IN PRAISE OF DREAMS

In INSIGHTS by Robert Aho1 Comment

Careless beings, watch this fixation unfold!
This dream is none other than mind’s illusion,
appearing in this moment.
Do not fixate on any of it!
Awaken to your true nature
in that space before the story can be told.
Drop all labels into the empty void,
remain completely relaxed,
without words or thoughts remaining.
See that reality which defies explanation,
as it truly is, in its naked state,
without fabricating anything.
Are you awake?
Let that go before you answer.
Are you asleep?
Let that go as well.
See clearly
that this life
is nothing other
than a dream,
see clearly
that
dreams
are not different
than daily
life.

In praise of the complete Buddhist path, in praise of the many lifetimes that often must unfold, I most earnestly suggest that you, the reader, master the practices of night and day, of dreams and dreams within dreams. At all times seek awareness, pay attention to the illusory condition of our lives, and study the dharma, in all its forms. Learn the practices that your teacher gives you, in being where you are, in receiving what you are ready to receive. Prepare yourself in this way for the sudden revelation of the nature of mind.

Simply because I have been asked to express my thoughts, I will share a little bit before retreating once again into reclusive practice. I have no desire to sit before groups or travel the world, it is much better that I remain in the isolation of my forest home, where I may live among the simplicity of nature.

If you earnestly feel the need to practice as I suggest, then seek one of the many skilled teachers who fill dharma centers around the world, conducting retreats here and there, those who have written books and have been acknowledged as authentic teachers. Study the great works of tantra, as advice from those who are skilled at such things. I am just an obscure hermit, not worth mentioning—I will remain in seclusion.

In praise of the teachers of dream yoga, my root teacher, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche comes to mind at first, for me. Start with his book on dream yoga, if his kindness touches you deeply or the sound of his words appeal to you. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is also extremely wonderful, as he is very generous with his teachings, and he has written an amazing book about sleep and dreams that should be read again and again. Seek out also Michael Katz, Andrew Holecek and Alan Wallace. Each has amazing expertise and can help you to learn through their books and their individual teachings. These are only a few excellent teachers who come to mind, find the one or many who are right for you!

What I want to say is simple, and is precisely what I alluded to when praising the Buddhist Path:

Opening our heart and mind to infinite possibilities is said to take many lifetimes of practice for beginners. For those with a tightly closed heart and mind, many eons may be required—don’t despair over this one small detail! If you see this as discouraging, you will miss something extremely amazing–all things are possible, if you only persevere! 

It is very simple, if we develop the aspiration for awakening, then we will be able to find a way, and there is a way. Time will be of little importance, as it is just another illusion within this dream. For those who understand the possibilities of dream yoga, or the practice of night and day, one lifetime is sufficient to live many lifetimes, even an eon’s worth of lifetimes are possible. One lifetime can be quite sufficient for awakening, if we develop a strong intention to awaken. We only need to have persistent devotion, we need to persevere.

Waking up to our real nature is the easiest thing in the world, and because of this, it is the most difficult thing we can do. Part of why this is so difficult is that it simply requires a completely open heart and mind. This is what it means when we talk about capacity: A closed mind means having little capacity, an open mind means we have great capacity. Capacity has nothing to do with intelligence, it has to do with how awake or receptive we are right now. If you are fully awake, then your capacity is infinite.

For those who have gone on retreat with others, or visited Dharma centers, we’ve all encountered those who boast about having practiced for twenty or thirty years in front of beginners or those who will listen. They are easy to spot because they usually exhibit no sign of having ever achieved anything in their practice. Their ego is quite apparent, and they may be very fluent with disturbing emotions. Stay away from them!

If you practice dream yoga, one nighttime is sufficient to live an entire lifetime, where you can be a serious practitioner for that entire lifetime. When you hear someone boast about the years they have been practicing, it is best to just say nothing. If you tell them about your dream practice, while thinking you have just finished practicing for a hundred years last night, you may find yourself feeling proud in your achievement, then reifying the experiences, then inflating your ego and defending all of that. So, what that means is that by simply boasting about it, you can inadvertently close your mind again to the point that it is closed even more tightly than before you started your practice on the first day you met your first teacher.

The proper attitude for dream practice is to simply see the dream as an illusion and not to take it too seriously. Your dream is just something else that appears. Even if you encounter great teachers in your dreams, it is still just an illusion. Even if you live for a hundred years in your dream and you can’t remember how to speak your own language when you wake up in the morning, it is still just an illusion. Be sure to laugh if that happens. As you continue in your dream practice, you will quickly begin to see that your daily life is also just an illusion that is no different than your dreams, and it should not be taken too seriously. At first, this will seem like a ridiculous idea. How can there be no difference between dreams and daily life? To understand that, you must practice.

Now, I strongly indicated, I think, and if it did not seem like a strong piece of advice, consider it as that now. In order to practice dream yoga, we must give up laziness. When we fall off to sleep, we tend to fixate on images that appear, and then just lazily drift away in that. This is what we do in our daily life, no difference at all. This fixation lulls us off into whatever current our mind takes us. The dreams that appear are merely karmic dreams, closely mirroring our lives and our state of mind, usually filled with strong emotions. This will not help much, and it will become a huge hindrance to dream practice.

When you are falling asleep, be aware that you are falling asleep. Be aware of the sounds and images that appear. In this way, you can start to practice lucid dreaming. The simple practice of lucid dreaming must be mastered before dream yoga can be attempted. We simply must be aware that we are dreaming when we dream. To learn this first step, it may help to follow the advice of those who specialize in the field. It is not necessary that the person explaining this particular aspect of preparing for dream yoga be a Buddhist teacher. Western psychologists, who specialize in the study of lucid dreams, have sufficient knowledge that can be very helpful in getting you started.  Many books are available on this subject.

Once lucid dreaming is mastered, simply start meditating in your dreams. The first time I practiced in a dream, I simply sat in the lotus position and floated in the room where the dream was happening. When someone in the dream asked me what I was doing, I told them I was busy, that they shouldn’t bother me; and, so, I kept meditating. The dream lasted for quite some time, before I woke up in the morning, thinking that I had been able to apply the same practice from my daily life into my dream life. Then, as I became a little less groggy, I realized that the full lotus position is a bit too much for me in daily life, and floating in the air is also not yet mastered. I did laugh.

This was just the start. Dream yoga is not always sitting in meditation, sometimes it is learning from great masters, other times it is dealing with disturbing emotions or facing fears. In time, nightmares will stop when we practice by facing our fears and being aware of what disturbs us. In reality, the potentiality of a dream is unlimited. We may dream anything we want or need. Dream yoga is a practice for supercharging our practice. We can dream as many lifetimes as we need to practice, in order to increase our capacity. It has been said that many people have been able to awaken through dream practice.

It is, above all, my strong intention to bring this to your attention, that dream practice can help you to awaken quickly, that, at the very least, it will bring you great benefit.  It does not matter who you are or what your capacity might be, you can at least begin to learn about lucid dreaming, which is an important step in discovering real success in your practice. Do not give up on your practice, find ways to succeed. The practice of dream yoga allows us to become aware of our daily lives in ways that may not seem possible. It also helps us to succeed in this process of discovering our real nature.

If your intention to become a fully enlightened buddha is strong, if bodhicitta flows freely in your life, if this intention is unshakable, then realize it is possible to awaken in this lifetime, no matter who you are or what your circumstances might be. In my humble opinion, dream yoga is the most powerful means for awakening, by far. It is not specific to any school or any yana, it does not depend upon sectarianism. A person who is new to Buddhism may learn how to practice in this way, a person who remains diligent in this practice may encounter the inexplicable in very short order, without a doubt.

Remember, if you learn lucid dreaming, you will be able to start dream practice, just take your daily practices into your dream—it’s that simple. This will take more than the intention to awaken, it will also take the perseverance of falling asleep in such a way that you do not forget that you are dreaming. This is exactly the way daily practice must also be, we must not forget that we are in samsara, and that it is just an illusion that quickly passes, or we will be once again be dominated by mind and at the mercy of our karma.

The final piece of advice to you is to simply realize that it is worth the effort. Although our real nature is already perfect, we are not aware that this is so in any real sense, until we have realized the nature of mind. Also, even if we have realized the nature of mind, we can easily find ourselves at the mercy of samsara through our karma and disturbing emotions, if we do not learn to practice at all times. Because of this fixation, forgetting that it is really just like a dream, we could become prone to disturbing emotions once again. Because of our habitual tendencies to just drift along with our fixations, our dream state actually greatly affects our daily life. People who have successful daily practice tend to have very few disturbing emotions within their dreams. Dreams and daily life are the same in this regard, even if we do not become lucid in our dreams. By practicing both during the day and night, we can find a way to more easily discover the nature of mind. And, if we discover the nature of mind, dream practice becomes indispensable.

Whatever you do, don’t give up—keep at it! If you don’t always remember you are dreaming, that’s okay, don’t worry about it. Try again later, open your mind and develop your practice. In time, your life will change completely. Without a doubt, if you remain diligent, slowly slowly your mind will open completely, you will become a fully enlightened Buddha.

About the Author
Robert Aho

Robert Aho

Robert Aho lives in a secluded pine forest on a lake in northern Minnesota, with wolves, deer and other wildlife always close by. Although he has had several Buddhist teachers of various backgrounds, he practices Dzogchen, considering Keith Dowman and Namkhai Norbu to be his root teachers. As part of his daily life, Robert practices architecture and has done numerous activities related to this, as well as various creative endeavors, such as poetry, prose, painting and photography.

Photo provided by the author.

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Comments

  1. I love you Robert Aho, your words are so encouraging, so true and give me a lot of inspiration to proceed…
    No doubt, I am going to read it again and again…

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