Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on June 1, 2014

I have always been struck by the fact (so the Buddhists tell me) that Buddha Nature is already fully within us now. It cannot be improved and nothing of it can ever be lost, no matter what we do, good, bad, or indifferent. However, we can, layer on layer, cover over and obscure our own essence and true nature, and it is obvious to me that we do this. But there is something I want to point out that, while not exactly subtle, still escapes me most of the time.

It has to do with this idea of substantiality – existence. It seems like we are all a little schizophrenic, at least I am. On the one hand I have no problem distinguishing my nighttime dreams and daydreams as being, clearly, insubstantial. These dreams may be meaningful to me, but they lack the substance and smack of everyday outer existence. I can see that.

Yet, I continue to imbue my outer workaday-world with extreme substantiality. It exists very emphatically indeed; at least I believe it does. And here is what I am getting at:

This is related to the repeated suggestions from the Tibetan Buddhists to the effect that we should "Consider all phenomena as dreams," one of the slogans from Atisha's "Seven Points of Mind Training." I have heard that phrase for many years, and often tried to see my daily existence as a dream that I am having, but with much success. How can I lighten up and begin to experience this daily external world as more transparent and "dreamlike?" It's usually anything but dreamy.

And here is what I believe is the problem. I have no trouble whatsoever seeing through my dreams, daydreams, not to mention video games, fantasies, science fiction, movies, etc., i.e. that they are insubstantial and not somehow 'real' like getting up in the morning is real. So I am completely sane and familiar with parts of my life that I can see are insubstantial or dreamlike. No trouble.

What seems a little crazy is that at the same time I have imbued this outer world I live in with substantiality and reality that is anything but dreamy or transparent. In fact, it is often hard, brutal, and all about where the rubber meets the road. How do I manage to compartmentalize these two? This is what I find puzzling.

Obviously I am totally familiar with the insubstantiality of dreams, that they are not real or substantial. We all are. Where did this dichotomy come from? The Tibetan Buddhist practice of "Dream Yoga" seems to be intended to help break down that dichotomy and expose the insubstantial or dream-like quality of day-to-day existence.

In the last analysis, the Tibetans are pointing out that this life we live each day is no more real than our nighttime dreams, and what we call reality is just another dream we are having that we can wake up from. At least that is my take. Living in my own dream has always been an internal slogan inside my head for as long as I care to remember. I am sure I am not the Lone Ranger in this. But for me it remains another abstract thought, not a realization.

That's really all I have to say on this. I don't have any magic solution to this duality and I have not been introduced to Tibetan Dream Yoga practice, other than just peripherally. That is a practice usually reserved for three-year Buddhist retreat, part of the "Six Yogas of Naropa." That being said, it is clear that I have imbued what we call 'reality' with great substantiality, with hardcore existence. Life is real. Sure, every now and then that reality can get a little transparent. Late-night walks in the heat of summer used to do it for me. That is what the Midsummer Night's Dream must be all about. In those late-night three-o'clock-in-the-morning moments I actually thought I could see plants grow. That kind of thing. My real life can also, at times, get a little transparent, but mostly not.

My point (at least to myself) is simply that I already know how to function (and well) with dreams and insubstantiality. It is ingrained in me and not news. I find that thought helpful since it points out to me that I am not a complete novice when it comes to perceiving insubstantiality, and that I don't have to learn anything new that I don't already know and use every day. I do, however, have to reconcile my little schizophrenia between dreams and "reality," allowing insubstantiality for dreams, but perhaps taking day-to-day existence too seriously. Lighten up Michael.

It seems that I am still kicking this around in my mind, so perhaps more tomorrow. Where are you with this issue?