“Never go to bed at night until you have convinced your mind that this world is God’s dream.” – Paramhansa Yogananda.
There are many theories as to why we dream, but rarely, if ever, does any scholar or scientist dare give a definitive opinion. They say, “We simply don’t know for sure.” Paramhansa Yogananda, however, did dare to say: “I know exactly why and how we dream.”
Life itself is a dream
One of the major themes of Yogananda’s teachings is the importance of cognizing the dream nature of the universe. He explains that the way we dream mimics the mechanism that produces all of life: life is like a movie projected on the cosmic screen of space; our nightly dreams are like little movies within the big movie of life.
Dreams come to us to strongly hint that what we call reality or life is not as real as it may seem. This is the primary reason we dream! Other theories for why we dream may have some validity, but they are not nearly as important as this central concept: we dream to help us understand a basic reality of life: Life itself is a dream.
The cosmic dream: intensely vivid
Life, even for ordinary human beings, possesses a certain dreamlike quality. Things happen that make us ask: “Am I dreaming? Perhaps I should pinch myself to wake up!”
Nevertheless, when we are awake, we generally are convinced of the reality of the world around us, in part because we awaken daily to the same “scenario.” Also, this cosmic dream was created by God and lacks the vague, slightly irrational quality of most human dreams; it thus seems truer than our own nightly dreams.
What is reality
There’s a story Yogananda often told to illustrate these principles. A farmer was standing by a tree, absorbed in thought. His wife came rushing up, weeping, to announce that a cobra had just killed their only son. The farmer made no reply. Stunned by his seeming indifference, the wife cried, “You are heartless!”
“You don’t understand,” the farmer replied. “Last night I dreamed that I was a king, and that I had seven sons. They went out into the forest and all were bitten by cobras and died. Now I am wondering whether I ought to weep for my seven dead sons in that dream, or for our one son who has just been killed in this dream we are dreaming now?”
The farmer was a man of spiritual vision. To him, the material world and the subconscious dream world were both equally unreal. Most people dream at night, but few take their jumbled dreams seriously. So the greatest lesson dreamland has to offer is that we must not take our earthly experiences too seriously either.
Yogananda: “Avoid subconscious dreams”
Ordinary dreams emerge mainly from the subconscious. Yogananda emphasizes that these ordinary, subconsciously produced dreams are to be avoided; they offer neither pure rest nor helpful instructions. A person who is highly developed spiritually seldom has such dreams.
The more we live a spiritually-oriented life focused on prayer and meditation, the more likely we are to experience superconscious dreams, which come from our Higher Self or God. Superconscious dreams offer guidance and deep inspiration; or they depict future happenings, which, good or bad, always come true.
They also give hints of spiritual progress, and include messages that motivate the ego to make the effort to return to its home of permanent bliss in God. Occasionally the superconscious inserts such messages into subconscious dreams.
Semi-superconscious dreams (conscious sleep)
Yogananda describes another type of dream that resembles superconscious dreams: semi-superconscious dreams or “conscious sleep.” Like superconscious dreams, this type of dream is also a prophetic, enlightening, or spiritually helpful dream.
In her book, The Flawless Mirror, Kamala Silva, a Yogananda disciple from age fifteen, describes a semi-superconscious dreams that contained an important warning:
Evening. I felt a tremendous need to sleep in a very different way than being sleepy. It was as if being drawn into it. When I closed my eyes for sleep, I was with Master seemingly at once and intensely aware. It was an outdoor setting.
Master indicated that [I] was to go far up a road…. I paused there, momentarily, looking up at Master. He was on the edge of the dirt embankment about twelve feet above. With a cane he moved a small stone, but it seemed to loosen and dislodge another one, the size of a football, and his expression was one of great concern as the large stone came forcefully down toward me. I couldn’t tell where it might hit! I felt a strong air current as it moved past me.
I said to Master, ‘I couldn’t tell which way to move, so I stood still.’ He replied very gravely: ‘Yes, sometimes that is also God’s way.’
This experience came to have a tremendous meaning in my life, portending a great karmic blow. When it came I wanted with all my being to move, to act, to do something, but the divine inner guidance of God and Guru continued to be the same for me that I had experienced in this vision: to ‘stand still.’
Dreams vs. visions
Superconscious visions occur when one is able to consciously withdraw the energy from the muscles and heart and direct it one-pointedly to the point between the eyebrows. The breath and heart slow down or cease altogether.
Superconscious visions can occur while awake or asleep, with eyes open or closed. They are accompanied by feelings of heightened awareness, blessing, and joy.
There is also another, spiritually higher type of vision, or “super-vision,” where one can actually talk to a saint or master. This type of vision usually comes only to someone who has attained a high state of God-consciousness.
The meaning of dream symbols
Many people are fascinated by dream symbols, but Yogananda recommends that we put energy into deciphering only those dreams that have a superconscious message. Until we are highly developed spiritually, most dreams will come from our subconscious and merely reflect our present mental state.
Superconscious and semi-superconscious dreams often contain uplifting and instructive symbols. Here is a partial list of superconscious dream symbols from Yogananda:
- A huge fire: the burning of past karma.
- Water: divine perceptions through meditation.
- A boat: one should seek the right guru.
- Altars: God-communion or marriage with an extremely spiritual soul.
- The sun and the moon: the Father and Mother aspects of God.
- Flowers: the budding of blossoms of creative wisdom.
- A feeling of expansion in space: the feeling of omnipresence felt in meditation.
Become king of the three kingdoms
To gain more control over our lives, Yogananda suggests that we learn to enter the subconscious dream state, and the conscious and superconscious states at will. He gives the following instructions for learning to fall asleep at will:
- Sit against the back of a chair. Close and lower your eyes, as though gazing downward. Dismiss all restless thoughts; feel yourself becoming drowsy.
- Let go, fall asleep, or at least try to doze. Repeat this until you are submerged in the dreamland of sleep as soon as you close and lower your eyes.
- When you are heavy with sleep, quickly tense the whole body and sit upright with a straight spine. Lift and open your eyes and look straight ahead at one object without winking. Take a deep, invigorating breath and banish sleep at will!
Waking at will
To wake at will:
- Every night, before dropping off to sleep, command your subconscious mind to wake you at a different hour. Continue making this suggestion to the subconscious mind until it obeys.
- Fall asleep with the thought that a matter of vital importance depends upon your getting up at your appointed hour.
Entering the superconscious state at will
After we are able to fall asleep instantly or to wake at will, we can begin to practice entering the superconscious state at will. Yogananda explains:
- Fix your vision at the point between the eyebrows.
- Try to go instantaneously into a state of deep peace or joy.
In shifting from the conscious to the superconscious plane, your lungs must be nearing breathlessness and your heart calm. The regular practice of deep meditation helps one achieve this.
Fully awake in cosmic consciousness
The lowest state of subconscious sleep and ordinary dreaming inevitably falls away as the superconscious becomes more predominant in our lives. Through self-effort and grace, superconsciousness evolves into full cosmic consciousness.
A person fully awake in cosmic consciousness perceives this cosmos for what it is: a dream manifested by God. Fully aligned with God, he too is now able to effortlessly materialize and dematerialize the illusions of the cosmic dream.
Should We Analyze Our Dreams?
by Swami Kriyananda
The difficulty with psychoanalysis, as we know it today, is that it makes people too self-conscious, when what we need is to get away from being overly self-consciousness and self-involved. If we think: “I did this, and I did that, and I did the other thing,” we are going to be pulled down by all these “I-thoughts.”
We have a marvelous laboratory for testing this theory here at Ananda Village. For nearly forty years, we’ve seen that in every case, those who were happiest were those who thought least about themselves, and those who never really found happiness were those who were always worrying about themselves and whether they were wrong about this or that in their past.
We need to get rid of that attitude—and the same applies to dream analysis. Too much dream analysis makes us preoccupied with ourselves.
Most dreams do not have the kind of significance that some people who teach this kind of therapy try to insist. Most dreams have no meaning at all, being a product of subconscious “ramblings.”
I give a good example of this sort of overly analytical thinking in my book, Hope for a Better World. I describe what I call my “Glenn Miller” dream. I woke up feeling, “Oh, that was good fun!” But if I had tried to analyze the dream in detail, I would have gotten nowhere.
The most important thing about a dream is how you feel about it after you wake up. It’s condensed into a feeling—do you feel good or do you feel bad? But there’s much too much attention given to dream analysis.
However, sometimes a dream is a true superconscious dream. That kind of dream uplifts you. It’s wonderful to have such dreams! You see Paramhansa Yogananda or some saint and you feel such joy. That’s a blessing!
Remember that we do get some karma from dreams, because there’s still the thought: “I am doing this.” So it’s best that we get rid of that thought. Much better: just go into superconsciousness.