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The Row Your Boat Sutra

Life Is But a Dream

Funny the things we know by heart but never stop to think about what they mean.

Row, row, row your boat Gently down the stream Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily Life is but a dream

"Life is but a dream?" "What?" ...or perhaps put more aptly... "WTF?"

It seems obvious that the boat is you and the stream is your life and it is a beautiful guidance to walk (or row) gently through life. Be gentle towards yourself and everything and everyone else. It is also a significant reminder to remain "merry" or, if you prefer, happy, cheerful, with a positive attitude. Since, like most streams, yours too is filled with rocks, rapids, stagnant pools, whirlpools and water creatures.

The universe is Vishnu's dream

But the punchline flies in the face of our modern rather literal and materialistic point of view. Life is a dream?

Actually that last line gives the "why" as to the first three. It brings every event of your life and, by extension, everything going on in the entire world, into perspective. Our lives, as total as they seem, are but a passing shadow. They are like a face seen in a cloud. It is only an appearance, a momentary projection, a dream.

Some may take offense at having all of their ambitions, accomplishments, triumphs and successes given the same status as a fleeting moment in last night's sleep. Others may release a great sigh of relief and pray that the dream (or nightmare) end soon. (Truthfully we have all felt that a bit more frequently this last couple of years.)

If we really knew that this life we make out to be sooooooo important was, in fact, not even a blip in the field of time, something that would pass, an experience that would fade into oblivion like some unremembered event from grade school, I do believe, we would approach everything, not with indifference, but with gentleness.

Now, just to take this to a different level. Life is but a dream. But you, are not.

Every dream requires a dreamer. No dream lives on its own. No dream appears to itself. No dream can exist without a perceiving self to witness it. So you are not the dream. In fact, you are not even in the dream. Like living through those experiences in grade school (or the horror of high school) your whole life will one day fade from your mind and its memories.

Brahma, the creator of the universe, emerges from a lotus growing from the navel of the sleeping Vishnu - Every time Brahma blinks a universe is destroyed and a new universe comes into existence

For me, rather than making this everyday dream of life insignificant, it fills me with awe and wonder. The mystery of me, the dreamer, changeless, even timeless, immersed in a forever changing kaleidoscope of experiences, none of which possess my changeless nature, makes the dream precious while simultaneously removing all of its fears.

So, recognizing the fleeting, subjective nature of the life dream, don't treat it with disdain, disregard or despair. Row through it gently, merrily. Enjoy the smells and tastes. Immerse yourself in the wetness with all its rocks, rapids, stagnant pools, whirlpools and water creatures. So that, when the dream ends, as all dreams surely will, there will settle into your heart a smile that will linger in that eternity within you from which this and all dreams have come.

Join myself and host/producer Lisa Berry for the next episode of "OM School Live" every Tuesday at 12 noon eastern time (5pm UTC). at


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