“One should concentrate his mind upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who alone distributes Himself in so many manifestations just as ordinary persons create thousands of manifestations in dreams. One must concentrate the mind on Him, the only all-blissful Absolute Truth. Otherwise one will be misled and will cause his own degradation.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.1.39)
आत्मा यथा स्वप्नजनेक्षितैक: ।
तं सत्यमानन्दनिधिं भजेत
नान्यत्र सज्जेद् यत आत्मपात: ॥
ātmā yathā svapna-janekṣitaikaḥ
taṁ satyam ānanda-nidhiṁ bhajeta
nānyatra sajjed yata ātma-pātaḥ
1. A student
“I better get a passing grade on the final examination. I don’t want to get held back. Can you imagine the embarrassment? I would be the oldest student in the class. Everyone else will know me as the failure from the previous year.”
2. A baseball player
“I am a free agent at the end of the season. My market value will never be higher. I better put up good numbers this season. That will attract competing bidders later on. I am looking for the longest contract, with the highest value. I just want things to be settled, so that I can focus on my performance moving forward.”
3. An office worker
“How do I endure the grind of travelling five days a week to sit in an office for eight hours a day? I don’t know. What else would I be doing? At home I would be depressed, endlessly scrolling through media sites on my phone. I would binge-watch television shows and only become sadder as a result.
“At least at the office I feel needed. People depend on me. I like interacting with colleagues. It feels like we are working towards a common goal. In addition, the sacrifice helps to pay the bills at home.”
4. A parent
“I can’t tell you how difficult life has been. I don’t even have time to sit back and reflect. At every second of the day someone is asking me for something. There is constant crying. The spouse is never happy with me.
“I put up with it because there is no other choice. It is easy to be devoted, honorable, and with integrity in theory. To display good qualities during times of difficulty is another story. I want to stand up to the tests. I want to set a good example for the next generation.”
5. A retiree
“It’s finally over. I worked too many years, if you ask me. I am not sure what I am going to do next. It will take some time to decompress. I might start reading books. Going for walks in the bright sunshine. Better yet, I will move someplace that allows for interaction with nature throughout the year. No more shoveling snow, especially as my body starts to break down.”
Imagine if on five successive nights, we had a dream in which we played the above mentioned roles. Everything seemed real. There were the ups and downs, the highs and lows, and the gains and losses.
There was trepidation over the future. There was a fond review of glories renewed. There was honest assessment, taking a dive into what worked and what went wrong. There was careful deliberation through retrospection.
There were goals for the future. There was lamentation for past mistakes. There was an eye on the dwindling time, ticking down and creating a true sense of urgency. There were items identified to avoid moving forward and expectations for a certain level of success.
No matter the variety and length of indulgence, the nature of the experience is the same. It is, after all, a dream. There is no reality to the environment. Everything is the making of the mind. The experience is real, in the sense that we actually think we are in those situations.
We have measurable effects on the body. A rapidly beating heart. A cold sweat. Elevated blood pressure. Discomfort in the stomach due to nervousness.
We conduct this review of the hypothetical as a way to put the entire life experience into perspective. The truth is, from birth until death is like an extended dream. The experience is an illusion of sorts, described by the Sanskrit word maya.
In this birth I am born an American. I have a certain way of life. There is a standard of living that I expect. Any interruption to that standard causes discomfort.
Across the world, someone is born in a different country. They have less material comforts. They cannot simply navigate to a website and have chosen items delivered to their doorstep in the ensuing days. They are lucky to have running water or steady electricity.
The situations can change. There can be a trading of places. Perhaps I am living in squalor in the next lifetime. Maybe that person takes birth in a wealthy family. The two participants in a bloody war are suddenly in opposite places. They now hate the country they were previously fighting for.
This cycle repeats, for as many lifetimes as it takes to escape the dream and find reality. Vedic literature is for opening the curtain, so to speak, for learning what is real and what is not. Beyond maya there is Brahman. This is the spiritual energy. The calling of the human birth is to inquire into Brahman.
It is not for living another dream. It is not for spending further time in illusion. This lifetime is not for making temporary gains, which are then left behind at the time of death. I am not alive today for the purpose of enjoying the senses, which can take place in any type of body.
Beyond Brahman there is Parabrahman. This is the singular source of everything. We are Brahman and God is Parabrahman. We are identical in a lot of ways. Where we are different is that He never succumbs to illusion. He is never in a dream. He is always who He is, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
My true identity is part and parcel of the Divine energy. I am His servant, but I have forgotten. I have mistakenly taken shelter of the illusion. In this precious human birth, I can wake up to the reality, accepting my constitutional position based on my true identity. I can again find service to Parabrahman. The spiritual master explains how to conduct that service, and for that gift I am forever grateful.
Met a lady only dreams can create,
As if forever that enjoyment to wait.
But tomorrow to the office sent,
Time like in awful prison spent.
Today vibrant with energy regained,
In old age of aches and pains.
Like a dream the experiences went,
For true awakening this birth meant.
Categories: the five