Movement on the spiritual path necessarily involves taking light into the dark corners of our psyche, and it is there that dreams provide an open window into the inner reality.
In the early years of the twentieth century, Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung proposed that, more often than not, dreams represent those thoughts and memories which are unbearably painful and have been relegated to the realm of the unconscious. Unlocking the meanings in these dreams can help people free their mind and feelings from irrational desires, fears and insecurities.
This brief but profound book assails the conventional understanding of dreams and their interpretation, drawing attention to a much neglected aspect of dreams as a source of guidance for the spiritual aspirant. It uses the insights of psychology, but transcends it, to confront the inescapable questions most people should be driven by what is the purpose of life, and does it all end with death? Laying bare dreams of childhood anxiety, traumas and sexuality cleaning the windows to uncover the deeply buried material that blocks our efforts on the inner path it then invites contention from materialists in its discussion of subjects beyond psychology, such as precognitive dreams, reincarnation, out of the body experiences, death dreams, and numinous or big dreams and open window through which deeper non physical levels of reality can shine.
Drawing on examples from real life, Sri Madhava Ashish teaches the language of dreams ensuring a better understanding and awareness of the unconscious self, guiding the reader on the path to mental and spiritual freedom.
Sri Madhava Ashish (1920-1997), who was for many years the head of a remote ashram, Mirtola, in the Kumaon hills of northern India, was a spiritual teacher whose teachings transcend conventional religious categories.
Born in Edinburgh, Sri Madhava Ashish was trained as an aircraft engineer in London and came to India during the Second World War. While travelling in India after the war, he met the great sage Ramana Maharshi at Tiruvannamalai and realized the supreme importance of the inner quest. His search led him to Mirtola ashram and to his guru, Sri Krishna Prem, an English professor who had become a Vaishnava monk.
At Sri Krishna Prem's death, nearly twenty years later, Sri Madhava Ashish became the head of the ashram and with his successor, Dev Ashish, he transformed the ashram farm and forest, making it a model for environmentally sound rural development. He served on several Planning Commission committees for hill development, and was awarded the Padma Shri by the Government of India in 1992 for his work on environmental education.
In his teachings, Sri Madhava Ashish integrated tradition and modern thought, eastern wisdom and western analysis. He wrote a number of articles and books for international publications.
It is indeed a windfall to get hold of Sri Madhava Ashishji’s writings on dream interpretation. This represents an invaluable treasure trove of insights into the fascinating adventure of grasping the significance of dreams. In fact dream interpretation represented a major facet of the teachings of Sri Krishna Prem and Sri Madhava Ashish, and in the book of their letters to me (Letters from Mirtola, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 2004) there are numerous references to various dreams and their interpretation.
Although this process was originated by Sigmund Freud and developed in depth by Carl Gustav Jung the Mirtola approach was unique. Creative dream interpretation throws light upon many dark aspects of the human psyche which are suppressed by our conscious mind and often manifest themselves in undesirable and unpleasant outer event. Dreams provide a searchlight which can be turned upon these dark areas, bringing them into the light of consciousness, there to be dealt with. Often enough what comes up is not at all pleasant or reassuring. Indeed, it usually involves facing up to certain parts of our emotional life which we are normally reluctant to do. However, movement on the spiritual path necessarily involves taking light into the dark corners of our psyche, and it is there that dreams provide an open window into the inner reality.
As Sri Madhava Ashish writes in one of his letters to me regarding the psychological interpretation of dreams, the whole significance turns on their being outside the range of the working of one’s normal conscious integration. First, one has to understand what the human themes of universal application are: loves, hates, envies, greeds and ambitions. Then one has to take it on trust that a universal theme must have its individual application, and be ready to search for it with the certainty that it must be there. If it were easily visible and available to cursory examination, it would not be unconscious. The material in this type of dream shows us ourselves “with the lid off” when one has done this sort of inner searching on becomes aware of how much of what seems free choice of action was in fact a predetermined pattern determined by unrecognized subconscious drives and desires. Freedom from these desires and compulsions is the beginning of liberation.
Apart from general observations regarding dream interpretation, Ashishda’s book covers such diverse topics as traumas, Anxiety, Social Conditioning, Reincarnation, Death Dreams and Great Beings. He also lays down seven principles of interpretation which encapsulate his insights in this field. This book will, therefore, be of tremendous value not only to professional psychologists but also to all those who are on the spiritual path. It is a privilege for me write a brief foreword for this publication which, I hope, will be widely circulated in India and around the world.
This little book owes its existence to fifty years of spiritual discipline in which guidance from dreams played a crucial role. One must have dealt with thousands of one’s own dreams, and thousands of the fifty or more people with whom we my guru, Sri Krishna Prem, and I were working. I had read a few of Freud’s books before my guru introduced me to C.G. Jug, saying enigmatically: Read Jung but don’t become a Jungian. Read the secret of the golden flower, but you needn’t bother with Jung’s preface
Interpretation was not restricted to dreams alone. My guru would read a man’s history and character from the arrangement of his rooms, listen for the real questions behind the questioner’s spoken presentations, and read behind the lines to assess an author’s character, irrespective of what the book was about. Given this probing, analytical insight, the symbols of dreams seldom mad him pause. I feared his clarity, for too often he left me naked and ashamed, with all my hidden weaknesses exposed to view. How else could one discover that self disgust which helps break the self identification with one’s pusillanimous youth.
As time went on and one learnt to enjoy the release from inhibitions shame, guilt and fear, one began actively digging out repressed material instead of being the reluctant recipient of unwelcome messages. The nature of dream began to change. We went through a high period when a night without a dream was a wasted opportunity; a forgotten dream was a breach of trust. We hurried through our many chores to be free to pace up and down in the morning light, seeking meanings and their ramifications.
Then as the mind began to come under control, little visions began to appear in meditation whose content was more direct, less concealed by symbols than in ordinary dream.
There was direct, personal instruction. And there were dreams which threw light on the cosmogonies and anthropogenesis of the stanzas of Dzyan on which we were writing a commentary. Yet there was never direct dictation. One always had to struggle to understand what the symbols were saying, so that one was personally responsible for the form in which the general scheme was presented. Often this involved challenging the sacred truths of received wisdom if anything could not withstand the challenge, it had to go.
Out of all this came the realization that we were dealing with a view of the universe and its spiritual origins which, if we were honest, would make us examine and reformulate he religious teaching which had guided us so far. For we had been introduced to and brought up in a school of the orthodox Krishna cult. There were some things one just did not question, such as what one meant by Krishna. I was given an overwhelming vision of Radha-Krishna, shining in all their glory, and within a few days shown that this was the view of an immature boy. It was by no means the end of the path, as it had seemed to be, but only the beginning of a new stage on the road to the completion of the human task.
So slow is the pace of change at times that is took a long time before on could see how this new almost secular approach to the truth could be reconciled with what were also the real truths of the devotional approach. Omnia vincit amor (love conquers all), the Vaishnava greeting Jai Radhe (victory to Radha)and Krishna as prema Swarup ( the self-nature of love) were all saying the same thing, and one did not need to get stuck with a particular image. The love which glues the universe tighter I utterly real and needs no peacock feathers, flutes, necklaces and caste marks it visible.
It all sounds so difficult to see. Yet I have know people ready to sneer at my simplicity who seemed to have understanding without love. And all sorts sof people who agree with what I say yet still want the blessings of a mythical deity for their sons success in school examinations.
The way I like to present it goes something like this we find ourselves in this wonderful universe, full of living things that grow and decay sensitive plants, intelligent animals, metamorphose into butterflies. And then there are men wonderful men and horrible men, crude and refined men dull and brilliant men, the only living beings capable of formulating the question of where everything comes from and what it is all about.
As a man, if one were to ask these questions while ignoring the second hand wisdom passed down to us, might one not arrive at the conclusion that answer to the whole mystery must lie in the solution to the greatest mystery of all, namely what is the nature of the awareness that allows one not only to observe this mysterious universe, but also to know that one observes it to lie in the distinction between the observer himself and the biological apparatus of observation?
As soon as on begins this inquiry, one is faced with its root problem what I seek at the root of my being by its very nature cannot be taken out and looked at, for it sis itself the very thing that looks. Yet, like the mirror in which I can see my own face, there is a mirror that reflects many of the qualities of this unsalable source of awareness.
The mirror is dream. The more one cleans and polishes it, the more clearly it reflects. And though one must not confuse the brilliance of the mirror image with the incandescence of what it reflects, neither should one deny the validity of the knowledge it gives, for dream can turn to vision, and vision can turn to understanding.
Like any other approach to the mystery of being, dream work can take one only a certain distance along the road, to the point where the individual begins to be lost in the universal and he world reveals itself as the mirror of the creative ideation.
Sri Sri Madhava Ashish, Ashishda to his friends and disciples, was born in an aristocratic Scottish family on 23 February 1920 and christened Alexander Phipps. After a public school education, he graduated as an aircraft engineer from the Chelsea College of Aeronautical Engineering in Landon and came to India in 1942 as part of the ongoing war effort. After the war he took time off to see the country. At the Raman Ashram in Tiruvannamalai he had a wonderful darshan of the sage and an intense, crucial experience. Ashishda had no Knowledge of Tamil but the Maharishi did not need the medium of language to give him the taste of the thing what is referred to in mystical literature as the Kundalini experience. By no means did that being about the instant transformation of Alexander Phipps Esq. into Sri Sri Madhava Ashish. I still persisted in my Youthful follies, he said once referring to that visit. But something crucial had happened. The seed had been sown. Or perhaps more appropriately, the seed buried deep down had received the nourishing touch of living waters.
He did not need to wander across the country very long after that within a few months, he arrived at a small Vaishnava ashram in a village deep in the Kumaon hills of northern India where he found his guru and guide. Here began ashishda’s integration into the life of the spirit under the guidance of Sri Krishna Prem and Moti Rani, daughter of Yashoda mai who had founded the ashram and its temple dedicated to Krishna. Together the ashram and its temple dedicated to Krishna. Together they put him through the paces. While the guru, endowed with a razor sharp mind, phenomenal memory and a great flow of feelings taught in his own way, Moti Rani in her inimitable style created conditions and opportunities for practicing and integrating the teaching. Thakur caught me by the scruff of the neck and brought me here is now Ashishda once summarized the circumstances that had conspired to lead him to the place where he spent the rest of his life.
The transformation of an upper-class Englishman into a Vaishanva vairagi sadhu could not possibly have been without considerable suffering. He bore it with characteristic dedication and the doggedness required in an enterprise that involves, in T.S Eliot’s phrase, not less than everything. Working like a horse and suffering he stormy upheavals that constituted Moti Rani’s method of helping the work Ashishda reached a stage once when he felt that he could take it no longer. That evening when he went to massage her feet, the last chore of his tiring day he had made up his mind to leave the ashram quietly next morning. As he was tiptoeing out the room, the apparently sleeping beneficiary of the massage remarked, so you will go away tomorrow without even saying goodbye to me Result he stayed on. Moti Rani was utterly devoted to the path of selfless service and like H.P. Blavatsky, freely used her gift of occult powers to help deserving seekers.
His personal sadhana included a very rigorous regimen: austerities hard physical work, study, temple rituals, meditation, and above all, intelligent inquiry, for which he had a special flair. One can see in this picture all the textbook ingredients of spiritual striving within the traditions of Hinduism shraddha, jigyasa, yam, niyam, dhyan swadhyay, vichar, sumiran sewa (faith, inquiry, self restraint,observances, meditation, self-study, pondering remembrances, service the whole works and no wonder he had his own reasons to believe, as he has said in this book, that he had been a Hindu sadhu in more than one of his past lives. It is however, also possible to describe his work in Gurdjieffian, Buddhist, Sufi or Theosophical terms. Labels apart, slowly and steadily things were working out, chench your teeth and stick it out, Sri Krishna Prem had advised a fellow traveler, we have no past. Ashishda stuck it out bravely and as for not having a past, he once told a friend casually that the word mother did not bring to his mind the figure of mother he was born of. A confirmation of this could be seen in his beatific smile when he recited his favorite Sanskrit hymn that begins: my mother is Parvati and father Shiva. His devotees are my kin and his kingdom my country.
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