This conversation between His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and a university student took place in Los Angeles, in January of 1974.
Student: In your books you say this world is like a dream.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. It is a dream.
Student: How is it a dream?
Srila Prabhupada: For example, last night you had some dream, but now it has no value. It is gone. And again, tonight when you sleep, you’ll forget all these things and dream. You won’t remember, when you are dreaming tonight, “I’ve got my house; I’ve got my wife.” You’ll forget it all. So all of this is a dream.
Student: Is it true, or is it not true?
Srila Prabhupada: How could it be true? At night you forget it. Do you remember when you sleep that you’ve got your wife and you’re sleeping on a bed? When you have gone some three thousand miles away and seen something totally different in your dream, do you remember that you’ve got a place to reside in?
Srila Prabhupada: So this is a dream. Tonight, what you are seeing now will become only a dream, just as what you saw last night—now you know it was only a dream. So both are dreams. You are simply a visitor, that’s all. You are seeing this dream and that dream. You, the spirit soul, are factual. But your material body and the material surroundings you are seeing—this is a dream.
Student: But I have the impression that this experience is true and my cream is not true. What is the difference—
Srila Prabhupada: No. This experience is all untrue! How could it be true? If it were true, how could you forget it at night? How could you forget it, if it were true? At night do you remember all this?
Student: No. I don’t remember.
Srila Prabhupada: Then—how could it be true? Just as you don’t remember the dream you saw last night and so you call it a “dream,” similarly this experience—because you forget it at night—this is also a dream….
Student: But I have the impress—
Srila Prabhupada: This is a daydream; that is a night dream. That’s all. When you dream at night, then you perceive that as being real. Yes. You think that is real. It is a dream, but you are crying, “There is a tiger! Tiger! Tiger!” Where is the tiger? But you are seeing it as fact—a tiger. “I’m being killed by a tiger.” But where is the tiger? … Or you dream you are embracing some beautiful girl. Where is that beautiful girl? But actually it is happening.
Student: It is happening?
Srila Prabhupada: In one sense it is happening, because there is discharge of semen. Nocturnal emission. But where is that girl? Is it not a dream? But similarly, this so-called real-life experience is also a dream. You are getting the impression of factuality, but it is a dream. Therefore it is called maya-sukhaya, illusory happiness. Your nighttime happiness and your daytime happiness are the same thing. At night you are dreaming you are embracing a nice beautiful girl, and there is no such thing. Similarly, in the daytime also, whatever “advancement” you are making—this is also like that. Maya-sukhaya: you are dreaming, “This process will make me happy” or “That process will make me happy,” but the whole process is only a dream. You are taking this daydream as reality because the duration is long. At night when you dream, the duration is just half an hour. But this daydream lasts for twelve hours or more. That is the difference. This is a twelve-hour dream, and that is a half-hour dream—but actually both of them are dreams. Because one is a twelve-hour dream, you are accepting it as real. That is called illusion.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes…. You are making a distinction between an animal and yourself, but you are forgetting that just as the animal will die, you will also die. So where is your advancement? Will you remain forever? You will also die. So where is your advancement over an animal? That is stated in the Vedic literatures. Ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunam ca/ samanam etat pasubhir naranam: this business—eating, sleeping, sex life, and defending—this is also the animal’s business, and you are doing the same. So how are you distinct from an animal? You will die; the animal will die. But if you say, “I will die after one hundred years, and this ant will die after one hour,” that does not ‘mean that you are in reality. It is a question of time. Or take this huge universe—it will all be destroyed. As your body will be destroyed, this universe will also be destroyed. Annihilation. Dissolution. Nature’s way—the whole thing will be dissolved. Therefore, it is a dream. It is a long-duration dream, that’s all. Nothing else. But the advantage of having this human body is that in this dream, you can realize the reality—God. That is the advantage. So if you don’t take advantage of this dream, then you are missing everything.
Student: So I’m half-asleep?
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. This is the situation. Therefore, the Vedic literatures say, uttistha: “Get up! Get up! Get up!” Jagrata: “Become awakened!” Prapya varan nibodhata: “Now you’ve got the opportunity, utilize it.” Tamasi ma jyotir gama: “Don’t stay in darkness, come to the light.” These are Vedic injunctions. And we are teaching the same thing. “Reality is here—Krsna. Don’t remain in this dark place. Come to this higher consciousness.”