My favorite movie is “Waking Life”, an animated feature directed by the great Richard Linklater. I’ve watched it many times. It is told from the perspective of a college student who is experiencing a state called “lucid dreaming”- where you are dreaming but are also conscious of the fact that you are dreaming. It is a phenomenon that has long fascinated mystics, scientists and laymen like me. In his “lucid dream” he interviews his professors, friends, and total strangers about weighty philosophical questions like the nature of consciousness, how to find authentic happiness, the corrosive power of time, and humanity’s future. The entire soundtrack was provided by an Austin-based tango ensemble. This movie taught me how to love tango, that strange hybrid of klezmer, classical chamber music and Iberian ballads.
The movie begins with the college guy as a child, playing a card game with his sister. It is an intricate, numerical numbers game. She asks the boy to select any card, and then she counts down and tells him to pick the last card. He does and she passes it to him. It reads: “Dream is destiny.”
Dream is destiny. This reminds me of Sri Chinmoy’s Invocation: “My life, Thy soulful Dream.”
One of my customers owns a bunch of movie theaters, nationwide. A long time ago I had told him that “Waking Life” is my favorite movie. Yesterday he came through my line with his wife and he asked me to rattle off my favorite movies. I said, “Oh, “Fight Club”, “Spirited Away”, “Shawshank Redemption”, “Waking Life”.”
And he said “Oh, “Waking Life” by Richard Link-what’s-his-face?”
And I yelled “Linklater you idiot!” (He’s my friend. I can get away with this)
So, he handed me a gift bag. Inside the gift bag was the DVD “Waking Life”. It was signed “To Mahiruha- from Richard Linklater- Dream On…”
He got Richard Linklater to autograph my own copy of my favorite movie!
I had other customers, but I just sat down on the little stoop where we usually put the bags and held the DVD over my heart. I was so stunned.
I’ve been thinking of dreams recently. The Rebbe of Berditchev, one of the followers of the great Jewish mystic the Baal Shem, said that to get old on the spiritual path is a crime. The path is only for the young. We must never get old in heart, in spirit. Sri Chinmoy said something similar, “To our last breath, let us aspire, and let us try to inspire others.” To aspire is to dream. To dream is to walk the path of constant self-renewal. Dream is destiny.
One of my friends told me that when he used to come home from his job at the UN, he would spend his nights doing selfless service or attending meditations at the Master’s house. Then, at night, he would be dead tired after a long day of work, service and meditation. He would go to sleep in a pretty good consciousness. But he often woke up after just an hour of sleep. He would have vivid vital, sexual dreams that would startle him awake. He tried meditating before going to sleep, but the problem persisted.
So, one night, during a function with the Guru, he asked Sri Chinmoy why he so often has lower vital dreams about an hour after going to sleep. Guru responded that it is at that time, about an hour after falling asleep, that people start going through the vital worlds. This led to other disciples posing a gauntlet of questions to Guru about dreams and sleep, but my friend wasn’t satisfied. So he followed up with another question: “If it is true, that after an hour I pass through the vital worlds in my sleep, what can I do about it?” Sri Chinmoy responded in a very succinct way: “Imagine a green-blue light.”
That’s all he said- imagine a green-blue light. So this person started meditating on that shade between blue and green. The dreams unfortunately continued, and he realized that, upon waking up, he really wanted the dreams. The charm of the vital world is overwhelming! But he did continue to visualize a blue-green light, and he even bought Christmas lights and nightlights which refracted that color- between blue and green. He kept meditating on this color, and he said that just his own haphazard attempts to follow his teacher’s advice- in spite of not knowing exactly what shade of blue-green to meditate on, or even what this color means in relation to the vital world- he has started to acquire some calmness and control over this part of his life. And he realized that light was the answer, light itself. He felt that from his daily prayers, his service to his Master, his attempt to merge his meditation and his work-life, that he began to bathe in light. He realized eventually that the light is not blue or green, but it is an all-encompassing light.
I had a dream recently which in some ways touches on my friend’s experience. In my dream, I was walking down a long hallway at my college gym. I paused in front of the locker room door, and I had a moment of lucid awareness. I knew I was about to enter the vital world. I opened the door with fear, and yes, anticipation.
The funny thing is that on the other side of the door, instead of a locker room, showers and saunas, there were just rows and rows of bookshelves, extending in all directions to the vanishing point. All the books were perfectly lined up and categorized. Everything was clean, serene and silent. My dream-self muttered, “The locker room must become a library.”
At that moment I woke up and sat up in bed. I swear I heard a voice say, “And the library must become a temple.”
I think this dream, if it came from my soul, may be telling me something. In short, the dream means that I am not the one who is going to transform my impure vital into something higher and divine. That is God’s responsibility. All I can do is prepare myself by continuing my sadhana: prayers, reading, running, meditating, singing, writing. If I brood on my vital problems, I will not transcend them. If I dedicate myself more wholeheartedly to the spiritual life, I can bring light into the vital realm. I can turn the locker room into a library.
Guru says we always have to go to the superior world to find solutions in the inferior world. The slothful body must take shelter in the dynamic vital- the gym. The dynamic vital must be guided by the higher mind, with its refined aesthetic sense, which also includes the love of nature’s beauty, artistic beauty, God’s beauty- the library. The illumined mind must surrender ultimately to the wisdom and light of the heart, which gets this directly from the soul- the temple.
My name means “climbing aspiration-tree”. The answer is always to climb, to keep climbing, to climb higher. Dream is destiny.