Chapter 15: Seeing the Past as a Dream
Remember this also: whenever you are dreaming something in the night you become identified with it, and you can never remember in your dream that this is a dream. Only in the morning, when you have awakened from the dream, can you remember that it was a dream and not a reality. Why? Because then you are aloof, not in it. Then there is a gap. Some space is there, and you can see that it was a dream.
But what is your whole past? The gap is there, the space is there. Try to see it as a dream. Now it is a dream; now it is nothing more than a dream, because just as the dream becomes a memory, your past has become just a memory. You cannot prove really that whatsoever you think was your childhood was real or just a dream. It is difficult to prove. It may have been just a dream, it may have been real. The memory cannot say whether it was real or a dream. Psychologists say that old men occasionally get confused between what they have dreamed and what was real.
Children always get confused. In the morning, small children cannot differentiate. Whatsoever they have seen in the dream was not real, but they may weep for a toy destroyed in the dream. And you also, for a few moments after sleep is broken, are still affected by your dream. If someone was murdering you in the dream, even though your sleep is broken and you are wide awake, your heart still beats fast, your blood circulation is fast. You may be still perspiring, and a subtle fear is still there hovering around you. Now you are awake and the dream has passed, but you will take a few minutes to feel that it was simply a dream and nothing else. When you can feel that it was a dream, then you are out of it and there is no fear.
If you can feel that the past was just a dream - you are not to project this and force the idea that the past was just a dream, it is a consequence - if you can observe this; if you can be aware of it without getting involved in it, without being identified with it; if you can stand aloof and look at it, it will become a dream. Anything that you can look at as a witness is a dream.
That is why Shankara and Nagarjuna could say that this world is just a dream. Not that it is a dream; they were not fools, not simpletons saying this world actually is a dream. They meant by saying this that they have become witnesses. Even to this world which is so actual, they have become witnesses. And once you become a witness of anything, it becomes a dream. That is the reason why the world is called maya, an illusion. It is not that it is unreal, but that one can become a witness to it. And once you become a witness - aware, fully aware - the whole thing drops just like a dream for you, because the space is there and you are not identified with it. But we go on being identified.