Recently, three Dharma friends independently have asked questions regarding Dharma-related dreams and meditation experiences. Typically, they want to explore whether such experiences are valid, and if so, what is their basis. Are they memories from previous lives? Are they communications from Teachers, Buddhas, or Bodhisattvas? Or are they simply mental elaborations based on bits and pieces of accumulated information?
Whether we’ve had those very experiences in a previous life, we are recipients of deliberate teachings from the Enlightened Ones, or our minds have developed particular narratives to manifest existing karmic tendencies does not make much difference.
Those experiences, and the karmic seeds that inform them, are in our ground consciousness (alaya vijnana), and through the coming together of causes and conditions, are appearing now to our mental consciousness (mano vijnana).
The dream, actual memory, or mental elaboration is just a vehicle for expressing an awareness. It is an internal mental representation of an existing karmic tendency or disposition. It is no less than that, but it is also no more. We must avoid the extremes of deprecating or exaggerating its importance.
If an experience of this type leads us to turn inward, to practice the Dharma with greater enthusiasm, to develop more compassion, then it is extremely positive. However, it is important to accept the message, without dwelling on the narrative. If we dwell on the story, we run the risk of developing an acquired fixed view or an afflicted emotion.
The teaching on the Four Reliances warns us to beware of becoming entangled in mere forms, mere words, mere logic, and mere concepts. Rather, we should seek for the intended meaning of each lesson received, and allow it to manifest as non dual wisdom, whatever the source.