Friday, June 01, 2007
Namaste is a sort of Hindu/Yogi term that people say to each other at the end of Yoga classes. It means something like "the spirit in me speaks to the spirit in you," and it's pronounced "Na-MAH-stay" ( so you don't run around saying "NAM-aced" to each other). It's kind of like what Zen people mean when they say Gassho, but not quite. It's what I feel compelled to say to you this morning after perhaps the most amazing, vivid, meaningful, and heartwarming dream I've ever had, in the last few hours.
I also wanted to offer this as sort of a coda to Jim's pieces I published earlier this week. He tells me people say to him all the time, how can you get out of bed in the morning if you're really this pessimistic. He says he just tries to laugh. But I think he's right, and I think it's important and meaningful to realize that through circumstances of birth, you're living at the end of Western civililzation as we know it, if not the world. It's helpful because knowing where and when you are now helps you know how to live in it, your present life.
But there is no reason to stop working toward making the world better, nor a reason for despair. Why? I can't really tell you, but you can find out for yourself.
I won't give you the dreams I've just had; trying to really explain a dream takes up a huge amount of time and space for even a short dream, because the language of dreams is not the language of the spoken or written word, and cannot be reduced to it. It was one of those rare occasions when I come up from a dream in such a way that I only gradually realize it's not reality, and am saddened by it. Among other things, it gave me a chance to talk and hang out with my mother, whose birthday is a week from tomorrow and who died a little over four years ago. It was large and complex and involved a lot of people I've known throughout my life. I know you must've had those and with luck remembered them.
The most significant immediate impact of this dream was that in its process I understood the meaning of the Buddhist meaning of Rebirth as opposed to the Hindu idea of Reincarnation, for the first time. I'd always thought this term was a lame gibberish response to the Reincarnation concept, which was pretty universal in the time of the Buddha. I won't belabor it here, because words by even the most enlightened and intellectual teachers had never made any sense to me or led to any understanding; I could resproduce or respond to them with my own rational mind, but intuitively they felt like bullshit. Briefly, Reincarnation means the recurrence of a soul through time in different incarnations. Since one of the basic premises of Buddhism is that there is no soul, there is nothing to be reborn. Yet clearly in early Buddhist teachings, human existence did not end after one lifetime. You see the problem.
And I can't give you the answer, because it's not verbally possible. I can hint that it has a bit to do with the nature of time, but even that's misleading; the rest is in the dream language, which can't be spoken. See?
I'm not saying I had an enlightenment experience here, any more than we all have little ones every day. But my own understanding was deepened. And I can tell you that even the Christians are not entirely wrong, nor the Hindus.
It would be easier to tell you what I understood about the nature of dreams: They are how the different awarenesses that make up "you" talk to each other, learn from each other and unify. And I don't mean any huge cosmological thing here, although that could be involved too, if you look at it that way. I just mean the little awarenesses. Did you ever realize that you know something that you couldn't have known? Or how your car seems to drive itself home sometimes? Little awarenesses, like how you have a rock in your shoe as you sprint the last five yards. Or that perfect visual image you suddenly have of a house you haven't seen since childhood. You have more than one "mind" and the more they come together the more you "grow."
Against my better judgment, to make your life better and to make mine better when I interact with you, I would advise this: Pursue your zazen, or your yoga, or your religion if your religion is really deeper understanding and not just abuse of mind, body and soul (and how would you know?). And make sure you sleep enough so you can dream. And be kind to the people and the animals and even the things around you, because rest assured, you'll see them again. Even if you're not you and they're not them. Compassion isn't bullshit and it isn't being "nice," it's just the only real way to deal with your life.
But don't trust me in this. Rest assured, you're learning in your own way. I just had to try in vain to express it. And try to relax, because even when it's all really fucked, it's OK. Namaste.