The Dream Problem
by Dr. R.V. Khedkar, edited by Ram Narayan
The Dream Problem, by Dr. R. V. Khedgar, edited by Ram Narayan, published 1922 by Practical Medicine, Delhi.
In 1970, while traveling in northern India, I met someone in New Delhi who had just traveled up from Chennai (then Madras) en route to a hill station in the Himalayas. We had very similar interests and decided to travel up there together. During our two month escape from the heat of the summer, he told me of an anonymously written manuscript he had found while perusing the shelves of books in the Theosophical Society library at Adyar, in Chennai. At the time, he thought it to be unpublished, and began to tell me about it. A few years later, he handed me a photocopy of the manuscript that remained in my possession for almost 40 years.
Recently, I noticed it sitting quietly and dustily on my bookshelf. I pulled it out and started to read it once again after almost 40 years. I decided, there and then, to somehow make this available to all those who are interested in such things. I began to type out the full manuscript keeping its format and editing the grammar, which was no easy task for me. It is still not perfect as I am not an editor or copywriter by trade. I also kept the same Sanskrit words the writer used. I noticed immediately the different spellings for different terms used, but decided to keep them as the author wrote it, as I am neither a Sanskrit scholar or practitioner of Advaita and cannot claim any academic skill or accuracy for which the terms refer to.
The story itself, concerns The Dreamer who consciously enters his dream state and eventually encounters the sage Vasishta who answers all of The Dreamer’s questions in a series of three dialogues, laying out the Advaita philosophy as it applies to all states, the waking, dream, deep sleep, and beyond with simple clarity.
During the process of putting it into file form, I noticed some notes referring to a publication of Volume 1 entitled The Dream Problem and published in Delhi by Practical Medicine, 1922. I could not find any way to buy a copy or even read one. On further research into the publication, a reference was finally found as to authorship, editor, and, full title of the book. It was originally entitled, ‘The Dream Problem And Its Many Solutions In Search After Ultimate Truth’, by Dr. R.V. Khedkar, edited by Ram Narayan. I believe Volume 1 contains the first dialogue with Vasishta plus the responses that the writer received when he sent out a query to Indian philosophers and western psychologists concerning the 14 Points that appear in the beginning of the book. These responses are missing from the book I have and the following only concerns itself with the three dialogues.
I must assume that this is now in the public domain, as the person who found the copy in Chennai in 1970, also felt that this was the case back then. I have not been able to locate any seller or copy of the book, only references to it in libraries that archive such things. It also appears that Practical Medicine, the original publishers, are defunct. If I have overlooked any possible copyright that may still exist, it is not with the intention of capitalizing on publishing it in any form at all. I purposely leave my own name off of this, as I make no claim for what it speaks of, and simply want it made available to the general public at no charge and in the spirit of sharing something interesting. I am not in any position to comment on it or answer any questions relating to its content or meaning or where it fits into the overall scheme of Advaita Philosophy. I will leave all that to the experts.
So I present to all those interested in reading a good tale, the Dreamer, who embarked on an interesting experiment in his dream state, and the ensuing meeting with the sage Vasishta, all taking place within the Dreamer’s dream state.
THE 14 POINTS IN THE DREAM PROBLEM DISCUSSED IN THIS SERIES
1. Who is it that sleeps, who is it that dreams, and, who is it that wakes up?
2. If it is one and the same person, what prevents him from knowing during his dream state that it is he who before going to sleep was waking and is now dreaming, and, what reminds him upon awakening that it is he who was dreaming when asleep?
3. If the personality in each state is different, what becomes of the waking state personality during dream and what of the dream personality during waking state?
4. If, as many believe, the dream world is external to the dreamer and is real and independent of the waking world, who is its creator and what are the distinctive features of the dream world that will help the dreamer to distinguish it from the waking world during his dream state?
5. Are there any other worlds (astral, mental, spiritual, etc.,) besides the 2 commonly known worlds of dream and waking states, where men after death, are believed to go to and are any of them eternal and unchangeable?
6. Is communication from one world to another possible? If so, how can a person in the dream world communicate with his friends in the waking world and vice versa?
7. As some contend that the waking world is as unreal as the dream world and we know of the unreality of the former only when we wake up into a higher state of illumination (just as we know of the nature of dream on awakening into this physical world), it may be asked: Why this so-called higher state of illumination also is not a dream in relation to a second higher state and this in relation to a 3rd one and so on ad infinitum?
8. Is it possible for a dreamer to remain cognizant during his dream state of the fact that he is dreaming? If so, what are the means to acquire this power?
9. Will a dream cease or continue if the dreamer becomes aware of its nature during his dream state?
10. How far is it possible to stop, alter, or, create, one’s own dreams as one wishes? What are the means to it?
11. To what extent is it possible to be cognizant of one’s own dreamless sleep state, while sleeping?
12. What is the state of consciousness of a person after the so-called death of his body? Does his personality survive and does he know that he is dead?
13. How can the created beings of the waking world and dream creatures of the dream world know their creator and dreamer?
14. Is there any ultimate Reality, eternal consciousness, ever-present in all the states or worlds, and, can it be known or realized by any such means that may be acceptable to all creeds and religions and suitable to every human being in all climes and countries?
THE PROBLEM OF DREAM
The next problem that required solution was that of dream, the most striking feature of it
being that it appeared true in every detail so long as it lasted. The dreamer began its study by practicing to remain conscious during the dream state of the fact that he was dreaming, and, that the objects he perceived were merely the contents of his dream. This power he acquired by means of practice (abhyas) along the line of autosuggestion or self-hypnotization. (1)
Out of the several dreams of a somewhat similar character that the dreamer had, we describe one in detail.
One night when he went to sleep, the dreamer found that during the dream he was walking in a street which was quite new to him and while enjoying the beautiful scene and knowing full well that it was his dream experience, he thought of finding out the name of the place he was walking in. He stopped a passerby and enquired of him the name of the street. The man simply laughed and went away saying that he was in a hurry to go to his office and had not time to waste in idle gossiping. The dreamer then stopped another person and put the same question. This man replied by addressing the dreamer by name: ‘don’t you recognize this street? It is the same in which you have your own house! Are you mad? What is the matter with you?’ Thus speaking, he laughed and walked away. The dreamer, on hearing the name of the street, at once recognized it but could not trace his own house. He then approached another person who appeared to be a well-known friend and thus addressed him, ‘friend, I feel giddy at this time. Could you oblige by taking me to my house?’ The man took the dreamer by arm, left him outside his house and went away. On entering the house, the dreamer did not recognize it as his own and began to talk aloud, ‘What a fine building I am looking at in my dream.’ He then saw the inmates of the house in a group weeping with downcast faces. The dreamer wondered why were they all weeping and when he enquired the cause of it, none of them spoke. He then forcibly raised up the face of one of them when to his great surprise, he recognized the face of his own son, and being very angry the dreamer said, ‘Why are you so silent my son and why do you not tell me the cause of all this weeping?’ The boy said, ‘We are weeping father because you have become mad and not only do you not recognize us, your own family members, but say that it is a dream.’ The dreamer then understood why they were weeping and thought it foolish of him to talk of its being a dream scene in their presence. He pacified them by saying that he was all right and that it was his mistake to call it a dream. However, he felt grieved over his people’s condition and tried to put an end to that unpleasant dream but could not succeed in awakening himself. He now fully recognized his home and went to his own room where he found all the articles exactly in the same condition in which they were in his waking state. He touched and held them up in his hand to see if they were real and found nothing unusual in them.
On awakening, he found himself lying comfortably in his bed. It was midnight and all the members of his family were fast asleep. He got up, lighted the lamp, and, put down in detail the full particulars of this dream in his notebook.
The next morning, the dreamer read and re-read his writing in the notebook and pondered over all the circumstances of the last night’s dream. Before this, he was a believer in the occultist’s theory of dreams, that the subtle body, or, the sukshama sharira, of the dreamer, goes out of his physical body and sees the outside world as it is, but, from this date, his views regarding the nature of dreams were changed altogether. He asked everyone whom he had seen in his dream if he too met the dreamer, but none of them affirmed it. If, he thought, the dream world were not a new and independent creation, it would be impossible to have at midnight a dream with a noonday setting. He was now convinced that the whole panorama of dream was his own mental creation.
The dreamer had several other dreams like the one above in which he was conscious that he was dreaming. Later on, he often found himself exhorting his dream friends to believe that the whole thing was his dream and that all of them were his dream creatures, but, the latter seemed to laugh at his words.
It was long the subject of the dreamer’s reflections in the waking state, and, he was subsequently led to apply it nearer home to the facts of actual life. If we could prove to our friend’s satisfaction, he argued, that our so-called real life was only a dream in relation to the Ultimate Reality, the proposition would appear to his hearers just as absurd as it did to the creatures of his dream. No arguments could possible assist him in bringing this fact home either to his dream creatures or to his friends of the waking state.
It was at this stage of the dreamer’s life that the Dream Problem under consideration was framed and circulated by the editor.
The Dreamer’s Downfall
We will now relate what the dreamer did in the meantime. The idea struck him, of course, it was a suggested one, being the result of his reading certain occult books (2), that it was no use arguing with the dream creatures in trying to prove to them that their existence was only a dream. What purpose would it serve even if he succeeded in convincing them of the fact that it was a dream?
He thought, therefore, of enjoying himself and passing his dream period as comfortably as possible. Consequently, next time when he went to sleep, he thus addressed the assembly of his dream creatures:
‘Friends, why don’t you try to attain the state of ecstatic and immortal bliss, entirely free from pain of every description? This state of bliss can be obtained only by entering into the celestial region, the abode of the Supreme Creator. To this region I go daily and enjoy its pleasure for 12 hours out of every 24. I am the only incarnation and representative of the Supreme One.’
The majority of the dream creatures believed in the above speech. A few, however, demanded how the dreamer was the only manifestation of the Supreme Being, and why Christ, Buddha, Mohammad, Krishna, and, others were not to be so regarded. They were told in reply that all those great men had come from lower regions and were only theoretical in their teachings and that nobody ever attained moksha (salvation) through them, that the dreamer alone came from the highest spiritual plane, and, that he would teach them the only sure and practical method of reaching that region. They were then told the chief condition of initiation was to have implicit faith (bhavna) in their preceptor, the dreamer.
The most effective means to hypnotize them all in a body was then employed, which consisted in looking intently into the eyes of the guru, the dreamer, while sacred hymns and songs of love and devotion (prem) were being recited in a chorus. They were further impressed with the idea that ultimately every one of them would reach the highest region after one, two, or more, re-births, but one having complete faith (shradha) in the dreamer would reach there soonest.
The method proved so satisfactory that the dreamer was actually worshipped by every one of the dream creatures and was pronounced to be the only true spiritual guide. He now considered himself in no way less fortunate than so many leaders of the various faiths in the waking world who enjoy the pleasure of being devotedly worshipped by their disciples. They enjoy it during the 12 hours of the day while the dreamer enjoyed it during so many hours of the night, and, there seemed to be no enviable difference between the two.
Read Part 2