In his autobiography, The New Path, Swami Kriyananda shares a fascinating dream:
I was living with many other people in a torture chamber. For generations our families had lived here, knowing no world but this one; the possibility of any other existence simply never occurred to us. One awoke, one was tortured, and, at night, one found brief respite in sleep. What else could there be to life?
The time came, however, when a handful of us began to think the unthinkable. Might there, we asked ourselves, just possibly be another, a better way of life? Moments snatched when our torturers were out of earshot, and we could share our doubts with a few friends, served to kindle our speculations. At last we determined that there simply had to be an alternative to being tortured. A small group of us decided to rebel.
We laid our plans carefully. One day, rising together from our tasks, we slipped up behind the torturers, slew them, and escaped. Sneaking cautiously out of the great room, fearing lest armies of torturers be lying in wait for us outside, we encountered no one. The torture chamber itself, it turned out, occupied only the top floor of a large, otherwise empty building. We walked unchallenged down flights of stairs, emerging from the ground floor onto a vast, empty plain. Confined as we’d been our whole lives in the torture chamber, the horizon seemed incredibly distant. Joyfully we inhaled the fresh air. Gazing about us, we all but shouted the previously never-imagined word: “Freedom!”
Before departing the building forever, we glanced up at the top floor, scene of the only life we’d ever known. There, to our astonishment, we saw the very torturers we thought we’d slain. They were going matter-of-factly about their business as though nothing had happened! Amazed, we looked to one another for an explanation.
Suddenly the answer dawned on me. “Don’t you see?” I exclaimed. “It’s ourselves we have conquered, not the torturers!”
With that realization, I awoke. I felt that this dream held an important message for me. The torture chamber, located as it was on the top floor of the building, symbolized the human mind.
What Swamiji’s dream demonstrates is that this world, in and of itself, has no reality, but is a delusion. If we base our happiness on this unsubstantial narrative, we are bound to find ourselves in a state of insecurity and mental torment. The world as it presents itself to us will never bring us the peace, stability, and happiness we are seeking.
This is especially true today, as we are bombarded by such uncertainty about the future. So many of us find ourselves in inner turmoil as we try to figure out, “How will this story end?” There is, however, a way to distance ourselves from delusion’s shifting sands, and to find firm footing on the foundations of truth.
To escape the “torture chamber,” we need each day to withdraw inwardly into the silent cave of meditation. This will keep your mind calm and detached so that you can perceive the true reality beyond delusion. Thus you will be able to resist the pull to “angst” over what might happen, and simply rest in the peace of the present moment. With mental determination and will power, stand up to the “torturers” of fear and worry! Though outer events may seem all-consuming and even terrible, they are in truth only passing scenes in delusion’s dream.
Strive to deepen your attunement to God and Guru, who are the source of soul peace and happiness. And have faith that the Divine Hand that created the world will help us to awaken from this dark dream of suffering.
So, how will the story of the pandemic, economic uncertainty, and political turmoil end? When we realize that our anxiety-torturers reside only in our mind, and use inner discipline to calm our thoughts. Only then can we step outside of the story into the realm of peace.
Swami Kriyananda wrote: “Suffering is a result of delusion, not of outward circumstance. There have been people in the darkest dungeons and people suffering the worst diseases who have known only joy. . . . Joy and suffering depend entirely on the attitudes of the mind.”
Towards inner freedom,