I was only three years old and couldn’t make clear to my parents the intensity of my nighttime fears. “All children have bad dreams,” they thought, and put what I said in that category. I couldn’t explain to them that this was different.
Night, for me, was a torment. Usually I would lie awake for hours, afraid to fall asleep. We lived in my grandmother’s house in India. Only when I could see the light of dawn through the cracks in the roof tiles would I finally doze off.
I would sleep then until late in the morning. I begged my parents to wake me earlier, but they felt I needed the sleep. Inadvertently, they kept me on the cycle of nighttime sleeplessness, fear, and loneliness.
I had various nightmares, but it was one recurring dream that made me so afraid. It came several times a week.
In it I was a little boy, dressed in shorts, walking barefoot in red dirt with two companions of my own age. It looked like central India, only earlier, when the British were still in charge. In this lifetime I also grew up in that area.
In the dream, my friends and I followed a forest track to a temple we wanted to visit. Two stray dogs started following us. When the dogs came into the dream, the fear would build.
Together we looked around the temple. I had to get home earlier than the other boys, so I went out a back door alone, taking a shortcut through a denser part of the forest.
I heard a lion roar, which frightened me. I began to walk faster.
For me as the dreamer, the lion roar filled me with almost unbearable dread. At the same time, for my dreaming self it was a relief to hear it, for it meant the end of the dream was near. I always knew I was dreaming, but no matter how much will power I exerted, I couldn’t change the dream or wake up.
I parted some bushes and came face to face with the lion. At this point the dream always ended, presumably because the lion ate me.
It seems obvious this was a past-life memory, imprinted so fearfully on my subconscious that when my defenses were down, it broke through over and over again. The only solution for me was to try not to sleep.
In many ways the dream was more real to me than waking life. In waking life, every day is different. By contrast, the dream was always the same—the reality of it reinforced by constant repetition.
Finally, when I was seven years old, I had had enough. One night, after going through the unvarying sequence of events and emotions, I didn’t wake up, but another part of my sleeping self took over.
I had to face up to the fear! It was time to end this nighttime terror! In my sleep state I prayed intensely to God for help. Then I deliberately called up the dream, something I had never had the courage to do before.
This was a mental re-creation rather than the actual dream, so the familiar scenes were slightly different from the usual. I sped quickly through them until I came to the part where the lion appears.
Face to face with the lion, something happened that had never happened before. A sudden blaze of light struck the lion on the side of his head. He turned to face the light, which emanated from a tall, robed figure who illuminated the entire scene.
The figure called to the lion and spoke a few words to him. The lion listened attentively, then trotted tamely away. My fear had been told to go away, and it did.
The figure then turned to me and said telepathically, “Well, that won’t bother you again, will it? Well done!”
I didn’t know how to respond. I was amazed that my prayer had been answered. At the same time, I thought I was the one who had bravely banished my own fear. After all, hadn’t the figure told me, “Well done!”? It didn’t occur to me to respond in the obvious way, “Thank you for making the lion go away.”
That dream has never bothered me again, nor have I been plagued by any other nightmares.
Banishing the fear, I understand now, entailed not only having the courage to face it, but also putting out the effort to draw the grace of God. For it was that grace, not I, that sent the lion away.