By Stephen Knapp


Sometimes I have had dreams wherein I知 caught in a situation that seems to have no solution. For example, I have found myself where I am staying in a hotel, but this hotel is huge, with many floors of rooms, an arena for sports games, stages for entertainment, plus shops, restaurants, and all kinds of amenities, with crowds of people everywhere. I check in and then I am supposed to find my room. Or maybe I have already checked in and reached my room, but after wandering around the place, I can稚 find my way back. No matter where I roam, I can稚 find my way back to my room. There is no rest, and time is running out. I知 now running all over, trying to find the right stairway that goes up to the floor where my room in located. No matter what I do, there seems to be no solution. Then, even though I知 asleep, I tell myself that this is just a dream. Just wake up!

This is like what they call lucid dreaming, when you know you are in a dream. And then some lucid dreamers try to control the outcome or direction of the dream. But not me. I just want out. Then I realize that waking up is certainly easier than trying to work out the complications I知 facing in this dream. Then much to my relief, I bring myself out of the dream and I wake myself up and look around, and thankfully I知 in my room and no longer in the midst of so many difficulties that were forced on me while I was in the dream. I then see all of the paintings of Krishna lila pastimes and photos of deities from various important temples that cover the walls of my room, and I知 so grateful that now I知 back to reality, at least this reality of trying to be a devotee and engaging in thinking of Krishna. Whew! What a release. But I was only affected by the distress as long as I stayed in the dream. And that痴 the point, to wake up to reality.

However, this world is also considered to be like a dream, but it is the dream of Maha Vishnu, and we are just subjected to the appearance of it being reality. But of course, it is a reality, but a temporary reality, which makes it comparable to a dream. Nonetheless, being in this world and in the human form is the facility that the Vedic literature often describes as the means for awakening to our real identity, the true reality, and escaping from the illusory dream. The more we are in the illusion, the more we experience the pain and suffering of it. While the more we are in the reality, the more we rise above the appearance of the misery and tribulations that accompany the materialistic view or bodily conception of life. So, the degree in which you are suffering, is the degree in which you are in the illusion. Our purpose is to wake up. It is that simple.

It is like the time when I first came in direct contact with Srila Prabhupada. His association made me focus on a completely different level of reality, like stepping out of the dream.

I had been a musician back then, traveling around and trying to find a means to work and be in a band to make music and make enough money at it so I wouldn稚 have to do anything else. At the time I was in Denver. I had already read many of the books by Srila Prabhupada and I was going to the local Krishna temple on a regular basis. After a while, I remember one devotee telling me that sometimes Krishna takes everything away from a person so they have nowhere else to go but to take shelter of Him. I remembered reading that in the 適rsna book also, that when Krishna likes someone, He may give that person everything. But if He loves someone, He may take everything away. This may be the very special mercy of Lord Krishna, and I am an example of that, but I wouldn稚 necessarily recommend it. You may be experiencing Krishna痴 special mercy, but you may not always realize what痴 happening at the time as you lose everything to which you are clinging, hoping these things will give you happiness.

With me, sometime after that devotee told me of Krishna痴 ways with His devotees, my friends and my girlfriend decided to go up into the mountains and go camping. She knew of a cabin that might work out for us. So, after driving for a few hours, we found a deserted cabin and decided to spend the night there. It was empty, with broken windows and seemed unwanted, except that it had a no trespassing sign on it. But it was in the middle of nowhere, so we did not think much of it. Then a neighbor stopped by and pleasantly talked with us. Everything seemed all right, but not long after that the cops showed up and the next thing we know is that we are all under arrest for investigation of burglary, and away we went to the county jail. All for being in an abandoned house. We got out of jail shortly after, but I was in debt now to my father for nearly $1000 for bail and other things.

The next weekend my girlfriend goes back to her old boyfriend. So that痴 finished. (If only she would have done that a few weeks earlier, we would not have been arrested.)

The weekend after that my friends and I get evicted from our house. The only things I have left are my guitars. So, with no place to stay, and all my friends heading in different directions, I take off and hit the road in my van. I go to the west coast and from Vancouver heading south, I start visiting temples. By the time I get to San Fransisco, I meet some devotees who had also been musicians, and they want to see my guitars. One of them tells me that they also were attached to their guitars, but Krishna just took them away from him and he had no place else to go, so he moved into the temple ashrama. I start to wonder. The same thing isn稚 going to happen to me, is it? I was really attached to these guitars and wanted to build my life around them. They were all I had left.

The next morning, I attend the temple morning program, and when I come out to my van, parked nearby, the side window was broken, and the guitars had been neatly removed from inside my van. I was sick. I was so depressed that I didn稚 know what to do. So, I called the police and had them make out a report. I then got my window fixed. And at the time, I was doing Tarot cards, so I did a maze to try to get some insight into why this is happening and what to do next, and it said to not stand still, but MOVE.

So, that was easy enough, and I hit the road again and went down to Los Angeles. At the temple I met some devotees who I knew from Denver, and one of them was all excited that Srila Prabhupada was now in San Diego, and we should go see him. Sure, why not? So, the next morning we took the two-hour drive to San Diego and managed to find the small two-floor house that was the temple. In spite of having been so depressed by the events that had just happened to me over the past four weeks, I was very excited.

I remember we went into the house, and Srila Prabhupada was on the second floor giving the Bhagavatam class in the little temple room. As I climbed the stairs getting closer to the temple room, I could feel the atmosphere change. Everything got more electric with each step I took. There may be a better word to describe it, but the vibration became increasingly intense the closer I got. And electric was the vibration that went through me. I managed to get through the doorway and into the small and crowded room to see Srila Prabhupada for the first time. I can稚 remember what he said, but everything changed. After a while I realized that I was no longer even thinking about what had happened to me over the last four weeks. It was like just gone. I was in a different atmosphere, a different mindset, and focused on something completely separate from what I was used to.

I did not realize it at the time, but I was waking up from the dream. It took me some time to eventually realize that everything I had wanted at the time, everything I had been hanging onto, whether it was guitars, a career in music, a girlfriend, and house of similarly materially motivated friends, these were actually all sources of misery because chasing these desires and being put in the situations that I encountered while trying to fulfill them was, as they say, more trouble than it was worth. And I was suffering. I can especially recognize that now, years after it happened. But now, everything was changing.

Srila Prabhupada stayed in San Diego for three days, with morning classes, out-door festivals, kirtan parties, an initiation ceremony, and I still had my camera and I took pictures of a lot of that. I still have those unpublished photos on my website (www.stephen-knapp.com) that anyone can see, not only while he was at San Diego, but at other places where I was able to see Srila Prabhupada.

I remember Srila Prabhupada would come back from his morning walk and I would be sitting right next to his vyasasan, so close to him I could touch him, and I took a few photos of him as he gave class. I also took photos of him giving initiations, when he would chant on the disciples beads right there during the ceremony. And I took other photos of him at the outdoor festival. All of my focus was on what was happening with Srila Prabhupada and at the temple.

Then he went up to Los Angeles to visit, and I followed him there. I remember again sitting next to the vyasasan during one of his morning classes, and when he was finished giving class, he got off the vyasasan and suddenly was standing right next to me. When everyone paid their obeisances to the deities, Srila Prabhupada was right next to me and I simply moved over enough to where my shoulder touched his. I will tell you that when my shoulder touched his shoulder, I could feel what was like an electric current that spread through my body. Whew! That was special, no doubt about it. I know some people have had a lot more association with Srila Prabhupada, and may not consider that event to be too significant. But it was for me! While I was there in Los Angeles, I also had fun associating with the devotees and being part of the programs and taking lots of prasada for breakfast. It definitely changed me.

Srila Prabhupada did not stay in Los Angeles for long, but I was able to go with the devotees to the airport to see Srila Prabhupada off to his next destination.

By the time I got back home in Michigan, I only had three dollars in my pocket, and a lot lighter load in my van, but the impressions in my consciousness were everlasting. There I was, a conditioned soul wandering around the world looking for happiness, then experiencing distress and trouble in this pursuit (and how many lifetimes have I gone through all this before?), then experiencing Krishna痴 special mercy by losing most everything that mattered to me, and then coming in contact with a pure devotee who was giving spiritual knowledge, and then beginning to experience a different level of reality. I was awakening from the dream of illusion and had a different focus. But this series of events I had just gone through is very much like the pattern as described in the Vedic literature of how a person goes through so many things and then finally begins to realize what is the real purpose of life when they come in contact with a saintly person who gives them proper insight and knowledge. It痴 all part of the process of spiritual awakening. We have to just wake up!

           Srila Bhaktivinoda also wrote about waking up in the second part of his song Arunadaya-kirtana, in which he refers to Lord Gauranga (Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu) who says 笛iva jago, Jiva jago, which means 展ake up, sleeping souls. Wake up! This is in reference to the way the materially conditioned sleeping souls are still unaware of who they really are, even after many lifetimes of wandering throughout the world, and how they should awaken from the illusory dream and become aware of reality. The whole song is as follows:

(1)   Jiv jago, jiv jago, gaurachanda bole

Kota nidra jao maya-pishachira kole

(2)   Bhajibo boliya ese samsara-bhitare

Bhuliya rohile tumi avidyara bhare

(3)   Tomare loite ami hoinu avatara

Ami bina bandhu ara ke ache tomara

(4)   Enechi aushadhi maya nashibaro lagi

Hari-nama maha-mantra lao tumi magi

(5)   Bhaktivinoda prabhu-charane pariya

Sei hari-nama-mantra loilo magiya


1.      Lord Gauranga calls, 展ake up, sleeping souls! Wake up, sleeping souls! You have slept so long in the lap of the witch Maya.

2.      添ou came into this world saying, 前 my Lord, I will certainly worship You, but having forgotten this promise, you have remained in great ignorance.

3.      的 have descended just to save you. Other than Myself, who else is your friend?

4.      的 have brought the medicine for destroying the illusion of Maya. Now pray for this hari-nama maha-mantra and take it.

5.      Thakura Bhaktivinoda fell at the lotus feet of Lord Gauranga, and after begging for the holy name he received that maha-mantra.

         The Maha-mantra is of course the Hare Krishna mantra, namely Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare / Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This mantra is not only the main process of worship for this age of Kali-yuga, but is the easiest process for opening our eyes to the truth of our real spiritual identity, and our relation with the Absolute Truth, God. Although this mantra is mentioned in the Vedic literature from many hundreds of years ago, it was Lord Gauranga (Sri Chaitanya) who emphasized it and made a movement to heighten the awareness of its importance and show how to use it.




             So, how does the Vedic literature describe the process of spiritual awakening? It is explained that the first step in truly awakening from the dream of illusion is to take shelter of the spiritual knowledge and instructions as explained in the Vedic literature, and as given by a saintly person. The most important thing, however, is that the saintly person or pure devotee is he who can interpret and elaborate what the Vedic literature provides, and teach by example. So, the pure devotee is more important. If, by chance or good fortune one gets such an opportunity, his life can change for the better and he can awaken from the dream.  This is described herein as quoted from Sri Chaitanya痴 instructions to Sanatana Goswami as found in the Caitanya-caritamrita:

            的n this way, the conditioned soul is the servant of lusty desires, and when these desires are not fulfilled, he becomes a servant of anger and continues to be kicked by the external material energy, maya. Wandering and wandering throughout the universe, he may by chance get the association of a devotee physician, whose instructions and hymns make the witch of external energy flee. The conditioned soul thus gets in touch with the devotional service of Lord Krishna, and in this way he can approach nearer and nearer to the Lord. (Cc. Madhya-lila 22.15)

            This is how an ordinary soul who is overwhelmed by all the affairs of materialistic existence, and struggles to be happy within the dream of illusion, can begin to awaken from the dream of illusion and start to realize what is his or her real identity or position, and then also understand what is the real purpose of life. If he or she continues on this path, they can remain free from the darkness of illusion, as explained:

適rishna is compared to sunshine, and maya is compared to darkness. Wherever there is sunshine, there cannot be darkness. As soon as one takes to Krishna consciousness, the darkness of illusion (the influence of the external energy) will immediately vanish. (Cc. Madhya-lila 22.31)

典he forgetful conditioned soul is educated by Krishna through the Vedic literatures, the realized spiritual master and the Supersoul. Through these, he can understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead as He is, and he can understand that Lord Krishna is his eternal master and deliverer from the clutches of maya. In this way one can acquire real knowledge of his conditioned life and can come to understand how to attain liberation. (Cc. Madhya-lila, 20.123)

適rishna is situated in everyone痴 heart as chaitya-guru, the spiritual master within. When He is kind to some fortunate conditioned soul, He personally gives one lessons to progress in devotional service, instructing the person as the Supersoul within and the spiritual master from without. (Cc. Madhya-lila 22.47)

            In this way, maya releases the soul from her grip.

的f the conditioned soul becomes Krishna conscious by the mercy of saintly persons who voluntarily preach scriptural injunctions and help him to become Krishna conscious, the conditioned soul [one who is conditioned by lifetimes of materialistic existence] is liberated from the clutches of maya, who gives him up. (Cc. Madhya-lila, 20.120)




There comes a time when, if a person looks deeply enough, he or she will realize the falsity and superficiality of material or bodily relations and motivations. Then he will want to attain something more meaningful, or at least give up the things that have such little meaning and purpose. If he or she realizes his or her spiritual identity, even to a small extent, he will also realize that there is no point in going back to the illusion. There is nowhere else to go but to keep moving forward, deeper into understanding and experiencing and living in the reality of spiritual truth. Once you become awakened, there is no point in living a lie that there is any deep value within the illusion. You may still have to deal with what is part of the illusion to some degree just to maintain the body, but it becomes like just going through the motions, you are no longer attached or captured by the situation thinking that material happiness, which is often merely the temporary feeling of a lack of suffering, is the ultimate goal.

At this point a person can rise above the dream and begin to escape from the illusion and all of its influences that compel someone to remain bound by the unlimited desires to please the mind and senses, which are never fully satisfied. All a person has to do is ask for help, either from a proper spiritual master, or from Krishna Himself. 徹ne is immediately freed from the clutches of maya if he seriously and sincerely says, 閃y dear Lord Krishna, although I have forgotten You for so many long years in the material world, today I am surrendering to You. I am Your sincere and serious servant. Please engage me in Your service.樗 (Cc. Madhya-lila 22.33)

In this way, 的f the conditioned soul engages in the service of the Lord and simultaneously carries out the orders of his spiritual master and serves him, he can get out of the clutches of maya and becomes eligible for shelter at Krishna痴 lotus feet. (Cc. Madhya-lila 22.25) 

釘y associating with a devotee, one awakens his faith in devotional service to Krishna. Because of devotional service, one痴 dormant love for Krishna awakens, and thus one痴 material, conditioned existence comes to an end. (Cc. Madhya-lila 22.49)

It is not that we simply give up the material engagements out of force, but we begin to attain a higher taste that naturally attracts us to engage in spiritual pursuits, and dive more deeply into loving sentiments towards Krishna, the God of love. Lord Krishna Himself explains the potency of devotional service, bhakti-yoga, in attaining our natural condition, free from maya:

鉄omehow or other, if one is attracted to talks about Me and has faith in the instructions I have set forth, such as in Bhagavad-gita, and if one is actually detached from material things and material existence, his dormant love for Me will be awakened by devotional service. (Bhagavatam 11.20.8)

Then one痴 attraction and absorption in materialistic affairs and bodily relations become boring, and the superficiality of them becomes increasingly obvious. Then there is no point in remaining in the illusory dream if we want to attain real happiness. The dream is over, and now we want to strive for the real spiritual nectar. 




             As we awaken from the dream, we should also reach the stage by which we engage in the activities of reality, based on our actual spiritual identity in its relation with the Supreme Absolute Truth. As Sri Chaitanya explained to Sanatana Goswami: 鄭 human being痴 activities should be centered only about devotional service to Lord Krishna. That is the verdict of all Vedic literature, and all saintly people have ascertained this. (Cc. Madhya-lila 22.5)

            The nature of the soul is to love, but we need to look for love in the right places, and direct it in the right direction. The only way we can completely fulfill our loving propensity is to engage ourselves in the service of the Supreme Lover, namely Lord Krishna. Otherwise, we remain incomplete in our search for fulfillment and in our search for happiness. This is the natural occupation of the soul, which is the only thing by which the soul, our real identity, can be completely fulfilled. Actually, when we engage in reciprocal relations with the Supreme, we become much more than merely fulfilled, we become totally blissful and ecstatic. Serving the Lord with love is the way to please the Supreme, and then we also taste that reciprocation from Him. Any sincere soul can begin to receive this higher taste, even at the beginning stages of bhakti-yoga.

            泥evotional service to Krishna is the chief function of the living entity. There are different methods for the liberation of the conditioned soul楊arma, jnana, yoga, and bhakti傭ut all are dependent on bhakti. (Cc. Madhya-lila, 22.17)

            Our loving tendency is never completely realized until we are engaged in loving devotional service to the Lord, the ultimate object of affection. This is the meaning of bhakti and the process of bhakti-yoga. This awakens the real nature and condition of the soul. By this process not only are we relieved of the material illusory dream, but we can actually enter into the eternally blissful spiritual strata, Lord Krishna痴 domain.

            典he Vedic literatures give information about the living entity痴 eternal relationship with Krishna, which is called sambandha. The living entity痴 understanding of this relationship and acting accordingly is called abhidheya. Returning home, back to Godhead [the spiritual world], is the ultimate goal of life and is called prayojana. (Cc. Madhya-lila 20.124)

泥evotional service, or sense activity for the satisfaction of the Lord, is called abhidheya because it can develop one痴 original love of God, which is the goal of life. This goal is the living entity痴 topmost interest and greatest wealth. Thus, one attains the platform of transcendental loving service unto the Lord. (Cc. Madhya-lila 20.125)

Through this process, not only can we awaken from the dream of illusion, but we awaken to what we really are as spiritual beings, and further awaken to what our relationship is with God, and can go further to awaken our love of God, which then allows us entry into the eternal spiritual domain, far from this temporary material creation. That is the ultimate goal for all living entities, and the main purpose of human life.

[From www.Stephen-Knapp.com]   

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