Volume XV, Leaf 95

September, 2014

Toshiyori goes to the Movies

 

In the course of the past fifteen years or thereabouts, Hollywood has caught the interest of the Western Buddhist community with such films as “Inception” and “The Matrix,” etc., which affect to explore the view that the world (i.e., samsara) is a variety of waking dream or illusion.

 

To their credit, Hollywood has probably caused a substantial number of agnostics to wonder if the world in which they find themselves might be no more than an exceptionally vivid dream. How could they ever attain absolute certainty in this matter?

 

So, it is to be hoped that, among the millions who viewed such films, a few thoughtful individuals may have pursued this line of thought to the relevant Buddhist literature, or even to the gate of their nearest Buddhist temple.

 

How sad, therefore, that Hollywood must reduce even the most profound philosophic concepts to puerile “action” cartoons about transcendent good versus unmitigated evil (in days long past, the “good guys” could always be identified by their white hats, and the outlaws by their black headgear). Granted that no educated individual looks to Hollywood for integrity or insight, it is deplorable that the intellectual teenagers (for whose entertainment most movies seem to be made) are satisfied with such clichés as “Truth, justice, and the American way.”

 

It is Toshiyori’s sincere hope that no one in search of truth will, on reading these lines, be disappointed to discover violence is not required. Nor need the seeker learn to leap tall buildings in a single bound, for there is no evil genius behind this illusory world.  Or (continuing the cartoon analogy), as a wise Okefenokee Opossum once observed:  “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”  Which is to say that all we perceive is a product of the collective unconscious.

 

We are the authors and the actors of our dreams, as also the audience for which they are performed. But, bear in mind that even in the realm of sleep, we authors are not isolated individuals; “No man is an island.”  Our dreams are inspired by memories of the people and events in our waking lives, and shaped by our deepest desires or fears.

 

So it is in the parallel waking illusion that those to whom we have unconsciously granted “authority” (be they presidents, generals, terrorists or whatever) color our individual perceptions of the world.

 

It has been said that “thoughts are things,” implying that we can effect actual changes in the world by changing our thoughts about the world. Just as lucid dreamers — i.e., persons who have learned to attain consciousness while dreaming — are able to alter the courses of their dreams, so might we modify our waking illusion of samsara.

 

There are both sacred and secular approaches to this problem. The only distinction between these is that secularism sees lucid dreaming as an end in itself, whereas Buddhists regard the achievement of consciousness during the dream state merely as a means toward a far more significant end.  The method one chooses ought not be inspired by its supposed “objectivity” or “sacredness,” but solely by its functionality.

 

Bearing that in mind, Toshiyori recommends the following titles as sources of instruction: The Hidden Door by Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick, Berkley Books, New York, 1999; Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge, Ph.D, Ballantine Books, New York, 1985; Dreaming Yourself Awake by B. Alan Wallace, Shambhala, Boston & London, 2012; and The Lucid Dreamer by Malcolm Godwin, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994.  Older titles are likely to be readily available through such internet sources as Alibris.com

 

To “change the world” is an enormous undertaking, and one which may conceal hidden dangers. Toshiyori hopes that any who choose to attempt this path will never forget  wisdom and compassion are two sides of the same coin, i.e. there is no wisdom in the absence of compassion, nor compassion without wisdom.

 

In Gassho,

Toshiyori

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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