Some dreams are so vivid that they become a part of our memory. To me, they are as real as any experiences encountered during our day. This happened in 2019 when I was on vacation in Japan.
In that trip, I had visited a war memorial dedicated to dead Japanese soldiers of WWII. Before my visit, I had researched on the internet and found an article where people commented about the spooky feeling they had while touring that place. After reading their comments, I thought to myself, “Although Japan was the aggressor, those dead soldiers deserve to rest in peace too. I will help dedicate merits to them when I visit.”
How bad can it be right? The memorial was housed inside a Giant Buddha in a Buddhist monastery after all… Everything about the monastery and the Giant Buddha was beautiful. However, the vibe inside the Giant statue seemed to change a bit. There was a kind of solemn bitterness, not a very peaceful vibe. Nevertheless, I sung mantra of Maha Vairocana Buddha to soothe them while loitering around their spirit shrines.
I have to confess that I was not free of ego and perhaps I was not entirely motivated by compassion. Maybe it was a bit of a show-off to say mantra that I had learned. Perhaps the eeriness seeped into my mind. Subsequent to that visit, I developed a strong urge to drink sake. Alcoholic drink was one of my weaknesses but somehow I was very tempted to drink sake during that trip.
In a moment of weakness, I bought sake from the convenience stall and drank it before going to bed. There goes my precept to abstain from intoxicants! I fell into a very deep slumber and soon found myself wandering in a forested area in dreamland. Almost immediately, Japanese soldiers appeared and they were very nice and polite. Their leader wanted to invite me over for a Dharma recitation. I WAS ELATED WITH PRIDE. They were escorting me with respect and I was just following along with a huge ego! It was very vivid and I still remember how I felt in the dream.
We went deeper and deeper into the woods and just as we were reaching a darkening area, another group of soldiers appeared out of nowhere. They grabbed me from the Japanese troop and was shoving me forcefully out of the darkened area. The Japanese soldiers were angry and gave chase. It was like a hostage rescuing mission except that I was the fumbling hostage.
I felt confused and was still feeling attachment towards the idea of attending the Dharma recitation invitation! I remembered the leader of the rescue team informing me. ‘You should not be here, you must not follow them. You must leave.’ The battle that ensued was extremely ferocious. My savior soldiers did not fight with weapons but with fangs! They bit the Japanese soldiers and tore off chunks of flesh. It was complete chaos and I was surprised and lost. I felt bad about the violence unfolding in front of me and was shocked by the ferocity of my rescue team.
Honestly, I was too deluded in my dream to recognize the rescue team. I kept thinking that violence is wrong….Two groups of beings were fighting over me? Then, I saw the leader of my rescue team looking at me impatiently as he caught my neck in one hand and slashed the air with his other hand. And a slit appeared! It was a very unforgettable sight. On the other side of that “slit” was my hotel room. Without another word, the rescue leader shoved me through that opening and I “entered” my hotel room.
Looking back, I saw my rescue team tearing away at the Japanese soldier as the slit in the air closed up! The next thing is waking up confused! The forest and fighting soldiers were still vivid. For a moment I was disoriented and did not know where I was. It took me a while to remember that I was in Japan.
Honestly, I was behaving like a spoilt kid being denied permission to go to a party in my dream. I was too deluded to recognize my rescuer. As I laid in bed and slowly recovered my rationale, it dawned upon me that the ferocious soldiers with fangs are my protectors and not monsters. Deep in my mind, I felt bad for the Japanese soldiers while being thankful for my rescue team. I wondered what would happen if I had followed the Japanese soldiers. Will I still wake up?
That morning, I became very sick and I consoled myself that it was just a terrible hangover. The first time I felt so ill after drinking 700ml of sake. The entire world was spinning non-stop and I could not even stand up. It was a feeling of not being grounded and I had to spend my morning reciting all sorts of mantra and doing lots of meditation in bed. (Telling myself not to panic at the same time. It was like losing control of my body)
However, that experience also gave me lots of confidence about my Gurus. As I recited my wrathful mantras, I “recognized” those soldiers who rescued me in my dream. The same group had appeared in another dream a few months back in January.
In that dream, I was late for a grand event. I was in military uniform too but a lowly recruit or private. There was a gigantic stadium with many steps and I was at the bottom. Soldiers were everywhere and those Dharma teachers (Rinpoche) whom I was familiar with, were decorated officers sitting at the top of the stadium. It felt fuzzy and warm but seeing my Dharma teachers appearing in military uniform instead of monastic robes was amusing. The rescuing team was the same one that greeted me when I entered the stadium. “You are almost late!”…….
With that recognition, I know I will be fine and the feeling of helpless panic subside. The spinning stopped and I became grounded. The hangover was cured by noon and I was able to continue my vacation.
“The entire episode is simply how my mind works. It could be a bad hangover combined with an imaginative mind.” That is how I reminded myself to keep my ego in check. “Let’s not get carried away by a strange dream.”
On the other hand, it also causes me to have deep faith in the teachings. Everything is from our mind. The Guru is in our mind. Enlightenment is within.
Therefore, while memory of that vivid dream creates faith in me, I reminded myself that it is nothing but a dream. That’s how I work with my dreams.
I hope you enjoy reading about my dream.
May all be well and happy.