- In the Prajnaparamita of True Meaning
- Buddha himself said that dreams are deceptive and are not
- They are empty, vain, and hollow.
- To record, collect and study them brings little gain.
- This is why Buddha used dreams as one of the eight parables,
- To show the illusory nature of all things.
- Haven't these warnings entered your mind?
- Haven't these injunctions occurred to you?
- And yet, in this case at least,
- Your dreams truly were wondrous omens,
- Foretelling marvelous things to come in the future!
- I, the yogi who has mastered the art of of dreams,
- Will interpret their magical meaning for you. ... .
- ~ 2nd, 3rd and [below] final stanzas in Jampa
Mackenzie Stewart's Life of Gampopa (64-68.)
The two verses may seem contradictory, especially in the context of
contemporary society for we have another kind of attitude to dreams -- that
is, the psychoanalytic approach.
Noble Master, Milarepa, is warning against the notion that there are
formulas by which symbols can be read. For example, if we consult a
"dream dictionary" we are certain to be misled. Also, if we
try to interpret our own dreams or those of others without being fully aware
of the way hopes and fears can influence the dreaming itself, as well as the
interpretation, then we are likely to misread which may lead to reinforcement
of our erroneous views or behaviors.
It requires experience and knowledge to interpret dreams with the objective
of helping to heal a person's "everyday" mind. However, it
requires a meditater on the order of a yogi like Milarepa -- one who has
knowledge, insight, understanding, and experience of the true nature of
consciousness -- to make predictions based on dreaming (or other types of
manifestation.) Since "Some bad omens may appear as good dreams And
only an expert can discern their evil meaning . . . ."
- But in general, it is harmful
- To become too attached to dream interpretation.
- No matter what experiences you have,
- Whether in dreams or while awake, whether good or bad,
- If you cling to them as real, they become an obstacle.
- If you know they are illusion you can bring them to the path.
"If during the dreaming state you direct your awareness and your
concentration to the throat, this will make your dreams clearer.
Whereas, if you direct your awareness to the heart, then it will make your
sleep deeper. So here is a subjective sleeping pill." ~ The
Dalai Lama's Book of Daily Meditations: The Path to Tranquility. Rider
It may be helpful to understand right off that for Buddhists, the primary
goal of paying attention to one's dreams has to do with the achievement of the
ultimate objective, Awakening or Liberation, and not with using dreams as a
means of motivation, inspiration or prediction.
W. Y. Evans-Wentz' Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines includes Book
III: The Path of Knowledge which comprises the Yoga of the Six
Doctrines (dharmas.) Here is an edited version of Chapter
Three: The Doctrine of the Dream State.
It consists of four steps or parts: Comprehending, Transforming,
Realizing Illusion, and Meditating on 'Thatness' [Suchness, or Emptiness.]
Part One: Comprehending [the nature of the Dream-state.]
It consists of three aspects:
- Comprehending by the Power of Resolution,
- Comprehending by the Power of the Breath, and
- Comprehending by the Power of Visualization.
1. Comprehending by the Power of Resolution: At the 'the initial
comprehending of the dream' resolve to maintain an unbroken continuity of
consciousness from waking-state to dream-state. In other words, under
all conditions during the day [or waking-state] you hold to the concept that
all things are of the same substance as dreams and strive to maintain that
attitude even whether awake or asleep.
So at night, when you are about to fall sleep, pray to the Guru that you be
enabled to comprehend this nature of the dream-state; and firmly resolve to do
so. By meditating in this way, you will comprehend that.
Remember: 'All things result from their causes; they depend entirely upon
the resolution of karma.'
2: Comprehending by the Power of Breath
Go to sleep on the right side, as in the Lion's [of the Shakyas -- Buddha in
Parinirvana] final position. With the thumb and the ring-finger of the
right hand, press the pulsing throat arteries; plug the nostrils with the
fingers [of the left hand]; and let saliva collect in your throat. (As
a consequence, the dreamer is able to experience dreaming more vividly and so
it is easier to see the similarity between the waking and dreaming states.
Also in passing from one state to another, one may experience no break in the
continuity of memory.) In that way the content of the dream-state will
be found to be quite the same as the content of the waking-state, in that it
is wholly phenomenal and therefore illusory... .
Practice 3: Comprehending by Power of Visualization
Includes the visualization itself; and how to derive the greatest benefit from
the visualization; preventing the dispersion of the dream-content [both the
tendency of dreams to lose their coherence, or to be lost to memory upon
Thinking that you are the deity Vajrayogini,
visualize in the throat chakra [either
the Sanskrit or, as here,] the Tibetan syllable AH, red
and vividly radiant -- the real embodiment of Divine Speech.
Midway between the heart and that of the throat, in a space about 4 inches
long, there is a tube-like psychic-organ; if the vital force there is
quiescent, then sleep ensues but if the force is in motion then dreams
occur. Therefore, visualization focuses on that area.
By mentally concentrating on the radiance of the AH, and recognizing
every phenomenal thing to be in essence like forms reflected in a mirror
which, though apparent, have no real existence of themselves, one may
comprehend the dream.
To derive the greatest benefit from the visualization:
At nightfall, [strive to] comprehend the nature of the dream-state by means of
the above visualization. Then at dawn, practice ['vase' or] pot-shaped
breathing seven times. Resolve to [or try] eleven times to comprehend
the nature of the dream-state. Then concentrate the mind upon the dot, like a white
bony substance, situated between the eyebrows. (This is mainly to
concentrate or focus the attention or produce one-pointedness of mind.)
If you are lethargic in temperament, visualize the dot as red;
if you are the nervous type, the dot should be green.
If these means do not work and the nature of the dream-state is not
comprehended, then do this: At nightfall, meditate upon the dot; in the
morning practice twenty-one 'pot-shaped' breathings. Make twenty-one resolves
to comprehend the nature of the dream-state. Then, by concentrating the
mind on a black dot the size of an ordinary pill situated at the base
of the sexual organ, you ought to be able to comprehend the nature of the
Preventing Loss of Dream-content:
- This may be due to a dispersion into the Waking-State,
- dispersion because of physical fatigue
- dispersion due to physical or mental afflictions,
- loss into the Void.
Fading into the waking-state: It occurs when one is just about
to comprehend the dream, in view of thinking that it must be comprehended, and
then you wake up. The antidote for this is to eat nutritious food and do
some physical work or exercise until you are fatigued. Then your sleep gets
deeper; and that should cure the condition.
Dispersion can also occur with repetitious dreams without any change
of content. The antidote here is to meditate often upon the dream and to
resolve firmly to comprehend its essential nature. Do that along with
the 'pot-shaped' breathing with the visualization of the dot between the
eyebrows. (This combination of exercises is for better control of the
mind, since indomitable control prevents and cures all the various types
of dream-content dispersion.)
Dispersion because of some affliction occurs when one has lots of
dreams and remembers nothing upon waking. The antidote here is to avoid
pollution and impurities, to learn samadhi meditation under a guru, and to
visualize the dot as inside the root of the genital organ.
Dispersion into Emptiness refers to there being no apparent dreams.
To overcome this, visualize while meditating with 'pot-shaped' breathing, the
dot as being in the root of the generative organ, and also make [real and
mental] offerings to the Viras and Dakinis.
Part Two: Transmuting Dream-content
The process of transmutation is done as follows:
If, for example, the dream is about fire, think, 'what fear can there be of
fire which occurs in a dream?' Holding to this thought, trample upon the fire,
ie. stamp out whatever it is that disturbs you.
Once you have practiced doing this in your dreams then turn to the
various Buddha Realms [you would know their characteristics from study
beforehand, and have faith that they are attainable.] Accordingly, when
about to sleep, visualize a red dot within your throat chakra, and firmly
believe that in so doing you will be able to see most vividly, with all its
characteristics, whichever of the Purelands you may wish. But
concentrating, you should be able to see the Tushita Heaven, the Happy Western
realm, or 'Happy to Know,' or any other of the realms.
This practice serves as the test of efficiency [in the art of transmuting
Part Three: Realizing the Dream-state and Its Content to be
'At the outset, in the process of realizing it to be Maya, abandon all
feelings of fear
And, if the dream be of fire, transform the fire into water, the antidote of
And if the dream be of minute objects, transform them into large objects;
Or if the dream be of large objects, transform them into small objects:
That is how one comprehends the nature of dimension.
And if the dream be of a single thing, transform it into many things;
Or if the dream be of many things, transform them into one thing:
[That's how you get to know the nature of plurality and of unity.]
Continue such practices until thoroughly proficient in them.'
Then by visualizing one's own body as seen in the dream-state, and all other
bodies similarly seen, as being the Maya-like bodies of deities, they will be
realized to be so.
Part Four: Meditating on the 'Thatness' of the Dream-State
The fourth part, requires us 'to meditate upon the real essence of 'Thatness',
and in that way those dream propensities, out of which arise whatever is seen
in dreams [such] as appearances of deities, are purified. By
concentrating upon the forms of the deities seen in the dream-state, and by
keeping the mind in a quiescent condition free of thoughts, then the forms of
the deities are attuned to that non-thought condition of mind, and so the
Clear Light will dawn whose very essence is the Void [or, Emptiness.]
If one attains mastery of this process, then whether sleeping or awake, one
will realize both states [and all their contents] to be illusory, and
all phenomenon will be known to be born of the Clear Light.
Niguma, 11th century founder of the Shangpa
Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, is variously called the consort or the
sister of Naropa. She is credited with teaching Dream Yoga, and other
liberating techniques in a set of Six Yogas (Nigu Chö Druk.) She
Don't do anything whatsoever with the mind --
Abide in an authentic, natural state.
One's own mind, unwavering, is reality.
The key is to meditate like this without wavering;
Experience the Great [reality] beyond extremes.
In a pellucid ocean,
Bubbles arise and dissolve again.
Just so, thoughts are no different from ultimate reality.
So don't find fault; remain at ease.
Whatever arises, whatever occurs,
Don't grasp -- release it on the spot.
Appearances, sounds, and objects are one's own mind;
There's nothing except mind.
Mind is beyond the extremes of birth and death.
The nature of mind, awareness,
Uses the objects of the five senses, but
Does not wander from reality.
In the state of cosmic equilibrium
There is nothing to abandon or practice;
No meditation or post-meditation period.
~ Miranda Shaw (tr.) "Niguma: Mahamudra as Spontaneous
Liberation," in Passionate Enlightenment.
How Buddhist Practice Relates to the Development of "Psychic
Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. The Two Accumulations: Merit and Wisdom
(32-33) [Rinpoche teaches in Tibetan; these are his words as they were
translated into English.]
Question: Is there a Buddhist explanation for psychic abilities, especially in
regard to precognition?
Rinpoche: We all have psychic ability; it is not something one person has and
another does not. However, based on the thickness of our mental obscurations,
some are able to experience psychic ability, and some, even though it is
present, are unable to experience it. That is why, through meditation, we
"peel off" layers of obscurations. As the obscurations become
thinner, we develop our psychic ability. That ability is called,
"supersensitive cognition" in Buddhism, through which we can foresee
future events and so forth.
Question: But is there an underlying explanation of these abilities and why
they are so different from ordinary reality? And what about precognition? Does
that mean that the future is in some sense fixed? If so, how is that possible?
Rinpoche: The underlying explanation is the nature of mind. Psychic ability is
a quality of the natural state of the mind. Presently [sic], we let our
minds be distracted in so many directions that the natural quality of the mind
is not experienced. That is another way of saying that the development of
psychic ability, or supersensitive cognition, is enlightenment. In Tibetan,
the word for enlightenment has two syllables. The first is "SANG,"
which means removal or elimination. In that sense, it means we have eliminated
all of the obscurations. The second syllable, "GYE," means
development. As the natural quality of the mind is developed, psychic ability
is one of the natural qualities that are "uncovered."
The subject of whether the future is fixed or not is beyond the capacity of
comprehension of our ordinary minds. At present, our ordinary minds are
producing so many thoughts that everything is very much a fabrication of our
minds. That is exactly where the whole subject of wisdom (jnana in
Sanskrit) comes in. The wisdom mind is beyond such fabrication. Therefore, it
is able to foresee the future. For us, we cannot say now whether it is fixed
or not, since even such words we use are fabrications of our ordinary mind.
There are not accurate words to describe the wisdom involved. To define
something in a way that is free of error, we would have to find words that
were free of error, which is not possible.
Question: When you were telling us that if we pray to the higher bodhisattvas,
such as Manjushri, for wisdom, does that mean that at some bhumi level we will
develop wisdom that is, as you are now saying, not describable in words?
Rinpoche: I was talking about a particular dedication prayer that is done
after the Chenrezik practice. In the prayer itself, the names of two
bodhisattvas, Manjushri and Samantabhadra (JAMPALYANG and KUNTUZANGPO in
Tibetan) are given, but actually, any bodhisattva would be of benefit. Again,
our ordinary minds and activities are too confused to transmute good virtue
into wisdom, so we are asking their help. In that way, yes, it is possible.
Question: As we progress along the levels or bhumis, then are we also
progressing in terms of wisdom?
Rinpoche: Yes. As we progress along the path of the bhumis, our wisdom also
progresses. Finally, we experience the Vajradhara level of realization, the
state of Dorje Chang. The prayer also expresses that by doing this practice of
dedication, we can develop and progress in that way.
Not all experience has to be "food for thought." The
Western system of education tends to reinforce thinking about thinking.
It encourages the description, comparison, and analysis of
Sometimes a term or a label can arise from this process that lends a
reality to something that does not even exist. This process is known as reification.
Consider the notion of "race." There is
absolutely no scientific evidence at all for separate and distinct strains,
whether four or a hundred, of human beings, yet the suffering produced by
those who cling to the notion is prolonged merely by our repeating the
To get in touch with the essential nature -- to experience it rather than
just talk about it -- conceptualization has to be abandoned, if only once and
a while. Also, since it is that habit that contributes to our
attachments and aversions, we may have to practice noticing when we are
conceptualizing in order to rid ourselves of them:
Conceptualization means to have a thought about something.
At least, that is what it means in walking-around English. When we are
talking about Dharma, I think it means to take something that can't be
contained in a thought (or represented by an image or word) and to try to capture "it" there. So "things" (which of course aren't things at all) that
we conceptualize would be like Dharmakaya. Dharmakaya is totally without boundaries and can't be expressed, only experienced. When we try to describe
it, even to say it is without boundaries, we are conceptualizing.
Why do we do that? Because we are Human Beings with brains. It is our nature to think, not purely experience. In fact, it is extremely difficult to do
that. They say we experience non-conceptually when we sneeze or have an orgasm.
At my Dharma study class tonight (we are reading Shantideva's The Way of the
Bodhisattva -- highly recommend it to you all!) we talked about this.
It was said that intense moments of conceptuality (like when we are very
angry, for example) are very helpful to the practitioner because the focus
our mind and show us the state of our minds. It is during moments of
conceptualization that we can't avoid seeing our the true state of our minds.
Later in the evening, we read The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas. Three verses
stuck out for me.
22. Whatever appears is your own mind. Your mind from the start was free from fabricated extremes. Understanding this, do not take to mind [Inherent]
signs of subject and object- This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.
27. To Bodhisattvas who want a wealth of virtue those who harm are like a precious treasure. Therefore towards all cultivate patience without
hostility - This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.
and then the verse that HE Garchen Rinpoche says sums up the entire 37
36. In brief, whatever you are doing, ask yourself "What's the state of my
mind?" With constant mindfulness and mental alertness accomplish other' good - This is the practice of Bodhisattvas.
These are the tools of the Kagyu. Observing our own minds. Conceptualization is the
prison, but it is also the key out of prison. HE Garchen Rinpoche has said that we in the Kagyu fight fire with fire. I think this is an
excellent example of that!
May we set all prisoners free,
~ Jen, to the Kagyu email list