One December day in 1977, Soen Sa Nim was answering students’ questions at the New Haven Zen Center.
Student: Do you dream about different kinds of things now that you are a Zen Master?
Soen Sa Nim: What kind of dreams?
Student: Well, I dream about things I desire, but if you don’t desire anything, what do you dream about?
Soen Sa Nim: Yes, I have dreams.
Student: What kind of dreams?
Soen Sa Nim: You are laughing, so I am laughing. This is a dream. You say you have a dream, so I am having a dream.
Student: I understand what you say, but I can’t believe it.
Soen Sa Nim: You can’t believe the dream. So your dream is a not-believing dream. Everything is a dream, O.K.? Just now we are talking. Last night you had a dream. How are they different?
Student: I can feel that they are different.
Soen Sa Nim: Feel? You say “different,” I say “same.”
Long ago in China, there were five schools of Zen: Rinzai, Soto, Poep An, Un Mun, and E An. E An and An Sahn together made one school. E An was the teacher, An Sahn the disciple. Once E An was asleep. At that time An Sahn was only his secretary. He happened to open the door, saw that the Zen Master was asleep, and slowly closed the door. The Zen Master woke up and said, “Just now, I had a dream. Do you understand?”
An Sahn said, “Yes, just now I understand,” and washed the Zen Master’s face with water. The Master said, “Oh, thank you for washing my face.” Then another disciple, Haeng Om, who later became a Zen Master, came into the Zen Master’s room. The Master said, “We were just talking about my dream. Do you understand my dream?”
Haeng Om said, “Yes, sir,” went into the kitchen, and brought in some tea. The Zen Master said, “Ah, my students are very wonderful. You all understand my dream.”
This is dream talking. What does it mean? If you wake up, wash your face. Then you drink tea. This is the correct way. If you completely understand dreams, then you understand the correct way.
You must understand that this whole world is a dream. Then your desire is a dream, your anger is a dream, and your life is also a dream. You must understand dreams; then you will have no desire for yourself and will act only for all people. Then you have a Bodhisattva dream — only help other people. But understanding is not enough; you must attain the dream. Then you will understand your true self. The wall is white. The floor is brown.