Sunday, April 03, 2005

Dream as the experience of the soul

In the East, the cultivation of lucid dreaming has always been woven as an esoteric element into the religious practice of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and the other various religious traditions that trace their roots back to these great sources. The Tibetan Buddhists (almost all of whom are in exile since the annexation of Tibet by China and the unsuccessful rebellion against Chinese rule in 1959, after which the Dalai Lama himself went into exile) have carried this tradition of lucid dream incubation to a state of great elaboration.

The Tibetan strain of Buddhist thought declares that the experience of the dream is one and the same as the experience of the soul after death. The Tibetans believe in successive reincarnation, and for them the soul is more often referred to as the entity-the continuity of personality and karma over successive lifetimes. It is this part of the total psychic being which experiences dreams while alive, and this part which goes right on dreaming after death.

For the Tibetans Buddhists, each time we sleep we experience the condition of the soul in our dream. If we were die in our sleep, we would simply continue the dreams we were having. Thus, for the Tibetans the ability to remain lucid and self-conscious in the dream state is a matter of the utmost religious importance and significance. Their belief is that in the great majority of cases people who have not meditated or developed themselves with some spiritual discipline die and are driven to reincarnate again out of terror, in a vain hope to escape from the increasing horrific dream-scape of the soul after death.

The Tibetan believe that through cultivating dream lucidity while alive, the entity can then perceive the Bardo Worlds for what they are. In doing so, the soul in the Bardo World dismisses the illusions of increasing horror as mere illusions-mere projections of unconscious energies into the illusions of dream. Having achieved this recognition and insight into the nature of life after death, such an enlightened soul can pass into total and complete union with the divine.

With such self-awareness, the discarnate soul can also choose to reincarnate and re-enter the world of human existence consciously as a "boddhisattva"- a being devoted to the enlightenment of all others and the consequent alleviation of all illusions of pain and misery. Some sects take the " Boddhisattva's Oath" to return until every sentient being is enlightened. Others to return until even the grass is enlightened, while still others swear to reincarnate with increasing clarity of consciousness and intent until even the stones are enlightened.

The Tibetan Buddhist exerceises for the acquisition of lucidity are many and varies. Almost all of them involve manipulating the environment of the dream in specific ways once lucidity has been achieved, and meditating on these activities while awake. In such a manner, over the course of a lifetime, the Tibetans believe that will and resolve are strengthened and the entity is prepared to reunite with God or reincarnate with equal consciousness.

---Dream Work from Jeremy Taylor

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