Reality Dreaming

A few years ago I had the experience of dreaming in Zen! For those unfamiliar with Zen stories, they are often short but insightful tales about experiences that have helped people realize the truth… (I recommend Zen Flesh Zen Bones by Alan Watts, a great collection of Zen stories.)

But I was fortunate enough to bring this one back from the dream world! I saw it from the eyes of the characters and third person simultaneously, but here is my attempt at a written version… Enjoy!

…A travelling zen monk was passing through a city one day, when he was approached by one of the locals seeking his help. There had been a number of deaths in the city by poisoning recently, and the man knew of the particular shopkeeper responsible for supplying it. He was, however, too afraid to approach the authorities for fear he might be next. The monk assured the man that he would look into it, asks directions to the shop and proceeds to it.

Upon entering the shop, he approaches the counter and politely says “I require one dose of your finest poison thankyou.” The shopkeeper is visibly surprised at such a request from a monk, but is not in the business of asking questions, and after all, this could be a disguised assassin who it would not be wise to refuse. He recovers his composure, bends down under the counter and shortly produces a small vial for examination.

The monk studies the vial, and satisfactorily pronounces, “Yes, that should suffice for everyone.” The shopkeeper is again taken aback, and says quite seriously, “Sir, I do not think you understand. As you asked, this dose is for one person. It is not sufficient for more.” The monk smiles and replies, “No, it will certainly suffice. For you see, I intend to take this myself tonight… and tomorrow, everyone else will be dead.”

At which, the shopkeeper is enlightened, and never sells poison again…

It should really be emphasized that there is quite a difference between the realism of normal dreams and lucid dreams. Many people assume that because their normal dreams are often vague, dim, cryptic, even unpleasant, or otherwise just ‘unreal’ seeming, that lucid dreams are equally as ‘unreal’. This is definitely the wrong conclusion to jump to, and yet how many people dismiss dreaming practices as a result on the basis they are ‘just dreams’?

Fully lucid dreams are as real as waking life. We must simply understand it is a different reality, a different dimension of experience. Imagine if you went through waking life being drugged and were half-asleep like a zombie all the time, would you call your life ‘unreal’? If you stopped being drugged, you’d exclaim how real it is but you just didn’t know it! Can you see the parallel? The point is that no one can call dreaming reality ‘unreal’ until they’ve experienced it for themselves in an aware state.

Consider, all our senses, emotions, thoughts, feelings and responses in a dream are as though the dream were ‘actually’ happening. It is! Only upon later (poor) reflection we may call an experience ‘just a dream’. It’s not less real, but it is a more dynamic and fluid reality. And, when we become lucid, we usually find the acuteness and sensational aspects of the experience increase many times over, similar or beyond peak alertness while awake. Dreams are real, and we find this out directly by becoming aware in them.

“Some dream events are more vivid than waking ones. It is only when the personality passes out of the dream experience that it may seem unreal in retrospect.” – Seth, Seth, Dreams and Projections in Consciousness p.219