Dream Within a Dream

Whenever this wisdom was passed to people, it would be in sync with the time, would be understood by the people of that time, would be accepted by those people of the time.
Jun 21, 2019
Through the ages there have been stories that convey an underlying truth about being human. Discovering their meaning can have lasting benefits.

One of my favorite stories that I have heard since I was a little kid—my father used to tell it—was, there was this king. And one day, this king was attacked, except this attack happened when he was sleeping.

So he’s lying in his bed, and he’s dreaming that he has been attacked, and that he has lost his kingdom; he lost the fight. And the winning king has given orders that he be executed—and he’s running through the forest to save his life.

He finally finds himself in the forest, and he’s hungry. He’s cold; he’s hungry. He finds a hut. In the hut there is an old lady. He knocks on the door, and he says to the old lady, “Can I have something to eat?” She goes, “I just finished making my food, and I have eaten it. But I do have a little bit of lentils left, and a little bit of rice, uncooked. Here it is. Cook for yourself, and eat and be satisfied.”

The king goes out, finds the wood—it has been raining and the wood is all wet. He starts a fire, and the fire is getting into his eyes. And it’s very difficult to start the fire, but he somehow manages to start the fire; he puts the pot on the fire. He puts the dahl, the lentils, the rice, a little bit of salt—cooks himself what is called a kitchari. If you’re from Scotland, a kedgeree—but it’s the same thing.

It’s too hot for him to eat, so he puts it on a leaf to cool down. Two bulls come by, fighting, and he has to move away. And they take what he has made, and stamp, stamp all over it, and mix it in the mud.

The pain of this defeat, losing the war, losing his kingdom, hunger, being in the forest—just imagine, that’s a nightmare! He’s having a nightmare, right? That’s the problem with nightmares; when you’re having them, you don’t know you’re having a nightmare. It seems so real.

And he starts crying. And when he starts crying, he’s crying for real. Not just in his dream; he’s actually crying, and that wakes him up. And he opens his eyes, and in the dim light of his room, lit by little lamps, he sees the magnificent bed, embroidered curtains. Gold is flickering from the little light of the lamps at night.

He can see the outline of his soldiers, standing their guard with spears, as their uniform is glistening from the little light from the lamps. He feels around him, and he’s lying on the softest possible bed he can imagine, with velvet pillows.

At that moment, a question strikes him. And the brilliance of this story is just this question that strikes him—which doesn’t strike us. That whoever wrote this story, whoever came up with this story....

See, well, you hear many, many stories—at least from me. And each one of the stories has a pivotal point, this one point that the author, the teller is trying to convey to you, that is the message of the story, that is the reality of the story. Now, it may not happen with Dirty Harry—that’s Clint Eastwood’s movie—it may not have that pivoting point of “something to tell.”

But these deep stories, which were truly a way to convey wisdom to people, to the masses who would hear it.... And people would go from cities to city, to village to village, and tell these stories, and this was people’s entertainment—how sweet that time must have been.

Before Ved Vyas—the person who wrote Mahabharat—the rishis and the many, many ashrams that existed, and many teachers that existed, had the knowledge, had the knowledge of what was eventually put in the vedas. But they refused to write it.

Writing existed, and means for writing existed. But they refused to write it. Do you know why? Because they knew that if it was ever written, it no longer would be synced with time.

That whenever this wisdom was passed to people, it would be in sync with the time. What would come out would be understood by the people of that time, would be current for those people of the time, would be accepted by those people of the time. It…they would be used by the people of the time.

The downside of it was, that as rivers shifted—because India was still moving north, and this is a reality of it; India is still moving around, and then the rivers are going, “Not here. Not any more.” And people have set up their ashram....

Because, one of the most—see, the…one of the most important things was water. And in those days, cities or villages or whatever was done, it was, “Make sure the water is available.” Because if you had the water, you could grow crops. And, of course, without water, no life.

Not like today, where there are these cities and there is no water. There is a—I saw a documentary of a city in California; there’s no water. And every ounce of water, for the toilet, for the sink, for brushing the teeth, is shipped in by trucks. And you don’t want to go there—because they conserve their water; they don’t take showers.

Anyhow, that something remains current. And here is the pivotal point of that story.

So, he wakes up. He looks around; he sees he’s still a king. Soldiers.... I already described everything pretty well, right? The question he asks himself: “Is this a dream? Or was that a dream,” where he’s hungry? He has questioned both! What would you do?

Oh, you know, instruments of truth, who can detect truth just like that—“Is there something black on my nose?” “No.”

You see, you know, have you seen mechanics? Car mechanics? Sometimes they will have a big line right here, and they don’t know. They’re going around like, “No, there’s nothing there.” To them, that’s the truth. The truth to you would then be, “Oh, no, no, look, look at your face.”

That’s not the truth either; that’s not the truth either, and he’s asking himself a question, “Which one was the dream?” Would we have the gall to ask that question, “Which one is a dream? Was our nightmare real—and what we are seeing now is real? And which one is a dream? Which one is the nightmare and which one is the reality?”

So, anyway, the story goes on; he makes a declaration, “Please, somebody answer my question.” People come out; he’s getting BS answers like he would today—stupid answers.

“You know, according to your astrology sign, that was just a nightmare, king. This is what’s real. Your destined to be the king; there’s nobody born who can defeat you, bla-bla-bla-bla-bla.” And he’s not buying it; he’s not convinced. He’s been touched by that dream so hard, he really wants to know which one is real.

That, there’s nothing to stop for him dreaming. That he has made a declaration—that he woke up and found that he’s still a king, when he’s maybe lying on some floor in the jungle, hungry and wet.

And finally, as—and so he keeps upping the ante, you know? It’s like, “Okay, whoever answers it can have this, can have this, can have this,” and it just kept escalating, escalating, escalating, and he finally gets down to it, and he goes, “Okay, I’ll give half of my kingdom to whoever answers my question.”

Everybody tried; everybody failed. Finally this person, Ashtabakr—and he was deformed! So, he comes; he sits down. And everybody starts laughing.

And the first thing Ashtabakr says is, “How come you have called me, how come you have invited me, O King, to the company of leather-workers?” In India, that’s an insult, by the way. That’s a low-down task, to work with the leather. “Chamar.”

Everybody hears the word “chamar” in his gathering, and they are like, “How dare you call these learned people ‘chamar’?” He goes, “They look at my skin—they look at my skin, and they’re laughing. They don’t know what I have in here, and they don’t know my knowledge. So obviously, they deal in skin.”

The king goes, “Okay, this, this sounds promising.” And here comes the answer—the second twist, the untangling—so, the tangling is, “Which one is real?” And the untangling, here it comes.

The untangling is, “O King, both are dreams.” Right? “Both are dreams. What you dreamt being in the jungle, being hungry was definitely a dream. But what you see with your eyes open, my king, is also a dream.” Tellers of truth, figure that one out. Both are—both are just a dream?

It is the easiest thing to forget: “This is a dream.” Because you were so deep into this dream, that it doesn’t seem like a dream. And there’s only one solution to this problem—only one. Only one—to be reminded again and again and again and again and again, “It’s only a bloody dream; it’s only a bloody dream; it’s only a bloody dream.”

And of course, that’s what sets forth the value for the Master. “It’s only a dream; it’s only a dream; it’s only a dream; it’s only”—and you’re like, “And no, it doesn’t look like a dream. It doesn’t look like a dream.” But isn’t it? “It is a dream; it is a dream; it is a dream; it is a dream; it is a dream.”

“Doesn’t seem like a dream; it doesn’t seem like a dream,” “Yeah, but it is a dream; it is a dream; it is a dream; it is a dream.”

Just like he said, Ashtabakr said, “That was a dream, and this is a dream. Don’t seek reality here. If you want to seek reality, seek reality in you, in that real place that you have which is not a dream.”

- Prem Rawat

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