Gampopa | Life and Legends | 3




Significant Dreams

By now, Sonam Rinchen's meditation was so advanced that he normally required little sleep.

One night however, after his midnight practise, he dozed off:

He had a very auspicious dream, in which were 21 very auspicious indications. When he awoke, the sun was already shining. He set off immediately to tell Milarepa about these dreams and signs.

Milarepa was sitting on a big rock with his head covered by his robe, as though he were asleep.

Gampopa said, "Master, wake up. I have to tell you about my dreams."

Milarepa replied, "Don't be so excited. I have had the same dreams and will tell you the meaning of its symbols."

(There is also a symbolic meaning to the entire story:

when Gampopa met Milarepa wrapped in a blanket as though asleep, with the sun shining brightly on the ground, it symbolized that this was the last time Gampopa would see his guru,

meaning that Gampopa's Buddha activity would begin, and he would spread the teachings or transmission of Milarepa all over the world.)

Gampopa explained his 21 dream experiences precisely, one after another.

Milarepa said, "In the past, I have not explained to you the meanings of the experiences you have had in meditation. This time I will explain every dream and every symbol."

In the first dream, Gampopa dreamt that he was wearing a white hat, or crown, with a very long point:

This symbolized that although there were many vehicles for the teachings, many traditions of teachings, his tradition was superior, as shown by the high point of the hat.

This hat was also surrounded by multi-coloured string, symbolizing Gampopa's complete union of profound prajñā and compassion.

The edge of the hat was also decorated with animal fur;
this fur was black, with a red colour within the black:

This symbolized that Gampopa would not need to mix, or mingle, with other traditions; that he would have his own completely independent transmission.

Gampopa also dreamt that on the top of his hat, at the very point, there was the feather of an eagle. This symbolized that Gampopa would realize the supreme, stainless view of Mahāmudrā.

Again Gampopa dreamt that he was wearing brand-new shoes, completely free from dust, mud, or stain:

These symbolized his stainless commitment to keep every vow of the Three Yānas he took: the vows of Vinaya, the Bodhisattva-yāna, and the Vajrayāna.

The shoes were new and very attractive, symbolizing how Gampopa would become an example, keeping and maintaining the 3 types of vows in the future.

The shoes were also decorated with 4 blue circles: one on the point of the left and another on the point of the right, and one on each back.

These 4 circles symbolized that Gampopa in his lifetime would come to complete realization of the 4 Kāyas:

1) Dharmakāya,
2) Saṁbhogakāya, and
3) Nirmāṇakāya, and
4) the Svabhāvakāya.

Also, they were Tibetan shoes, the kind of Tibetan shoes, or boots, that come to below the knee and have to be tied with a string or rope.

Gampopa dreamt that at both ends of the rope that tied the shoes were 2 silver rings:

These symbolized the unselfish conduct and behaviour of past Bodhisattvas, and that throughout the life of Gampopa he would never show selfishness, but always compassion, in the manner of past Bodhisattvas.

Gampopa also dreamt that he was wearing a very thin white cotton cloth wrapped around him:

This cloth symbolized that although Gampopa as a teacher would have many defiled and neurotic students in his lifetime, his mind would always remain as stainless as the white cotton cloth.

Gampopa also dreamt of a golden-coloured silken shirt, symbolic of Gampopa's unshakable, immovable kindness to all living beings:

It meant that he would never discriminate between good and bad students, or high or low castes; his kindness would always extend to all beings.

He was like gold, in that no matter what you do to it, whether you burn it or beat it, the colour of gold always stays the same. Such was the immovable kindness of Gampopa.

The cotton cloth in the dream had many multi-coloured dots on it. These symbolized that every living being could benefit through Gampopa's skilful means, and that each would benefit according to its capacity.

Gampopa dreamt that he wore a woven belt, wound around his waist 3 times:

This symbolized that in the past, present, and future, Gampopa would keep pure and stainless the commitment, the samaya of the Hīnayāna, Bodhisattva-Yāna, and Vajrayāna vows.

The belt was decorated with white flowers connected with white pearls:

These symbolized that Gampopa would master the 3 disciplines:

those of right conduct, meditation and wisdom, and that he would become an example to future students of how to master these three.

He was also wearing a white blanket made of pure wool over the white cotton cloth:

This symbolized that whatever Gampopa might be doing externally - walking, teaching, sleeping, meditating, whatever - his mind would never be separate from the essential nature of Dharmakāya.

This white wool blanket was stitchless, free from any threads, and not cut, just naturally the right shape:

This symbolized that Gampopa's realization of the Dharmakāya was stainless and free from any doubts or conflicts. Gampopa's experience was pure, free from any negativities, and that purity was symbolized by the blanket having no threads or cuts.

The white blanket was decorated with a silver coin, round and somewhat flat. This symbolized that his realization of Dharmakāya was not inferior or superior to that of Śākyamuni Buddha.

In the dream he was carrying a long stick that was made of sandalwood, which symbolized that Gampopa had found an authentic master:

The sandalwood stick was decorated with fine precious stones, symbolizing the knowledge and qualities of his master, his guru Milarepa.

Along the middle of the stick there was an interwoven golden line:

The golden line symbolized the unbroken, exact, person-to-person transmission that Gampopa had received and realized, deep in his heart.

It was interwoven, symbolizing that in the future Gampopa would be able to spread this person-to-person transmission to many other practitioners.

His holding of the stick in his right hand symbolized that whoever became his student, whoever followed his teachings, in the future would become liberated from suffering and would progress toward complete Buddhahood.

Gampopa dreamt that in his left hand he was holding an empty skull (kapala), symbolizing the voidness of all phenomena as well as the realization of that voidness:

This empty kapala was being filled with a yellow-gold nectar (amrita), symbolizing that Gampopa's spiritual growth would always develop and increase. The yellow colour of the nectar symbolized Gampopa's ability to remain in the natural state of clear light.

He had dreamt that on his right shoulder were 2 grain bags filled with white rice,

and that his left shoulder was covered by an animal skin. This was a kind of skin that is exactly in the form and shape of the animal it came from, with the legs and head left on.

By covering his left shoulder, it symbolized that he would maintain the mindfulness, alertness, and accomplishment of the Bodhicitta.

Its having the 4 limbs and head symbolized that Gampopa would be benefiting all sentient beings, again with the mindfulness of the Bodhicitta of the 4 limitless meditations.

He began to use this skin as his mat, which symbolized that he would accomplish the realizations of voidness and compassion, and inspire such in his followers.

In the dream, Gampopa looked on his right side and there beautiful meadows of small hills covered with yellow grass:

That symbolized Gampopa's mastering the knowledge and meditations of his own tradition, as well as all the traditions of all beings. In fact, he became known as the Knower the Three Times, meaning that nothing is excluded from his knowledge.

In this same meadow he saw a beautiful mountain also covered with yellow grass, with baby yaks and lambs grazing on this meadow, enjoying the grass:

This symbolized that Gampopa would not only benefit living beings through revealing the Dharma and making teachings available, but by giving the generosity of protection and of loving-kindness.

Then, in the dream he became a shepherd, someone to look over the lambs and young yaks:

This symbolized that Gampopa's activities to benefit beings would be endless, just as sentient beings are endless.

Then, Gampopa looked on his left side, and there he saw another meadow, perfectly even, covered with a beautiful blue grass, the colour of turquoise:

This was symbolic of his profound meditative realization, or samādhi, and his realization of the ability to remain in this profound state regardless of day or night.

This beautiful meadow was also filled with flowers of varied colours: red, white, yellow, and so forth, symbolizing that he would also accomplish and experience the physical warmth of the meditation. This is not just ordinary physical warmth, but meditation warmth.

In this dream, Gampopa also dreamt that uncountable attractive women were prostrating themselves to him, with reverence and devotion:

These were uncountable beautiful Ḍākinīs. By maintaining the unbroken and pure discipline of the monk, and other samayas, he symbolically subdued all the Ḍākinīs.

In the very centre of the meadow, forming a beautiful garden, were many groups of yellow flowers growing together:

This symbolized that Gampopa would attract countless students and followers, effortlessly attracting them in the future. Just like clouds gather in the sky without needing the sky to invite them, students would gather and form around him in the future, effortlessly, naturally.

In the centre of all the yellow flowers, growing higher than all the others, was a huge yellow lotus, which had about a thousand petals:

This symbolized that through the strength of Gampopa's prajñā, his wisdom, he would be superior to, or above, all the beings of the three worlds. This means the complete attainment of Enlightenment.

In the dream, Gampopa sat on top of that lotus with a 1000 petals in a Bodhisattva posture, symbolizing that in the future he would benefit beings with ceaseless, endless emanations.

Gampopa also dreamt that having sat on top of that lotus flower, in front of him he saw a huge fountain of water springing from the earth:

This symbolized that he was the source of all the 4 greater Kagyu schools, the 8 lesser Kagyu schools, and, in short, all the Kagyu traditions. Not only was he the origin, but he would continue, like the water fountain, to be the source of the Kagyupa traditions.

Behind him emanated a white light, or aura, which symbolized that his lineage, his teaching would be established and spread in all Tibet, as the Sun gives forth light to all beings everywhere.

He dreamt his body was surrounded by huge burning flames, symbolizing that the blissfulness of his realization and the warmth of his meditation would burn away all external pain, suffering, and cold.

He dreamt that from his heart was radiating the light of the sun and the moon,

symbolizing that from that very moment until the end of his life, Gampopa would not experience any need for sleep, but would instead transform all his sleep into the clear luminosity.

Having explained the many significances of Gampopa's dream, Milarepa noted all the auspicious predictions in it for his future.

"However," he said,

"although it is very auspicious, and a good omen for the future, you must again learn not to become attached to the dream, or to develop expectations from the dream.

Nothing can be so positive that it could not turn negative if we hope or expect."

In the same way, Milarepa advised Gampopa not to take any negative dreams seriously either:

All negative or painful dreams are illusions, not real. If we can see them as they are, and avoid becoming attached to their negative meanings, they become positive things for us and enrich us for further development on the spiritual path.

"So," Milarepa advised Gampopa,

"you must learn to see the negative dreams as illusion and not to take them seriously, nor should you become attached to the meanings of positive dreams; that is the practice of the yogi."