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.