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Chapter 4: From Dreams toward Truth

He found the queen weeping, but there was not a tear in his eye. He burst out laughing. The queen was shocked. “Your only son is dead and you laugh!” she cried.

“There is a reason for it” he told her. “A moment ago I had twelve sons, a palace of gold, and a vast kingdom. Your cries destroyed them all! And this son, whose very existence I had forgotten in my dream, along with you and the palace, is now dead. As long as the twelve existed, this one was lost to memory and now that I see this one, the twelve are lost to me. Now for whom shall I cry? This one or the other twelve? And a thought comes to me: perhaps both belong to the dreamworld. One dream I dreamed with my eyes closed, the other with my eyes opened. Each was forgotten when the other existed.”

There are dreams we see with our eyes opened, and there are dreams we see with our eyes closed. Both are dreams.

Chuang Tzu was a fakir of China. He was always seen laughing, never sad. One day his friends found him sitting in his hut, looking very sad. His friends were surprised. “We have always seen you laughing, no matter what the problem. What is it that disturbs you today?”

“It is a problem I cannot solve,” said Chuang Tzu.

“But there was never a problem you could not solve for us. This must be a special problem that worries a person like you. Please tell us about it,” they begged.

“I will,” said Chuang Tzu. “But you will not be able to solve it and I feel I shall never never find an answer to it. Last night, I dreamed that I was a butterfly in a garden. I saw myself flitting from one flower to another.”

“What is so difficult about that?” they asked. “This is nothing new. Man becomes a lot of things in dreams!”

“That is all right,” said Chuang Tzu. “But when I got up in the morning, the problem arose. A question confronted me: ‘If a man called Chuang Tzu could be a butterfly in a dream, could it be possible that now the butterfly is asleep and dreaming it is a man called Chuang Tzu? I have been disturbed since morning. If a man can be a butterfly in a dream, a butterfly can also be a man in dreams. Now I cannot decide whether I am a man who dreams he is a butterfly, or I am a butterfly dreaming I am a man Who is to decide?”

Chuang Tzu is correct. What we see outside is also a dream with open eyes; for the outside world vanishes as soon as the eyes are closed. We are transported to a different world as soon as the eyes close; and the world we see with open eyes has no greater value than this.

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