Symbols and Dreams

From Krishnamurti’s Book THE URGENCY OF CHANGE

Questioner: I have been told by professionals that dreaming is as vital as daytime thinking and activity, and that I would find my daily living under great stress and strain if I did not dream. They insist, and here I’m using not their jargon but my own words, that during certain periods of sleep the movement of the eyelids indicates refreshing dreams and that these bring a certain clarity to the brain. I am wondering whether the stillness of the mind which you have often spoken about might not bring greater harmony to living than the equilibrium brought about by patterns of dreams. I should also like to ask why the language of dreams is one of symbols.

Krishnamurti: Language itself is a symbol, and we are used to symbols: we see the tree through the image which is the symbol of the tree, we see our neighbour through the image we have about him. Apparently it is one of the most difficult things for a human being to look at anything directly, not through images, opinions, conclusions, which are all symbols. And so in dreams symbols play a large part and in this there is great deception and danger. The meaning of a dream is not always clear to us, although we realize it is in symbols and try to decipher them. When we see something, we speak of it so spontaneously that we do not recognise that words are also symbols. All this indicates, doesn’t it, that there is direct communication in technical matters but seldom in human relationships and understanding? You don’t need symbols when somebody hits you. That is a direct communication. This is a very interesting point: the mind refuses to see things directly, to be aware of itself without the word and the symbol. You say the sky is blue. The listener then deciphers this according to his own reference of blueness and transmits it to you in his own cipher. So we live in symbols, and dreams are a part of this symbolic process. We are incapable of direct and immediate perception without the symbols, the words, the prejudices and conclusions. The reason for this is also quite apparent: it is part of the self-centred activity with its defences, resistances, escapes and fears. There is a ciphered response in the activity of the brain, and dreams must naturally be symbolic because during the waking hours we are incapable of direct response or perception.

Questioner: It seems to me that this then is an inherent function of the brain.

Krishnamurti: Inherent means something permanent, inevitable and lasting. Surely any psychological state can be changed. Only the deep, constant demand of the brain for the physical security of the organism is inherent. Symbols are a device of the brain to protect the psyche; this is the whole process of thought. The “me” is a symbol, not an actuality. Having created the symbol of the “me”, thought identifies itself with its conclusion, with the formula, and then defends it: all misery and sorrow come from this.

Questioner: Then how do I get around it? Krishnamurti: When you ask how to get around it, you are still holding on to the symbol of the “me”, which is fictitious; you become something separate from what you see, and so duality arises.

Questioner: May I come back another day to continue this?


Questioner: You were good enough to let me come back, and I should like to continue where we left off. We were talking about symbols in dreams and you pointed out that we live by symbols, deciphering them according to our gratification. We do this not only in dreams but in everyday life; it is our usual behaviour. Most of our actions are based on the interpretation of the symbols or images that we have. Strangely, after having talked with you the other day, my dreams have taken a peculiar turn. I have had very disturbing dreams and the interpretation of those dreams took place as they were happening within the dreams. It was a simultaneous process; the dream was being interpreted by the dreamer. This has never happened to me before.

Krishnamurti: During our waking hours, there is always the observer, different from the observed, the actor, separate from his action. In the same way there is the dreamer separate from his dream. He thinks it is separate from himself and therefore in need of interpretation. But is the dream separate from the dreamer, and is there any need to interpret it? When the observer is the observed what need is there to interpret, to judge, to evaluate? This need would exist only if the observer were different from the thing observed. This is very important to understand. We have separated the thing observed from the observer and from this arises not only the problem of interpretation but also conflict, and the many problems connected with it. This division is an illusion. This division between groups, races, nationalities, is fictitious. We are beings, undivided by names, by labels. When the labels become all important, division takes place, and then wars and all other struggles come into being.

Questioner: How then do I understand the content of the dream? It must have significance. Is it an accident that I dream of some particular event or person?

Krishnamurti: We should really look at this quite differently. Is there anything to understand? When the observer thinks he is different from the thing observed there is an attempt to understand that which is outside himself. The same process goes on within him. There is the observer wishing to understand the thing he observes, which is himself. But when the observer is the observed, there is no question of understanding; there is only observation. You say that there is something to understand in the dream, otherwise there would be no dream, you say that the dream is a hint of something unresolved that one should understand. You use the word “understand”, and in that very word is the dualistic process. You think there is an “I”, and a thing to be understood, whereas in reality these two entities are one and the same. Therefore your search for a meaning in the dream is the action of conflict.

Questioner: Would you say the dream is an expression of something in the mind?

Krishnamurti: Obviously it is.

Questioner: I do not understand how it is possible to regard a dream in the way you are describing it. If it has no significance, why does it exist?

Krishnamurti: The “I” is the dreamer, and the dreamer wants to see significance in the dream which he has invented or projected, so both are dreams, both are unreal. This unreality has become real to the dreamer, to the observer who thinks of himself as separate. The whole problem of dream interpretation arises out of this separation, this division between the actor and the action.

Questioner: I am getting more and more confused, so may we go over it again differently? I can see that a dream is the product of my mind and not separate from it, but dreams seem to come from levels of the mind which have not been explored, and so they seem to be intimations of something alive in the mind.

Krishnamurti: It is not your particular mind in which there are hidden things. Your mind is the mind of man; your consciousness is the whole of man. But when you particularize it as your mind, you limit its activity, and because of this limitation, dreams arise. During waking hours observe without the observer, who is the expression of limitation. Any division is a limitation. Having divided itself into a “me” and a “not me”, the “me”, the observer, the dreamer, has many problems – among them dreams and the interpretation of dreams. In any case, you will see the significance or the value of a dream only in a limited way because the observer is always limited. The dreamer perpetuates his own limitation, therefore the dream is always the expression of the incomplete, never of the whole.

Questioner: Pieces are brought back from the moon in order to understand the composition of the moon. In the same way we try to understand human thinking by bringing back pieces from our dreams, and examining what they express.

Krishnamurti: The expressions of the mind are the fragments of the mind. Each fragment expresses itself in its own way and contradicts other fragments. A dream may contradict another dream, one action another action, one desire another desire. The mind lives in this confusion. A part of the mind says it must understand another part, such as a dream, an action or a desire. So each fragment has its own observer, its own activity; then a super-observer tries to bring them all into harmony. The super-observer is also a fragment of the mind. It is these contradictions, these divisions, that breed dreams.

So the real question is not the interpretation or the understanding of a particular dream; it is the perception that these many fragments are contained in the whole. Then you see yourself as a whole and not as a fragment of a whole.

Questioner: Are you saying, sir, that one should be aware during the day of the whole movement of life, not just one’s family life, or business life, or any other individual aspect of life?

Krishnamurti: Consciousness is the whole of man and does not belong to a particular man. When there is the consciousness of one particular man there is the complex problem of fragmentation, contradiction and war. When there is awareness of the total movement of life in a human being during the waking hours, what need is there for dreams at all? This total awareness, this attention, puts an end to fragmentation and to division. When there is no conflict whatsoever the mind has no need for dreams.

Questioner: This certainly opens a door through which I see many things.