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THE NIGHT DREAM AND THE DAY DREAM
Once a king summoned his ministers in the early morning hours and asked them, “Last night, I had a very vivid dream. I was a butterfly, going from flower to flower, drinking honey. My dream was so clear and real that I have a grave doubt: Am I a king who was dreaming that he was a butterfly or am I a butterfly now dreaming that I am a king?”
The commonplace phenomenon of dreams constitutes one of the greatest human mysteries. What is a dream? Is it real? If it is not, then why does a nightmare have real effects on the body like sweating and panting, something which happens only when we “really” run in fear? Could it be that our waking life is also a dream?
If we look back at a past experience from a dream and our waking life, is there any substantial difference? Both are gone and done and we can do nothing about them now except remember them. We call what we experience when asleep as a dream because it ends when we wake up. Will death be like waking up from the dream of what we are experiencing when “awake” now?
If we think deeply about dreams, they indicate our identity to be different from our body. When we dream, our bodies lie on the bed, experiencing nothing physically. Yet we experience being chased by a tiger or sporting with a princess. This means I - the experiencer of the emotions – am not the body.
The Vedic scriptures explain that our consciousness shuttles between four states – jagruti (normal wakefulness), svapna (dream), sushupti (deep dreamless sleep) and samadhi (divine wakefulness). Our actual identity as souls, beloved children of God, is experienced in samadhi. Presently, though physically awake we are spiritually asleep.
Therefore, the answer to the king’s question is: he is a spiritual child of God, dreaming himself to be a king (jagruti). And within that dream, he is having a second dream of being a butterfly (svapna).
A sleeping person cannot even perceive the existence of the shining sun, though the sun is sustaining his very life. Similarly due to our spiritual slumber, we cannot perceive the presence and love of God, though He is sustaining our very existence by providing heat, light, air, water and food. But just as a sleeping person can be awakened by sound, we can wake from our spiritual slumber through spiritual sound – the holy name of God. Therefore let us chant and wake up to our rightful joyful life of immortal love.