Book 51 Highest Yoga Tantra and Mahamudra: Dream Yoga of Mahamudra

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(盧勝彥文集第51 冊 《無上密與大手印》:「睡夢大手印」)
‧Written by Sheng-yen Lu‧

Many have studied the subject of dreams, and I once said that “dreams arise from our thoughts.” However, when we are dreaming, we are often unaware of our state of being in the dream state. When we live in an environment that is not favorable to us, we will have miserable dreams. Likewise, when we live in the comfort of a supportive environment, we will tend to have sweet dreams. Ordinary folks have simple dreams while others, due to external stimulus, have dreams that express different emotions like happiness, anger, sadness and joy. When humans receive external stimulus and absorb their impacts, the corresponding emotions will be released in dreams.
The dream state is one of the activities of our body and mind, and though it is largely illusory, it nevertheless has its place in existence. Dreams are formed from the arising of thoughts, which is also significant to our cultivation. Based on causes and conditions, a dream comes into existence when the respective conditions arise, which is also a form of karmic causation.
As causes and conditions are the result of hidden karmic forces, when all of the causes and conditions ripen, our dreams will respond with a multitude of infinite dream scenarios. Chaotic dreams can greatly impact our lives and cultivation. Therefore, Mahamudra should be practiced during the day time as well as the night time to both ensure that our dreams remain proper and ensure liberation in our life.
My guru once instructed me, “The dream state is like the phenomenon of cyclic existence, fluctuating up and down like the ocean waves, completely manipulated by the force of the winds. The billowing of waves are like the ever-changing phenomenon. If we do not eradicate all these causes and conditions such as ignorance, likes and so forth, the winds and waves will never calm down.”
The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa said, “If ordained monks fail to practice the Dream Yoga, then they have no antidote to counteract dream states. Since all people are subject to dreaming, no one is exempted from having twisted and rampant illusions in dreams, unless they have an antidote. Basically, half of their lifetime is spiritually ill, which is considered to be a grievous condition.”
I once said that it is more feasible to discipline our thoughts in the day time as opposed to the night time when our thoughts run free and wild. Many monks who appear holy in the daytime are deluded by topsy-turvy dreams at night, where they turn lustful and lose their vital essence through wet dreams. I am not poking fun at these monks, for this is a real issue. The reason that I keep saying this is to motivate these monks to further themselves spiritually, to reach towards the higher truth instead of dwelling in the ill condition of the dream state where they wet themselves in the middle of the night or find their beds soiled. It does not reflect well on a cultivator.
Dream Yoga deals with dream states through the following three approaches:
The first method concerns the technique of the sleeping posture. When we sleep, we must lie on our right side so that our heart rests on the top. We should not sleep on our left side to avoid pressing the heart against the bed. The sleeping posture should resemble that of a sleeping lion. One can refer to the auspicious sleeping posture of the Buddha when he entered into parinirvana.
However, unlike the hand position of the auspicious sleeping posture, we should use the right thumb and right ring finger to press lightly over the vibratory veins of the throat. Next, we should place [any of ] the fingers of our left hand lightly in front of our nostrils, without pressing against the nostrils. During sleep, it is best to close our mouth and avoid opening it or drooling. In fact, it is really a major problem to snore with our mouths open. It takes time to become accustomed to this sleeping posture. The body should be curved like a prawn, guarding over one’s essence and spirit, while the right hand guards the nerve plexus over the throat and the left hand is placed in front of the nostrils. This serves as a subtle reminder that we should not forget about breath regulation during our sleep.
According to the guidance of my guru, since dreams are greatly affected by the vibration of the throat, the nerve plexus at the throat controls the region of dream reflexes. Thus, repeated practice of this sleeping posture, which is an auspicious position, is the key to guarding one’s essence and spirit.
The second method involves praying for the blessing of the guru. Those who study and practice Mahamudra are usually guided by a guru. During the day time, we learn how to deal with the dream state while being vigilant to proper thoughts in our mind. We must recognize that the realm of the dream is illusory and unreal. We must foster strong will power to see through the true reality of dreams. Before entering into sleep, we apply the practice as transmitted by the guru by reciting “Om bo li lan ze li” (7 times) [in Sanskrit: Om Vajranjali]. Then by flicking our fingers to the four corners of the bed, we set a boundary that prevents maras from entering.
Before one goes to sleep, one can silently pray for the blessings of the guru, and visualize one’s guru and other lineage holders giving us their blessings. We vow to cultivate, attain Buddhahood and achieve control over our dreams, so that we can remain focused and clear. [In time,] our efforts will spill over into our dream state, helping us to gain self-control. All in all, those who practice this method will develop a sense of vigilance that allows them to be immediately aware when they are being deluded in the dream state and be able to recognize that it is only a dream. They will see that it is not real and see through the illusion.
The third method is concerned with performing a visualization prior to sleeping. When we go to bed, we sleep in the auspicious lion’s posture. We should visualize ourselves transforming into our principal deity that rests in a sleeping posture. Next, recite the mantra of our principal deity seven or forty-nine times using the vajra recitation approach. Then, visualize our throat chakra emitting strong red-colored rays. This powerful red light radiates towards the ten directions of the universe, completely shattering all illusory visions and manifestations.
This powerful red light also shines upon our body which glows like an illuminated buddha body. This red light will protect you while you sleep. If the practitioner can keep up with this visualization prior to sleeping, he will eventually master this practice and will no longer be deluded in the dream state. Ultimately, he can preserve his vital essence even in the dream.
Why do we visualize the throat chakra emitting red light for protection? This is because the vital spiritual essence (drops) at the throat chakra is the very power that is manifested during the dream state. Our breathing creates vibrations, which in turn produces dreams. Thus, during our visualization prior to sleeping, we should focus on the nerve plexus in the throat chakra. When we perform a visualization during the waking hours, our attention should focus on the third-eye chakra.
In my earlier works I mentioned a practice involving Amitabha Buddha that one can do when one is ill. An individual visualizes himself in the buddha realm of the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss [Sukhavati], and recites the heart mantra of Amitabha Buddha while lying in the auspicious posture. He should maintain his clarity of thought and achieve a level of self control, which in turn will allow him to gain rebirth in the Western Paradise. This is a practice to assist sick people.
Actually, when one is skilled in the visualization method prior to sleep, one may vow to seek rebirth in the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss. During one’s visualization, the throat chakra is most significant because it is the place of the pure and joyous buddha land of Sukhavati. Prior to one’s sleep, one should visualize the red light emitted from the syllable AH [in the throat chakra] transforming into visions of Sukhavati, where every adornment is displayed in clarity. If one can achieve such a detailed visualization, then one is bound to attain great accomplishments in the future, and will certainly gain rebirth in the Pure Land.
Thus, the Dream Yoga is an extension of one’s practice after the waking hours. It combines day and night into a single domain, wherein contemplation can be consistently maintained during the day and night. Dream Yoga serves to achieve the continuity of our sacred purity, so that it may not be disrupted by the dream state. Hence, whether it is day or night, there is no room for discursive thoughts to exist, and one can abide in a state of purity. Therefore, a singular state is maintained throughout day and night in which all illusory dreams are eliminated, penetrating into the reality of illusory dreams. In this way, one attains the Truth and gains realization.
I would like to reveal a secret of my practice. Whenever I practice the Dream Yoga, I visualize the presence of Bodhisattva Moonlight [Candraprabha in Sanskrit], also known as the Sacred Moonlight Bodhisattva. I visualize a full moon hanging in the sky, radiating pure untainted light. Its light, endowed with unique cooling properties, shines upon me and protects me while I sleep. It removes all illusory dreams and delusions produced from desires. Bodhisattva Moonlight is depicted as a little child dressed in a yellow robe and seated on a red lotus throne. He holds a closed blossom lotus in his right hand and his left hand holds a lotus flower with small leaves that has a half moon disc above it.”
In the Diamond Mandala, Bodhisattva Moonlight is seated in the outer northwest court. In the Womb Mandala, he is stationed in the Manjushri Court. Here are the key instructions regarding visualization in Dream Yoga:
Visualize yourself lying in the lion’s sleeping posture, like the Buddha entering into Nirvana.
Visualize yourself lying in the lion’s sleeping posture, where the physical body disappears under a cloak of red light.
Visualize yourself lying in the lion’s sleeping posture, where no dust can contaminate you.
One literally sleeps in the buddha realm, where one finds one’s body expanding in size until it becomes space itself and it is emptied of all things. Because the body is emptiness itself, no dust can possibly land on one’s body, for there is no body that any dust can cling to in the first place.
It is the supreme heart essence of Dream Yoga that is being revealed here. It is indeed a divine secret, a secret of the Highest Yoga Tantra.
(The End)

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