Buddhist Wisdom: Life is But a Dream. – Pema Chodron
Pema Chodron and Linda Lewis on how to dissolve our tendency toward Drama.
Life is but a dream…
Okay, time for commentary from some folks who actually know what they’re talking about.
Yes: mom, first, then Pema Chodron:
Working with Slogans
By Linda V. Lewis
Basically there is no mind training in the Buddhadharma without both meditation and the haunting hangover that follows—the mindfulness-awareness experience of post-meditation. So meditation in this tradition is not just about pacification of a confused mind, although this is a valid and valuable start. But here meditation is about actually about waking up.
As we practice meditation (with our eyes open), we begin to see how much our various mental attitudes create our world. Things appear in a moment to be solid and “real”, but when looked at again, may seem more fluid or even dreamlike.
This morning I was writing at my table cluttered with books and papers, the snow falling slowly, relentlessly outside. Now I am at the computer and that moment of being at the table writing is a mere memory. Neither time nor appearances are frozen—even in this endless winter.
Everything changes, including what we think of as “me”. When I was a child, I hated avocados. Now I love them. Scientists say that the molecules that comprise a human body are continually forming and dissolving so that we are entirely different every seven years. None of the molecules of seven years ago are still “me”.
Even now, which is not the same now as a moment ago, I pause to look again beneath the conceptual overlay of language, and see that this being “at the computer” is no more solidly real than anything else. When we turn this contemplative process of insight onto ourselves for even just a moment and look, free from external reference points, we get a glimpse of the lack of any solid “self” to be found. We are blinking at egolessness.
This is the great discovery the Buddhadharma has to offer. It is great both because it is a discovery of spaciousness and because it has the ability to liberate us from unnecessary suffering. Apparent reality is mind-made, but mind is not just empty. Although neither a self nor a mind can be found, the experience of looking and seeing that which cannot be found is so bright and clear.
But this experience of openness is difficult to maintain. Thus what are called “slogans” are a huge help in continuing this insight both on and off the meditation cushion. Otherwise we tend to fall back into habitual patterns of “me and mine” or even “me first” as if there were a solid, singular, unchanging “real me”. Slogan practice, which was first developed in India by Atisha in the 10th century, cuts through that habit of self-centeredness and perhaps is even more relevant in this self-cherishing culture of today.
Atisha’s first slogans or reminders have to do with meditative awakened-heart, awakened-mind. For example,
reminds us of this fundamental and profound inspiration of meditation that can lead us to see things in a fresh way, post-meditation. Here, lowercase-D “dharmas” refer to phenomena. Our daily experience of life, like dreams, may be vivid—but there is no substantial essence. In meditation we glimpse the dreamlike quality of both (external) phenomena and (internal) mind. This gives us a spacious feeling. There are no boundaries, no territory. There is nothing to cling to and nothing to lose in this open field. This insight is what prompts us to be generous and resourceful post-meditation. As Nagarjuna said, “Because of emptiness, everything is possible.”
In subsequent articles I shall write about the slogans that are reminders of this view in the midst of our post-meditation experience.
~ Linda V. Lewis
…simply, regard everything as a dream. Life is a dream. Death is also a dream, for that matter; waking is a dream and sleeping is a dream. Another way to put this is: “Every situation is a passing memory”.
It is said that with these slogans that are pointing to absolute truth—openness—one should not say “Oh, yes, I know,” but that one should just allow a mental gap to open, and wonder, “Could it be? Am I dreaming this?” Pinch yourself. Dreams are just as convincing as waking reality. You could begin to contemplate the fact that things are not as solid or as reliable as they seem.
Have you ever been caught in the heavy-duty scenario of feeling defeated and hurt, and then somehow, for no particular reason, you just drop it? It just goes, and you wonder why you made “Much ado about nothing.” What was that all about? It also happens when you fall in love with somebody; you’re so completely into thinking about the person twenty-four hours a day. You are haunted and you want him or her so badly. Then a little while later, “I don’t know where we went wrong, but the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back.” We all know this feeling of how we make things a big deal and then realize that we’re making a lot out of nothing.
Gentleness in our practice…is like remembering something. This compassion, this clarity, this openness are like something we’ve forgotten. Sitting here being gentle with ourselves, we’re rediscovering something. It’s like a mother reuniting with her child; having been lost to each other for a long, long time, they reunite. The way to reunite with Bodhicitta is to lighten up in your practice and in your whole life.
That’s the essential meaning of the absolute Bodhicitta slogans—to connect with the open, spacious quality of your mind, so that you can see that there’s no need to shut down and make such a big deal about everything.
From Start Where You Are : A Guide to Compassionate Living by Pema Chodron, Copyright 1994, Shambhala Publications.