The cosmic dream

We all are asleep, dreaming the cosmic dream.

I woke up, this morning, with the following words of a Sufi Saint on my lips: “When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.” Not until the heart weeps when our own dear ones misunderstand us, does the spirit awake. The world is steeped in selfishness. No one seems to love us for our own sake: everyone loves us for what we have or what we are. And when they think, mistakenly or otherwise, that they cannot get out of us what they expect or what, according to them, is their legitimate due, they begin to grumble and complain. Such is the way of this selfish world. And yet, if it were otherwise, the soul would have no opportunities for awakening.

We all are asleep, dreaming the cosmic dream. “You all are asleep, “ sings Shabistari, “and your vision is a dream, all you are seeing is a mirage.” But this realisation comes to us only when we enter into the Great Awakening. “Fools think they are awake now,” says the Chinese Philosopher, Chuang-tse. And he describes an amusing experience in the following words. “Once upon a time,” he says, “I, Chuang-tse, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of following my fancies as a butterfly, and was unconscious of my individuality as a man. Suddenly, I awoke, and there I lay, myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I am a man.”

I had a similar dream once, which left a deep impression on me. I dreamt that four thieves had broken into a rich friend’s house and were caught red-handed. They appeared to be very poor, and to me it was obvious that poverty had driven them to commit theft. They were being handed over to the police when I pleaded with my friend to have mercy on the poor souls and let them off, but not without first giving them a good, hearty meal. As I was dreaming thus, it appears that the four thieves ‘actually’ broke into the compound of our building and were caught red-handed. And my friends came to wake me up, saying: “We have caught four thieves. We want your consent to hand them over to the police.” Half awake, I said: “Shall I give you my consent to hand over the four thieves to the police or shall I continue to plead with my friend to let off the four thieves?”

Yes, we all are asleep, dreaming the cosmic dream. Therefore, let us not regard anything as real. Let us not seek our happiness in objects and persons who only appear to be real, as things and men in a dream appear to be real, while we are dreaming. If we do so, we will be a laughing-stock to those that are awake.

I remember how once, as a child, I dreamt that I had a beautiful toy. I was playing with it, when one of my schoolmates came and snatched it from me. I cried loudly, “You dare not take it: it is mine,” and I awoke! My mother, sisters and brothers laughed at me, as they asked: “What were you dreaming?”

When I say, “This is mine, that is mine,” I am, in truth, dreaming. For, in reality, nothing belongs to me. My own body does not belong to me. It was the Buddha who said: “The fool thinks, these sons are mine, these things are mine. When he does not belong to himself, can anything belong to him?”

How may we get over the feeling that our dear ones whom we love are ours? The answer is given to us by the Sage Yagnavalkya, in the Upanishad. “Let the wife be dear to her husband,” he says, “not for the sake of the wife, but for the sake of the Atman [soul]. And let the son be dear to his mother not for the sake of the son, but for the sake of the Atman.” When our relationships are rooted in the truth of the Atman, then we shall be free from attachment, and we shall love each other as free souls. Such love will be pure and unselfish and, in certain cases, more intense than that of a husband for his wife. Such love will liberate us from bondage to earthly objects and creatures.

Let me close with the words of the great Egyptian Teacher of Wisdom, Hermes Trismegistus, the thrice-great: “The world of things that come to be and cease to be is a world of dreams. He who is asleep and dreaming [in the literal sense] in this world is in reality dreaming doubly; and when he wakes [in the literal sense], he is like a man who has been awakened from an ‘incidental’ sleep, but has given himself up again to his ‘natural’ sleep.”

This was first published in the September 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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