Chinese Dream Beliefs

The Chinese are a people who have a long history of investigated the subtle side of life, as can be seen in their knowledge of acupuncture and meditation practises. But they are also known for their inventiveness and inquiring minds, as seen in their discovery of gunpowder and also their astronomical observances. Their enquires were based on a their very ancient and long lasting culture.

So when we consider their beliefs about dreams we should see such beliefs as having their roots in such a cultural background. From this they developed theories about the mind and dreaming. They felt that mental and psychic inner events depended upon how the energy flowed or was blocked in them. They maintained that dreams arose out of two major influences – the p’o that was the physical aspect of the soul, and the hun that was the spiritual aspect of the soul. But also the black and the white, as shown in the above illustration, was seen interdependent and part of a whole, not seperate and antagonistic as much of Western culture define the dark and light side of human nature and life experience.

This very much reflects the insights William Blake spoke of when he said that human imagination as the highest form of the soul, and that “Man has no body distinct from his Soul; for that called Body is a portion of Soul, discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in this age.” He also felt, as is the teaching of China, that there should be a unity between  Heaven and Hell for perfection. The personality also begins to approach a state of bi-sexuality, being able to change its polarity according to circumstances. This we see in the symbol of yin and yang, where there is a unity between the light and the dark. “”The yin and yang, the dark and light”, is used to describe how polar opposites or seemingly contrary forces are interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other in turn. Opposites thus only exist in relation to each other. The concept lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (t’ai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung) and of I Ching divination.

One of the basic beliefs stated by Chinese about dreams as that the hun could separate temporarily from the body for night-time excursions to the land of the dead. But in fact there was only an appearance of separation which was due to the switching off of all physical sensations as we enter sleep. And the land of the dead was also a realisation that dreams and the experience after death are very similar. It was also believed that in dreams we can visit the souls of the dead and communicate with them and return with what they imparted.

Of course some writers about Chinese dreams have tended to write about meaning of dreams in the same manner as we find in popular superstitious dream dictionaries; in other word meanings to placate and soothe the fears of dreamers – ‘To dream of being abandoned means you will receive a gift’. But if we considered the basis already mentioned of yin and yang, we will see that it is a not the Chinese view of dreams as they hold enormous depths of meaning.

The Master Chuang-tzu (350 BC) is one of writers who appreciated the profundity of dreams and dreaming. He was a involved in the development of Taoism which sees everything is all a part of the interrelationship between the yin and yang, and believed that the unifying principle is the Tao. That is the experience behind all phenomena is something that in itself has no understandable definitions. It is like saying that something that is everything has a defined shape or character. If it is everything it cannot be something.

All of human life is a blending of these opposites, and yet is at base formless. It is the base of our own existence and can be known if we find our way through all the images, thoughts and emotions of dreams and achieve awareness of the state of dreamless sleep.

Dream images and themes should be see in the light of these opposites that need to be brought to balance. In each life situation there is a changing point. There is change, and within that change, if you understand it, there is possibility. There is not something defined, but there is possibility. Within the strength there is weakness. Within the weakness there is strength. Within movement  is stillness and within stillness is movement. In each life there is a point of conflict. It is between what you presently exist as and live in and what your desire is. Within that point of tension you could be overthrown. That is your weakness. You could be cast down at that point. Or at that point, if you swing carefully, there can be a transition, a new phase, a new rearrangement of the points of tension and weakness. That is the use of wisdom/insight/strength.

All life is like that. There are never situations in which points of change do not occur.

Everything rests upon a pivot. Everything is finely balanced, otherwise the universe would not exist. But it is a pivot of change, of constant change and movement, and nothing ever stands still. Nothing is ever formalised. It is ever shifting.

So in looking at your dreams from this standpoint they should be seen as dimensions of your consciousness, and they should be taken into you until the dimension is known. This can be done not by thinking about your dreams but by taking each thing into you and watching what dimension is known or felt. Also seek the opposite in order to balance. So in a dream of fear seek strength and courage, for fear is only one dimension of the many dimensions you exist as.

As it says an old Chinese we should be like the cat watching the mouse-hole. We should have no other thought but watching, and should not be too sharp-nor too dull. “If the training is undergone in this manner . . . it will be effective as time goes on, and when the cause comes to fruition, like a ripe melon that automatically falls, anything it may happen to touch or make contact with will suddenly cause the individual’s supreme awakening. This is the moment when the practitioner will be like one who drinks water and alone knows whether it is cold or warm. He becomes free of all doubts about himself and experiences a great happiness similar to that one feels in meeting one’s own father at the cross-roads.”

Thus, in the midst of ordinary outer life, one is suddenly caught up in an exciting inner adventure; and because it is unique for each individual, it cannot be copied or stolen.

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