Highest Yoga Tantra and Mahamudra 

By Master Sheng-yen Lu
Translated by Cheng Yew Chung, Edited by Dance Smith

This was translated from Grandmaster Lu's 51st book, 無上密與大手印.

CHAPTER 14 - The Mahamudra Practice of Dreaming

Many have studied the subject of dreams, and I once said that dreams arise from our thoughts. However, when we are dreaming, often we are unaware that we are actually in the dream state. When we are living in an environment that is not favourable to us, we produce all kinds of suffering dreams. Likewise, when we live in the comfort of a supportive environment, we tend to have sweet dreams. Ordinary folks have simple dreams, while others who are exposed to the impact of outer circumstances have dreams that express the different emotions like happiness, anger, sadness and joy. When humans are subjected to the stimulus of outer circumstances and understand these impacts, the corresponding emotions tend to be released in dreams.

The dream state is one of the activities of our body and mind, and though it is largely illusory, it nevertheless has its place in existence. Dreams are formed from the attraction of thoughts, which have a great influence on our cultivation. Seen from the point of view of cause and condition, a dream comes into existence as the respective condition arises, and can be considered to be a form of karmic causation.

As cause and condition are the result of the activity of hidden karmic forces, when all causes and conditions ripen, our dreams depict a multitude of infinite dream scenarios. Chaotic dreams can have a great impact on our lives and cultivation. Therefore, the practice of Mahamudra is not limited to cultivating during the waking hours, but includes cultivation during the dream state. This is done to ensure that our dreams remain proper, so that we can gain liberation.

My guru instructed me, The dream state is just like the phenomenon of cyclic existence, resembling the waves of the ocean, which are completely subject to the winds. Coming in wave after wave, dreams are like the cycles of cyclic existence. If we do not eradicate all of these causes and conditions, such as ignorance, lust and so forth, the wind and waves will never cease.

The Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa said, `Ordained monks who have not practiced the Mahamudra of Dream will find no antidote in dealing with dream states. I have not come across anyone who does not dream. If we do not find means to deal with our dreams, we are allowing the disorderly state of our dreams to develop and grow. This contributes to half of the spiritual illnesses in our lives, and results in grave consequences.`

Thus, Dream Mahamudra is the antidote for the dream state.

I once said that it is easy to control our thoughts in the waking state, but during the night in our sleep, our thoughts tend to run wild and are not easily controlled. Many monks who appear holy in the daytime are deluded by topsy-turvy dreams at night where they turn lascivious and dissipate their vital essence through wet dreams. I am not poking fun at these monks, for this is a real issue. The reason I keep saying this is to motivate the monks to further themselves spiritually, to reach towards the higher truth instead of dwelling in the ill condition of the dream state where they wet themselves in the middle of the night, or find their beds soiled. It does not reflect well on a cultivator.

Dream Mahamudra deals with the dream state through these three approaches:

The first method: The technique of sleeping posture. When we sleep, we must lie on our right side so that the heart is on top. Avoid sleeping on the left side so that the heart is down and pressed against the bed. The sleeping posture resembles that of the lion when it sleeps. One can refer to the auspicious sleeping posture of the Buddha when he entered into Nirvana. However, unlike the hand position of the auspicious sleeping posture, we should use the right thumb and right ring finger and press them lightly over the vibratory veins of the throat. Next, we should place [any of] the fingers of our left hand lightly in front of our nostrils, but without pressing against the nostrils. During sleep, it is best to close our mouth without opening it, and avoid drooling. In fact, when we snore with our mouths open it is really a major problem. This sleeping posture must be given time to get used to. The reason the body is bent like a prawn is to guard over ones essence and spirit, while the right hand guards the nerve plexus over the throat and the left hand placed before the nostrils serves as a subtle reminder that we should not forget about breath regulation during sleep.

According to the guidance of my guru, the nerve plexus at the throat controls the region of dream reflexes, for dreams are greatly affected by the vibration of the throat. Thus, repeated practice of this sleeping posture, an auspicious position, is the key to guarding ones essence and spirit.

The second method: Pray for the blessing of the guru. Those who study and practice Mahamudra are usually guided by a guru. It is important to learn how to deal with our dream state during our waking hours, and align the mind with right thoughts. We must recognize that the realm of dream is illusory and unreal. We must develop our will power and perceive the true reality of dreams. Before entering into sleep, we apply the practice as transmitted by the guru by reciting OM BO RU LAN ZE LI (7 times) [(transliteration; in Sanskrit: Om Vajranjali)]. Then by flicking our fingers in space towards the four corners of the bed, we set a boundary, which prevents any Mara from entering.

Before one goes to sleep, one can silently pray for the blessings of the guru, and visualize ones guru and other lineage holders giving us their blessings. As we vow to cultivate and attain buddhahood and achieve control over our dreams so that we can remain focused and clear, our efforts spill over into our dream state to help us gain self control. All in all, those who practise this method develop a sense of vigilance that allows one to become immediately aware of being in a deluded dream state, recognize that it is only a dream that is unreal, and see through the illusion.

The third method: Visualization prior to sleep. When we go to bed, we sleep in the auspicious lions posture. Visualize yourself transformed into your principal deity resting in a sleeping posture. Recite the mantra of your principal deity 7 or 49 times using the vajra recitation approach. Following this, visualize your throat chakra emitting strong red coloured rays. This powerful red light radiates towards the ten directions of the universe, completely eliminating all illusory visions and manifestations.

This powerful red light also shines upon your body, and you see yourself glowing like the illuminated buddha body. This red light protects you while you sleep. Over time, the Tantric practitioner who frequently practises this method of visualization prior to sleep masters this visualization, which places him in a position where he can no longer be deluded by his dream state, so that he does not become confused and chaotic in his dream state, and does not lose his vital essence through wet dreams.

Why do we work with the throat chakra to emit red light for protection? This is because the vital spiritual essence (drops) at the throat chakra is the very power that is manifested during the dream state. Our breathing creates vibration, which in turn produces dreams. Thus, during our visualization prior to sleeping, we focus on the nerve plexus in the throat chakra. When we perform any visualization during the waking hours our attention should focus on the brow chakra.

In my earlier works I mentioned a practice method involving Amitabha Buddha that one can use while one is ill. The individual visualizes himself in the buddha realm of the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss. He recites the heart mantra of Amitabha Buddha while lying in the auspicious posture. He should maintain his clarity of thought and achieve a level of control, allowing him to gain rebirth in Sukhavati. This is the practice method of the patient.

Actually, when one is skilled in practicing the visualization method prior to sleep, one may vow to seek rebirth in the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss. During ones visualization, the throat chakra is most significant for its place as the pure and joyous buddhaland of Sukhavati. Prior to ones sleep, the red light emitted from the syllable AH (in the throat chakra) transforms into visions of Sukhavati, the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss, where every adornment is displayed in clarity. If one can achieve such a detailed visualization, then one is bound to attain great accomplishments in the future, and will certainly gain rebirth in the Pureland.

Thus, Dream Mahamudra is an extension of the practice done during waking hours. It combines day and night into a single domain, thus achieving a contemplation in which all practices of the day and night remain consistent. Dream Mahamudra serves to achieve in dreams the continuity of the sacred purity of our spiritual state, so that it may not be broken by the dream state. Hence, whether it is day or night, there is no room for discursive thoughts to exist, and one abides in a state of purity. Therefore a singular state is maintained throughout day and night in which all illusory dreams are eliminated, penetrating into the reality of illusory dreams. One attains the Way and gains realization.

I would like to reveal a secret of my practice. Whenever I practice Dream Mahamudra, I visualize the presence of Bodhisattva Moonlight (Candraprabha in Sanskrit, or Gakko Bosatsu in Japanese), known also as the Holy Moonlight Bodhisattva. I visualize a full moon hanging in the sky, radiating pure untainted light. Its light, endowed with unique cooling properties, shines upon me, protecting me while I am asleep and removing all illusory dreams and delusions produced from desire. The form of Bodhisattva Moonlight is a youthful lad dressed in a yellow robe, seated on a red lotus throne, holding a stem of closed lotus in his right hand while his left hand holds the stem of a lotus flower with small leaves, with a half moon disc seated above it.

In the Diamond Mandala, Bodhisattva Candraprabha is stationed in the outer northwest division. In the Womb Mandala, he is stationed in the Manjusri Court.

Here are the key instructions regarding visualization in Dream Mahamudra:

Visualize yourself lying in the lions sleeping posture, like the Buddha entering into Nirvana.

Visualize yourself lying in the lions sleeping posture, where the physical body disappears under a cloak of red light.

Visualize yourself lying in the lions sleeping posture, where no dust can contaminate your environment.

One literally sleeps in the realm of the Buddha, where one finds ones body expanding in size until it becomes space itself, where it is emptied of all things. Therefore, as it is emptiness itself, no dust can possibly land on ones body, for there is no body any dust can cling to in the first place.

This is the supreme heart essence of Dream Mahamudra, which is being revealed here. It is indeed a divine secret, a secret of the Highest Yoga Tantra.

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01 - Homage to the Lineage Holders of the Mahamudra
02 - Mahamudra is the Method of Attaining Buddhahood
03 - The Meditation of Vairocana
04 - Psychic Heat, Drops and Inner Fire
05 - The True Practice of Speech Purification
06 - The Fourfold Mindfulness of Nagarjuna
07 - Blessings of the Guru on Mahamudra
08 - Ekagrata Meditation
09 - The Circulation of Mantra and Breathing
10 - The Techniques of Mahamudra
11 - The Dual Functioning of Tranquillity and Contemplation
12 - The Spiritual State of Supreme Bliss
13 - The Spiritual State of Immovability
14 - The Mahamudra Practice of Dreaming
15 - Clear Light Mahamudra
16 - Mahamudra of Leaving the Physical Body
17 - The Bardo Deliverance Yoga of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
18 - Mahamudra of Opening the Crown
19 - The Samadhi of Observation
20 - The Mahamudra of Eternity, Bliss, True Self, and Purity
21 - The Mahamudra of Dispelling Delusion
22 - The Levels of Mahamudra
23 - The True Significance of the Master
24 - The Affection Practice of Ragaraja
25 - The Yoga of Great Secret Accomplishment
26 - The Practice of the Mantra of Vajrapani
27 - A Brief Introduction to the Many Practices of Tantrayana
28 - The Conclusion to the Highest Yoga Tantra and Mahamudra