At last, a post that's not about furry animals, real or imagined.
This morning I had a dream that led to an experience I can only call a direct perception of reality. These happen periodically. The dream itself was an obvious allegory; I was, in two different situations, an architect who was distressed at the way his buildings had been used. In the first, I was trying to think of how to collapse the roof to destroy the building, and I realized that first I'd better get the people out, and that the people who now owned the building wouldn't be too happy about it anyway. In the second I was in a mall, and I confided to my friend, "I didn't design all this so the neighborhood bank could be in the corner, and that video arcade over there (meanwhile thinking the arcade was OK, but the banks had to go)." My friend was very sympathetic, but I knew she knew I hadn't designed the space, but she loved me anyway and wasn't going to say anything.
Periodically throughout my life, I've had dreams in which I meet up with friends of mine outside of reality, to regroup before we plunge back into Life. It's usually the same people, some I knew in first grade, some who are dead, some whom I haven't seen in years. But the perception is the same: Our present reality is a game, but there is a reality outside of the game where we are real, and we can go back there if just for a moment to be reminded that we need to just hang in there and go on.
I remember that one of the most meaningful experiences I ever had, that has stuck with me over the years, came to me in an altered state when I was about 19 or 20, when I had kicked open the Doors of Perception in a way I would never do again. I suddenly realized that I and every one in the room were characters in a movie, and we could step outside of the movie for a moment, and take a break. Years later, when I saw The Matrix, it seemed to me the perception was coming from the same place (and I'm talking about the original movie, not the lame sequels).
So how does this square with my Zen practice? It doesn't really. In fact, the experiences I have and continue to have in this vein contradict the teachings of Zen,as opposed to the experience. Now I know that a lot of Zen teachers would say that these experiences of which I speak are just thoughts, just dreams, just phantasms of the mind. But the good teachers also tell you to believe in your own experience, not what they say, not what you read. If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him.
I came back to Zen after years away because I knew I had to participate in a disciplined practice to have the experiences of clarity I can have sometimes. I have practice other forms of Buddhism over the years, and I was able to have the same perceptions of truth -- always the same perceptions of the same truth which is fundamentally true, at least for me, but which I find very difficult to put into words -- after pursuing almost any form of regular meditation. I came back to Zen because it has the least tenets that I have to reject or thwart in order to pursue the path down which I am consistently drawn. When I have clear realizations now, I realize that I am perceiving the same truths I perceived years ago but have since forgotten. So yes for me that is truth, though I can't tell you what it is. There are no words. You just have to look for yourself.
I belong to a very eclectic Zen group with no teacher, so there are all kinds of beliefs, and lacks of belief, in there. We can all sit in harmony. Then someone does a reading, and nine times out of ten I disagree with the reading; it can be by the most esteemed Buddhist scholars, or a supposed quote from the Buddha himself. But for that moment, I am right by definition, and the reading is wrong.
So for the moment the only message I have is, my clear perception at this moment is that there is some point to all of this, but everything you have been told about it is a lie. All truths are there to mislead you. But there is something there, I know there is.
Excuse me, as the old bumpersticker said, I think my karma just ran over my dogma.