Dreams from Ten Years with the Hare Krishnas

The day after graduating college in 1978, I moved into the Hare Krishna temple in Los Angeles. The organization's official name is ISKCON - the International Society for Krishna Consciousness. Living with the Krishnas I kept a dream journal for ten years of the ten-and-a-half year experience. I presented my study on a panel called "Dreams of God," at the annual Dream Studies conference, June 19, 2018.

Areas for Analysis

• Tag main characters and compare quantitative data for their appearance in daytime compared to dream notations.
• Analyze dreams about the deity Krishna (and Jagannatha deities).
• Count ratio of ISKCON words (Sanskrit and jargon) per page. This can later be compared to an "after" set to be transcribed in 2019.
• Search for characters specific to the Laguna Beach temple to find out if their appearance in dreams corresponds to the eighteen months we lived in Laguna Beach.

Tagging Main Characters

I made up tags for the main characters and counted their occurence in dreams compared to daytime notations. The tags are based on Hall/Van de Castle coding, where h=husband, f=father, m=mother, b=brother, and k=known character. This chart shows my findings:


Facts about the Collection

Entire journal 1979-2016
38 years, 231 notebooks
My ages 23-60

First ten years: 1979-1989
Dreams from Ten Years with the Hare Krishnas
37 notebooks, transcribed January-May 2018
Total length of the transcript:
Pages 1,223
Words 283,766
Total notations:
Daytime 2,018
Dreams 1,367

The dream set has two distinct parts:
Part One: 1970-1985
Part Two: 1986, 1987, 1988 (+18 days of 1989)


Part One:
24 small booklets
Years covered 1979-1985
Pages 395+
Words 87,528+
1979-1985 daytime notes and recorded dreams:
Notations 841
Dreams 163
The booklets tell the story of my indoctrination into ISKCON's language and mind set.
Typical notations: class notes, prayers, realizations, scriptural quotations, notes on daily saddhana and activities; dreams.


Part Two:
14 regular wirebound notebooks
Years covered: 1986, 1987, 1988 (+18 days of 1989)
Pages 828
Words 196,238
1986-1989 notations:
Daytime: 1,124
Dreams: 1,204
These notebooks tell the story of my growing disillusionment until I resign and move away from the temple December 26, 1988.
Typical writers journal. Notations include: daily activities, dreams, thoughts, ideas, as well as first drafts for letters, articles, my memoir, and other projects.
Dreams recorded per year:

1979     2
1980     4
1981     13
1982     18
1983     118
1984     6
1985     -
1986     294
1987     418
1988     471
1989     21 (up to January 18)

My Experience Transcribing

I transcribed forty hours per week for a total of four weeks; January and March 2018. That was approximately 160 hours. The Library shipped me eleven small booklets to finish transcribing in May, which took another 15-20 hours.

Typing in the daytime notes brought back memories I could easily recall, but I only remembered a handful of the dreams. Reading the day and dreams together gave me a stereoview to put my past in a more realistic perspective. The dreams were forgiving and accepting of my daytime self and now I feel more accepting of myself. It was also meaningful to stay in Isla Vista and work at the UCSB Library, since that was where I first met Hare Krishnas in my senior year.

Reading the notebooks was also unsettling, because they reminded me how far away from my self I had been. To fit in, I learned a new language consisting of Sanskrit words and names, and the group's jargon. Words like "ecstatic" and "surrender" appear hundreds of times in my own hand. The language included archaic phrasing like this:
Notation * Dated August 28, 1980 * [drawing of Lord Jagannatha] I'm really bewildered because I don't want to eat sometimes but my tongue forces me. But I'm praying to Lord Jagannatha to engage in His service and become His devotee and to develop (uncover) pure love for Him.
During Rathayatra I was praying that for all of my austerities I could achieve a constant attitude of prayer and reverence toward Krsna and my Guru.
The people who gave class taught us to attribute everything that happened to Krishna. When bad things happened, we would remind each other Krishna gives us what we need to "make advancement." They variously called it "Krishna's mercy," Krishna "taking everything away" for our own good, or Krishna "smashing" us, presumably because our level of surrender was worse than usual. It's a form of religious guilt used to control followers for centuries in fundamentalist religious circles. Here's one example:
Notation * Dated August 27, 1981 * Today I came to pick up a package at Quantas AL and they are such chumps they wouldn't waive the storage fee and I had to drive all the way back to the temple to get $10. But it was all arranged by Krsna for some reason to purify me.
Hari Bol
Hare Krsna
Transcribing also made me noticed how little sleep I got. In the daytime notations I complained frequently of being tired due to not enough hours of sleep. I could tell by my handwriting when I was nodding off in class. Drifting between waking and sleeping, I probably imbibed the indoctrination on a deep subconscious level. I remember using the organization's way of speaking, and feeling pangs of religious guilt, but transcribing the journals at least now I know how I got like that.

Here's a snapshot of a page I wrote while nodding off:


Notation * Dated April 10, 1979 * schedule normal
desire Lord Caitanya's mercy.
Druval is an example of ds wie for austerities offer Patiently . . . Of . . . He wanted to offer prayers when conch shell touched him he became moved to pray . . . In India the Druva . . . Everything is the good fortune comes from the s - god ma. . . Compassion . . . . Druvah Maharaja

I also doodled, and drew page layouts in the journals. Here are a few examples:


“The Vedas are Self Explanitory” [sic] Please help me to purify my desires. Help me to trust you Gurudeva.”


Notation * Dated April 28, 1986 – [portion on this page] He threw the flower at Uddhava and we also got remnants from his plate. Maharaja told us he plans to get more involved in the IWR - travel and get stories. He gave a lecture to the GBC that everyone should get along. He wants to push the idea of "Big ISKCON" and that includes IWR. He said a few GBCs said they were glad he moved out of L.A. - finally got his own ministry set up. [drawings of whales, including one with legs - in the whale's thought bubble, "I'm goin' over to Uddhava's apartment."]


Dream * [the next morning] Dated April 29, 1986 * At the Mayapur festival - we went to the Ganges. The waves were very strong. I sat on a rock with other women - two waves swept over the rock up to our house. We were drenched, so I went swimming. The water became very still and shallow. I floated down the river. One tiled canal, then called Subhananda and encouraged him to come out there. I got allergies, so Uds took me to an Ayurvedic allergy place - got lots of medicine. Tried to call Atlanta. Went in the water - pushed a boat - the boatman charged me 6 rs just to push it. Collected gopi candan from river bank. Tried to get Uds to go swimming. [drawing/doodle of a whale with feet]


Chanted rounds in car, drove around Saddleback Valley - Mission Viejo. Went to mangal-a. Missed everything else - sleepy - Had a meeting w/ Bhu., worked on Mac. Felt pretty good all day.

Notation * Dated May 29, 1986 * Drove around in a.m., finishing rounds and going to stores. Worked on Mac, dentist, then worked on Mac more
Got lots of layout done - now we need to write more stories [sketches of pages and list of stories]
More photos are coming from Australia, and we get the New York photos tomorrow.


general direction and "FFL" ad.
Also our direction and him. We bought beads for him, but don't think he's ready for it.

Notation * Dated August 30, 1986 * Morning - chanted at temple, talked to Laksmi-priya and others, met w/ Muster (great meeting), worked on Mac, drove home, got settled. Now it's 9:20 and I'm tired. Things to do tomorrow [to do list and sketches for IWR page layouts]


Notation * Dated September 21, 1986 * Please Lord Krsna don't let ISKCON fall apart. Right now I feel all confused and I am praying to know You. Please don't kick me away. Let us simply worship You. [sketches of page layouts and articles for next IWR]


Notation * Dated January 29, 1987 - new moon * Felt a little better today. Woke up late (cramps) then chanted at beach, in temple. Worked on Mac the rest of the day. Came home & talked to roommates. Also talked to Ud, Paulb. [Stylized logos for ISKCON World Review.]


Notation * Dated January 18, 1988 - 10:10 p.m. * Now we're working on the deadline - a week to go. The main story is this Bombay World Conference. It's going to be hard to get photos and to get the angle right. It will take a lot of meditation.
We went on Hari-nama tonight. I also sent a letter to Srila Ramesvara. I told him about Texas and what I think about moving to Laguna.
Now it's late and I'm trying to feel tired - tomorrow I'll feel tired really easily. I feel sort of worn out. Now that I'm almost 30 I feel like it's starting to come to the end [a chart showing the numbers 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 with a line tracing downhill] easier and easier. [a chart showing an upward track from 0, 10, 12, 13]
Hardest years [another chart showing 0, 10, 13, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 30, 40, 50, 60 - with 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21 as the biggest/hardest]
Devotional scale: [a chart going from 0 to 60, with the numbers gradually getting bigger in my 20s, and the word "increase" with an arrow pointing forward]
Enough games for tonight. Goodnight.

Dream Index