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According to Buddhist philosophy, do dreams mean anything?


In Buddhist philosophy, all of life is an illusion. This dream of existence is our perceived reality. When one wants to explore the world of dream, they are exploring illusion. All dreams are part of Enlightenment. However the experience of Enlightenment lies beyond the illusion. It is this practice of meditation. This is “what” we seek in meditation. So the koan “So what, is not to dream” is the dissolution of the self and the experience of the “what” of existence.



There are different branches of Buddhist philosophy and I am not sure that each of these considers dreams as being meaningful. Rama drew much of his teaching from Tibetan Buddhism, however, which does consider dreams as being significant.

Every human being experiences three normal states of consciousness. These are:
1. The wakeful state
2. The dreaming state
3. The dreamless sleep state

According to "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying" by Sogyal Rinpoche, sleeping and dreaming each correspond to a specific bardo of our existence. "Bardo" is a Tibetan word that means transition, or gap between two situations. The Four Bardos are:
1. The "natural" bardo of this life
2. The "painful" bardo of dying
3. The "luminous" bardo of dharmata
4. The "karmic" bardo of becoming

Going to sleep is similar to the bardo of dying. The moment of our death is very important because it is the time when we are released from the burden of the body and we are offered the greatest possible opportunity for liberation.

Dreaming corresponds to the bardo of becoming, which is the time between death and rebirth, where we have a mental body that experiences many different things. In dreaming, we travel in an astral body that has all sorts of experiences. The way we react in our dream experiences may also be the way we will act the next time we enter the bardo of becoming.

Practitioners of dream yoga try to maintain an unbroken chain of awareness from one state of consciousness to the next. The thoughts we have before we go to sleep and upon waking are very important. Whatever thought we have upon waking will manifest in our life and the thought we have before sleeping will affect the activities of the dream plane.

How do we remain conscious while in the dream state? I personally haven't figured that out yet. Rama used to challenge us to find him in the desert in the dream plane. In one of Carlos Castaneda's books, the teacher Don Juan advises Carlos to find his hands in his dreams as a technique for becoming aware while dreaming.

And how do we interpret our dreams? There are books that explain the different symbols of dreams, but to me, the dream symbols seem very personal. One technique that I use is to write down my dreams upon waking so that I remember them and can then reflect on their meaning.



I am a dreamer. Day Dreamer. Night Dreamer. I suspect that this question is referring to dreaming at night, in our REM sleep pattern.

As always, I can only answer questions based my experience and therefore I can't really respond to the whole Buddhist Philosophy part of the question. Having said that, here is my understanding of dreams, and dreaming.

All of life is an opportunity for learning and awakening into higher consciousness. Dreaming is an opportunity to learn that which our conscious mind will dismiss. There are several levels to dreaming. On one level you can simply release yourself to play. To experience. Dreaming at this level is fun. It can be that simple, just a romp on the beach.

At another level, dreaming can be processing and understanding events of the physical world and the personality structures. This is the level at which Freud and other psychologists understand dreaming. So dreams can be viewed as an opportunity for understanding your "self".

Dreaming is the time when we drop our physical bodies and have the opportunity to play in multidimensional realms. It our subtle physical body that moves through the dream worlds. Since we are in the subtle physical body we are more fluid, we slip into multiple dimensions, and we have the ability to astral travel. We transmute easily, and assume many different shapes and personas.

Dreaming can be a delicious spiritual classroom where students of enlightenment can receive and explore information. Dreaming is a doorway into another level of awareness, where the conscious mind cannot act as censor. Freedom! In that freedom a teacher of enlightened awareness can pass on blocks of awareness to students. In that uncensored space students can open their beings to infinite awareness.

The trick is to bring the teachings that can happen in the brightness of night into the conscious awareness of the day. The best method for that is writing. Journal your dreams, and in that process you will create a bridge between the dream awareness and your waking consciousness. When you reread your journal a year later, you will revisit that magical dream, which was a personal moment of power.

Dreaming is just fun! We get to take off the heavy, uncomfortable personality of this life, and slip into our light being. Kind of reminds me of the scene in the movie Cacoon, when the young girl alien unzipped her human body and allowed her body of light to be free and bright. That is dreaming. It is a space, a magical place where our being can be free to be eternal. It is a place where practitioners of self-discovery can open to levels of awareness that their conscious mind with its personality structures will resist.

So, to all of those on the pathway to enlightenment, unzip you selves and enjoy the dreaming of the night.




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