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Buddhadharma : Summer 2015
summer 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 27 A ccording to legend, when Siddhartha was glowing right after his enlighten- ment, people asked him if he was a god, a prophet, a rishi, or a saint, and to each he replied, “No.” What he simply said is “I am awake,” and his answer became his title. The word “Buddha” comes from the Sanskrit root budh, which means “to awaken” and denotes one who has awakened from the deep sleep of ignorance. Thus from the outset, Buddhism has been intimately connected to literal and figura- tive sleep. One way to understand the Buddha’s teachings is that we’re actually the most spiritually awake in deep dreamless sleep and the most asleep in so- called waking reality. Unfortunately, most of us have got it completely backward. Spiritual practice, and the nocturnal meditations, can lead us to this realization. NocturNal meditatioNs The nocturnal meditations begin with lucid dream- ing, which is the launching pad for exploring the deep inner space of the nighttime mind. In lucid dreaming, you’re fully conscious within the dream and therefore can do almost anything you want within it. Lucid dreaming is the ultimate in home entertainment. Your mind becomes the theater, and you are the producer, director, writer, and main actor. You can script the perfect love story or the wildest adventure. Lucid dreaming can also be used to solve problems, rehearse situations, improve ath- letic performance, and work through psychological issues. From the trivial to the transcendent, lucid dreaming provides a spectrum of experience mostly concerned with worldly matters and self-fulfillment. Students of lucid dreaming work with the tech- nique of recognizing dream signs as a way to trigger lucidity. Dream signs are events that alert you to the fact that you’re dreaming. If you see your dead uncle, for example, that’s a pretty strong sign that you must be dreaming, so you can use the appear- ance of your dead uncle to wake you up to the fact that you’re dreaming. However, lucid dreaming alone will not wake you up in the spiritual sense. If you merely indulge your fantasies, lucid dreaming becomes super- samsara. When intention is involved, even at the level of a dream, karma is created. Lucid dreams are not karmically neutral. If you want to go deeper, lucid dreaming can develop into dream yoga, which is when it becomes a spiritual practice. While lucid dreams can create negative karma, dream yoga is designed to purify it. “Yoga” is that which yokes, or unites. Dream yoga is designed to unite you with deeper aspects of your being and is more concerned with self-transcendence. With dream yoga, instead of using your mind as an entertainment center, you turn it into a labora- tory. You experiment with dream meditations and Wake Up from the Dream of a Lifetime Buddhist practitioners have understood for centuries that the illusions we encounter in dreams are the same ones we encounter in waking life. andrew holecek shows us how to harness the Vajrayana techniques of dream yoga in order to wake up to reality. PHOTO | Joel rodgers