text that served as some sort of a password, for example. I saw it before, wondered what it meant, remembered, but now it’s gone.

All that is left is the feeling of awe and wonder I had when I saw my guru, even if I went to that train station knowing what to expect I was still completely overwhelmed. It felt nothing like when I imagine talking to my guru or to Kṛṣṇa, those are mostly one sided conversations without any feedback but in this dream the guru actually showed himself to me.

Shortly after that, however, I went mental and this vision was lost and replaced by my own desired images. That’s why I said in the beginning that we should take notice of impressive dreams like that but not trust them entirely. I could clearly see the difference between “revelation” and “imagination”, and I’m still not sure if even the “revelation” was real.

Luckily, I wasn’t given any specific orders to execute but if I had I would have had a hard time deciding whether they were real and whether I could justify following them by what I have been told in a dream. No orders, no dilemma.

OTOH, not getting any specific instructions is like a dream wasted, too. It hasn’t changed my life in any significant way, just added that amazing feeling of awe and reverence that I was starting to forget. I guess in the dream I was about 20m away, not close enough for any real communication, maybe there’s significance in that, too. Maybe that’s what I am good for now – just be there, take in the scene, don’t spoil it by opening my mouth.

I guess all I am trying to do now is to make the best out of my experience, strip it of any uncertainty and leave only what is completely safe to remember. Even in dreams our lives are full of garbage and I’m not going to sanctify it just because my guru was there, too.

I also realize that I don’t have any particular questions, that I know all I need to know already – the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra, everything else irrelevant and I haven’t made enough progress with chanting to ask about anything else.

I’m sorry if this post appears selfish and boring, I needed to write it down mostly to settle my own mind and tie down my own memories before they disappear forever.

Vanity thought #673. Chanting in your sleep

Is it possible to keep on chanting while your external consciousness is being somewhere else? Apparently it is, though I don’t know where where to begin a philosophical speculation on HOW it is possible.

Two stories come to mind. One is about Srila Prabhupada, an Indian gentleman came for a darshan while Srila Prabhupada was busy discussing construction of a Bombay temple. The man was left wondering why he was told he was in the presence of a greatest sadhu of our time while all Srila Prabhupada did was talk about cost of cement and other materials. Why wasn’t he chanting like all his disciples preach all the time?

To answer his question Srila Prabhupada invited him to sit right behind him, put his ear to Prabhupada’s back, and listen. Amazingly, while Prabhupada was discussing rupies and cement this gentleman was able to clearly hear the sound of the Hare Krishna mahamantra coming out from Srila Prabhupada’s heart. Chanting never stopped.

Another story is very similar and it’s about some sadhu from Vrindavana. Quite possibly he was one of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrothers but the the name was omitted from the story. So once this devotee had a heart attack and was taken to a hospital. Externally he was completely unconscious but when doctors listen to his breath with their stethoscopes they could clearly hear the sound of Hare Krishna mantra being chanted somewhere within the body.

I don’t know how much truth is in either of these stories. These are not very reliable accounts and I don’t know what exactly was heard in either of these cases and whether it was a sound and where it was coming from. Hearts do not produce sounds, and if there was chanting going on inside the heart I don’t know how it was possible to register it with physical instruments. But let’s say it’s possible.

The other day I was very busy and by the time I remembered that I still had three more rounds to chant I was already told not to stay late and go to bed at the proper time. I had no choice but to comply but later, when everyone was asleep, I sneaked out and continued chanting, in the complete darkness and despite being very very tired and sleepy. I had trouble completing the second round, my mouth didn’t want to move anymore, so I had to shake my sleepiness off, and that’s when I realized that I was actually still in bed and my chanting was only a dream.Oh no, I thought. So much struggle and all for nothing. Is it, though?

Apparently it is possible to chant in a dream, even to count the beads and rounds. How’s that different from a real chanting? Only that there’s no actual sound and hearing the sound is extremely important. On the other hand traditional japa is also done mentally, it might not be as beneficial as our japa but it’s still a legitimate practice.

Of course these rounds cannot be counted towards our daily quota but that doesn’t matter because our goal is to chant 24/7.

If Krishna or a spiritual master appears in a dream it’s usually a very good sign that should be taken seriously. Why not do the same for chanting? Now I’m looking forward to the day when chanting while I’m sleeping or doing something else would become an everyday reality and not just a weird occurrence caused probably by guilt and mental stress.

I wonder if it’s really possible to separate chanting from external consciousness so that to other people I would appear as a normally functioning individual while me myself as a spirit soul would be doing something else – chanting.

On the downside there’s not a lot of evidence that it is possible, just a couple of anecdotes, a hearsay. But wouldn’t it be great?

Vanity thought #643. Chemistry lesson

Today I fell in love in a dream. I’ve met a girl and we had what they call “chemistry”. It wasn’t about lust, well, not entirely, because lust is not one of those things that can be absent from man-woman relationships, it was about chemistry.

This is what I’m afraid of now – falling in love. You know that warm fuzzy feeling that makes your legs soft and resistance futile, when you are overwhelmingly drawn to the object of your affection, when no matter what you do or think it always ends up as a step on the way to your “soulmate”. Lust can be beaten back, and we have marriages to placate it, but nothing protects us from falling head over heels over some girl for no particular reason.

The lesson I learned, however, was about something bigger.

Anyway, even in a dream where I didn’t recognize any surroundings or any people I had a presence of mind to declare myself unavailable, which is a flashback from my real life, and I also had a presence of mind to think to myself that this is all wrong, that it’s ruinous to my Krishna consciousness.

As soon as I woke up I tried to shake that lovesick feeling, I went to the bathroom to splash some water on my face and I tried to calm my nerves, it’s not real, I told to myself. And then I realized – what is real anyway?

All my life I’ve been trying to maintain some sort of equilibrium, keep my wits about me, not panic and generally be cool. Why? Why is it any more real than the topsy turvy ride of my dream? Why is it so important to keep myself always in check?

I’ve noticed we all do it at all times. Lose a job – what will happen to me? Lose a wife or a girlfriend – what will happen to me? My life has ended, it makes no sense now.

When we are in our “normal” state we figure everything out – this is what I do for Krishna, these is what I have to do, this is what I will never do, this is what I want to do, and it all fits perfectly, by Krishna’s mercy, we think, and so we become protective about our status just as anyone else.

Krishna consciousness, however, is parallel to all our mental tribulations. We know we can be Krishna conscious when we are out of work, or when we are left by our family members. We know we can be Krishna conscious even when we lose our arm or a leg, so why can’t we be Krishna conscious when we lose our minds?

Clearly it’s because we are being on a mental platform. We think that we can serve Krishna only when we have all our screws tight in our heads and we don’t do anything stupid.

Well, Alzheimer’s is always around the corner, or we can fall in love with about the same effect on our mental faculties. It’s all still external. Chemistry does not affect the soul, it only affects our minds, even though it goes very very deep into the very essence of our being.

I was pleased to discover that it can’t go deeper than Krishna consciousness. Maybe not in my case yet but now I know that love is external. Irresistible for the body but still external. Krishna is above and beyond it, or to the side, if it makes more spatial sense.

It sucks to have your mind and intelligence affected by chemistry, or by Alzheimer’s, or by some hungry ghosts, but it’s external, Krishna can still be remembered and one day I hope I’ll discover that heart of hearts where He resides blissful and detached from all the tribulations of my material existence. This is where I want to be, too, and I can be there even if my mind is completely gone and all “reality” is completely screwed up.

Btw, about dreams, I once heard that for devotees dreams could be a way to discharge accumulated karma. I don’t know if it’s true but every time I have a bad one, about falling down, being chased, or being trapped, I look at it as a better way to relieve my accumulated reactions that having to go through it for real. Dreams about love used to be considered as pleasant but now I’m afraid of them just the same – it all has to go, better at night when I’m sleeping and there’s no danger of ruining my family.

On the other hand – what does it matter? What is real anyway?

Krishna lives elsewhere.

Vanity thought #520. Sweet dreams

About a week ago I had a dream in which my spiritual master told me to keep doing what I am doing in regards to a little realization I had recently. At the time I didn’t pay much attention to it because it wasn’t like he “appeared”, it felt more like I dreamed him up to fit into the convoluted and pointless dream-storyline.

I don’t even remember when it was, maybe it was before New Year, and I don’t remember what his instruction exactly was. It was clear to me what it was referring to but it was phrased a bit differently from how I describe it to myself.

I was about to completely forget about it but somehow that order still persists and from time to time it comes up in my mind to help me focus, so I’m starting to think that it WAS important after all.

Basically, it was about filtering out the noise and trying to sense my true spiritual nature and my true spiritual relationships with Krishna. The idea is that what I see around me is a phantasmagoria and that I, as the proverbial bird on a branch, should turn my eyes away from it and toward my only true friend – the Supersoul.

I say “sense my spiritual nature” but it’s an oxymoron because it can’t be sensed by receptors provided to me on the bodily platform and my spiritual senses are way too dormant to feel anything, but now I can’t dismiss the idea after it was “confirmed” to me in a dream. I should at least be open to it.

What it means in practice is “seeing” beyond what happens to my body and mind and focusing on my sense of myself as separate from material nature. It is the sense of myself that stays with me during the periods of deep sleep, for example, when the mind and intelligence are completely shut down. Not much to sense in that condition but that’s the sense that I need to “wake up”.

Technically, this perception of one’s spiritual nature is what yogis do, and probably jnanis, too. We have different methods of getting there but I guess the platforms are still the same and exist regardless of our practices.

Actually, what I try to focus on is perception of Krishna or at least awareness of His existence, awareness separated from His external manifestations as the Holy Name or Deities or images and thoughts in my mind. I figure there’s no point in meditating on myself, my goal is to please Krishna, I should focus on Him.

I can’t say I have made much progress but I can’t say I haven’t made any either. There’s no way to describe how it feels, too, because it can’t be felt the way everything else in this world does. It’s just something that I’m aware of.

It’s like catching that imperceptible moment between remembrance of Krishna and the appearance of thoughts about Him. Thoughts are material, remembrance is spiritual. To be clear – I’m not talking about remembering what it looks like or how I remember Him, I’m talking about remembering the concept itself – Krishna exists.

Ideally I should get a personal confirmation that the instruction I was given in a dream is not bogus but I don’t see an easy and practical way to get it at the moment. So far I don’t see how it contradicts everything else I’ve heard about Krishna Consciousness and it doesn’t require any practical actions anyway, so what’s the harm?

I’ll let it brood for a while, let’s see what comes out of it.

On a more practical note I’d like to know how other people see their spiritual masters in their dreams? What’s the atmosphere? Is it formal? Are the instructions delivered in the usual, preaching way? Mine was more like an aside – suddenly I came under my guru’s attention and he simply said: “You should keep focusing on …” Unfortunately I don’t remember how the phrase ended but the meaning was clear.

Next time I will be more careful and try to remember all the details, just in case I will need them later.

Vanity thought #405. Elvis curse

I had an unexpected dream last night – I was attending some preaching program by my old temple community and noticed that there was one attractive female there organizing the whole thing. Within minutes of talking to her I realized that was becoming hopelessly attracted.

The problem is that it wasn’t a sexual attraction, it was rather like a burning need to feel and to know the person. I started asking her where she grew up, where she met devotees, tried to picture the place on the map and the more I talked the more obvious it became – I had a crush.

The problem with this is that unlike gross sexual desire that is nothing but an itch and can be dealt with, the “crush” is something that runs much much deeper and is practically incurable. That’s why I remembered Elvis with his “Can’t help falling in love with you” song. It hooks you up by your innards, your stomach drops, you start floating and your feet have no ground to stand on.

The problem is the sense of total helplessness, there’s nothing left in this body that is not affected in one way or another, no safe place, no shelter, and whatever you do or think becomes tinted with the ointment of irresistible attraction.

The problem is that there’s nothing in this body that could be similarly attracted to Krishna – it’s not its function, it’s not meant to have a crush on Krishna, that is a function of a soul but I have no awareness of myself as a soul yet, only as a body, and this body is falling in love like there’s no tomorrow.

In the Twilight series of vampire stories there were werewolves that were susceptible to “imprints” – once they met their soul mate they lost all freedom of choice, they were irresistibly attracted for life. Good for the society that values loyalty, an absolute nightmare for devotees who seek liberation from the bondage of their desires.

Perhaps this falling in love is the other side of coin of death – you know that you, as a soul, are not affected by it but you get to fight the full strength of your connection to your body. Death is unpleasant while falling in love is the sweetest thing that can happen to you but they are both illustrate the same materialistic bond.

Anyway, I was glad it happened in my dream and I was glad I realized how unfortunate such an incident could be. I’m too old to fall in love for reals, it doesn’t befit my status anymore, and it would be an earth shattering experience for my family life. Who needs this?

I don’t, but the curse of falling in love is that you can’t help it and you can’t even choose who to fall in love with. I guess it’s also similar to people who wake up one day and realize they are gay – they can fight it for a while but this genie is not going back into a bottle.

While giving in to the overwhelming attraction we also realize that the world as we knew it has ended, nothing will be same in our lives anymore. How can one continue with his sadhana under these circumstances? All our perception of ourselves as devotees doing certain things as our service turns upside down.

Glad I just had a dream about it. I secretly believe that Krishna plays out such dangerous situations in our dreams on purpose, so that we don’t have to deal with them in real life. That would be a huge relief.

I hope there’s nothing more to it but I’m thinking of a contingency plan just in case, meanwhile I was also glad I have “Govindam Adi Purusham” as my alarm ringtone, that shakes off all bad dreams in an instant.