Dreams and Reverie (July 22, 2017)
Good morning, good morning, so nice to see everyone! Look, everybody’s here, how nice!
So, dreams. What is a dream; is this a dream? At some point we will start catching our dream, we find a dreamy place like maybe in a night time dream, where our narrative was. So it is possible we catch our dream, and then it comes into this other dream. Maybe you don’t remember your night time dream, but you came here – you drove or maybe you walked. It’s a dream. So we catch, so to speak, how we got here. We don’t lose that continuity. I had a dream that I got in my car and got dressed and here I am. Let’s spend a few moments recalling our dream. You put on your clothes and you got here. It seems so real, but it’s a dream.
Then, be present to your mood and how thoughts arise, that’s reverie. Reverie is before the to-do list, like I have to let the dog out, or I have to do this task before that task. In reverie, things are kind of like floating, like on a river. Where the river and the ocean meet, that’s the real place of reverie. What do they call that, an estuary? Nice birds and creatures live where the river meets the ocean. It’s an interesting place. The big ocean, salty water and the fresh river water come together and you have interesting birds and plants. So this reverie is where the river of thoughts meets the ocean of dreams. We appreciate that kind of mix. Reverie lets things kind of flow in and mix; thoughts flow in from the day and mix with the dream. It’s easy. Let’s take a few minutes for that.
Now as the result of resting in an open zero state of dream and reverie, the aspect of a garden kind of comes together. Flowers and lush plants start growing. We’re near the water and the refuge tree or Bodhi tree comes up. All the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Yidams and dharma protectors show up and arise with our Lama in the center. The entire lineage tree arises out of this space and that’s what we visualize, imagine all the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, devas, dakinis, dharma protectors and so forth all show up. They’re all sending light and smiling at us, they’re ringing bells and singing. So we let that light pour into us, (laughs) it’s kind of New Agey. We’re waking up with rainbows, unicorns, goddesses and everything and they’re sending us love and light. This light is streaming into us, OM AH HUNG, white, red and dark blue, body speech and mind. We are in the garden in front of this great luminous tree. We let our mind rest on this for a moment.
Now the mandala temple palace arises. We go in the eastern gate, take our seat. We are surrounded by gardens and lakes and oceans and so forth. Then we are ready to do prayers to establish motivation and we do the nine breaths to cleanse the channels. But now it is like 8:40, so we need to have time for questions since this is workshop.
Usually, when we meet here for regular services of course, the assumption is that we have done this already in the morning so we jump right into doing the prayers. Since it is kind of public, we are not doing a lot of inner work so we just jump into the prayers. But since these workshops are for some people like a mini retreat or at least preparing people for retreat, we have to start slowly like this. So we have time for some questions. There have to be some questions, right? Then we’ll take a short break and we’ll start again at 9:00 for prayers. This is all easy, right? It should be easy.
Q: Can you say more about dreams and continuity?
Lama Jinpa: It’s like remembering our night time dream within our waking dream. In fact, our nighttime mental state is already picking up the continuity of that, it’s all about that continuity. That’s what Tantra is, the continuity of awareness, kind of the opposite of popping out of bed going “Oh shit, oh God! I gotta get to work!” where there’s this big break between dreaming and waking. Actually, the beginning of our traumatization is when that alarm goes off, pumping us with adrenalin, startling us awake. For most people, this is the beginning of their day – which is actually called trauma. Instead, we want to be slowly waking up, recalling the continuity of the mind. That’s why we’re remembering the dream.
Q: I had a dream the night before last, it was a nightmare, and my thought process for the rest of the day was constant fear, how do you deal with that?
Lama Jinpa: Even before we’re remembering the dream, whether we call it nightmare or a good dream, there’s a moment of just pure awareness. Nothing is happening, whether we call it ‘pure awareness’ or ‘before thinking’ or ‘don’t know mind.’ Usually people don’t catch that because they’re so speedy or freaked out. That moment becomes the ground. Actually with ground Mahamudra, nothing is happening, and then we remember the dream.
So, by gaining confidence in the ground Mahamudra, nothing is happening, we know that whether the dream is good or bad, it’s just dream. It is actually just a dream. If we don’t recognize it as just dream, we do what ordinary sentient beings do – we reify it and objectify it and then we scare the shit out of ourselves.
But with the recognition of pure awareness, open nature stays with us enough, and then the dream feels dreamy instead of solid. And of course we bring in the soft reverie, the soft qualities, the nice river, and then of course the garden and the refuge tree arrive. Then we gain the blessings and the empowerments.
If we don’t do the reverie, if we just kind of have a bad dream and launch into our day, then we’ll continue to process the bad dream because we haven’t remembered pure awareness. We haven’t taken the blessings of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and we haven’t taken in the blessings from the refuge tree.
This means recognizing we’re dreaming. Sometimes in bad dreams, we’re being pursued by people who want to get a hold of us ad it seems scary, and then once they get a hold of us, they’re actually very nice, like the Amazon delivery guy who has to knock really loud so we’ll answer the door. Sometimes bad dreams are like delivery drivers who are just trying to get our attention but we didn’t answer the first time – we didn’t answer the first time when the knock was really soft.
But you need to have that sequence of that kind of state – pure awareness, then awareness, then dream, then reverie, then garden, and then you’re in your temple mandala mansion and then you do the prayers. Are you all going to remember this? (Laughter)
Q: I have this recurring dream about being overwhelmed and understaffed at work, my whole shift and other staff is in the dream, and I wake up so stressed and overwhelmed. Other people at work are having the same dream.
Lama Jinpa: Yes, when you work together, live together, or do retreat together, when you’re really in close contact, you can actually have the same exact dream. In a way, we’re all dreaming we’re here at Do Nga Dargey Temple.
Q: Can we learn to work with our dreams, like lucid dreaming?
Lama Jinpa: There are a lot of different dream yoga practices, right? Of course, you can have lucid dreaming in the West, you can do that, and sometimes that is helpful. That’s working on the level of relative reality. Absolute reality is nothing is happening.
When we are watching a movie or TV, nothing is really happening, right, they’re just images, right? We have to always recognize that nothing is happening. And even though phenomenal world is dreamlike, we still want to have a good dream, right? (Laughter) So let’s have a good dream. This practice is to help do that.
Prayers and the Path
So now we’re going to do prayers; our prayers, the daily prayers we do, are generally structured around The Three Principal Aspects of the Path, which is a famous teaching that was taught by Lama Tsong Khapa, which are:
3. Wisdom realizing emptiness
In these prayers, there’s a kind of progression where we’re developing renunciation of our destructive deeds and stupid ideas, which of course entails also developing our devotion and confidence in the Buddha, the Lama and the dharma. We start out with praising Shakyamuni Buddha, then develop aspirations of relative and absolute Bodhicitta – the strong spirit to awaken for ourselves and others – and then we usually conclude with the “Heart Sutra”, which is teaching on ultimate nature, wisdom realizing emptiness, prajnaparamita. So it has this progression.
Lots of times when people do the prayers they say, “I don’t know what I am supposed to be thinking or feeling or doing.” So, first of all, pay attention to what you are saying! (Laughter)
But the basic structure is that we’re developing the desire to leave our destructive patterns, our suffering, and start our journey. To do that, of course we have to feel that things are really painful and there’s the possibility of going somewhere it’s not painful. People who stay stuck in samsara, in their depression or whatever; it’s usually because they feel there’s no way out. They have thoughts like, “I’ll just stay stuck; I have my coping skills, I’ll just stay here and be miserable.” We need to offer a way out.
So we use this term, “renunciation”, a term that sounds almost Biblical or something! Developing that resolve – that renunciation – entails that there’s both someplace we want to escape from, but also some faith and hope and confidence that we won’t escape only to find ourselves back in the fire. A lot of people don’t change because even though they’ll admit their world sucks and they feel horrible, they don’t see any alternative.
That’s why we start out with Praise to Shakyamuni Buddha, and we take refuge, and have confidence in Lama, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, like that. That’s the basic structure – renunciation, bodhicitta and wisdom realizing emptiness, prajnaparamita, the Heart Sutra. That’s easy isn’t it? These prayers aren’t us saying, “I want to be a good little Buddhist. I don’t want to get punished.” We’re not back in Sunday school. The prayers are really to point out these three essential aspects of the path – renunciation, bodhicitta, prajnaparamita. That’s easy – right?