Awake or Deluded?

Though we have slept many uncountable times and woke up from each sleep (else we won’t be reading this!), we hardly acknowledged that the world we “exist” in does not arise at all in our field of awareness until we “return” to it from sleep. Yet, on the same note, we cannot say the same with dreams as we don’t “return” to the same scene we left in our previous dream.

When we “return” from our sleep, is it really a waking up or merely a remembering of the world before we went to sleep? What if our memory fails us? What if we cannot totally remember who we are or where we are? Would it still be considered a waking up? What if this world is but a memory instead a wakeup? What then will a real wakeup entail?


The above enquiry came up in my mind one morning. I have always been curious about sleep. For awhile now, I came to realise that the mind cannot “sleep”. How I came to know about this is during one session of grogginess after a lunch meal, I was noticing this dullness of mind yearning for a sleep and suddenly it dawned upon me that the knowing mind is alert and running in parallel with the contrast of dullness. It is as if there are three partisans of experience occurring at one moment – dullness, knowing mind and the mind that knows both happenings. It became obvious to me that whether I notice it or not, the knowing mind is already doing its job all the time – sleep was never in its vocabulary. So what is it that sleeps then?

Yet strangely enough, the reality of the here disappears from the mind once it enters into the sleep mode. And “wherever” it is, the part of the knowing mind will take whatever object there is as a reality, forgetting what was before that. It is kind of bizarre, as one moment you are here, awake, so real, yet another moment, a total cut off with a temporary amnesiac experience setting in. Within the sleep, amnesiac was never the experience as what is in it becomes our reality. Thus, when we “return” from the sleep, we do not actually wakeup, except recalling or remembering a familiarity that make us think we are “out” of the sleep. It is obvious that it is a remembering activity rather than a true wakeup because it is the experience of forgetfulness that make us remember again, since both remembering and forgetting are mere opposites.

The question that pops up in my mind is, if there is really no waking up in my present experience, what the heck is really here? If there is truly a waking up, what is it then? The Buddha used the word “I am Awakened” when someone asked him who is he, just after his enlightenment. Surely if we are able to wake up from our sleep each morning, we can considered ourselves awake. Yet it is not true, as we would all have been enlightened by now!

What I only know until now is that, I am in a deluded knowing. There is so much unquestioned reality that I took for granted as real. Yet upon deeper probing, I start to realize there are flaws and unrealness in practically every meaning I have about the world.

All been said, it is either I forget about all these silly abstract questionings that my mind has come to observe and go back to enjoying life to its fullness, irrelevant whether it is happiness or suffering, or to continue exploring the possibilities of insights that could arise from those questions. But then again, do I really have a choice to change the direction the mind takes….

Of Gurus, Loved Ones and Dead Bodies

There is a picture of Sai Baba hung on the wall near to my altar where I have placed the Buddha as a centre image, together with Jesus’ photo at one corner. One morning, when I was looking at the picture of Sai Baba, it dawned upon me that he is no longer in the human form, to mean he has passed on.

Not that I am unaware of his passing away, but it does not strike in me that he is “dead”. It does not matter whether he has entered mahasamadhi or any name given to that something greater, but to my mind he is no longer around.

It was at that moment, that I started to ponder about the meanings of other photos. What if I had my mum’s photo placed at the same location? Surely, my mum’s photo would have immediately been seen or reminded as a deceased. It is something already done by my mind, irrespective how I would like to see it otherwise, just as other meaning in the picture of Sai Baba.

Yet again, if it is a photo of someone that I do not know, and already dead, and given prominence as the picture of Sai Baba in my hall – would I have had the same perception as what I have towards my mum; or that when I look at it, a certain fear would have came up in my mind?

I remembered years back about a photo that I had in my computer folder of someone who has passed away, used for the purpose of insertion in a Buddhist book. It is tradition to encourage the immediate family of a deceased to reprint sacred books for free distribution as an act of dedication of merits to the departed. Being a layout artist, it is normal for me to receive images of the departed for final insertions. Somehow I always felt that I would not like to store these images in my computer, having a fear to look at those faces again. Only later did I realize that the mind has a meaning of looking at some kind of a “ghostly” figure when it comes to such images. But for my mother who has passed away two years ago, there was never such a perception. Why is that so? Is there really something outside there that makes us frighten or it is merely our own conjured meanings of such images?

That brings me to another story shared by my friend. When the books I printed in memory of my mum arrived at a particular Buddhist centre, she overhead someone saying that there is a dead person’s face on the book and for that, she did not want to have anything to do with the book! It is interesting how we view images in our mind. Isn’t the Buddha, and for that matter, all other images representing a past individual who once lived, died before? Or is it death that we do not want to be reminded of?

It became so obvious to me that the so called “real” world I live in is the meaning my mind gives to it. From it, respect, fear, sadness, happiness and others emotions are derived. That includes the “me” that I value so much.

On the same note, if I had blindly followed a certain religious faith without being open minded enough to explore any other faith, I might have quietly scorned another for having other images in his or her house, nevermind whether it is done silently in the mind, or expressing it out. Disrespectful or intolerance will be a more realistic statement. Yet the cause was never about what is outside but the meanings my mind gives to it.