Living in a Dream
Once someone asked Buddha, "What are you? A god? A celestial being? A holy man? A human being?" Buddha replied, "I am awake."
A Hindu legend:
Once there was a holy man named Narada, whose great learning impressed the gods, even Vishnu who sleeps on a bed of cobras above the dark lake of infinity and whose very own dream is the universe.
One day Vishnu came to Narada and offered him a single wish; Narada answered that he would like to understand Maya, the illusion of the worlds dreamed by Vishnu. "Very well" said the god. "Let's go for a walk."
So Vishnu and Narada began a trek that would take them across the whole of Hindustan: through the teeming streets of Calcutta, along the banks of the holy Ganges, into the stifling forests that belonged to the Bengal tiger, and out across the plains of Uttar Pradesh, which grew hotter and hotter until the grass disappeared and their feet trod the burning desert of Rajasthan.
In the desert, Vishnu beckoned Narada to him: "My son, I am thirsty. There is an oasis around this dune. Please go and fetch me some water." So Narada went. He found the oasis, where spring water greened the fields of a small village. Seeking permission to draw from the well, he knocked on the door of the first hut. A young woman answered, and at the moment that Narada's eyes met hers he forgot his mission, forgot everything from before.
Narada stayed and married the beautiful young woman. They had two children. He was very happy, coaxing grain from the soil, working beside his loving wife and watching his children grow.
Twelve years went by, and one day an unusually dark storm rolled in from the north. Thunder boomed and rain came down in sheets. Narada tried to gather his family in his arms but the flood hit too quickly and plunged them into an inky swirl that separated them all. In a frenzy, he dove and thrashed and cried the names of his wife and children, but in the dark swirling water he could grasp nothing. Exhausted and heartbroken, he gave in to the raging current and the water swept him away.
Narada awoke face down in the sand under the blazing sun. He heard a voice: "My son, where is the drink you promised me? It's been half an hour." Narada looked into Vishnu's face. After a moment the god said, "Now you understand my dream."
Vishnu dreams the entire universe; his dream is the ten thousand things. Narada is also dreaming inside of Vishnu's dream! You and I are also living in a dream. It might be a happy dream or a sad one, a prosperous dream or a poor dream; it might be a selfish dream or a selfless dream. Maybe we are having a Zen dream or a "practicing in order to help all beings" dream.
Buddha said, "I am awake." This is the teaching of all the Buddhas and eminent teachers. Wake up! Whenever we wake up from our dream-even if only for a single moment-we attain our original job. When we attain our original job and just do it, we are using Vishnu's dream to save all beings from suffering.