The Urban Dharma Newsletter... January 13, 2004


In This Issue: Rev. Heng Sure - 3 Steps and a Bow

1. "How will the world be better if I don't change myself ?"
2. With One Heart - An Evening with Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au
...by Pavithra Krishnan
3. A Page from the Diary of a Walking Pilgrim
...Disciple Kuo Chen
4. A Photo Album of Bhikshus Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au - 3 Steps and a Bow
5. A Buddhist Approach to Dreams
- Jung and Junti - Dreams West and East ...By Rev. Heng Sure
6. Temple/Center/Website- of the Week:
Wonderfully Absurd Temple - (Miao Miao Miao) - Chinese Avant-Garde Web Art
7. Book/CD/Movie Review: With One Heart Bowing to the City of 10,000 Buddhas (Nine Volumes) - $63.00 -
ISBN 0917512553


1. "How will the world be better if I don't change myself ?"


"How will the world be better if I don't change myself ?" As American born Buddhist disciples of Master Hsuan Hua, Rev. Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au took a 800 mile bowing pilgrimage, starting from South of LA. Every three steps, one full bow to the ground to spread compassion in the world. Every three steps. "We get up at 4 am and pray and meditate till 10 pm. We eat one vegetarian meal a day."

An awe-inspiring account of their journey, from encounters with violent minds to compassionate minds to beer bottles and eggs thrown at them to meals offerred to them everyday, their story speaks volumes to many issues we face in our daily lives! And their response of compassion in all situations is nothing short of amazing. Heng Sure was silent throughout and Heng Chau spoke little to the outside world but they wrote journals and letters.

Journal Entry:

Great Compassion comes when you stop picking and choosing among living beings you cross over. What are these beings? How do you take them across? The Sixth Patriarch's Sutra explains that the living beings you take across are just the thoughts in your mind, the thoughts that arise from your self nature. WHen the Bodhisattva really does his work he crosses over all his thoughts without discriminating among them. He can't take a vacation at any time. He has vowed to take all beings (thoughts) across to emptiness. The bodhisattva separates from thought and leaves defilement:

The sentient one when enlightened
leaps out of the dust.

His six perfections and myriad practices
are nurtured at all times.

-- Master Hua
Ten Dharma Realms

Great compassion can manifest when one realizes that the self nature is basically without any differences. It's all one and the same substance and he is part of it; it's in the self-nature that he connects with all that lives. This is where he does the work of taking all beings across, taking all thoughts back to their source.

When a single thought is not produced
The entire substance manifests.

The Bodhisattva practices Great Compassion, and as he practices, his realization increases. There is no realization without practice, guided by vows. When he vows to take all living beings across, his vow is the beginning of compassion. When he sends all thoughts back to the self nature, that is actual practice. Why? Because living beings are thoughts and thoughts are living beings.

The master wrote this verse:

Truly recognize your own faults;
Don't discuss the faults of others;
Others' faults are just my own.

Being of the same substance
is called Great Compassion.

Your own faults from failing constantly to take across living beings. Being lazy and not working diligently is a big fault; it is not the practice of the Bodhisattva.

Don't discuss the faults of others. "Others" are just thoughts in your own head. What you see as a fault in someone else comes from your discriminating mind.

Others' faults are just my own. You should return the light all the time. Shine the light on the projections of the mind and get to work crossing them over.

Being of the same substance is called Great Compassion. All thoughts come from the self-nature. When they filter up into the mind they get discriminated into good and bad, right and wrong. When the Bodhisattva practices Prajna wisdom and wipes away all thoughts as they arise, he is returning to his self-nature, to the original, fundamentally pure substance that he shares with all living beings. This is truly taking all living beings across.

"At all times he nurtures them." He must do it constantly for Great Compassion to manifest.

"At all times" in the Buddhist sense means from thought to thought, minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, week to week, through months, years, life to life, kalpa to kalpa. Time loses its meaning. For the Bodhisattva who has vowed to save all living beings, one thought of purity, one act of Great Compassion extends throughout all time and space to the ends of the Dharma realm. What could be more liberated, more independent than the scope of Great Compassion?

Practices are the measure of the Bodhisattva. In order to stay on the Middle Way he must maintain his Dharma-methods no matter what circumstances arise. If a good state appears he cannot turn from his practice. If an unpleasant scene develops, the Bodhisattva nurtures his practice all the same, taking tender care of his most valuable possession, the jewelled Dharma-raft that can ferry all beings from suffering to the other shore of bliss.

2. With One Heart - An Evening with Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au ...by Pavithra Krishnan


Rev. Heng Sure ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1976. For the sake of world peace, he undertook a "three steps, one bow" pilgrimage from South Pasadena to Ukiah, traveling more than eight hundred miles, while observing a practice of total silence. Rev. Heng Sure obtained an M.A. in Oriental Languages from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. He serves as the director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery and teaches on the staff at the Institute for World Religions. He is actively involved in interfaith dialogue and in the ongoing conversation between spirituality and technology.

Rev. Heng Sure
Berkeley Buddhist Monastery & Institute for World Religions
2304 McKinley Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94703

Three steps and a bow. That's how they walked it. Two monks on a pilgrimage of peace that took them through a series of wide-ranging encounters and extraordinary experiences -- within and without.

In May of 1977 Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au started their unique journey from downtown L.A. to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talamage near Ukiah. A journey of more than 800 miles that took two years and nine months to complete. They bowed in peace, and for peace. Touching their foreheads to the ground, opening their hearts with one wish for the world. Peace. For everyone, everyday, everywhere.

Three steps ... and a bow.

More than 20 years later, they sit in a living room amidst a small gathering. And for the first time since that journey ended, they speak of it together, sharing the stories and the wisdom, the joys and the frustrations. What shines through is a compassion and humility beyond words.

When Heng Sure begins speaking, he asks one question: "What brings us here tonight?" He answers it himself. “Curiosity from the heart,” he says. And he is right. All of us came with questions inside. Insistent internal questions -- But why? But how? Because what these two did is not easily or immediately comprehended by our minds.

Heng Sure tells us it was their introduction to the Buddhadharma through practice. "Road- tested you might say," he twinkles. He talks of the pilgrimage having been a space where they could more closely follow how the microworld of the self influences the macroworld -- not only the one you encounter, but the world that extends beyond. On their travels they took no food with them, relying instead on the compassion of strangers in strange towns. It was a humbling exercise in dependence and vulnerability that led to a kind of trust and sensitivity. A heightened awareness of what you're putting out and what's coming back.

He tells us a story then. Heng Sure is a wonderful storyteller -- warm, funny and self-deprecating. This was the story of Heng Sure the Sacred Monk out on the highway, bowing for world peace and ... thinking about chocolate cake and a can of Pepsi. It is the job of a meditator to watch his thoughts, and Heng Sure watched them through a cycle of greed, anger, stupidity and repentance. There was greed in his desire, anger in the can of Pepsi that came flying out a car window making straight for his head, stupidity in the broken glass in which it resulted, and repentance in his heart as he came closer to understanding how the choices we make determine the quality of life we encounter.

"Was that a play written by the Universe for Heng Sure the Angry Monk?" he asks. "I don't know."

But the story isn't about crime and punishment. It is about recognizing causes and their effects. It is -- to me -- about an awareness and attentiveness to one's thoughts and actions and how they come back to you. Marty would later say that the more peaceful they became inside the better people treated them.

Marty Verhoeven -- Heng Cha'u -- no longer in a monk's robes but with the same wisdom and compassion. Where Heng Sure stopped, he took over. A beguiling, irrepressible speaker -- and a keen mind. Very. Heng Cha'u was the Dharma Protector on the journey. As Heng Sure was under a vow of silence, Marty handled the provisions, the press, the police -- the details. Man Friday, he calls himself. Marty is also highly skilled in the martial arts. "Yes, I was the Hu Fa," he says, "the Dharma Protector. That means you protect ... with Dharma," he chuckles. "I didn't really understand that." Thinking it only necessary and natural to take a weapon or some form of protection with them, Heng Cha'u approached his teacher. He was instructed to take with him the Four Hearts. No dazzling defense moves or surefire weapons. Walking into a troubled world of rage, violence and turmoil, Marty's protection was ... the Four Hearts.

So that's what this black-belt and his companion walked forth with. "If you use these you will find them inexhaustible," their teacher said. And they were sorely tested on this. Again and again and again. People threw stones, punches, insults, threats. Walking through some of the toughest parts of town, they encountered dope-pushers, alcoholics, hardened street gangs -- troublemakers at large -- aching for an excuse, any excuse to fight. Looking down the barrel of a gun and meeting it with the Four Hearts, that takes a certain sort of strength, an integrity of spirit and unwavering conviction. That is what Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au took with them. They say that is what kept them alive.

"When you're bowing, everything is in a different time," says Heng Sure. "Things look different. Things change. And for sure the Dharma comes alive when you need it." How else to explain the timely interventions, the woman who stepped out of a bar announcing that the drinks were on her just as a crowd of aggressive drunks were getting ready for some roughhousing, or the man who drove up to point out that the fennel being gathered for fennel tea wasn't fennel at all but hemlock -- and enough to drop a cow at that, or the Hells Angels waylaid in the nick of time by the teacher himself, who spent a couple of hours in the monastery and came out saying, "We promised the old fellow to take care of you, so not to worry." How to explain the children who gave them their lunches on their way to school, or the people who drove miles to give them a bag of groceries ... the stories go on, they are endless. They illustrate how remarkable, how very unique this pilgrimage was.

But then Marty says something that brings you to a dead halt. "Sitting here, one of the things I felt was that none of you guys is any different from us. You wrestle with the same things."

Taking that in can take your breath away. Because it's one thing to look at the two of them in wonder and awe of their journey and its motivations, but it's quite another to realize that your life and your road are not that separate from theirs. That yours, too, from this perspective, is a bowing pilgrimage.

"There is no distinction between bowing on the highway and the lives we are leading now," he says. At the start of their journey they were told to be on the road as if they'd never left the monastery. When they returned they were told to be in the monastery as if they'd never left the road.

Someone would later ask about renunciation, about spiritual desire, and whether that too had to be overcome. "Desire's a single flavor," says Marty. And Heng Sure recalls how early on his teacher would tell him repeatedly: "Forget the harvest. As much as you seek, that's how much you'll be obstructed. Don't seek Enlightenment. Just bow."

Before the close of the evening, there is the Dedication of Merit. Heng Sure tells us it is a gesture of grace, where you share the blessings all the goodness the merit you have within. You send it out to the world with a wish for wherever you see need for wholesome change -- specific, general, personal or universal. "The spirit of giving sends the gift, the prayer for well-being, throughout the world, to all creatures as far as our minds extend."

On his guitar Heng Sure plays the tune to which the Dedication has been set. I am not sure what I am feeling, but it’s overwhelming. This is what they did; at the end of every day, these two, having walked long hours in their microworlds, they'd turn it back, dedicate it outwards, give it to the greater world.

We, who were not part of that journey, listened to them; and listening, it became impossible to remain untouched, unmoved – not implicated.

You realize that they walked for the people you meet on the streets, and the one's you've never seen and never will, they walked for people they knew and the one's they didn't. They walked for me -- and for you. And in that sense all of us were a part of their journey.

There is a rush of bewildered gratitude and a stunned feeling that comes from trying to hold the enormity of what they did in your head and in your heart.

"There are many ways of bowing," Heng Ch'au has said. "You've got to be creative."

We caught a glimpse of a deep and true wisdom tonight. And there seems to be only one thing left for us to do.

Just bow.

-- January 16th, 2002 - Santa Clara, CA

3. A Page from the Diary of a Walking Pilgrim ...Disciple Kuo Chen


"Three steps and a bow, walking pilgrimage," wants to stop wars, disasters, calamities, and suffering of all kinds. Our handout sheet that explains our work says, "If our bowing is sincere, then calamities and suffering will be reduced, and wars and destructive weapons will gradually disappear.

Americans are not unique in the mental preparation for killing. Ever society has respected the soldier castes: India's Kshatriyas, Japan's Samurai, Rome's Centurions, the British Navy--all have maintained the sanction for bloodshed. Civilizations without armies are the exception. One can make a case that people are violent and savage by nature. I took killing for granted until a few years ago, when I began to question it. "Where did all the disasters and misery of this world come from? I wondered. "Is it our lot as people to kill? I found my answer. My heart awoke to the Buddha's way of kindness and compassion when I read these words written by Ch'an Master Hua in Water-Mirror Reflecting Heaven: "There are so many wars! How sorrowful! How painful! Every single disaster comes from acts of killing ... and acts of killing from the mind ... What is the present time? It is the time of the imminent extinction of living beings. As we look around the Dharma Realm, we see that countries battle each other, families contend with each other, individuals struggle against one another, on and on until great wars between world systems arise ... I hope that the leaders of all countries will embody the preference heaven and earth have for life, establish good government and dispense justice, banish quarreling and dispense with greed, ignore themselves and help others, benefit themselves by benefiting others, see the Universe as one family, and see all people as one person. An ancient Worthy said - If anyone is killed, it is as if I killed him myself..."

What a powerful statement against war! Here was the solid principle I sought. How clear-cut and simple: don't kill. See all people as kinfolk. It illumined our upside-down preference for death over life.

disciple Kuo Chen (Heng Sure)

4. A Photo Album of Bhikshus Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au - 3 Steps and a Bow


Bhikshus Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au who made a "Three Steps, One Bow" pilgrimage from Gold Wheel Temple in Los Angeles to the City of 10,000 Buddhas, located 110 miles north of San Francisco, from May 1977 to October 1979. Their purpose is to influence humankind to cease all hatred and hostility, to stop the creation of destructive weapons and to work to prevent disasters, wars, and suffering of all kinds.  The monks are dedicating their work to all beings everywhere.

5. A Buddhist Approach to Dreams - Jung and Junti - Dreams West and East ...By Rev. Heng Sure


In graduate school, I wanted to look deeper into my dreams so I joined a Jungian dream circle in Berkeley. A group of ten dreamers kept journals and told our dreams to each other. The group was moderated by a Jungian analyst who dispensed insightful guidelines for us to use on our own. The experience was moderately enlightening; my dreams became a wider door to enter and explore for self-knowledge. Later I was thrilled to discover discussion of dreams in the Buddhist texts I was translating. The excitement was initially short-lived, because the sutras said, “Dreams are false and illusory.” Trying to build a bridge the West to the East and merge Jung’s ideas with the Buddha’s approach to dreams was, no matter how unwise, nearly irresistible. Both Jung and the Buddha were consummate psychotherapists, both were compassionate and practical teachers of dreamers. The major difference seems to be that Jung lacked religious faith; he was bound by his senses and he saw dreams as a means of achieving peace and psychic wholeness in this life. Dreams for Jung opened a door into the individuated Self. For the Buddha, dreams opened a door into the ultimately empty and selfless nature of all dharmas. This emptying out of the self in turn made possible the liberating vision of Great Compassion, which sees all beings as sharing the same body and substance.

We know how the Buddha and certain Indian Buddhists in the past dealt with their dreams because detailed writings still exist in the scriptures and commentaries. This article will present a section from a particular Buddhist scripture, The Sutra on the Junti Bodhisattva Dharani, Spoken by the Mother of Seven Kotis of Buddhas (T.1077), which lists specific dream images. To put the Buddhist treatment in context, I will present dream categories from a Buddhist commentary, the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, called the Ta Chih Tu Lun, (T. 1509) “The Great Wisdom That Crosses Over,” by Nagarjuna Bodhisattva (dates uncertain), and his Chinese translator, Venerable Kumarajiva (343-413 CE). Nagarjuna explains the Buddha’s wisdom-texts by drawing from an encyclopedic knowledge of the traditional lore of Indian culture, customs and literature. His presentation of dreams represents the available knowledge of third and fourth century India. After translating and investigating some of the methods that appear in the Junti Sutra and the Ta Chih Tu Lun, I will present some of the material the ancients passed down surrounding dreams and draw some conclusions. I will mention only in passing the ideas of Carl Jung regarding the value and the purpose of dream analysis. The exercise can make the dream-wisdom of the ancients relevant to us who seek to awaken today.

Part One: Two Methods of Dealing with Dreams

A. European Approach to Dreams

It is said that the Swiss psychologist Carl Jung in his lifetime analyzed over 80,000 dreams–. Dreams for Jung played an important complementary role in the psyche. The general function of a dream is to try to restore our psychological balance by producing material that reestablishes, in a subtle way, the total psychic equilibrium. Jung approached dreams as living realities that must be experienced and observed carefully to be understood. He considered Freud’s method of “free association” as incomplete. “Free association will bring out all your complexes, but hardly ever the meaning of a dream. To understand the dream’s meaning, I must stick as close as possible to the dream images.” During analysis, Jung kept asking the dreamer, “What does the dream say?”

One answer comes from Jeremy Taylor, a well-known authority on Jungian dream work who postulates five basic assumptions about dreams: 1) that all dreams come in the service of health and wholeness; 2) that no dream come simply to tell the dreamer what he or she already knows; 3) that only the dreamer can say with certainty what meanings a dream may hold; 4) that there is no such thing as a dream with only one meaning; and 5) that all dreams speak a universal language, a language of metaphor and symbol. The thrust of Taylor’s and Jung’s approach to dreams is individual-centered, a particularly Western concern. For serious-minded seekers of truth via dream-work the Jungian approach helps you puzzle out the integration of your individual psyche with the analyst as best you can, for a happier and more fulfilled life in this world. This goal is, nonetheless, far more sophisticated than the superficial “good and bad fortune” question that the great majority of people in the world ask their dreams.

B. An Indian Approach to Dreams

When Buddhists in India dreamed they dealt with their dreams in a variety of ways. Certain types of dreams occurred frequently enough to the ancients to merit listing as separate categories for dream-analysis. The categories show the following different kinds of dreams. The most distinctive use, for Buddhists, was

1) seeing dreams as a simile for emptiness, sunyata, the ultimate nature of all things.

2) seeing dreams as portents of things to come, which overlapped with another type of dream:

3) as messages or teaching by the gods, spirits or bodhisattva.

4) Buddhists in India and in China thought, like Freud and Jung, that it was possible to diagnose aspects of the dreamer’s mental and physical health from the symbols of dreams.

5) The theoretical psychology school of Buddhism, the Vijnanavada (“Consciousness-only”) school called dreams “monkey-sleep,” a function of the “isolated mind-consciousness”.

6) Buddhist psychologists saw dreams as the return at night of things thought on during the day.

7) Finally, Nagarjuna explained dreams as a standard for testing the quality of a bodhisattva’s vows.

Dreams appear in the earliest Buddhist writings, and played no less an important role in Buddhism than in our lives today. Being human, Buddhists have always slept; and when asleep, they dream. While dreaming they perceived the same disembodied shadows and disconnected images as we do. After waking they sought the meaning of their dreams. The diviners and prognosticators of India and China, being culture-bound individuals, interpreted the dreams according to the modes and methods available to them. Those methods were in some respects suggestive of methods used today, in some respects they were quite different. Dreams are very democratic; both rich and poor alike dream at night. But when trying to analyze what dreams meant, it is important to know who the dreamer was. The educated, literate, elite certainly had more options in their systems of dream analysis. Dreams could be messages from ancestors and Sages more often for a prince or a scholar because they had a concept of history. Uneducated individuals seemed to turn to formula-books of ready-made dream interpretations to explain the symbols of dreams. Generic do-it-yourself recipes, such as Aunt Sally’s Dream Book and Horoscope Love Advisor that we find at the supermarket check-out counter had its counterpart in most cultures. Dream interpretation formulas answer some superficial questions, to be sure, but they tend to center on love, money, and bad luck. Nagarjuna’s Ta Chih Tu Lun gives us the following important patterns that occur regularly in dreams:

1. Dreams as a simile for emptiness.

The most common use of dreams in the literature of the Mahayana, or “Northern School” of Buddhism in China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam is to see dreams as a simile for sunyata, (emptiness) the hollow core at the heart of all component dharmas (things). For example, in the well-known Vajra (Diamond) Sutra, the Buddha taught that:

“All conditioned dharmas, are like a dream, like an illusion, like a bubble, like a shadow, like a dewdrop, like a lightening flash; you should contemplate them thus.”

Dreams symbolize the changing and impermanent nature of all things known to the senses. Sights, sounds, smells, flavors, sensations of touch and thoughts are all dream-like, fleeting, and ultimately unobtainable. By pursuing and grasping material things or ephemeral states, we create the causes for misery and suffering. Those desire-objects are not real and permanent. When they break up and move on, we will experience grief, if we can’t let go. The hallmark of living beings is that we are “sleeping, “ unawakened to the truth of the emptiness and impermanence at the nature of conditioned things. This covering of sleep and lack of awareness is called “ignorance,” and it makes us in our waking state, from the Buddha’s viewpoint, look as if we are dreaming.

Bubbles burst, shadows run from light, dewdrops vanish by noon without a trace, lightning roars and vanishes, and dreams leave us at dawn. To continually perceive such things as real locks us into the endless cycle of birth and death. The Buddha was not simply giving us an evocative metaphor, a literary device or a philosophical point. He felt related to all beings, and in his compassion he was pointing out to his family a way to escape the prolonged misery of affliction and death. The dream simile occurs over and over in the sutras to teach about emptiness.

In the Ta Chih Tu Lun dreams occur as a didactic teaching device. Sariputra, the foremost Arhat in wisdom, learns the true application of the emptiness theory through the simile of dreams. Dreams are like ordinary waking reality in that both are empty and false. There is nothing gained by seeking out or clinging to any thought or mark that distinguishes the two states.

With the exception of message-dreams and portent dreams, two categories that we will look at below, for the Buddha’s monastic disciples who were intent on cultivating the mind full-time, dreams were considered as illusory and false, no different from the illusions of waking-time reality.

2. Message-dreams or teaching by the gods, spirits or Bodhisattvas;

Dreams can be a message from a Bodhisattva, an ancestor, or a god, The intent of the dream may be to test the dreamer’s resolve: is he non-retreating (avaivartika) from Bodhi (enlightenment) even when sleeping? The purpose of the dream visit may be to communicate information vital to the dreamer’s well-being. The Buddha himself had five dreams of catastrophes, falling stars and worlds in collision just before his enlightenment. The dreams were sent to him not by a benevolent Dharma-protector, but by an malevolent sorcerer, intent on disrupting the Buddha’s samadhi and preventing his awakening.

3. Prescient or Portent Dreams

Prescient or portent dreams that predict the future are the only category of dreams that the ancients considered real or valuable in itself. Based on the records we have, it seems that dreamers in the past wanted to know more or less what dreamers want to know now: whether their dream augured good luck or misfortune. The office of dream diviner was esteemed, and nobility and commoner alike, waking after a dreamy sleep, sought to know the meaning of their dreams.

4. Aspects of the dreamer’s physical and mental health

Although according to the sutras, dreams were considered ultimately false, Indian Buddhists also used dreams as an aid to diagnosing the dreamer’s state of health. According to ancient Indian Ayurvedic medical systems, dreams of fire indicate an imbalance of the fire element, dreams of flying indicate an excess of water, etc. This methods of diagnosis suggest similarities with Chinese dream interpretation systems found in one of the earliest Chinese medical texts, the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine. (Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen). The symbols of the dream have value as indicators of health or illness.

5. “Monkey-sleep,” a function of the isolated consciousness;”

The Consciousness-only School (Vijnanavada) looked into the nature of mental phenomena. That school assigned the function of dreams to a part of the mind they called the “solitary intellectual consciousness.” Dreams share that classification with insanity, twilight sleep, “monkey-sleep” the marginal consciousness of drowsiness, and the mind in samadhi.

6. The return in dreams of things experienced during the day

Dreams were understood from a psychological perspective, as a replaying of the contents of consciousness. What the dreamer experienced during the day could return at night as a dream image. Dreams, although considered as empty and false can still produce a physical reaction, as when a dream-vision of a romantic encounter can produce a wet-dream in sleep.

7. A standard for testing the quality of a cultivator’s vows

Dream visions of suffering, such as the sight of beings in the hells will move a true Bodhisattva to make compassionate vows to rescue those beings. Great Bodhisattvas would sometimes send dreams on purpose to novice Bodhisattvas, to stimulate them to make the great Bodhi Resolve. If a Bodhisattva cultivates compassion in a dream, then the dream vision of rescuing from suffering may return to him when he/she is awake. The dream reminds the Bodhisattva of his ability to endure suffering on behalf of others. Since dreams and waking are thought to be the same, then the Bodhisattva gets inspired to repeat his dream-performance during the day. In light of the Perfection of Wisdom, the theory of emptiness is merely a raft, an expedient device to help us ford the river of suffering ourselves and to then to help others attain bliss.

Dream interpretation as an index to the integration of one’s character, dreams as clues to mental health, or as the high road to self-understanding was not unknown, but seems to have been, as it is today, an answer to a question that relatively few people were asking.

The category of dreams as a test of the dreamer’s good roots is evidenced by the Junti Bodhisattva’s Sutra. Now we will look at a selection from the sutra that deals with dreams.

Part Two: A Section From the Junti Bodhisattva Sutra on Dreams

The Junti Dharani Sutra, Spoken by the Mother of Seven Kotis of Buddhas Thus I have heard, at one time, at one time, the Bhagavan was in the city of Sravasti, In the Jeta Grove, in the Garden of the Orphans and the Solitary, together with a great gathering of Bhikshus, and Bodhisattvas, as well as the gods, dragons, and the Eight-fold Pantheon, who encircled him on all sides. Out of sympathy and pity for living beings of future times, who will be poor in blessings and full of bad karma, he entered into the Junti Samadhi and spoke a mantra that came from the mother of seven ages of Buddhas of the past. The mantra runs like this:

Na Mwo, Sa Dwo Nan, San Myau San Pu Two, Jyu Jr Nan, Da Jr Two, Nan, Je Li Ju Li Jun Ti, Swo Pe He.

If there are Bodhisattvas among the clergy or the laity who commit the heaviest of offenses for limitless eons, even be it the Ten Evil Deeds, the Four Unpardonable Offense, the Five Cardinal Sins, and offenses that merit retributions, if they cultivate the practice of reciting and holding mantras, and can recite this mantra fully 900,000 times, all such offenses will be wiped away. Wherever they live, they will meet the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, they will enjoy abundant wealth, and will meet many opportunities to leave the home life and enter the Sangha.

If they are Bodhisattva’s practicing at home, and their cultivation of the moral precepts is firm and non-retreating, should they recite this Dharani, they will always be reborn in the heavens. If they appear in the human realm they will always be part of the kings clan. They will avoid falling into the evil destinies and will get to draw near worthy sages. They will be revered and respected by the Devas, who will protect them and bless them. If they get involved with worldly matters, they will not encounter disasters. Their appearance will be proper and handsome, their voice majestic and calming. Their mind will be free of worry.

If the person is a Bodhisattva among the Sangha, they will be replete with pure precepts. They will recite sutras in the three periods of the day and they will practice the Dharma as it is taught. The Siddhis (states) that they seek in this life will appear before them in samadhi and wisdom. They will realize the (Ten) Stages and the (Six) Paramitas will be complete. they will certify straight-away to Unsurpassed, Right and Equal Bodhi.

If they recite this mantra ten thousand times, then in their dreams they will see the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and they will dream that they spit out a black substance. Even if the dreamer has committed serious karmic offenses, and they can recite the mantra twenty thousand times, they will see the heavens and the celestial monasteries and halls, or perhaps they will see themselves climbing a tall mountain, or climbing a tree; or see themselves bathing in a large pool; or see themselves soaring aloft; or playing together with maidens from the heavens; or see themselves speaking Dharma, or shaving away hair and beard, or eating “milk-rice”; or see themselves drinking white sweet dew. They may in a dream see themselves crossing a great ocean or river or stream; or ascending a lion’s-throne; they may see a Bodhi-tree; or see themselves riding a boat.

They may see a Shramana, or a layman, or a white-robed person wearing a yellow turban. Or maybe they will see the sun and moon, or virgin lads and maiden girls, or see a ripe fruit tree over head. They may see a black-hued hero whose mouth spits out flames and smoke, and in a struggle with him, they emerge victorious. He may see an evil-tempered horse or cow, that wants to gore him. The mantra recitor, whether he hits or scolds, will cause the animal to run in fear. Or he may see himself eating milk-porridge or butter-porridge, or he may see Sumana Flowers, or a vision of a king. If someone fails to dream of visions such as these, you should know that this person in a past life committed the five cardinal sins. He then should recite anew, 700,000 times and then these visions will occur to him. Then he can be assured that his karma has been dispelled. Once the karma is over, he will accomplish the former practices. If he then paints an image according to the Dharma, and as is appropriate to the Dharma, makes offerings to it either three times or four times or six times, seeking mundane or world-transcending siddhis, up to and including Unsurpassed Bodhi, all such wishes will be completely fulfilled.

A) Discussion of The Junti Sutra

The Junti Sutra is based on a Bodhisattva’s vows. The purpose of the Sutra is to provide an expedient method to erase evil karma and to create good roots. Junti is a powerful, compassionate Bodhisattva who lives in the heavens and is known primarily by the mantra that is associated with his/her name. Like Bodhisattva Guan Yin (Japan: Kannon, or Tibet: Chen Re Zi), Junti Bodhisattva’s iconography shows many hands and eyes, each one holding a tool for crossing over the afflictions of living beings. Like Gwan Shr Yin, Junti’s image transcends gender. Neither male or female, Junti blends both compassion and courage. Junti is called the “mother of seven kotis (myriads) of Buddhas.” In many respects Junti’s practice seems to belong to the esoteric, Vajrayana school, in fact her great compassion makes her a favorite of the Mahayana School as well. Junti explains dreams, and Buddhists turn to her to find out what last nights reverie meant.

Junti explains dreams in connection with a mantra that is associated with her Dharma-door. Mantras are sounds of power, seed-syllables spoken in Buddha-language. When you recite any of the syllables , for instance, Om (Chinese. “nan”) or Namah (Chinese. “namo”) the sound acts like a password, like a command, to grant any positive wish. The spiritual beings associated with that syllable act on your behalf to do your bidding. Mantra-sounds were said by the ancients to have the power to create or destroy. There are certainly positive, “white magic” mantras, as well as not so wholesome, “black magic” spells. Junti Bodhisattva’s mantra is decidedly wholesome and positive. When one recites her mantra, If the reciter’s mind is pure and unselfish, Junti guarantees that the desired results will come to pass.

The sutra exists because the Buddha Shakyamuni knew about the vows made by Junti Bodhisattva. Out of compassion, the Buddha spoke the mantra. He knew that living beings in the future (i.e., us, now) will have spent our bank account of blessings and will pile up bad karma. By judicious and vigorous use of the mantra’s power we can reshape our karmic balance, reverse the debit of evil retribution, and engineer a future of blessings, wisdom, and happiness.

The connection with dreams occurs with the teaching that whoever recites the mantra the right number of times will be able to eradicate bad karma. The sutra gives us dream symbols that will be seen by one who recites Junti Bodhisattva’s mantra. Heavy, bad karma can obstruct a person and prevent the vision of the dreams. Once the person cultivates the mantra and neutralizes the bad karma, the dream symbols should appear.

We need to recite or “hold” the mantra over and over from Na Mwo to Swo He. Junti’s mantra is to be recited while visualizing its Sanskrit letters revolving on a two-sided metal mirror. One side is Sanskrit devanagari writing, the other side is Chinese characters that represent the sounds.

Dreams are the sign that indicates the invisible balance of good and evil on our karma-ledger. The dreams symbols that the Buddha lists include visions of purging, bathing, good companions, transformation from defilement to purity, passage over boundaries, ascending in space and climbing mountains. One sees the eating of pure foods, healing, auspicious visions of nature, escape from danger, and scenes of beauty. The feelings that accompany the dreams will be completely soothing, there will be a sense of blissful relief, free of anxiety, alarm and doubts.

Among the types of dreams that we found listed in the Ta Chih Tu Lun, the series of dream images that appear in the Junti Sutra clearly belong to the category of dreams that index good roots, and show the dreamer’s state of cultivation. By using the Dharma-door of the mantra, one puts the beneficial and pure sound of the mantra in one’s mouth and ear; one visualizes the symbols of the letters in one’s eye. One brings the compassionate energy of the Bodhisattva into one’s mind and plants the ancient seed-sounds in the eighth consciousness. The power of the mantra neutralizes evil, transforms it to good and brings about healing in the mind, which is the source of good and bad karma. This is a transcendent use of dreams. Dreams become an expedient means to aid one’s spiritual progress towards Buddhahood, and ultimate liberation.

B) A Comparison of Western and Eastern Methods

Carl Jung believed that because the dream deals with symbols that have more than one meaning, there can be no simple, mechanical system for dream interpretation. All attempts at dream analysis must take into account the attitudes, experiences and background of the dreamer. It is a joint venture between dreamer and analyst. The dreamer interprets the dream with the help and guidance of the analyst. The analyst may be vitally helpful, but in the end only the dreamer can know what the dream means. We may wind up frustrated if we expect the Buddhist's use of dreams in the Junti Bodhisattva Sutra to reflect a Jungian approach.

I present the sutra in the context of a Buddhist method that was in vogue seven centuries after the Buddha spoke the sutra. This method is closer in time to his culture and steeped in the culture of monastic cultivation, but not given only to the monk or nun. The challenge to contemporary analysis is to search out the kind of questions a Buddhist might ask of these dreams.

If the list of images from the Junti Bodhisattva Sutra were to appear to a dreamer in analysis with Jung or Taylor, the Western analysts would likely investigate the meaning of each symbol with the dreamer. They would attempt to map out the shadow, the anima/animus, the self and the various archetypes of the unconscious as they emerge over a lengthy series of encounters. Ultimately, like Jung himself, at life’s end one may have a highly auspicious dream that augurs an individuated character and a rebirth in the desired heaven.

I find the Buddhist use of dreams profound and broad in scope. No matter how well we intellectually grasp the patterns and the symbols of the unconscious, if our karma is still as heavy as before we began to discuss the dream, then no matter how thoroughly we penetrate the dream-symbols, we will still be turning on the wheel of rebirth, bound to endless rounds of suffering. Buddhist dream analysis says that the images of dreams themselves are empty and false; but properly understood, they can serve as another door to liberation.

The Sutra includes a fail-safe; if one follows the Buddha’s formula and does the right number of recitations, and it doesn’t seem to work; i.e., the dreams don’t come, then the Buddha gives a power-booster. Paint or draw an image of Junti Bodhisattva (I will leave it to the reader to judge whether pixel-based computer-drawn or painted images qualify) and then make offerings to the image (virtual offerings probably show less sincerity) three, four, or six times a day of pure vegetarian food (pure means no killing involved) and along with the requisite recitations. The for certain all the good results that one seeks, up to the realization of Buddha-hood will come to pass.

C) Conclusion

Following a Buddhist example, how are we supposed to deal with dreams? Do we dismiss them as empty and false, do we diagnose our health from dream symptoms, do we systematically analyze their symbols as an index of our religious practice? Dreams used as a teaching device pointing the way to enlightenment takes a negative approach to a positive goal. The emptying out of both dreams and reality frees the mind from duality and attachments to conditioned states. Perhaps the Buddhist approach to dreams is identical with the path to understanding the purpose of waking life: transforming ignorance by the brilliant sword of Prajna wisdom. We must wake up from our “dream within a dream,” before we can know that we are actually sleeping through our lives. After awakening there is no need to dream any longer.


Marie Louise von Franz, Dreams. Boston, Shambala, 1969.

Jeremy Taylor, Where People Fly and Water Runs Uphill: Using dreams to Tap the Wisdom of the Unconscious, New York: Warner Books, 1992.

6. Wonderfully Absurd Temple - (Miao Miao Miao) - Chinese Avant-Garde Web Art


7. With One Heart Bowing to the City of 10,000 Buddhas (Nine Volumes) - $63.00 - ISBN 0917512553


The moving journals of American Bhikshus Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au.

The moving journals of American Bhikshus Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au who made a "Three Steps, One Bow" pilgrimage from Gold Wheel Temple in Los Angeles to the City of 10,000 Buddhas, located 110 miles north of San Francisco, from May 1977 to October 1979. Nine Volumes.


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