Dharma Talk on Delusions in Dreams to Awaken the Dreamers

We all know that in dreams people confuse dream phenomena with reality by engaging in those scenarios. They don’t realize that it is only a dream until they wake up. What most people don’t know is that our daytime activities are also a dream, in which our minds are constantly engaged in images from our memories and regarding those as real. How can this all be a dream?

The DDM San Francisco Bay Area Center organized a Mandarin Chan lecture on “Delusions in Dreams” at 10:30 A.M., June 10, during which Ven. Guo Xing (果醒), abbot of Chan Meditation Center and Dharma Drum Retreat Center, was invited to give a Dharma talk for the public. Some 80 devotees from the Bay Area were present, whose eager inquiries showed their enthusiasm.

One of the participants is a brain surgeon. “Don’t you have clinic today?” asked the monastic. She replied, “Since ‘I’ am sick, I must see a Dharma teacher first.” Another one, who is an engineer and had to rush to the venue directly from her/his office, said that listening to Dharma teaching was a perfect present for himself/herself because that day happened to be his/her birthday.

As Ven. Guo Xing put it, “When we wake up from a dream, the dream phenomena vanishes, so we know that it is only a dream. For instance, we sleep at night and dream of a tiger chasing after us. When we wake up our eyes perceive no such corresponding phenomenon, so we realize that it is a dream. Similarly, in the daytime, operating through our physical body (form), our minds creates sensations (feeling), imaginations (conception), actions (volition), and consciousness toward delusory phenomena. Hence, our mind is constantly in a state alternating with worry, anxiety, pleasure, and anger, resembling a ‘dream’ marked by distorted, inverted way of thinking.”

And how do we “leave distortion and delusion behind?” Ven. Guo Xing continued, “Attaching to and not letting go of five aggregates—form, feeling, conception, volition, consciousness*—one can’t leave distorted dream-thinking, either. In order to be freed of distortion and delusion, we should first understand what ‘self’ is. The true ‘self’ is neither our body nor feeling; instead, it’s the true mind that is able to recognize and realize, formless and markless, non-arising and non-perishing, empty of subject and object.”

Ven. Guo Xing further explained, “The Shurangama Sutra and many ancient patriarchs and masters used the relationship between water and wave as an analogy to explain this idea. The water in the sea is analogous to our true mind, while waves the five aggregates, which are constantly arising and perishing, subject to change. Waves are not separate from water; waves come from water. By realizing that ‘self’ represents our true mind rather than the provisional self composed of the five aggregates, one’s true-mind (water) will not linger on transient phenomena consisting of the five aggregates, without being affected and thus generating waves, when engaging in daily life activities. Eventually one will attain the state of ‘stillness while illuminating, illuminating while remaining still**’. That is, one’s mind is clearly aware of all phenomena, while remaining in the nature of stillness without generating afflictions.”

After the lecture, participants had lunch with Ven. Guo Xing, and continued to ask more questions about the Dharma. The activity scheduled to finish by 2 p.m. wrapped up at 3 p.m. in joyful anticipation of the next meeting.

*Note: The concept comes from Heart Sutra.
**Note: The excerpt is from Commentary on the Amitabha Sutra.

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