Question: Although I have practiced bhakti for many years, these days I have been having bad dreams at night. What can be the cause? It even happened when I kept a Hare Kṛṣṇa recording playing softly at the bed while sleeping.
Answer: Dreams are of various types. They generally come from the saṁskāras, or imprints of our experiences, thoughts and emotions in our wakeful state. We have many sensations entering through our five senses in our wakeful state. We are unable to pay attention to everything and thus unable to assimilate it all. But everything gets recorded in our mind (citta) and then it gets played out in the dreams. Things that we consider bad in our wakeful state, we try to avoid doing or thinking about them. But we may have some subtle attachment or liking for them. We push these thoughts down into our citta because we do not like them. When we are awake, our intellect, or buddhi, is functioning properly, so we do not act on our bad thoughts. When we sleep, our buddhi becomes overpowered by rajas and it is unable to discriminate between good and bad. As Śrī Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā:
“O Arjuna, the intelligence by which one cannot comprehend what is righteousness (dharma) and unrighteousness (adharma) and what ought to be done and what is forbidden, is rājasika.” (Gītā 18.31)
Therefore, all the bad things start coming up in dreams because buddhi is unable to control them. Whatever is pushed down comes back up. In a way, dreams are telling us our state of mind, our level of purity. Repression does not work, therefore, Kṛṣṇa does not advise it, nigraha kim kariśyati, Gītā 3.32.
When we chant or engage in bhakti, our lower nature in the form of anarthas, becomes manifest. It is a cleansing process as is stated by Śrī Rūpa Gosvāmī, ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṇgaḥ ‘tha bhajana-kriyā tato ‘nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt (BRS 1.14-15). So that is another reason that bad dreams may come. It is just like cleaning a pot in the kitchen. When we want to clean a pot in which we have cooked and something gets burnt or sticks to the buttom, then we soak it with water. Later, when we scrub it, all the burnt or sticking food comes up and you throw it out. Just as for cleansing the pot, you have to scrape it, similarly, our devotional practice scrubs our citta as is stated by Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu, ceto darpana marjanam. So these bad thought may come in dreams and also when you are awake. When one has śraddha, then one continues to perform bhakti and is not overpowered by such bad thoughts or desires. This is one of the reasons for having bad dreams.
Question: Does a sincere devotee with purified heart and mind have only positive dreams?
Answer: Yes, of course.
Question: Another thing, I live with my mother to support her. She is 77 years old and she has been a Christian since childhood. She does not believe in Kṛṣṇa & Kṛṣṇa–bhakti. What should I do and think to protect and improve my bhakti and at the same time not leaving her alone?
Answer: You should continue with your devotional practice and support your mother. Do not try to force her to do bhakti if she does not like it. Just allow her to follow her faith in Jesus. Support her in her faith and serve her so that she does not feel discomforted because of your different faith. Consider that Kṛṣṇa is also inside her and respect her for that. By respecting her as part of Kṛṣṇa, and because of the presence of Kṛṣṇa in her, you will advance in bhakti.
Question: I lived in family life a long time, dedicated myself to my business and, as far as possible, tried to live a spiritual life. Now I’m relieved of those responsibilities but my mind is still restless. I feel no support. Please give a brief recommendation on how to gradually bring the mind to sattva.
Answer: My recommendation is:
You have to have a clear definition of your goal – what do I want? What am I heading for? You have to have a very clear definition of what is Bhakti. If you are not clear, then you can remain in a hazy field for a long time. That is the significance of Nyaya. It gives clear definitions, which is very important. Otherwise you may think that this is the definition of Bhakti and I am doing Bhakti, but what you may be doing may not fit the definition.
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