Many of us in life start out great works, following dreams. Often we don’t finish them. One of the great agonies of life is that we are constantly trying to finish that which is unfinishable, finding ourselves in so many instances having to face the fact that our dreams are not fulfilled. Life is a continual story of shattered dreams. For example, many of us (almost all of us indeed!) are trying to build a life of peace, within us and outside us too. We speak out against war, we protest, but it seems that your head is going against a concrete wall. It seems to mean nothing. We try to have nice, peaceful, open relationships with our neighbors and relatives, but is difficult. And this fact make me think about hopes and dreams, desires and unfulfilled desires, becoming frustrations.
“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist monk.
Hopes are to have good expectations about the future. Whether we are identified with our mind, on greater or lesser degree, have hope is important for to bear the difficulties of life, because the mind works in that way: always thinking in the future, based on the past. So a mind without hope can hardly overcome difficulties, indeed would be a mind with psychological problems.
What about a person who only think when is necessary? A person anchored in the present, full awakened, without worries about the future. Does such person needs have hope? I think he doesn’t. He don’t live in the time, but in the eternal present, so hope don’t have meaning for him, because hope is related to the future. Moreover, hope is helpful when we don’t accept our present, but a realized person have full acceptance of it. So the quote from the Zen master is useful before attain enlightenment, that is, the state of 99,99% of human beings. But then, what happen with dreams? Is enlightenment incompatible with to have dreams?
“I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.” I have a dream...” – Martin Luther King, Jr. (1963)
Usually we use the word “dream” for express a wish which we hope, but not a little wish, but an important one, a vital wish which bring sense to our life. Usually we only have a dream, maybe a few of them, but not a lot of them. Is a common thought having a inspirational dream is important for have a successful life. There are dreams related with high ideals, such the one of Martin Luther King about the equality of all men of all races, and other dreams more personal, like the dream of a child who wants to become a rocket man.
Being important wishes, dreams can be the fuel needed for to do hard works without faltering: the aim is really important, and we have the hope we can do it. But frequently happens we become identified with our dreams (indeed, is a common way for all desires, even little ones). Then, if the reality deny us the achievement of our dream, we lost our hope and, even worst, we feel denied, reduced, frustrated, because the dream was part of our identity. On the contrary, when a dream comes true we feel asserted, reinforced. Is a well known psychological fact. At this point the question is: are there an alternative? We have to depend to the hope and fulfillment of dreams?
As hopes, dreams need time, they are in the time: in the present we work for them, hoping their fulfillment in the future. So an enlightened mind, beyond the time, can’t have dreams? Well, we can ask ourselves: from where arises our dreams? In all of us there are a need of development, a need of “to be someone” through the action expressed: is the role that dreams play for us. There are a power behind dreams, a power of life willing to express, to manifest. I named this power: the will, pure will of expression. All the dreams are channels for this will. In a deep sense, we really are our will, not our dreams, but the will behind dreams. Moreover, pure will is beyond time, it have no aims, is a force, the force of life.
So we can now answer to the questions. We can have dreams, work for them, fail, and still we can feel motivated, asserted, because while we are working we are applying our will, so we are already being, no matter with the future, no need for fulfill our dream in some future. Of course, is we achieve it, better for us, but is not necessary. Let me repeat it, because is the key for avoid feelings of failure and denial of our being:
While we are working for achieve our dreams, working out our will, expressing it, we are being who we are, in the present, right now, no matter what the future brings, success or failure.
So an enlightened person can also have dreams, of course, and he have high ones for sure, but he don’t need any hope, he are identified with the inner will beyond time, and in each moment he do his best and enjoy with the action without identify with the results. Is the perfect action of the Tao, also of the Karma Yoga, and also on many other philosophies.