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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Dream Interpretation

On the second day of leaving home and wandering, all day walking along an almost deserted country road, I was feeling very free with the realization that I had left home for good. My thoughts were filled with the memory of the lucid dream of the previous year, it was probably one year ago exactly. Yes, today is Buddha's birthday April 8, 1969, and that must have been almost exactly the same time in 1968. Recalling the dream, its meaning began to unfold.

Various astrologers had predicted that a great earthquake would strike California in Spring 1969 but it didn't happen, at least not on the Richter scale. On the other hand, a great quake had certainly just occurred in my life, and earthquakes being the cause of tidal waves, now the symbolism of my dream became obvious.

"Walking along the beach," I was at that time in my life in a sleepwalk-like state, and unconscious of the effects of my actions.

"Realizing that this was a tidal wave in progress" was symbolic of waking up to the dangers of samsaric existence.

"Trying to warn others of the danger, but they didn't seem able to hear," meant That I had no power within me to wake others up, and in any case they were all fascinated by samsara.

"Walking in the opposite direction to the flow of the crowd." In early 1969, spurred on by depression, I had quit my job, left my girlfriend, travelled away from society, and had set out in search of a guru or Sufi master for guidance.

"The pea jacket that I had taken off and then left behind" was symbolic of the accoutrements of society, job, and friends, as well as various ideas and goals and entertainments. But a little further on in the dream, I'd had a momentary urge to go back and retrieve the jacket, that is, return to society.

"Climbing to the top of the hill" meant making a determined effort at spiritual practice, and reaching the top indicated being rewarded with some minor realizations or happiness. But this was accompanied by seeing at the foot of the hill ahead of me a valley to cross, and a higher hill on the far side, representing more suffering necessary to endure due to past karma. Each completion of a stage of spiritual practice only revealed more work to be done.

A few months later in 1969, I became a part of a Buddhist yamabushi commune led by a strange Russian-American guru who called himself Dr Ajari Pemchekov-Warwick. Practicing the religious life with my fellow communards, I struggled to overcome the causes of my unhappiness, to abandon sexual addictions, deceitfulness, laziness, lack of compassion, and a fondness for recreational drugs. I would struggle for awhile and improve, and then fail and fall back. But by and by, just like in the dream, the tops of the ridges got higher, and the valleys weren't so low. I learned how to replace the former dependencies by developing a life of prayer (samatha-vipasyana meditation), walking in the mountains while continuously reciting mantra (this was Dr Ajari's version of Japanese Shugendo practice), and burning the Shugendo-style goma. Cultivating these practices brought understanding of some of the Buddha's teachings, though this is still quite far from living the life that the Buddha was advocating.

Now 40 years after experiencing the lucid dream, I am still climbing the little hills and crossing the wide valleys of life, with no assurance that I will ever see that final beautiful scene of the dream. But on the other hand, this is of no concern now, because somehow that dream has instilled a peaceful faith and belief that it will in fact turn out that way in the end; that in this lifetime I should just keep walking the Buddha's path, without anxiety, encouraging others to walk the Path also so that they too can discover the invisible worlds. In Buddhist terms, the final scene of the dream indicates that at the end of one's life the Buddha of Infinite Light (Amitabha) will without doubt appear before one, welcoming into his Pure Land all those people who have sincerely expressed that wish and who have called on him by name.

3 comments:

Al said...

Thank you for posting this (and the previous posts).

What do you suggest for those of us living here in the West who wish to follow a Buddhist path of a similar (or not markedly different sort)? I've attempted to be involved with Tendai, as I've mentioned to you, but such things are difficult, even here in California.

California Tendai Monastery said...

Hi Al, and thanks for the communication. The Tendai of the Enryaku-ji is somewhat difficult, but for ordinations and recognition they do have a program for people with families and jobs such as yourself. Using some vacation time, people travel to the headquarters in upstate New York for training once a year. I also go there once or twice a year.

Within Tendai you will find a wide variety of teachings and styles and personalities, but we are like one large family, we get along with each other, work in harmony, and support one another.

Here at Cobb, I'm in the middle of things right now, but plan to go to the East Bay at the very end of May or the first part of June. My intention is to set up a weekly Dharma activity in the vicinity of UC Berkeley, starting probably in July. Would you be willing to meet and advise or assist on this project?

Gassho, Keisho

Al said...

I would be happy to help in any way that I could. I believe you still have my e-mail address and/or phone number? Please let me know what I can do to be of assistance and I will be happy to do it.