Found in Sanga, Sanga 2007.

Beyond Our Wildest Dreams

November 12th, 2007 | No Comments

Q. As I understand it, when a person is initiated into the order of sannyasa he receives a special mantram by aural reception. I was told that Srila Prabhupada heard the sannyasa mantram from his sannyasa guru Srila Bhakti Prajnana Kesava Maharaja, who heard it from his sannyasa guru Srila Bhakti Raksaka Sridhara Maharaja, who heard it from Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura.

However, I read that Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati took sannyasa from a picture of his guru Srila Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji Maharaja, so my question is how exactly did he receive the sannyasa mantram? Obviously, he didn’t hear it from Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji as he was no longer physically present. Was the mantram revealed to Saraswati Thakura in a dream or did he hear it at some point from Bhaktivinoda Thakura?

A. Most of the mantras used in our sampradaya are found in the Hari-bhakti-vilasa, having been collected from the tantra sastras, agamas, and so forth by Sanatana and Gopala Bhatta Goswamis. The sannyasa mantra is no exception. This mantra is given to renunciates, be they babajis or tridandi sannyasis. Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura gave it to his sannyasa initiates. He did not hear it from Gaura Kisora dasa Babaji during his manifest presence, rather he received it from him in a divine vision after Srila Gaura Kisora had left the world.

Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakura did not always repeat this mantra verbally to his sannyasa initiates. On many occasions he gave it to his sannyasa disciples written on a piece of paper. Pujyapada B. P. Kesava Maharaja did not speak the mantra in Srila Prabhupada’s ear when he gave him sannyasa, rather he gave it to him written on a piece of paper. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada gave the sannyasa mantra to many of his disciples in the same way.

It is important to note here that the will of the Vaisnava, his or her intention and blessings, is the essence of divine transmission. Furthermore, initiation through divine vision is not unprecedented in our sampradaya. Gaudiya literature tells us that Sri Syamananda received initiation into gopi bhava in a divine vision. Originally his claim to initiation was contested, but eventually it was accepted on the strength of his personal spiritual power. Baladeva Vidyabhusana also confirms in his commentary on Vedanta-sutra that mantras are sometimes conveyed from guru to disciple in dreams.

Q. In Swami B. R. Sridhara Maharaja’s book Subjective Evolution of Consciousness, it says that although the characters in Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s book Jaiva Dharma are apparently imaginary, they actually exist somewhere within the universal mind. Does this mean that dreams and visions are in some way a reality? Does this also mean that through spiritual practice (sadhana) we can perceive true spiritual reality in regards to the universal mind of God?

A. In the first chapter of Subjective Evolution, Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja makes a passing reference to the characters in Bhaktivinoda Thakura’s book Jaiva Dharma. Therein he says that perhaps they appeared in another day of Brahma. In chapter 6 he also says that the characters are real and that what appears to one person at some point as his or her imagination appears as a concrete reality at another point in time. Furthermore, he concludes that all so-called imagination is a concrete reality from the perspective of the universal mind.

Elsewhere when addressing this question, Sridhara Maharaja replied that whatever appears in the mind of a suddha-bhakta (pure devotee) is reality. Thus he was of the opinion that the characters of Jaiva Dharma were in some way real. Regardless, the fact is that these characters usher us into the spiritual realm that exists far beyond the mythic world of the mind. Thus it is correct to say that sadhana, or spiritual practice, gradually grants us access to the mind of God. What is reality in the mind of God? This is the important question, one that is well addressed Jaiva Dharma, a treatise that clearly defines the eternal relationship between the soul and the Supreme Soul.

Otherwise, the subject of dreams is addressed in the sutras of Vyasa (3.2.1-5), wherein it is written that dream consciousness (svapna) is the sandhya, or junction, between the waking state (jagrata) and deep dreamless sleep (susupti). In his commentary on the sutras, the venerable Baladeva Vidyabhusana explains that the figures appearing in dreams are created by God to distribute the results of minor good and evil acts one has previously performed. Sri Ramanujacarya confirms this in his Sri Bhasya commentary on Vedanta-sutra, wherein he writes, “The things seen by an individual soul in its dreams are specially created by the supreme person, and are meant by him to be a retribution—whether reward or punishment—for deeds of minor importance: they therefore last for the time of the dream only, and are perceived by that one soul only.”

In his Srimad-Bhagavatam commentary, Srila Prabhupada talks about this as follows: “Because of sinful activities, at night we have bad dreams, which are very troublesome. Indeed, Maharaja Yudhisthira was obliged to see hell because of a slight deviation from devotional service to the Lord. Therefore, dursvapna—bad dreams—occur because of sinful activities. A devotee sometimes accepts a sinful person as his disciple, and to counteract the sinful reactions he accepts from the disciple, he has to see a bad dream.”

Baladeva Vidyabhusana also states in his commentary that dreams are as real as that experienced in the waking state. He cites as evidence the fact that sometimes solutions to medical problems are found in dreams, mantras are passed on in dreams, and objects seen in dreams are sometimes later seen in the waking state. Furthermore, he says that dreams often foretell of future events and that those who know how to read them can sometimes predict the future.

The verdict according to the sutras, and the great acaryas who have commented on them, is that we are not the ultimate creator of our dreams. God is the creator of dreams and the controller of the law of karma; dreams being one way in which we play out our karma. Moreover, dreams are sometimes divine in that they can be an intervention that transcends karma, although such dreams are very rare. Of course, dreaming about Sri Guru is always auspicious.

However, Sri Baladeva Vidyabhusana’s comments do not address in depth the myriad of issues regarding human psychology and the nature of dreams. As an expression of one’s karma, dreams are usually the result of one’s preoccupation during the waking state. Therefore, Srila Prabhupada generally discounted the significance of people’s dreams, including those of his disciples. In his Krishna book he writes, “This body is exactly like one of the bodies which we always see in dreams. During our dream of sleep, we create so many bodies according to mental creation. We have seen gold, and we have also seen a mountain, so in a dream we can see a golden mountain by combining the two ideas. Sometimes in dreams we see that we have a body, which is flying in the sky, and at that time we completely forget our present body. Similarly, these bodies are changing. When you have one body, you forget the past body. During a dream, we may make contact with so many new kinds of bodies, but when we are awake we forget them all. And actually these material bodies are the creations of our mental activities. But at the present moment we do not recollect our past bodies.”

Interestingly, the famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung studied dreams and theorized on the connection between dreams and spirituality. Through his influence, Wolfgang Pauli, the great quantum physicist who went to Jung for treatment of depression, also took dreams very seriously. In collaboration with Jung, Pauli sought to bridge the gap between matter and spirit through scientific means. Referring to Plato, they felt that this gap could only be bridged through the application of Eros, or “intense yearning for spirit,” and not just with a dispassionate objective search. In their view a philosopher should have the same passion for truth as a lover has for his or her beloved. Eros, according to Plato, is necessary to get to the transcendental realm of essences beyond time and space. In its fullest expression, Plato’s Eros is the conjugal union between the soul and the absolute, which is the sum of all transcendent qualities like beauty, goodness, etc.

Jung and Pauli were likely referring to a transcendent ideal akin to what we discuss as impersonal realization. However, Plato’s idea of Eros could also be seen as corresponding to the Gaudiya concept of lobha, or sacred greed, which is the qualification for embarking on the path of spontaneous devotion—raganuga-bhakti. In the Gaudiya view, the absolute is Krishna, who is the repository of all transcendent qualities. Love of Krishna is most fully expressed in the person of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. He is the embodiment of conjugal love of God and through devotion to him we can share in his experience of divine truth, beauty, and love. According to scripture that experience is truly beyond our wildest dreams.

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