There is a practice in various sects of the Buddha teaching called “dream yoga.” The essence of that practice is in the Diamond Sutra, which explains a new way to see things. This practice of dream yoga is about how we handle the mind at night when we are dreaming and also in the day while we are dreaming. So there are two kinds of dreams: nighttime dreams and daytime dreams. Pretty much they are the same thing, although we have convinced ourselves otherwise. We need to get our heads wrapped around the fact that there is really no difference.
Thinking is thinking, regardless of what form it takes. Thinking is dreaming. We need to realize what thinking is. We can start to enter into an understanding of what thoughts are and the habitual tendencies that arise in the mind, and even more importantly, what is the nature of mind, which could be described perhaps as luminous or transcending the need for characteristics. We could call it immutable or adamantine. We could call it radiant, or we could call it pitch black or pure light. We could call it diaphanous. These are the two minds that are discussed in the true school of awakening, of Buddha, of Jesus Christ: the habitual mind that has memorized useful and not so useful things and regurgitates them day and night, and the true natural mind.
This is not meant to be a comprehensive instruction on dream yoga but rather an introduction to a few elements of it. Dream yoga depends upon the individual, their regular practice and what is most useful to optimize their situation.
Before we go to bed at night, we might say prayers or do a practice that includes some attitudes from dream yoga. We might have the intention that during the night we can recognize our dreams as dreams, optimally even while dreaming. This means that as you are dreaming you notice, “There’s really no me doing this. I’m just imagining it. All the people and situations I’m imagining are a dream.” Just by preparing ourselves a bit before going to bed, we are more likely to do it. We have a little will power to do it and it happens. It really is as simple as that, plus having the clarity of mind to be able to not judge opaque dreams and not cling to nice dreams, to not reject or be afraid of a scary dream, which is only a dream, so it really is meaningless to be affrightened of something that doesn’t exist in any sort of profound way.
Perhaps we can learn how to go through the night in that way, and then as we start to rouse we do our wake-up practice. It is very important to wake up and recognize our buddha nature if we have received empowerment and opened to that—then right away we do that first thing if we are not already connected. The best yoga would be to stay awake all night in perfect rest and dreamless clarity. That probably isn’t going to happen for most of us, but maybe we can at least have some elements of success in our nighttime yoga. “Awake” doesn’t refer to a typical person’s agitated, awake state, but rather a state of great peace, bliss, fulfillment and complete restfulness of mind with no sense of concern or fear whatsoever: the deepest sleep we have ever had except we are wide awake. That would be a correct way to practice dream yoga. If we did that perfectly all our dreams would pretty much disappear. That may sound bad initially, but after we learn how to meditate we will see it sounds perfectly good. We could still create dreams day and night anytime we want, but we would have no impetus to create them. If we are fulfilled, our cup is running over. There is no need to make up things. There are plenty of bats in that belfry flying around and the mind is full of mostly useless agitation.
In the morning practice, what is the element of dream yoga? You might say, “It’s the daytime. Why do I need to do dream yoga?” We have dreams all day long. Everything we are doing is a dreamlike phenomenon according to the Diamond Sutra. See all things like a dream: so says the Buddha. You might notice, “All I’m doing right now is thinking, and I’m naively clinging as if these things are real, but they’re really just my imagination, all of them.” Don’t negate anything even in the slightest bit. Just have fun with the irony of it. It’s ironic that we think everything is important and ultimately real when it isn't.
How does this relate to Jesus and God? It is the same thing. Your buddha nature is God. The only God, the one God that Christians and various monotheistic religions are concerned about is the one buddha nature inherent in all beings. You can come to that realization by not clinging to the dreams that are going through your mind and also not trying to get rid of them. If you are trying to get rid of dreams, you are clinging to getting rid of dreams. You don’t have to get rid of dreams; you just need to lose your fear of them. See that you are dreaming in the day, dreaming in the night, day, night, day, night.
It might benefit you to think of things in this way. Certainly the Buddha has revealed the amazing truth of our essential nature and how it can be realized through looking at the phenomena that are happening. Perhaps you might say, “I notice that I am thinking, but there are also things that are real going on.” Maybe it seems that you’re young, you live in an apartment, every month you have to pay a lot of money for rent and utilities, and you have to file your personal taxes. Everything seems very real. You could say, “Maybe my thinking mind isn’t real, but all these other things are real.” We have used the word “real,” and we are convinced that there is meaning in that word, although there really isn’t.
The Buddha uses straight talk from a level of truth and honesty to which you may not be accustomed. He is not like a college professor talking out of both sides of his mouth. Chances are you have become used to the lies and trickiness. When the Buddha says to see all things as dreamlike phenomena, he doesn’t mean only the day dreams, he means to see all the occurrences like a dream. What you do is to make a continuity.
Suppose you are having a day dream during breakfast and you realize, “I’m just having a day dream. There’s nothing really real there. I’m not really with the people I’m imagining.” Next you look around and think, “But the breakfast I’m having, this is real.” Then you realize, “This also is a dream.” When you connect those two together and don’t discriminate between one and the other, then you are starting to understand what the Buddha is teaching. That state is the spontaneous kingdom of heaven, the return to Tao to which Taoists refer. It means to come back to God’s presence, anuttara samyak sambodhi, which is not some sort of European enlightenment or collegiate kind of enlightenment; it is absolute perfect enlightenment, absolute state of wisdom that transcends and includes all states—even all conceptual states—absolute perfect understanding and omniscience. That doesn’t mean you know everything about meaningless things. It means you know all meaning. You are all-knowing about the meaning of the universe. It doesn’t mean you know what day Bill Smith eats hamburgers. That doesn’t matter, but you know everything about why he does. You know the why. No one else knows the why but the Buddha, the Awakened One.