Debate Between Waking and Dream

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Mipham Rinpoche

Ju Mipham Namgyal Gyatso

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An Illusory Symphony

A Song of Debate Between Waking and Dream States

by Mipham Rinpoche

Oṃ svasti. I bow from the crown of my head to the noble deity Mañjushri! I shall now share the following discourse.

When it comes to the appearances of last night's good dream and the direct experience of today's waking state, they are similar in that both can produce attachment and similar in that both come to an end.

The dream state holds that what appears in dreams truly exists; the waking state holds that what appears while awake right now truly exists. Now Awake and Dreaming shall debate on who is right.

The overly exaggerating daytime state, Awake, declares, "Last night's dream, you are the appearance of delusion." To which, the magically displaying dream state, Dreaming, replies, "Not only I, but you too are the appearance of delusion."

Awake continues, "Right now is not a delusion, but truly exists. The proof itself is that objects of perception actually appear." To which, Dreaming replies, "But at night they actually appear too, so that is not conclusive."

Awake says, "But right now they are not here, so it is conclusive." To which Dreaming replies, "Today's appearances are not here tomorrow, so it is not conclusive."

Awake says, "I directly perceive with the senses, so it is conclusive." To which Dreaming replies, "But I too directly perceive, so it is not conclusive."

Awake says, "My appearances have a lengthy duration and are stable, so they are conclusive!" To which Dreaming replies, "But everything has a duration, whether short or long, in both our states!"

Awake says, "When you dream about rock mountains, you can walk unimpededly right through them! I will accept that you are true if this can be done while awake." To which Dreaming replies, "This could be done while awake under the right conditions as well, but even while asleep, without conditions it isn't possible."

Awake says, "But this can happen without conditions in a dream!" To which Dreaming replies, "If that were the case, why is it not always possible?"

Awake says, "You dream of deceased loved ones with affection, or of the birth of children and grandchildren that you do not have! I don't have such things." To which Dreaming replies, "I do happen to have such things."

Awake says, "If their presence does not establish their actual existence, how are children and so forth existent for you? The dead can come back to life and what doesn't exist can appear. Even though it exists for you, it's the same as if it were non-existent." To which Dreaming replies, "What has ceased for you, I do see; and what is non-existent for you, is born for me. So even though it does not exist for you, it's the same as if it were existent."

Awake says, "Although you enjoyed a feast of delicious food and drink last night, it doesn't ease your hunger or quench your thirst in the morning." To which Dreaming replies, "During the day, you may nap in a mansion, but this does not protect you from the rain in the following night's dream."

Awake says, "That has no significance because it's your own deluded projections!" To which Dreaming replies, "But feelings of thirst and so on are also based on deluded projections."

Awake says, "During the day you know that nighttime's dreams are false. How could dreaming establish that what is seen in the daytime is false?" To which Dreaming replies, "Nighttime experiences expose the falsehoods of the waking state. How could waking experiences disprove dream experiences?"

At this, Jñana,[1] the chief justice intervened, commissioning Profound Wisdom to arbitrate this topic of knowledge.

Then Profound Wisdom addressed the two debating parties like this, “Now, if you continue arguing in this way, many more details could be provided, but the evidence is already sufficient. I shall cross-examine what you have said.

"Both of you are true, and both false. If left unexamined, you each appear as if you truly exist. But when investigated, the hidden flaw of one exposes that of the other. In reality, you are the same.

"Both of you lack true existence. However, the dreamer admits that its delusion is delusion. So Dreaming is genuinely honest. Whereas you, Awake, are also delusional, but you deny being so. Still being attached to your position, you have not won your case.

"Even though Dreaming is more dull-witted, it has become more insightful. Even though Awake is brighter, it has become more ignorant.

"The difference of constancy or inconstancy is due to habituation. Further, there is no difference between your two results.

"Now, Awake, follow the example of Dreaming and merge your view and conduct to become the same as his."

Having thus spoken, Supreme Wisdom bound Awake with the rope of mindfulness and handed it to Dreaming, saying, "You two should not argue. Coexist harmoniously. If you are in conflict, it will bring the demon of calamity to the three-thousandfold universe; whereas if you are harmonious, you will serve as guides[2] throughout the three times. If you understand this, both of you will reap the benefits."

From then onward, both Awake and Dreaming understood that there was no difference between them, no one versus another. Treating everything that is seen and everything that is encountered equally, their dispute was resolved, and their perceptions became the same.

Together, Awake and Dreaming sang this slightly convoluted and nonsensical, improvised song:

To those who say we are dissimilar and different:
You are mistaken! We are similar and the same.
As few speak of this likeness, even fewer actually understand it.
If during the day, you know the waking state to be similar and equal [to a dream],
And if during the night, you do not mistake the dream to be a dream,
It will serve a very important purpose. Those who are confused about it, perceive [waking and dreaming] as distinct and alternating.
If one examines this carefully through the oral instructions of the King of Illusions[3] and does not merely pay lip service to the words,
Then from the joyful friendship between us,
They can taste the sweetness of honey without eating it,
Enjoy intoxicating playfulness without drinking,
And watch an amazing performance without preparations.
There is no key point of greater significance.
So everyone, keep this in your heart.

Then, both the waking and dream state became one. This oneness, moreover, merged with space. The mediator, Profound Wisdom [Prajña], presented the outcome to the Timeless Knowing King [Jñana] who was delighted, declaring, "Your counsel is very wise. From now on, may you gain freedom reaching to the ends of space, like the flight of the great garuda. I confer on you this royal means of indestructible space. Now, uphold it!

"There, the flowers in the garden of space bow and quiver with sweet nectar. Go and partake of it again and again; its source will never be depleted. There, the daughter of a barren woman contentedly plays in her perfect, beautiful form. I offer you this ageless queen consort to join in union and delight in. Like nectar compared to vomit, the joy of being in her company will release all grasping and desire towards the pleasures of existence."

It is said that then Profound Wisdom followed this instruction and eventually merged and dissolved into the Timeless Knowing King.

These symbolic words, ornamentally composed in rhythm, are easily understood with careful examination, but hard to understand without examination. They have great significance when they are contemplated, but hold little significance without contemplation.

This was written at Dechen Gawa Khyil by the one called Dhi.[4]

| Translated by Paloma Lopez Landry based on the oral explanation of Khentrul Lodro Thaye Rinpoche, 2023.


Tibetan Edition

mi pham rgya mtsho. "sad rmi rtsod pa'i glu sgyu ma'i rol mo dgu 'gyur" In gsung 'bum/_mi pham rgya mtsho. 32 vols. Chengdu: Gangs can rig gzhung dpe rnying myur skyobs lhan tshogs, 2007. (BDRC W2DB16631). Vol. 32: 652–656

Version: 1.0-20230918

  1. Timeless knowing, or yeshey (ye shes) in Tibetan.  ↩

  2. Guide (Tib. 'dren pa) is a common synonym for a buddha, because buddhas guide beings out of cyclic existence.  ↩

  3. Another name for the Buddha Shakyamuni.  ↩

  4. Mipham Rinpoche here refers to himself as Dhi.  ↩

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