We are such stuff as dreams are made on

That’s a quote from The Tempest, if you didn’t recognize it:

These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Ye all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

I don’t know if Shakespeare was actually giving a teaching on ultimate truth here, but it sounds to me like he received Buddha’s blessings before writing this. This world that we perceive as so solid and real is an insubstantial pageant, that dissolves when we search for it with wisdom.

Buddha said it more clearly (if a bit less poetically): everything is dependent upon other things. Je Tsongkhapa gave prehaps the most succint teaching on dependent relationship: ‘From this comes that. How wonderful!’ That really does say it all… but for those of us with slightly less developed minds, a bit more elaboration is required.

All things depend upon causes, so they are in a constant state of change; our view of their fixed nature is incorrect. Geshe-la says:

“If all the necessary atmospheric causes and conditions come together, clouds will appear. If these are absent, clouds cannot form. The clouds are completely dependent upon causes and conditions for their development; without these they have no power to develop. The same is true for mountains, planets, bodies, minds, and all other produced phenomena. Because they depend upon factors outside themselves for their existence, they are empty of inherent, or independent, existence and are mere imputations of the mind.”

Eight Steps to Happiness

Without its causes, a rainbow cannot appear; and one of those causes is us, the observer. We can understand clearly that without our viewing the rainbow from our particular location, there would be no rainbow. This example can help us to see that everything is a dependant arising that cannot exist under its own power. Like a rainbow dissapears when you go in search of it, when you search for anything with wisdom, it disappears into emptiness.

All things depend on parts; not even the smallest atom is independent. Our body is made up of parts such as the hand; the hand is also made up of parts, such as the fingers; each finger is likewise made up of parts, right down to the atomic level. And each atom is also made up of parts; there is no such thing as a partless particle. Physicists keep looking, but they haven’t found one yet, and they never will, because it’s a logical impossibility: everything can be mentally divided into its directional parts, its past and presents moments, etc.

Sorry, got a bit technical there – but it’s important, because if we know that everything depends on parts, we can let go of it having inherent, or independent, existence. If our body, for example, is made up of lots of parts which are not the body, then what makes all these different parts into a body? Our mind. We call the assembly of parts ‘body’, and body appears. This shows that everything is imputed by mind, like things in a dream.

Since the world is not fixed, we can create the world we wish for by changing our mind.


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