Last night I had a dream. Actually I dream a lot, quite vivid dreams, often with seemingly coherent plots. But I’m not here to write a novella, so I’ll stick to the relevant part. I had left a function at our community hall and was walking along the edge of the nearby pond. A light drizzle had just recently begun, so the trees and bushes were hung with heavy water drops. Two emerald headed adult ducks and two adolescents, also emerald headed, were setting out from the water’s edge. In waking life only the mallard drake’s head would wear that shining metal helmet, but the poetic license of a dream cannot be argued with.
They called me to join them, clearly recognizing me as a friend. Someone else said to me, “Swimming in this weather!” with a “surely not” intonation. I responded from the ducks’ point of view, “They think it’s lovely weather.” And I considered the possibility of slipping into the water, becoming nearly weightless, with 3 dimensions of movement accessible. If only I didn’t have clothes on, which would end up heavy, sodden and cold. And immediately I found myself no long walking along, with a focal point high above the pond, but rather, nestled with my eyes a few inches from the water’s surface, rubbing the top of my head on the bark of an adjacent trunk. I eyed the water, noticing the thin but perceptible film of greenish scum on the surface. But once one slipped into the water, the scum would part, and the water beneath, a dim tea green, was translucent and attractive. It’s true, I could smell a stagnant fragrance, but somehow the fragrance overcame the stagnancy, so to speak. It was a homely smell, one I recognized. And I became aware that the reason the ducks recognized me, welcomed me, called me to join them; the reason they had no concern about a clumsy human many times their size splashing awkwardly around them, was because I was now a duck. Or rather the body I was in, was that of a duck. I still retained my greater awareness, my ability to understand the human tongue as well as theirs, my ability to stand back and know the difference between myself and whatever body I was currently inhabiting. I knew very well the science of identity, my real nature & my current situation in this world.
Sadly I woke before joining my friends in the duck pond. Although, in the bigger picture, perhaps it was not sad at all – if I had so dived in would I have made it back to my waking world? Or would I have become immersed in duck life, forgotten my English, and forgotten my hard own understanding of the difference between myself & this physical body?
This knowledge that I am not this body, that this particular form I am wearing is just a vehicle and tool, that in fact it has no permanent connection with me at all, that I am completely separate from it; this true knowledge from science of identity foundation that I have taken forty years to assimilate to the level of my present understanding, is the undercurrent of my life. I am clear on the reality of my existence as a non-material spark of life, part and parcel of the Supreme. And at the same time my vision of the undercurrents of life has increased. I have been able to choose the undercurrent I wish to be pulled along by, and to ensure that it is a perfect match for me. So whether I am a good swimmer, or just dog paddling clumsily along, as long as I keep in the right current, I am still going in my best direction.
Actually, what one identifies with is the undercurrent that pulls one along. And undercurrents can be very dangerous. I think I’m swimming for the shore, but if the undertow thinks otherwise, bye bye beach! And as my identification changes, so changes the current. Most of us identify with whatever body we inhabit at the moment, whether duck or human. One person identifies as a male teenager, therefore “he” is dragged by the undercurrents of adolescence. Whatever his particular society or subculture considers to be the life and activities of a teenager, and whatever the burgeoning hormonal urges and physical demands of his body are, these undercurrents drag him insensibly on. Another person identifies as a female teenager. The undercurrents are different. Someone else identifies as an elderly Tibetan monk and they have their own elderly Tibetan monk undercurrents. And yet another person identifies themselves a poodle, and is dragged willy nilly by the desires of that identification.
So my thought of diving into the pleasures of swimming with the ducks was not without danger. In this case, I think it is safe to say I would have woken from my dream, but not everyone escapes so easily. Life is far more complex and varied than most of us imagine.
This complexity is captured in the bona fide yoga scriptures or sastras which record historical events for the education of the interested. Some of these records include situations in which the persons involved have remembered experiences from multiple lives. The particular situation my duck dream brings to mind is that of a living entity who has a very elevated consciousness & position. Just as the human form is more subtle and elevated than that of ducks, dogs, or dragon flies, what to speak of bacteria who don’t even know we humans exist, even as they travel through our guts, so there are other bodies still more subtle level than the human form.