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Question
My entire life I've been drawn towards Buddhism, but whenever I get into it I get depressed. I know this sounds nuts, but I have dreams of having lived in Japan in another life and having been murdered on the way to a Buddhist temple. These dreams feel real. Could I be crazy or am I remembering another life?

Answer
Hello Charles,

Thank you for your question.  There is no way to determine an accurate answer to whether or not this is real.  I know there are many in the Buddhist community who could give you a long and detailed explanation of what this means in relation to past lives or whatever but even that is speculation.  From the Zen standpoint it is here and now that matters.  This is the only opportunity you have to awaken and it must be faced now.  The thought goes that if the idea of reincarnation is true then you might not have another opportunity for thousands of lives so that you are aware of Buddhism in this life makes it essential to face it now.

I have found that in my personal life that when I have dreams like this that they dissolve when I let them express freely.  If this were an actual event then you are still here so youíve moved on.  If itís not an actual event then itís an illusion that needs to be dissolved. Either way let it play out and resolve itself.  The value you assign it is what is depressing you.

I must tell you that dreams and the brain are rather tricky things.  Something can be presented as so real and convincing that you know it must be true.  Iíve had the recurring dream of being a young child and waking up to see a rat in my room.  I screamed and my father came in and killed it. Iíve had this dream for over 50 years and I have always known it to be true; that it actually happened.  At that time in my childhood there was a rat infestation in my neighborhood.  I never questioned the reality of this dream as there was nothing dreamlike about it.  It occurred to me a few years back to mention it to my mother and ask her what she remembered about it.  She looked at me in surprise and told me that never happened, period.  When we went over the details in the dream it was apparent that it never happened but to me I would have sworn it was true.  Our minds can fool us in amazing ways.

I donít know if this helps you but I hope so.  Take care,
         Joe

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Joe McSorley

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I can answer questions dealing with Taoist philosophy and Zen and not the historicity and religion of Buddhism and its different schools. I studied under Dr. Richard DeMartino and Masao Abe of the Kyoto School of Zen.

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