In the Lojong Trainings of Tibetan Buddhism, a series of aphorisms is used in training the mind to expand beyond it's usual conditioned patterns. Operating as mental reminders to frame our experience in particular ways -- both on and off the meditation cushion -- these 59 slogans, arranged in 7 main points, can be quite helpful in cultivating an open heart and a clear head.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Slogan Two: Regard Everything As A Dream

"So I say to you -
This is how to contemplate our conditioned existence in this fleeting world:"
"Like a tiny drop of dew, or a bubble floating in a stream;
Like a flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
Or a flickering lamp, an illusion, a phantom, or a dream."
"So is all conditioned existence to be seen."
-- Buddha, Diamond Sutra

The slogan, "Regard All Dharmas As Dreams" begins Point Two of the Seven Points of the Lojong Teachings.  Entitled "The Main Practice, Which Is Training in Bodhichitta", Point Two primarily refers to the cultivation of the two aspects of an awakened heart: absolute bodhichitta and relative bodhichitta.  "Regard all dharma as dreams" is the first of six slogans regarding absolute bodhichitta,

One of the fundamental concepts of Mahayana Buddhism, absolute bodhichitta refers to  the primoridial openness of existence, the all embracing ground of our being that permeates and transcends all of Life/Death. Although the theologies of the various religions of the world draw a diverse picture of the Absolute, I believe that the words God, Allah, the Tao, Brahma, Wakan Taka and many others refer that Reality.   An experiencing of the Absolute, whatever it was named, has emerged in the experience of mystics, seers and sages throughout the ages.  In the Tibetan Buddhist system the term shunyata or "emptiness" is used.   These days I like the term One Love.

The foundation of "the main practice" referred to, is, of course, meditation, and the slogans of Point Two primarily refer to ways of framing the experiences of our formal sessions of meditation -- although eventually the distinction between the cushion and the rest of our life becomes less and less apparent.  The Point Two slogans are generally seen as guidance to both how to "do" and how to "view",  our experience in meditation --although there is one that refers specifically to our approach off the cushion.   

As the first absolute bodhichitta slogan, this slogan calls on us to view all that we experience, to view everything, as a dream.  It sets the stage for recognizing for ourselves that the apparent solidity of everything in the both the so-called "inner and outer" world is a mere appearance, not the actuality of existence.  Based on the development of the samatha-vipashyana meditation, as we become present to the river of thoughts, sense perceptions, bodily sensations, feelings and intuitions,  we come to see that there is an on-going fluidity, a constantly changing ephemeral quality to our actual experience.  Pema Chodron and others use the term "passing memory" to describe our the way we actually experience our lives.  Paying attention closely, we notice that  instanteously, each thought emerges and passes.  Right now,  the thought impression of the word you just read has already passed.  So has the thought about it having passed. Looked at closely, each momentary thought, each impression seems to emerge out of nowhere and immediately retreat into a memory.  Slogan two challenges us to really notice that.

Although we are capable of creating the appearance of an extremely powerful illusion of solidity through our thinking mind and it's belief structures, our experience in meditation can provide us with the actual experience of de-constructing that solidity by merely noticing that we are thinking, labeling it "thinking" -- and returning to the experience of the sensation of our own breathing.  What had seemed very solid and all consuming one moment, can disappear in a flash. (We weren't really in Paris after all.)

As adults we have conditioned ourselves to think that we know what is really going on in this world.  We pride ourselves in having  a solid grasp on reality. Slogan two challenges us to get over it. Taking this slogan to heart, what actually emerges is a greater sense of ease, of spaciousness.  We see that we can can "lighten up" and develop a greater curiosity about what is actually going on.  In the process we may see that everything is a lot more magical and mysterious than we thought it was.  As we experience everything as "vividly unreal" ( a term Pema Chodron uses), we may recapture that sense of wonder that most of experienced as kids. 

If we haven't done so already, as we take up slogan two we may encounter a whole bevy of underlying feelings. We've conditioned ourselves to always try to put solid ground under our feet, to secure ourselves in belief structures and patterns of thought and behavior from the actual fluidity and insubstantial nature of Life.  So, it's normal to encounter fear or melancholy, any and all of the emotional "boogie men" that are normally repressed or denied.  Allowing ourselves to experience these feelings in our formal meditation practice, letting go of the storylines generated and feeling the actual energies play out can be quite valuable. 

With our commitment, with time and effort -- or maybe with the very next breath -- we are invited to to "lighten up", to get out of our heads and engage Life directly, to really live the dream!

It just takes Practice.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting invitation: to fully and really live the dream. Beats lamenting the impermanence and unrealness of it all, I suppose. Yet, if not vigilant in our mindfulness practice, our egos might be tempted to wreak havoc. The devil's in the details, I suppose.