All my appearances in dreams are the supreme instructions of my Guru

In the Lord of All Lineages Prayer it says, “All my appearances in dreams teach me that all my appearances when awake do not exist; thus for me all my dream appearances are the supreme instructions of my Guru.” This verse can be understood at two levels: interpretative instructions and ultimate instructions. Interpretative instructions derive teachings from the substance of what appears in our dreams and ultimate instructions derive teachings from considering the nature of the dreams themselves.

How to interpret our dreams as Dharma instructions

Long-time followers of this blog know that I occasionally have very vivid dreams which reveal to me a host of Dharma lessons which I then write up and share here. Normally, these postings discuss how the substance of what appears in my dreams teaches some Dharma lesson. There are many books about how to interpret our dreams and it is a subject of much fascination in the world. Interpreting what appears in our dreams as Dharma lessons is the first level of understanding this verse. My experience has taught me that what exactly appears in our dreams doesn’t really mean anything – seeing a raven in and of itself has no fixed meaning. For one person, it could mean one thing; and for somebody else it could mean something entirely different. Most – if not all – of the books or popular understandings of interpreting dreams that say this appearance means this and that appearances means that in some fixed way for all people are simply an example of grasping at inherently existent things and meanings. If any appearance can mean anything, then how can we accurately interpret our dreams? The answer is simple: we ask ourselves what did we understand it to mean? If we understood either during the dream or shortly after waking up that the raven we dreamt of meant revealing the two wings of wisdom and compassion, then that is what the raven meant to us and that is the Dharma meaning or teaching our guru is trying to reveal to us through our dream. And if we understood the dream to mean we have perhaps watched a bit too much Game of Thrones and it is becoming a strong object of attachment, then that is the meaning our guru is trying to teach us. The same logic can be used for interpreting any dream. The main point is don’t over-think it. Simply ask yourself, “what did I understand it to mean?” That is your instruction from your guru. But it is not the supreme instruction of your guru, it is the interpretative instruction of your guru.

Contemplating the nature of dreams reveals the ultimate instructions of our Guru

The supreme instruction of our guru is the teachings on emptiness. Venerable Geshe-la has said on many occasions the real meaning of meeting him is discovering the truth of emptiness, and understanding the nature of our dreams is the supreme instruction among the teachings of emptiness. Why? Because we all instinctively understand the nature of dreams is mere appearances to mind. Geshe-la says all the appearances when awake are just like these. The only difference between our dream appearances and our waking appearances is the mind to which they appear – our gross waking mind or our subtle dreaming mind. In terms of their nature of being mere karmic appearances to mind, they are exactly the same.

So let’s dive in a bit to flesh this out by looking at the classic example of a dream elephant. Now mind you, I have never personally dreamt of an elephant, but apparently in ancient India, this was a thing! We all know that even though the elephant appeared vividly to us in our dream, there was no elephant actually there. We don’t go looking for the elephant when we awake, but instantly realize that we were just dreaming and when we awoke, the elephant simply dis-appeared – it ceased to appear to our mind. There was never any elephant there. What was there? There was an appearance of an elephant, nothing more. That is why we call it a mere appearance. There is an appearance of something there, but there is nothing, in fact, actually there. It is merely an appearance to mind.

But it appears to be real…

A particular characteristic of this appearance is despite it being a mere appearance, the elephant nonetheless appears to be a real elephant. When we are in the dream, we do not doubt at all the existence of the elephant. It appears to actually be there and we believe it to be there. Now of course, in truth, there is no elephant there – it is just a mere appearance – but in the dream, we believe without a doubt it is there and can generate a wide range of emotional reactions in response to the elephant, perhaps we marvel at its majesty or we tremble in fear if it is charging us. Because we believe (or grasp at) it is real, we experience it as a real elephant and can even be harmed by it, even though both the elephant and ourselves in the dream are nothing more than mere appearances to our mind. When we wake up, we then know without a doubt there was never anything there and we were never actually in any danger. Sure, our dream body was in danger, but we were not.

Communicating with others

If we encounter our friend in our dream, we can even have a very in-depth conversation about the elephant – what it looks like, what it is doing, how it makes us feel, and so forth. We both seem to see, more or less, the same elephant and as long as we do not investigate further into its ultimate nature, we are able to discuss it. If we are satisfied with its mere name, we can communicate with others about it. In truth, we are discussing nothing. There is nothing actually there that we are talking about, but relative to the dream world, we can nonetheless discuss it, have all sorts of opinions about it, and devise elaborate plans for how we are going to ride it and take selfies atop it.

Differentiating ordinary appearance from conception

Sometimes when we are dreaming we are aware of the fact that we are dreaming and we know that what is appearing to our mind is just dream appearances. This is often referred to as lucid dreaming. The things that appear still appear to actually be there doing their thing, but we know this to be false. Though they appear, we know they do not truly exist. Just knowing that they are false appearances does not give us the ability to make the appearances themselves cease to appear. Despite knowing better, they still appear, but we are not afraid because we know they are just appearances. They can’t actually harm us, though they can still harm our dream self. So it is quite natural and indeed appropriate to not provoke the beast and to avoid its charge if we can.

Understanding the relationship between karma and appearance

Where does the appearance come from? It comes from our karma. All appearances are “karmic appearances,” meaning they arise from our past karma. If we gave somebody a rose in the past, we planted the karma on our mind to have the appearance of somebody giving us a rose in the future. Karma shapes the emptiness of our mind into appearance. There are two types of karma – contaminated and uncontaminated. Contaminated karma is karma created with a mind that grasps at objects existing inherently, from their own side, independent of our mind. We believe that something is actually there and that we are actually there, and in dependence upon these beliefs, we engage in some action with respect to that object. In doing so, we create contaminated karma. This karma will later ripen in the form of appearances of something actually being there, us actually being there, and us actually doing something towards that object. None of it is true or real – but it vividly appears to be so, just like our dreams. In contrast, when we know the objects that appear to us, ourself, and our actions are all just mere appearances like in a dream, we create uncontaminated karma. This karma will ripen in the future in the form of appearances that we know to be just mere appearances to our mind, just like a lucid dream.

Most of the time we do not dream about the same things more than once. We see an elephant, but we don’t see that same elephant tomorrow night. Why not? Because every karmic seed only has the potential to ripen as appearance for a certain duration. Some seeds produce appearances that are long-lasting and other seeds produce appearances that are fleeting. This is primarily due to the degree of concentration the mind had when it created the karma in the first place – deeper concentration producing longer-lasting appearances. I have a friend who has narcolepsy. Unlike us, he sleeps maybe 16 hours a day and is awake only eight hours per day. For him, his dream world is more his reality than his waking world. When he dreams, he returns to the same home, the same life, the same family – night after night. He has a job, relationships, experiences, everything. It all appears to him to be real and he experiences it in that way. For him, it is quite common to encounter night after night the same appearances in much the same way as it is normal for us to encounter day after day the same appearances. His dream appearances are not, in fact, any more real than ours are, the only difference is the karmic seeds producing those appearances are of longer duration and waking up doesn’t exhaust that karma. The same is true for us with our waking appearances, they are just as un-real as our dream appearances, but their karmic duration hasn’t exhausted itself, so we continue to see more or less the same things day after day.

Do things cease to exist if they don’t appear directly to our mind?

Sometimes people wonder what happens to the waking world while dreaming and what happens to the dreaming world while awake. When we fall asleep, does the world that appears to our waking mind simply cease to exist at all? Does it shift into a state of utter non-existence? What happens to my narcoleptic friend’s dream world when he is awake? Some people argue that yes, both cease to exist at all when we shift from one world to the other. Their argument for why is if there is no dream mind, there can be no dream objects because an object cannot exist without a mind apprehending it. Similarly, if there is no waking mind there can be no waking objects. When the waking mind ceases, the waking world ceases as completely and irrevocably as last night’s dream. These people say if there is some trace of the dream world that remains while awake or the waking world while dreaming, then we would have objects that exist without a mind, which would be inherently existent objects – something we know doesn’t exist at all.

But others argue that is absurd. When I move from one country to another, the former country I lived in no longer appears directly to my mind. Does that mean that entire country ceases to exist at all when I am not seeing it? Do all of the people I knew and interacted with cease to exist at all when I’m not seeing them? When I remember them, do they then go from a state of total non-existence to a state of existence; but then when I’m not thinking about them anymore, do they cease to exist and function at all? If so, when I call them, how are they able to tell me about all of the things they did since we last spoke? When they engage in actions when I’m not looking, do they produce no results? If I put a message in a bottle and send it out to sea and nobody sees it for six months until somebody discovers it on a faraway shore, what happens to the bottle during this time? Nobody sees it or perceives it. Does it not exist at all? Does our heart cease to function when I’m not thinking about it? There are all sorts of absurd consequences that follow from saying these things cease to exist at all when they are not appearing directly to our mind.

Both sides of this debate have valid points. So how can we resolve this apparent contradiction? The answer lies in understanding there are two types of object – manifest and hidden. Manifest objects are objects known directly by a mind and hidden objects are objects known indirectly by a mind. My friends in China used to be manifest objects to my mind, but now that I have moved to India they have become hidden objects. They still exist and function, but as hidden objects and they are known indirectly. For example, if I saw my daughter enter her room and close the door, she no longer appears directly, but if I have been outside her room the whole time and never saw her leave, I can know without a doubt that she is still in her room even if I don’t give her another thought. If my wife asks where she is, I can answer, “she’s in her room,” and this will be valid and correct, even though she doesn’t appear directly to either one of us. At that time, she is a hidden object to me (but a manifest object to herself). When she comes out of her room, she transitions from being a hidden object to a manifest object for me, just like the bottle arriving on the other shore. She does not transition from being non-existent to existent, she transitions (for me) from being hidden to manifest. But in both cases, whether she is manifest or hidden, she remains equally empty – a mere karmic appearance to my mind. She appears directly or she appears indirectly (even if I am not thinking about her, my mind that saw her enter her room “knows” her to be in her room, thus maintains her existence). There is no my daughter that exists independently of my mind, thus this view avoids the problem of an object existing without a mind apprehending it.

This answers the question of what happens to the waking world when I’m dreaming. It transitions from being a manifest object to a hidden object, and then when I awake, it becomes manifest again. Because the karmic duration for seeing my wife, home, job, and so forth have not exhausted themselves, when I awake, there they are again. They did not cease to exist at all while I slept, they simply made the transition from being manifest to hidden, but in both cases, they remained empty of existing from their own side independent of my mind. This also answers the question of what happens to the dreaming world of my narcoleptic friend when he is awake. It doesn’t cease to exist entirely, it merely transitions from being manifest to hidden. The karmic duration of those appearances has not been exhausted, so he will return to his home when he dreams again, but the karma for them to appear directly has ceased while he is awake. They still exist – as dream appearances – but they are simply hidden. This is no different really then how, when we dream, what appears is only a small fraction of the world we understand those appearances to exist in. Our dream moments can have complete pasts and complete futures, even though neither appear directly to our mind. They exist and appear as hidden objects.

Another example worth considering is what happens to a friend who dies but I didn’t know it? I recently learned that a dear college friend died about a week ago. I haven’t seen him in years, but I assumed he was still alive. When I learned that he had already died, I realized I was wrong to think he had been alive. What happened here at a karmic appearance level? When I saw him last years ago, he transitioned from being a manifest object to a hidden object, but he did still continue to exist in this world and had all sorts of experiences with my other friends. When he died, he ceased to exist at all in this world, he transitioned from being a hidden object to an utter non-existent. The karma for him to exist in this world exhausted itself. How he appeared to different people (as a hidden or manifest object) varied, depending upon their karmic relationship to him. My thinking he was still alive was mistaken with respect to conventional appearance. My believing he existed inherently before was mistaken with respect to ultimate truth. In exactly the same way, the people I see in my dreams cease to exist at all when I awake because the karmic duration of those appearances is fleeting, whereas the people who appear in my narcoleptic friend’s dream world continue to exist because the karma hasn’t exhausted itself. But sometimes, people in his dream world die, at which point they cease to exist at all in his world – either as a manifest or a hidden object. But in all cases, these beings have never been anything more than mere appearances to mind, regardless of how they appeared.

Conclusion

Interpreting what appears in our dreams can provide us with many profound Dharma understandings and insights, but these are not the supreme instructions of our guru. The supreme instructions of our guru are the teachings on emptiness, and considering the relationship between what appears in dreams and what appears in our waking state, how things transition from one state to another, and when they exist (as mere appearances) or cease to exist at all reveal to us the meaning of the profound truth of emptiness.

Why does this matter? There are two main reasons – according to Sutra and according to Tantra. First, according to Sutra, by considering these things, we can gain a very accurate understanding of the meaning of the teachings on emptiness. By contemplating this meaning day and night, with respect to both our dream and our waking appearances, we will gradually be led to the final view or intention of Buddha. This wisdom will free us permanently from samsara.

Second, with this understanding, we can understand how Tantra works. When we received the empowerments, our spiritual guide placed within our mind an enlightened being and a pure world. Our future enlightened self and world were born and they came into existence. It is like our dream world we do not see directly very often, except when we are engaging in our tantric meditations. When we arise from meditation (and forget our tantric pure view), our pure world does not cease to exist entirely, it merely transitions from being manifest to being hidden. It is sustained both by our Guru’s compassion and our knowledge that we received the empowerments, even if we are not thinking about either. By engaging in our tantric meditations, we create new karma that will later appear directly to us as our pure world. That pure world is not created anew, it is discovered – our meditations make it manifest, but it has been there all along (as a hidden object) ever since we received the empowerment. The karma creating the appearances of our normal waking samsaric world will gradually exhaust itself and not be replenished since, as our tantric practice deepens, we will stop creating new karma for samsara to appear. We will at some point have “lucid dreaming” experiences of our samsaric world, where it will continue to appear, but we will know it is just a mistaken appearance. Though it still appears, we will know it does not truly exist. We will have overcome ordinary conceptions, even though we still have ordinary appearances. Eventually, through creating enough karma in our new pure world, it will also start to appear directly to us as a manifest object. We will move into the pure world, which is our guru’s pure dream for us. It will become our manifest reality, and we will be able to communicate with him about it, even though we both know everything that appears to us is just a pure karmic dream. Finally, we will be able to help others join us in purity forever.

Dream about being reborn together as vajra family

I just had a very vivid, what I feel to be important, dream and want to write everything down before I forget.

All night before my dream, I kept waking up, and then going back to sleep training in the yoga of sleeping, imagining I was going through the eight dissolutions. This happened multiple times throughout the night. The dream started with me in Geneva at the center where I used to teach. My former students, who feel like family in my heart, were there, in particular Madhuri, Patrizia, Gabriella, Remy, and my wife were there. And there was this other student there, who I didn’t really know in the same way, but felt a good connection with. I lead a meditation for everybody and we had a good experience which corresponded with about the level of spiritual attainment we had at the time I was at the center teaching more than 10 years ago.

We finished the meditation and then this other student wanted to lead a meditation. He had a somewhat ethnically Indian feel to him. We then sat down in this circle in the middle of the floor, like a circular pit inside the floor with us sitting on the floor, but our feet were in the circular pit that wasn’t that deep. He then started leading the meditation and I tapped into the energy of it, and it was extremely powerful at a much deeper level of spiritual attainment. As I came out of the meditation, I was transported into the pure land (or something spiritually adjacent) that I could see directly and it was amazing, full of everything comprised of mult-colored lights, and it felt so happy and full of wonder. It then started coming into greater focus and at first was cartoon-like in aspect, and then it phased into some sort of beautiful city scape in the future. Madhuri, Patrizia, Gabriella, Remy, and Claudine were all there in the future in different aspects, but the same people and still very close emotionally and spiritually. I turned to Madhrui, who now no longer looked like Madhuri but still was her, and excitedly said, ”oh my god, I was just in the pure land, did you see all that,” and while she didn’t see exactly what I saw, she clearly likewise had a very powerful experience and was blown away.

The dream then shifted to me being at some future home, somewhat out in the country. It was in the future and I was in the kitchen/living room area with my wife, who looked very similar to my current wife Claudine, but different, still her in essence, but younger. We had just had a baby who was understood to be asleep in a maxi-cosy just off of the kitchen towards the hallway leading to the bedrooms. It felt very happy, calm, peaceful, and good as we were going about our business at home.

I then went towards the bedroom area, turned the corner into the hallway where the baby was sleeping, I looked down and it was the body of a baby but with the aging head of my mother in law who just passed way a couple of months ago. She was both the baby and the mother in law, and she was holding our daughter Kiara as a baby – a baby holding a baby, but it all made sense because she was also the grandma. My mother in law was dying as the head, but holding Kiara in her arms like a loving grandma, but still in the aspect of a baby herself. As I was walking by her in the hallway, she was singing the song, ”you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run. You gotta count your blessings [she sang blessings even though the song normally says money at this point, which I found to be her being clever, which she was in life], when your sitting at the table. There’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done.” By the time I got past her in the hallway, she was singing the last line and I was looking back at her, and I understood that she had just died peacefully with Kiara in her arms who now became the baby we had that had just been [re]born. [Note, my wife did her Vajrayogini close retreat when she was pregnant with Kiara. Kiara was born literally 4 hours after my wife finished her last mantra of her close retreat. Kiara’s middle names are the names of her grandma, they are very close both emotionally and in terms of personality.] When she sang ”there will be time enough for countin’ in when the dealin’s done,” I understood it to mean she died peacefully without any regrets as a content grandma loving her grandchildren, despite the incredibly difficult life she had lead. [Note, when she was buried, the flower arrangement that said ”Grandma forever” was placed on top of her coffin].

I then walked into the bedroom and I had phased back into my current life. I went over by the window where my desk was and was simply overcome with joy and amazement. I was totally amazed at what I had just seen, crying with joy, in particular knowing that the grandma had died without any regrets despite her hard life. When I phased into my current life when I walked into the bedroom, I no longer had any awareness of the future life I had been in and was just seeing the baby as grandma from the perspective of having just died singing holding Kiara in her arms.

My wife Claudine then walked into the bedroom, cleaning everything around her in a whirlwind as she usually does. I was so excited, I wanted to tell her what I saw – that I had seen her mother directly dying without regrets, holding Kiara in her arms – but I couldn’t get out what I wanted to say because she kept interrupting me every two words making a playful joke at every thing I was saying (also like she often does in life). This went on a couple of rounds of me trying to get out what I wanted to say and her not listening – she was making jokes, but I knew she was emotionally hurting but would feel better if she knew what I just saw – and I started getting frustrated at her (as I often do in life). I then got upset and with a moderate degree of anger said, ”I’m trying to tell you something,” and then I walked out into the hallway towards the baby, knowing she would follow. This then broke her out of her joking mood and she started crying, hurt at me having gotten angry at her.

I walked down the hall towards the kitchen and was standing where the kitchen connected with the hall, and my future wife, who I understood to be Claudine, looked a lot like her, but at the age of a young mother, looked at me without saying anything with this WTF face of horror of what was I doing getting angry at somebody who was mourning the death of her mother. I realized she was right, and then looked back at my old wife [who was at this point in the dream experienced as my current wife] Claudine who was crying coming down the hallway towards me right next to the baby. I saw everybody simultaneously at this point – my future wife, my current wife, my mother in law, and Kiara. Seeing my current wife was hurt, I said sincerely, ”oh my god, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to get angry, I was just trying to tell you something.” This pacified her hurt and she was then ready to listen. I then started telling her while pointing down at the baby, ”I saw your mom directly…” and then I woke up.

When I woke up, I was flooded with understandings of what the dream meant.

First, I recalled that it was Heruka and Vajrayogini month, and understood that my mother in law had now been reborn with a Kadampa family, thinking how auspicious that it happened this month, and of course it did given how wonderful of a human being my mother in law was. Timing wise, she has spent a period of time in something adjacent to the pure land and then came back and is now reborn (still in utero) with a Kadampa family somewhere. This family might not even know they are pregnant yet. Perhaps even somebody reading this post, who knows?

Second, that myself, Madhuri, Patricia, Gabriella, Remy, and my wife are all karmically deeply connected and we have been taking rebirth together in past lifetimes and will do so again in the future, remaining close.

Third, that my current wife Claudine has been my wife in past lifetimes and she will be my wife again in future lifetimes [Note, when she gave me my engagement ring, it had seven diamonds on it, and she said, ”like seven lifetimes.” This was before she knew about the benefits of Vajrayogini practice that Vajrayogini will find us within seven lifetimes, but I knew this and when she gave me the ring, I recalled what Venerable Tharchin had told me that she is an emanation of Vajrayogini].

Fourth, her future self was completely pyschologically and emotionally beyond the anger and guilt that has weighed my wife down in this life. She was still her playful self, but totally emotionally had her shit together, and it was in fact me she was guiding into becoming a better person, not the other way around as I typically assume when I forget what Venerable Tharchin told me. When she looked at me in the kitchen with the WTF look, I am reminded of the line from Vajrayogini’s Eight Lines of Praise “OM To you with controlling eyes who remain like the vajra seat unconquered by others” which symbolizes her ability to subdue living beings delusions simply by looking at them.

Fifth, that I need to be much more careful and sensitive to not so often get angry or frustrated with my wife, knowing it hurts her when I do. I also shouldn’t be attached to her listening to what I have to say.

Sixth, that my mother in law and Kiara are actually two souls that have been working together for many aeons who, out of their great kindness, are in fact spiritually speaking taking care of both my wife and myself, conspiring in a good way to keep my wife and I together across lifetimes. In the dream, they were like a bridge between these two lifetimes and at the very end, I saw my future wife, my old wife, my current child, my future child, and my mother in law all at the same time that was all three times simultaneously.

Seventh, that at the end of this life, I will make it at least to something very close to the pure land and then later be reborn still a Kadampa practitioner and my spiritual family of this life will remain close in my next life.

Eighth, that some of our seemingly unknown students of this life are emanations and they will later be our teachers in future lives. While the former student was leading the meditation, in the middle, he transformed by imputation into my teacher of the future life. My next assignment for my work is in India, so him having an Indian feel to him has some significance, but I don’t know what yet. Perhaps I will create karma with somebody there who will later be my teacher, I do not know.

I pray that I never forget this dream and that it change forever how I view my mother in law, daughter, wife, and close spiritual family who was in the dream. I pray we all remain forever spiritually close in life after life as we care for each other and gradually guide and support each other along the path. I also pray that sharing this dream may prove spiritually meaningful for some who read about it. May we too remain forever spiritually close in life after life as vajra family.

Touched by Grace: Dream with Venerable Tharchin

I had a dream two nights ago where I met Venerable Tharchin. He was very, very old, and with the help of about 4-5 assistants holding up each limb, he was doing Tai Chi with what I understood to be him fine tuning his very last last inner winds before his death. I spontaneously went to hug him and did so for several seconds, which I can still feel now like a direct lived experience. Then, in the dream, I thought I had woken up and I ran into a dear Sangha friend who was also very close to Tharchin. I told her that I had just had a dream with Venerable Tharchin and, surprised, she said that she too just had one. I asked her what she had dreamt, and she was about to tell me, but then I woke up from that dream into my normal waking state.

I was then left with a clear feeling that Venerable Tharchin might be near his death (how near, very hard to say) and that I should contact my Sangha friend about this dream. She replied that at almost that exact time of my dream, somebody was falsely accusing her of something, and instead of retaliating as she normally would have done, she felt touched by grace and responded with wisdom instead. Around that time, she also for some reason thought of me and was feeling warm and close (we haven’t seen each other in years and have had little contact).

What does this dream mean for me? Clearly some sort of karmic convergence occurred.

In my dream, I was left with the feeling that he might be near the end, but he was just in the final stages of fine tuning his mind and his winds before he does. With Thich Nhat Han dying and everything else happening in 2020, it wouldn’t surprise me if he soon passed. I’m left thinking perhaps everything happening in the world is actually just pre-purification of them practicing taking and giving in the world before they do. I remember Venerable Tharchin once saying it only takes a handful of truly holy beings in this world to create a safety net preventing the world from completely sinking into samsara. Them dying doesn’t mean this protection will disappear any more than Jesus dying did; in fact, it might be when their protection rises to the next level.

I’m also reminded of what Venerable Tharchin once said about Sangha. He said the inner Dharma center is the realizations of the people who attend the center bound together by the love they feel for each other and the closeness of the karma they have together. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Kadampas have been deeply touched by Venerable Tharchin’s presence in this world. I have always for very inexplicable reasons had a very close connection with many of his former students, especially the Sangha friend of my dream. Tharchin lives on in this world through us and our connections with each other. I think his former students have a responsibility to stay close to one another, even if life takes us apart. We have special bonds.

I’m also reminded of the story of the last time I saw Ven. Tharchin. It was 2 years ago at the Summer Festival. He has terrible Parkinson’s right now. I walked into his room, he was lying on his bed shaking uncontrolledly, drool running down his mouth, he could barely speak above a whisper, etc. We started talking, this went on for a while, and then I asked him, “so how are YOU?” He then said without missing a beat, “despite all appearances, I’m doing quite well thanks.” He had always spoken of, advocated for, and taught extensively retreat. He was on a long retreat once and he felt like he was close to attaining enlightenment, and he went to Geshe-la and said if he could stay in retreat a little bit longer, he could do it. Geshe-la told him, “if you stay in retreat, you could attain enlightenment, but you would become a ‘useless Buddha’ because you have no karmic connections with others.” Geshe-la then asked him to leave his retreat and go teach. From that, many of our most Senior teachers have emerged. I’m guessing in his mind, he was going to spend his twilight years in deep retreat, or at least that is what I had always imagined. Then he got Parkinson’s. But after speaking with him, I felt that learning how to transform his Parkinson’s was his final retreat, just in a different form. Such is the power of his mind and example for us all.

I’m reminded that Venerable Tharchin stayed at my friend in the dream’s house when he visited Geneva for teachings and empowerments, and we all had lunch together once on her patio. My wife was pregnant at the time with our third child, and he blessed the baby. Shortly before my wife became pregnant, a nun and former student of Tharchin’s died of cancer, and after my child was born, another Sangha friend – also a close student of Tharchin’s – said she had a strong feeling our child was this nun reborn. My wife did her Vajrayogini close retreat while pregnant with this child, and literally not 20 minutes after she finished her retreat, she went into labor.

I’m sharing all of this first to record it so I don’t forget, but also I know many people have a close connection with Tharchin and might want to know. My friend in the dream concluded her reply message to me by saying “a dream within a dream.” So many layers of truth in so few words.

Catastrophe averted

I had a dream last night after the empowerment where I was just going about my way, and then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this giant rat came lunging out towards my head. To evade it, I jerked my head fast and then accidentally banged it hard against a wall. My non-dreaming body also lunged and I woke up, and I could feel pain on my waking head briefly before I realized it was a dream and then it went away. The message that then came into my mind from this was, “significant negative karma can ripen quickly and out of nowhere, and even if we succeed in evading it, the quick rection of doing so often comes with its own pain. Karma that ripens at the subtle level can spill over into our waking state, even though it was never anything more than mere appearance to mind. But realizing it is all a dream makes the pain of what appeared go away. This is true for all of samsara.” Then I fell back asleep. When I awoke again this morning, I remembered the dream again and the thought that came was, “even when we purify our negative karma, we sometimes don’t get it all. We avoid the main consequence, but a residual of the negative karma nonetheless ripens (me banging my head). We should accept this residual as ‘catastrophe averted,’ and be happy.” I then thought this whole dream is a metaphor for the pandemic and our individual experience within it.

The deep inner hurt that drives me

I just had a very strange, but notable dream. I suspect it is due to the Vajrapani empowerment tomorrow kicking things up. When this happens, I try always write them down before I forget.

The dream started out with me feeling very strong, teenager style love for this beautiful, very kind girl. She wasn’t particularly interested in me, but there did seem to be something between us. We were then in this bed in a hotel room engaging in foreplay, and then it mentally shifted where she had some sort of boyfriend and I was somehow related to her, like a cousin or something. I knew that was really messed up, but I was still attracted to her and we were still in bed. But now her boyfriend was also in bed with us, and she was interested in him, but still allowing me there, but I felt unloved or not worthy of wonderful people being attracted to me. I then stuck my finger in her, but it hurt her, and I was like, “oh, I’m sorry, I’m sorry” (sorry for the graphic nature, I’m trying to record the dream). Then, her father came into the hotel room with a gun having caught us all into the act. The boyfriend ran away, and for some reason the father went into the bathroom to prepare to come after me. I then got up and started to head towards where I had a gun myself, but then I thought, “no, I need to try resolve this peacefully and assume the consequences of my bad choices that got me into that situation.” I then put my hands up and surrendered myself to him. I believe the meaning is I need to accept the consequences of and seek to purify all sorts of negative karma that I have on my mind that moves in the direction of wanting girls to like me and sexual misconduct.

The dream then shifted to me at a big party in a very wealthy area. If I’m honest, I have never really fit in or had a lot of friends. Even among Kadampas, I have always felt on the outside. This huge party was filled with young, beautiful people, all of whom were having a good time together but nobody had any interest whatsoever in talking to me. I then started to make my way out to escape from the party, and as I got close to the exit, I ran into my old debate partner – who himself is quite the social outsider – who was similarly trying to escape. I then started crying from deep within my heart from a profound hurt associated with a lifetime of feeling socially excluded. Intellectually, and even to a certain degree practically, in the dream, I recalled all of the different Dharma wisdoms I normally use to just repress my hurt, such as this is coming from my mind and how to transform it, etc. But I saw and felt just how much hurt I have inside over this and that, to a large extent, my total investment in debate and even Dharma in my life has been driven by this hurt of being excluded from normal social life.

Once I had gotten out of the party, some much larger power started tearing everything down with bulldozers and people started scrambling. I was like, “why are they doing that, destroying everything?” When all of the walls were finally down, the party complex was in this desert like area outside of some Hunger Games style capital city and I understood the entire party was just one temporary distraction put on by the authorities, and it was all basically an illusion of social control to prevent us from resisting, but they were demonstrating they are in change and can take it away at a moment’s notice. In the dream, I then somewhat realized I was dreaming and that this was a metaphor for China’s social control mechanisms over their population. I will be going to China for my next posting. Then, I woke up and realized it was a metaphor for samsara.