Occasionally I have very powerful dreams which move my mind in significant ways. I write about them here so that I don’t forget them and in case others find something useful out of them.
Last night, I was dreaming I was back in my childhood home. It was night time, and I was asleep. I was both still a child of around 13 and yet my current age. I heard what sounded like screaming – terrified screaming – but I couldn’t make out what was being said and it was very faint since I was still asleep. I then heard it again and realized I had ear plugs in which was why in part I couldn’t hear. So I took my ear plugs out and then I could hear a little better. I heard it again and realized it was my mother who was in her bedroom screaming, but I still couldn’t hear what she was saying. I then tried a little harder to hear her, and then I heard what she was saying. She was screaming like one does when they are having a nightmare and talking in their sleep, “wake me, wake me! Somebody is trying to kill me.” This struck a deep cord in me and I realized I had to go wake her up. I then went to try go wake her up, but I was so sleepy myself, I couldn’t get up. I was fading in and out of sleep, struggling to wake up myself. I heard her again, and said to myself I have to get up to go wake her. I then recited Avalokiteshvara’s mantra to wake myself up to go get her, but then instead of waking up in my dream to go get her I woke up into my normal waking reality (this world).
I then immediately remembered something my Chinese teacher told me last year when I was going through a particularly difficult time. In Taiwan, the local religion includes the worshipping of ancestors. This is much deeper than a superficial, Western preconception about such a thought would allow. My teacher, who knew my mother had committed suicide and who knew I was a Kadampa practitioner, told me, “Our ancestors, in particular our parents, have a karmic pull on us wherever they are, even after death. Your mother, having killed herself, is most likely in a very bad place right now and she is reaching out from wherever she is for light and help. As her son, and as somebody who is developing bodhichitta, she is reaching out desperately to you for help. The problems you are having in your life right now, in particular with your wife, daughter and father, are the karmic waves of her reaching out to you for help from beyond the grave. Instead of running away, you need to develop compassion for her and start using your practice to try help her wherever she may be.”
I then remembered that I am going to Toronto for the Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments, so no doubt this was my message for why I needed to take the empowerments. I then recalled that Heruka and Vajrayogini are called, Heruka “Father and Mother” and I remembered something that helped me when I was working through the issues with my father last year, namely that Heruka is my real father and Vajrayogini is my real mother. I then thought about my Kadampa teachers of this life – Gen Lekma, Kadam Lucy, Gen-la Khyenrab and Gen Lhamo and I thought I should make a point to try see them in Toronto if possible. I then hesitated with the idea of seeing Gen Lhamo because I had a very difficult and sometimes strained relationship with her. Her Dharma was perfect, but my relationship with her was not. I remember she once told me, “don’t impute your mother onto me.” Then I thought, yes, I should see her too and not run away. I then hesitated with the idea of seeing Gen-la since he will be so busy at the event itself, but thought I will put in the request and see what happens. At the very least, I would write him to tell him.
I then started thinking about what all of this means. I realized my Chinese teacher was right. I knew it was important when she originally told me, but its deeper meaning became clearer. My mother most likely is in some sort of hell right now and, due to the close karmic connection I have with her, she is reaching out to me for help even if she doesn’t realize that is what she is doing. Our problems in our relationship began about the time of the age I was in the dream, around 13 in that house where my mother spent most of her time in her room. At that time, she basically told me I am now on my own and she kind of checked out of her responsibilities of being a mother. I remember thinking, “good riddance” and equally thinking she was on her own now too. Yet this hurt, because what child does not want love from their mother. At first I couldn’t hear her because I had ear plugs in. This is how mentally I have blocked out thinking about her because I want to run away and it hurts too much. But plugging your ears to the screams of samsara is not a solution to them. She was trapped in a nightmare and was begging to be woken up so she could escape it. This is our samsaric condition. I wanted to go help her, but couldn’t because I too was still asleep. I couldn’t wake up myself. This is my samsaric condition. It was the heart-panging compassion I felt at the idea of my mother trapped in a terrifying nightmare that made me resolve I need to wake up myself so I can go help her. This is my bodhichitta. I couldn’t wake up on my own. This is the truth of we can’t make progress on the path without the help of the three jewels. But through the power of Avalokiteshvara’s blessings, I was able to wake up. But I did not wake up in the dream itself, rather I woke up into this reality. At first I thought, “oh, the dream suffering disappeared when I woke up, none of it was really happening” in typical understanding emptiness style. But then I recalled what my Chinese teacher told me and realized even if it is all a dream, the real dream I need to wake my mother up from is the samsaric dream she is actually experiencing somewhere right now; and the dream I need to wake up from to be able to help her is the one I am having right here, right now. To do this, I need to re-establish karmic relationships with my old teachers and with my Sangha friends. In particular, in Toronto I hope to speak with my old teachers and also with my old friends, Kelsang Khedrub, Kelsang Pagpa, Kadam Olivier, Kelsang Wangden, among others.
5 thoughts on ““Wake me, wake me! Somebody is trying to kill me!””
Holy shit. That must be a lot for you to handle because I could hardly read it. Too real. I wish you perfect happiness and know you will help your mother. Your words always help me so much and I will keep you in my prayers.
Dear Kadam Ryan, I wish for you that you get to meet your friends and teachers in Keajra in Toronto and that you get the realisations you need to help your mom and all of ours mothers as well out of samsara. May all the blessings you need come from this festival.
I also wish to meet you too at the festival, for you are like a bridge that help me so much to bring Dharma into my daily parent life. Thank you for posting these dharma jewels. I’m hungry for them for they help me find my way just like the breadcrumbs in the story of little thumb.
I sincerely wish, for all that benefit from these posts, like I do, that you will be able to continue to be inspired by the wisdon of the three jewels. Manon (a kadampa mom from Sherbrooke, Québec)
Thanks for this one Ryan, wishing that you be able to help all your kind mothers from the past, especially your this life mom, hope to have the opportunity to see you in Toronto!
As with all your blog posts, this one was so powerful and inspirational. Many times I have wanted to thank you for sharing your Dharma wisdom with us. I like to read your posts before I leave for work early in the morning and take a thought with me for my working day. Many thanks for your continued kindness in posting these Dharma Jewels!!
Also, thank you for your courage to be so vulnerable in relating your personal struggles with us and how you are working in the Dharma with these most challenging situations. Your struggles with your family have helped me deal with my struggles with mine and have given me encouragement to really work the Dharma!
Best wishes for you for a meaningful trip to Toronto! One day, I would enjoy meeting you.
With a warm heart…
Lost for words Ryan but rejoicing in your insight and faith, may you become enlightened as quickly as possible and help to rescue all our kind mothers. Have a fabulous empowerment in Toronto and much joy in re-uniting with your teachers 🙏💙💜💚