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Finding emptiness through a dream

This happened many years ago and until today, I am still learning from it. I have only shared this with a Dharma brother and had been deliberating if it is a good idea to share it publicly for a few years. By sharing it now, I hope it inspires fellow Buddhists and will benefit others in some minor way.

Many modern Buddhists like to posit Buddhist practices as very down-to-earth and meditation as almost clinical. They leave no room for mystical exploration. Any mention of supernatural experience is immediately rubbished. I think such an attitude is important because it helps to keep our sanity in check.

On the other hand, if we are too logical and rational in our approach to solving the greatest mystery of life; then perhaps we might unknowingly limit our scope of perception?

I think it is better to stick to the “Middle Path” approach. Keep an open mind and maintain a balanced approach while exploring the path to enlightenment.

This dream took place on the day that I was attending a major Vajrayana empowerment ritual. Before going to bed, I had prayed fervently for guidance and teachings from my Guru. ( I know all these sounds like hocus pocus to modern practitioners but if you simply attribute my experience to a hyperactive mind or an overworked sub-consciousness, it is still fine. Vajrayana methods are supposed to harness our mind’s potential anyway. Like my Lama used to say, everything is a creation of our mind)

In my dream, I was walking to my Dharma centre where the empowerment ritual was being held. The experience was as vivid as real life. The only difference was that there were no other beings around in the dreamscape. Just me and silence. No cars, no animals, and no people. The weather was bright and sunny without feeling hot. The experience of walking to the Dharma centre is also weird. Almost immediately, I had reached the temple gate. Almost immediately, I had reached the threshold of the main shrine hall. Almost immediately, I was inside the main hall of the temple.

Unlike our “real” world, there was no shadow inside the prayer hall. The brightness is just present, bright as day. Sitting inside was a Tibetan monk whom I had never met before. As was my habitual tendency at that time, I approached that lama for blessings.

While I do not understand Tibetan in real life, there was no language barrier in my dream. I knelt down in front of the lama and asked for his blessings. This was what he said.

“While it is easy to bless your compassion, it is not so easy with your wisdom. He then placed a vajra (a Vajrayana ritual implement) on top of my head.

When the vajra touched my head, the world in my dream disappeared completely. Nothing remains. No lama, no temple, no wall, and no floor. No sky and no ground, no sun, no cloud or anything. Yet it is not an empty vacuum space. There is a comfortable brightness that is not glaring and without a source. There were no specific colours. Although void, it feels satisfying and complete (nothing is lacking). There is no me and no beings. Although it is empty, I do not feel lonely but felt free. Although there is no end to the expansive wide space, I do not feel lost. Although there was no wind, it does not feel suffocating. It is difficult to put this experience into words because at the core of it, there is no I. Just an illuminating awareness that is peaceful.

Recently, I watched a video on Youtube and a disciple of Master Hsuan Hua described the same experience about his near-death moment. (Perhaps I was momentarily dead in my sleep? I don’t know)

But the next event is more important. Almost as soon as I experienced this “emptiness”, something happen in my mind. A habitual tendency to position and identify. (A habit to grasp occurred) Just that tendency is enough to create a powerful coming into being. I wasn’t fearful of the emptiness but my mind just habitually wanted a presence. A sense of being. The Who and Where in my mind created a sense of “dropping”. (Not the same as falling from a height.)

I found myself back in the temple and kneeling in front of lama. The previous experience seems unreal in the dream. With that, all my habitual ways of being me began to play by themselves. As per habit, I thanked the lama and left the temple.

I felt elated and walked with a bounce in my steps, I began to float into the air outside the temple gate. I woke up from my dream. 5 or 6 am in the morning.

I wasn’t sure if that experience in my dream is considered emptiness. But the absence of “I” is not really that terrible. But I continue to be cautious about it though. I will recollect that experience as and when applicable during my practice. I know it wasn’t enlightenment because I remain as selfish, lustful, hateful as before. However, I believe it helped me in my practice a teeny weeny bit.

I think that dream was possible because I had great faith in the ritual and my guru. (believed in the “hoccus poccus”) That somehow turned on a switch in my mind and perhaps allowed me to tap into some forgotten corner in my mind. If I had attended the ritual with a cynical attitude, then that dream might not have occurred. In that manner, I think I am also partially responsible for having that dream. I continue to check my mind as I practice. Hope you enjoyed reading about my experience.

May all be well and happy.

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