Dreams: From buddhist & psychodynamic perspectives

BY: JACQUELINE H. CHAN

Dreams:

From the perspective of Tibetan Buddhist dream yoga and Jungian dream analysis

 

Recently, I got the opportunity to read about Tibetan dream yoga and Jungian Dream analysis for a class paper. Here are some highlights:

 

Summary:
A comparative analysis of Tibetan Buddhist dream yoga and Jungian dream analysis shows similar qualities of respecting and valuing the insights of the dreams. To Jung (1964) symbols are everywhere in the written or spoken word, and dreams are another form in which symbols can manifest from the unconscious (Jung, 1964). To Tibetan Buddhists, dreams can be an extended practice of presence and lucidity carried from the waking state to support one’s spiritual journey and potential for liberation from karmic reactivity. Dreams are not only a universal experience of humankind but offers a language of nature in which highly charged symbols are used to communicate meaningful warnings, anticipatory events, or insights into current neuroses (ie., karmic traces). Both schools of thought do not disregard the dreams as an incoherent stream of seemingly random images or ideas but value them and their significance. It is hopeful to see these similar bearings in unrelated traditions as it points to a universal potentiality of all humanity to use dreams to understand and enhance our lives.
Comparison of “The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep” & Carl Jung’s Works on “Man and His Symbols”
In reading “The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep” (Wangyal, 1998) as well as Carl Jung’s works on “Man and His Symbols” (Jung, 1964) and “Modern Man’s Search for a Soul” (Jung, 1933), one can see that both schools of thought give significance to dreams. The term Buddha refers to “Awakened one” and one may ponder, awaken to what and from what? Here, Tibetan Buddhists may use dreams as an extension of practice to awaken from the sleepiness of ordinary life (Wangyal, 1998, p. 6). Wangyal (1998) says, “If we cannot remain present during sleep, if we lose ourselves every night, what chance do we have to be aware when death comes? If we enter our dreams and interact with the mind’s images as if they are real, we should not expect to be free in the state after death.” (p. 6). There are conventional and non-conventional goals of Tibetan dream practice. A conventional aim of dream practice is work with the contents of the dream itself for signs, messages, and process karma (p. 90). A fruit of committed dream practice is lucidity, being aware of being in a dream, like being awake in a dream. A non-conventional aim of dream practice is to come to a non-dualistic awareness of the presence underneath the contents of the dream, called clear light, with calm abiding presence. Jung (1964) approaches dreams from the perspective of understanding its symbols and contents because they are a manifestation of the unconsciousness of the individual.
In analyzing thousands of dreams in his career, Jung’s (1964) overwhelming intuition led him to value the subjectivity of dreams for each individual. His suspicions culminated to an insight that his dreams were about himself, his word, and his life… To Jung, respecting the individual and subjective nature of dreams preserves and protects the freedom and dignity of his patients. Symbols are used in every day language in meaning making, and to Jung, the images and experiences in dreams are an extended expression of symbols…..
In the dream state, the karmic traces can manifest freely as it is “unfettered by the rational mind” which can act to ignore a feeling or impulse (p. 16). Wangyal (1998) continues:
“Our consciousness, like the light of a projector, illuminates the traces that have been
stimulated and they manifest as the images and experiences of the dream…resulting in a
narrative constructed from conditioned tendencies and habitual identities: the dream.”
(p. 17).
Dreams can reveal the mental and emotional state of the individual. So much so, that in Tibetan Buddhism, potential apprentices are asked to bring their dream to the master the night before the teachings begin to ascertain whether they are ready to undergo training. Jung (1964; 1933) also describes how dreams can reveal the complexes of an individual as well as the cause of their neurosis. For example, whether it is in waking life or the dream state, an individual who is having a difficult time accepting a new change in their family, may constantly be nauseous because he is having a difficult time stomaching a truth (Jung, 1964). Further analysis may reveal suppressed desires or fears that the individual rationalizes or compartmentalizes away in the waking state. Jung (1964) states that dreams are often compensatory, as the unconscious seeks balance and integration with the entire self….
Jung (1964) views the rational intellect as both a blessing and a limitation. While the rational mind has made great strides in science, what is lost is humankind’s connection to nature, the disregard of anything non-linear (ie., non-rational) which is spiritual, and the disregard of the mystical (Jung, 1964). Jung (1964) says:
“Modern man does not understand how much his ‘rationalism’ (which has destroyed his capacity to respond to numinous symbols and ideas) has put him at the mercy of the psychic ‘underworld.’ He has freed himself from ‘superstition’ (or so he believes), but in the process he has lost his spiritual values to a positively dangerous degree.” (p. 103)
Jung (1964) continues to deduce that the price of this disconnection is a sense of dissociation in the world, meaninglessness that many experience, and neurosis. Wangyal (1998) and Jung (1964) issue similar warnings about suffering when individuals lean too heavily on the conceptual or rational mind. Jung (1964) respects the mystery of dreams, the psyche and its symbols. “Within the mind they become psychic events, whose ultimate nature is unknowable (for the psyche cannot know its own physical substance). Thus, experience contains an infinite number of unknown factors…” (p. 18). Jung (1964) also states the importance of intuition and creativity. Jung (1964) notes the numerous solutions that had come in the form of a dream. While fundamentally neutral, the contents of the dream can sometimes appear to be benevolent and prognostic or anticipatory in nature, warning the dreamer about likely consequences. At other times, the dreams seem to lack warning to its dreamer (Jung, 1964)…

 

 

 

References or Resources for Further Reading

Hua, M. T. (2001). The Sixth Patriarch’s Dharma Jewel Platform Sutra.
          
Buddhist Text Translation Society.

Dogen, H. (2011). Omori Sogen The Art of a Zen Master. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

McRae, J. R. (2008). The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch (Translated from the Chinese
           Zongbao (Taiso Volume 48, Number 2008)
. Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and
           Research.

Watts, A. (1957). The Way of Zen. Vintage Books.

 

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Jacqueline Chan

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