One of the better known anecdotes is Zhuangzi and the Butterfly. The great Daoist Zhuangzi one day awoke from sleep after dreaming that he was a butterfly. Later on, though, he was deeply absorbed and troubled with the thought, “Hmmm, I wonder…was it really “I who was dreaming” that I was that butterfly; or am I really now that “sleeping butterfly” dreaming that I am now this man?” Interesting koan-like predicament; of course there have been traditions that say one of his disciples came along and threw a bucket of cold water on his head and he suddenly came to the realization that “I have to be Zhunangzi, because if I truly am a butterfly, that cold water would have killed me!” That cold-water in the face satori-like moment is a great image of sudden-awakening from the mad dream of samsara, yet when ol’ Zhuangzi dreams again that the butterfly is now waterproof—out goes the satori with the bathwater! Of course, the true resolve of the matter is the self-realization that there is no Zhunangzi and no butterfly—for both are samsaric illusions of the dreaming-skandhic-mind—where both waking in the morning in the realm of samsara is the same as waking in the realm of the samsaric dream; yet, the door of sleep is itself the bardo-passage, or in-between junction that opens-up into the wider realms of self-discovery wherein the Awareness Principle comes into direct contact with the shady denizens who reside in the darkest corners of the alaya receptacle; denizens who, within the purported “waking state”, are well-hidden and who can wreck more havoc than in the dream realm because the awareness principle in the dream state can come to the sudden realization that it has the power to totally control and re-shape the dreamscape and its constant kaleidoscope activity and alaya-karmadhic characters and situations to its own liking—provided that it reaches the proper level of lucidity. Lucidity is key; it is the magic formula that unlocks the secrets of the dreamscape, and after much trial and effort, the secrets to the entire samsaric-spectrum. Mastering Lucidity is simply being aware that it’s all a dream. But mastering lucidity is not a simple matter.
A favorite movie from my childhood years is “The Night Walker”, circa late 1964 starring Barbara Stanwyck. The opening theme music, that continues to make a “bracketing” appearance throughout the film, is a dandy—written by composer Vic Mizzy, the same guy who wrote classic TV themes like The Addams Family. Click on the following to play:
The opening “Monologue”, narrated by Paul Frees—that classic raspy-voice behind the aliens in “Earth vs. the Flying Saucers”—continues to stand-out in my mind as the all-time hallmark for people’s irrational fear of dreams…he eerily states in reference to ‘falling in your dreams’—“It’s said if you ever complete that fall in a dream…you’ll be dead!” Somehow, as a kid, I always knew when I was dreaming; I could shape-shift the dream to my heart’s desire—I was the key-player, the “gatekeeper” to a particular dream. Yes, it seems that children have a natural knack for lucidity; as an adult, it appears like I’ve lost that knack…yet I am developing the ability, when first awakening from a dream, to be able to re-enter and recollect where it left off by remembering the gatekeeper role I was playing in a given dream—the gatekeeper alone is the one who is able to again abstract the information and even begin the process of erasing any karmic-traces, an action that can be carried over into what is considered as the “normal-waking” state of consciousness.
The Dream Realm of Bardo Two is an opportunity to really fine-tune that knack for lucidity. Because it is only in lucidity that the awareness principle will be able to recognize what will be transpiring in the later Bardo Realms when the Clear-Light of the Dharmatā appears amidst all the vying-junk of the karmadhatu and a lucid choice needs to be made as to whether to embrace IT, or to continue following the hazy and enticing lights that only leads to further misfortune and misery in another womb that leads to the re-birthing fields in the Matrix of Samsara.