I have wished several times that the Lord appears in my dreams and blesses me, that He teaches me divine lessons in my hours of deep slumber when my body lies dead in the state of shavasana and my consciousness fades into oblivion. I attempted helping myself by either reciting sacred mantras before going to bed or just thinking and dreaming of the various temples I have visited.
Out of several attempts few of them proved to be really fruitful. No, am not boasting of any divine activity within my mind's limits, none really. But yes, some dreams stuck on like droplets of marit in my otherwise crowded head bursting with noisy thoughts. I still love to live in that limbo, repeat those vision I saw and feel a little better that maybe the Lord actually heard my wishes.
Am one for temples, as this very blog speaks. Any temple, anywhere is of great interest. But there is a difference between the way I view and read temples in reality verses those that tend to appear in my dreams. Lets leave the noise, people and corruption out. There is a feeling of bliss every time I visit a Shiva temple, to see the various forms that the Shiva Linga can adorn. The Linga decorated at Ukhimath, with a mustache is similar to the Linga decorated at the entrance of Lingaraja temple in Bhuvaneshwar, and yet the ambiance of the two temples were starkly different. That of Lingaraja was in a shrine much smaller in dimensions, and there was a chill within the chamber. That at Ukhimath was within a room with painted walls and covered in silks and flowers lending a much warmer look in a way more colder location. That at Rudraprayag was chilling cold and wet but it gave me the best experience in bleak winter, as I was allowed to sit right next to it and do abhishekam right in the middle of the day - I must add, the priest was being very kind. The Linga at Rameshwaram was a little too far, and the jyothir linga was barely visible and I must add, that the Linga at Thiruvannamalai's Virupaksha cave near Skandashram is made of pure ash. It is a beautiful cave with a dome like cieling and seats for anyone who chooses to meditate in sync with the samadhi of Virupaksha Deva.
In all these temples or shrines the heart looks for the divine, and the anticipation is quenched at the glimpse of the shrine and as the eyes soak in the view, this image is embedded in the mind for good. The feeling is shortlived and the overpowering presence of "time" in our lives governs exactly how long this experience is going to last. The other aspect of a new place gives various images for the mind to absorb sometimes diluting the purpose of the visit.
In the dream state, the temple hopping is a different experience. There is no concept of time, but the mind is anyway playing a game with us. The visions I have had are not out of the world, I just feel transported to another location which the mind chooses to give a geographical name or leaves it as a nameless shrine. Somehow, in these experiences, the name and geography of the temple doesnt seem to matter, there is no concept of time except for the waking state when ever it strikes and wipes these visions away. And the shrines appear with a deep sense of mystery, that there is something more to look for. Interestingly they break all the rules of temple architecture. In a recent dream, I found myself in a dark chamber, more like a hall so to speak which had pillars and was dark. I could barely move but from where I stood I could clearly count five Shiva lingas though small and barely making it to a foot off the ground. Yet they were bright, the three lines of ash, the chandan and the kumkum looked bright to the minds eye. There was a sense of wetness though I never saw the floor. There were small flames though I never saw the lamps, and I was alone standing there still searching trying to get a better view. This shrine seemed to break all the rules, all the rules that I had read up and expected my mind to exercise within the dreams views. But here in this picture, all the rules I have learned were broken, all the theories didnt apply and I had no connection with anyone. All there was in this level of consciousness was the Lord in His many forms and my vision of His being.
Sitting back in reality, and while I negotiate with my mind watching every thought as they go by and wondering whether they should be entertained, these visions of the divine just help feel better that there are some visions we just dont have to worry about but feel glad we even got a sight of them, that the mind is capable of imagining the Lord in forms that I have not yet discovered.
All said and done, I value these dreams for the experience of mystery, for the spiritual tease it offers me, for the hope that I am being blessed with a vision of the Lord and of course for every new shrine I get to see, real or imaginary. It is so strange that something as static as the Shiva Linga can make a seeker so interested over such a long period of time. Its the emotion that matters, the need to want to know and the need to discover the core of the Lord. And somewhere along that line, the rules of ritual slowly begin to fade away.