Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The dream world and the nembutsu of faith

 “Unless one comprehends the truth he is continually in a dream. Therefore Buddha explains life and death as a long night.”  
Master Genshin [1] 

Sometimes I'm so tired during or after my 24 hour shift[2] without sleep that I can hardly differentiate between dream and reality....In such moments I feel like Zhuangzi who after dreaming that he was a butterfly he could no longer differentiate if he is now Zhuangzi who dreamed the butterfly or the butterfly who still dreams that he is Zhuagnzi :)

“World like a dream” is an important topic in Buddhist thought and I sometimes experience it in such moments like extreme tiredness, when I enter sleep and get out of sleep so quickly that I can hardly differentiate between the two states. I am now awake and in the next second, without knowing, I suddenly enter sleep and start interacting with various characters of my dream. Then I awake again in the next seconds and find myself in my guard shack. This quick change makes me realize that just as all things experienced in the dream are appearances to mind, so all things that I experience after sleep are also appearances to mind, both being a part of the bigger dream of samsara. During my dream I become the dreamer and interact with various dream objects, then after awakening from sleep, I enter into another dream where I also interact with objects that appear to my unenlighted mind and I suffer, I get angry or enjoy them just like in the dream, where I also believe them to be real. So, if I think it carefully, my waking world exists in a way that is similar to the way in which my dream world exists.

This takes me to the words of Shinran Shonin: "all maters without exception are empty and false, only nembutsu is true and real". As Buddhas are the only truly awake persons (the word “Buddha” means the “Awakened One”) they constantly invent methods to take us out of the dream world to the true reality called Buddhahood or Nirvana. Among these methods, the most easy to use by ordinary people filled with heavy delusions and blind passions is the nembutsu of faith in Amida. 

Do you remember when you are in a nightmare and you do a certain thing to get out of it and awake? For example, when I was a child, blinking my eyes in the dream was the quickest way for me to escape a nightmare. It is the same with the nembutsu of faith. We are saying ‘Namo Amida Bu’ in the dream of samsara, with our minds that are sleeping minds, but this Namo Amida Bu is the means through which Amida guides us out of sleep. The Name works because it is not a part of the dreaming wold but of the true reality, so by saying it we enter into Amida’s influence and thus on the path to awakening.  In the nightmare of repeated births and deaths you say the nembutsu of faith, and after a while, depending on how long or short your life is, you die in the dream and awake as a Buddha in the Pure Land of Amida.  Then your true and real life begins as an Awakened One helping other beings to awake from their own nightmares.





[1] Master Genshin quoted that passage in his Ojoyoshu from The Treatise on the Establishment of Mind-only Theory (Yuishikiron), by Dharmapala (Goho) – A commentary on Vasubandhu’s work, "Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only (Trimśikā-vijñaptimātratā).
[2]  In my country a Buddhist priest cannot live like in Asiatic countries from the support of the lay people, so I have a job to sustain myself. I work as a guard at a private security company in Bucharest. Here a shift is usually of 24 hours in which one is not allowed to sleep, with 48 hours break, but sometimes there are only 24 hours break between the two shifts.... Still, although not allowed, sleep comes unexpectedly, from time to time, at least for a few seconds, when the body can no longer support the exhaustion. 

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