Man’s life is like a dream. Man thinks that he is living, but in fact, he is only dreaming of living – like everyone else. But is life in reality just a dream of life? Why does Buddha ask us to be wakeful and Nanak ask us not to be forgetful?
The mind is constantly engaged in thought. We can call our thoughts fancier names like ‘the future’, ‘plans’ or ‘our vision’, but they are all just thoughts. The mind keeps jumping from one thought to the other, in an unending chain of thought. This chain of thought is what we call life. This chain eventually breaks one day when life ends.
Our mind monkeys around the whole day, even when we sleep at night – in dreams. This state of dreaming then continues in our waking state too. Dreaming goes on uninterrupted during the day. So, our minds are caught in a web of thoughts. If we decide to stop and witness the thoughts come and go, we would be surprised to realise the senselessness and uselessness of these thoughts and dreams.
We value our bouquet of thoughts greatly, attaching fancy names to them. But this is life for life’s sake — a life wasted in dreaming.
Thoughts begin in our minds for security. They are meant for a purpose, to be used by us. But, man ends up living in his mind. So, how do we get away from the mind and move into our inner being? First, understand that the mind is not us. The mind and body are not two things; they embody one and the same thing. When you entered the womb of your mother, there was neither body nor mind, but you were. So, the mind is a later phenomenon that came with the body. But today you are driven by your thoughts and your mind has become your master. But you have to have the whip in your hand.
Thoughts make you daydream — while walking, talking, seeing and hearing. The moment the mind, your master, picks up the whip, things are organised the way they ought to be. It is not that your senses or your mind have made you dream. You are in deep sleep. You are unconscious. So how can you expect your senses to keep you in a state of consciousness? It is like you have handed over your whip to the horses of the cart on which you are sitting. These horses are bound to make you go crazy.
The mind is momentary, ephemeral. It is fleeting in thought. It breeds sleep. Even if you are thinking of God, no light will dawn upon you. In the Diamond Sutra, Buddha says that if you look at your mind as it is, you will know that it is simple. Then why is man asleep? Are you aware of your own being? If you are aware of yourself, then who are you? The mind is like a mirror that reflects everything but it cannot reflect you. It is like an organic computer where you can feed information and make use of it, but it cannot be aware of the user. Scientists are toying with the idea of singularity. The human ego is the shadow of your real self. To be you, you have to be what you are. You have to be aware. This is also called self-remembering or self-actualization. It is to remember who you are, in whatever way you are living. Just remember that you are. Just remember who is living.
Life happens on the canvas of being. Being means the one who is in the present. There is no future of the being, there is no past of the being. Being is in newness and newness occurs in timelessness. Contrarily, man wants to find happiness in dreams of tomorrow. But life is here and will happen on the canvas of being. Dreams are bound to happen when you are not there in the being. You are living a false life with your ego and your ego is not the real you. It is a shadow in which you are trapped, in that gap between the real and unreal. This is how the world is made up of your dreams.
There are two ways of going beyond dreams. You have to practise dreamlessness. At night when you sleep, you should make a firm resolve that you will see the dream. And by and by, one day you will see the dream and you will realise that it is different from reality and you are just an observer of the dream. That would be your first step into the realm of wakefulness. In wakefulness you would be able to observe your ego, that it is just a tool with which you live in society, but you would not be captivated by it.
Another way you can attain dreamlessness is just by being. Just be. Ask yourself, ‘who am I?’ Ask this question and don’t answer in words. Let the answer emerge on its own, beyond words, as a feeling of ‘who I am’. That’s the answer that emerges from your feelings, not the thoughts imported from your mind. And when the answer emerges, embody it. Immerse yourself in that feeling of being. Do it repeatedly. The answer will come from your being and the whole being would be revealed to you. Then take a walk with it, see the world with it. Then while walking, talking, sitting, seeing and doing, remember that you are, remember who you are and who is walking and engaged in activity. Over time, by self-remembering you will attain your real self and the state of dreaming will disappear. You will meet real life in all its colours.
The author is a spiritual teacher and an advisor on policy, governance and leadership. He can be contacted at [email protected]