Dharma Center in Annapolis, Maryland
Dreaming meditation has a few different levels. The first is to comprehend the dream, which means knowing that it is a dream while we are dreaming. Once we comprehend we are dreaming, then we can transform and increase our dreams. Both dreaming and sleeping meditation are done mainly to realize the ultimate nature of our mind. According to secret tantra teachings, there are many different techniques to achieve dream meditation but these are traditionally not taught to the public. Dream meditation techniques require certain prerequisite levels of spiritual practice to be done before starting the dream meditation.
However, the most profound technique used by great ancient yogis to achieve dream meditation is what we are going to discuss here. We previously discussed the eight different consciousnesses we posses when we are awake and the fact that in deep sleep we have only the basic consciousness. Since the basic consciousness contains all the karmic imprints, traces of all the memories, habitual tendencies, emotional reactions, self-perceptions and apperceptions that have been processed by other levels of consciousness, very subtle parts of the sixth and seventh consciousness arises as a screen that shows the records of basic consciousness. This is what we call a dream.
If the dream is arising from our karmic imprints then it could indicate something about our past or future. We can use it as a sign to understand who we were in the past or what will happen in the future. Dreams arising from our habitual tendencies, emotional reactions and physical matters don’t indicate any special meaning or sign.
Dream meditation is not for understanding the meaning of dreams. It is to realize the nature of dreams by being in the present moment and aware of self nature in the dream state. Dreams themselves are an illusion, because we grasp them as real while we are dreaming. When we realize the dream is unreal while we are in dream state, that is what we call comprehending the dream.
By that all the problems in the dream are solved. There is no difference between good and bad, living and dying, pain and pleasure, everything is just the dream. We can fall off from a hundred story tower without any fear. We can travel thousands of miles in a second. Because we know all these are not real, they are just our dream and manifestations of our own mind.
There are many stories in Tibet about the accomplished practitioners intentionally visiting places in their dream state. There was a Tibetan statue maker who was an accomplished dream meditator. He didn’t know how to apply gold to a statue. During his dream he went to Nepal and observed how they applied gold to their statues. And afterwards he was able to use that technique.
After we achieve the first level, we can practice transforming fire in our dream into water and do the same with everything else, we can change anything into something else. We also can practice turning one thing in our dream into many and turning many into one.
The physical position for the dreaming meditation is same as for sleeping meditation. We sleep in the ‘Manner of a Lion’s Sleep’ or in our usual way. The important point is to maintain awareness and mindfulness until we fall asleep. A very important part of the practice is to give strong impetus or motivation to oneself. In the daytime and especially just before going to bed we think; "I am going to recognize my dreams in my dream state. Tonight I will definitely recognize the dream as dream, I will be aware of the nature of dream which is unreal." Then we simply maintain a sense of bare awareness without thinking about anything or forcing the mind into a concentrated state. We keep our mind aware of mind itself utterly relaxed and let the mind itself be fully luminously aware and clear until the last moment before sleep. In other words just be in the present moment until we fall sleep.
About twenty percent of our life is spent dreaming, and during the dream we experience everything in it as real. The happiness, sadness, pleasure, peace and fear in the dream all are real. Dream experiences don’t have much impact on us because we see they are not real to us when we wake up.
Real life experiences are important to us and impact us greatly, because we think they are real. Actually, both experiences are almost the same. Both waking and dreaming we perceive as real when we experience them. Once they pass, both are not real, just like a dream. The only thing left behind from both waking and dreaming are some memories. When we become fully aware of reality in the dream, all the experiences in our dream transform into peace, happiness and fearlessness, and that becomes an ideal for our waking life.