You do not exist even in dream. You must sometimes have dreamed a dream within a dream. You dream that you are going to bed, you have fallen asleep and you are dreaming a dream.
There is an old Chinese story: A woodcutter was cutting wood in a jungle. He was tired, so he came down from the tree and fell asleep. He dreamed that nearby lay buried a great treasure of diamonds and gold in huge pots that were lightly covered with dirt. In his dream he thought that he would come at night and remove the treasure quietly. If he removed it in the daytime he might be caught. He was a poor man and the treasure was worth millions. When he awoke, he buried a stick to mark the place and returned home.
When it became dark, he went back to the spot. He found the stick in place but the pots had been removed. He went back and told his wife, “I don’t understand whether I dreamed about the treasure or actually saw it. The stick is there all right, and there are holes where the pots were, so it is certainly not just a dream. But someone has removed the pots.”
His wife replied, “It must be a dream. You must also have dreamed that you went out at night and saw the stick in the ground, and that there was an empty place where the pots were supposed to be. So go back to sleep and sleep in peace.”
But it happened that another man also dreamed that he saw these very pots buried in the same place, and that a woodcutter had buried a stick to mark the place. When he got up from his sleep he ran to the place. He found the stick in the ground and also the vessels underneath! He removed the pots and brought them home. He told his wife, “I cannot understand whether I dreamed a dream or I actually saw a vision. Whatever it is, I have brought the pots home. They are proof that it is not just a dream. I must actually have seen the woodcutter burying the stick and therefore I knew where the treasure was.”
His wife said, “The pots are here. That much is clear. But if you actually saw the woodcutter marking the spot, it isn’t right that we should keep this treasure. Take the pots to the king and let him decide.”
He was an honest man, so he took the pots to the king’s court where the woodcutter had already lodged a complaint. The king was perplexed. Finally he told them, “It is very difficult to decide whether you were asleep or awake, so I shall divide the treasure equally between you both, for the pots are very much there.” So he divided the treasure between them.
That night the king told his wife, “A very strange thing happened today: Two men dreamed the same dream. Now it is difficult to decide whether they dreamed or whether they really saw the treasure. But the pots of treasure were actually there, so I divided them equally between them.” The queen said, “Go to sleep, you must be dreaming.”
For thousands of years this was discussed in China – did they dream it or not? Who actually dreamed? But this is what happens by the time we reach the end of life. All of life seems like a dream. It is difficult to decide whether the stick was really there and whether the pots were really buried; whether the wife and children ever existed, or friends and foes; whether there was poverty or riches; whether there was conflict and competition; whether we really lost or won, were successful or unsuccessful. At the time of death all events pass before a man like a dream. Did we really live, or was it only a dream?
Those who have known say, “This is a dream dreamed with open eyes.” It is a dream because it has no relation to that which is. This is an intermediary state of imagination; it is merely a thought. It makes no difference whether you saw it when asleep or when awake. The characteristic of a dream is that it is here one moment and gone the next. At the time of death all is lost…
Excerpt from The True Name, Discourse #15
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