THE HISTORY OF LUCID DREAMING
For most of us such lucid dreamsare rare and beyond our abilityto induce. Is there any way of cultivatingour abilityto awaken in our dreams at will? A variety of contemplative traditions and dream explorerssay yes. In the fourth century,the classicalyoga sutrasof Patanjali recommended "witnessing the process of dreaming or dreamless sleep" (Shearer, 1989). Four centuries later Tibetan Buddhistsdevised a sophisticateddream yoga. In the 12thcentury the Sufi mystic Ibn El-Arabi, a religious and philosophicalgenius known to the Arab world as "the greatest master," claimed that "aperson must control his thoughts in a dream. The training of this alertness ... will produce great benefits for the individual, Everyone should apply himself to the attainment of this ability of such great value" (Shah, 1971). More recently a number of explorers and spiritual masters such as Sri Aurobindo (1970) and Rudolf Steiner (1947) also reported success with lucid dreaming.
For decades Western researchers dismissed such reports as impossible. However, in the 1970s, in a breakthrough in the history of dream research, two investigators provided experimental proof of lucid dreaming. Working independently and quite unknown to each other, Alan Worsley in Britain and Stephen LaBerge in California both learned to dream lucidly (Laberge, 1985). Then, while being monitored electrophysiologically in a sleep laboratory, they signaled by means of eye movements that they were dreaming, and knew it. Their electroencephalograms showed the characteristic patterns of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, during which dreaming typically occurs, validating their reports. For the first time in history someone had brought back a message from the world of dreams while still dreaming. Dream research has never been the same since. Interestingly, for some time LaBerge was unable to get his reports published because reviewers simply refused to believe that lucid dreaming was possible.
Since then, with the aid of eye movement signaling and electrophysiological measures, much progress has been made, such as in studies of the frequency and duration of lucid dreams, their physiological effects on brain and body, the psychological characteristics of those who have them, the means for inducing them more reliably, and their potential for healing and transpersonal exploration.
SHEARER, P. (transl.) (1989). Effortless being: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,
In recent years there has been a surge of popular books on the topic of cultivating one's ability to experience lucid dreams -- that is, dreams in which the dreamer is aware that he/she is dreaming and is able to a greater or lesser extent to influence the unfolding of dream events; extreme clarity and wealth of detail are other commonly reported features. Some of these books expound (with varying degrees of knowledge, or so it seems to a non-Tibetologist like myself) on the connection between lucid dreaming and Tibetan 'dream yoga'. But what about Sanskrit sources? Are there any works in Sanskrit -- Buddhist or otherwise -- dealing with such states of mind and/or practices? I know of works on svapnaśāstra in the sense of oneiromancy, but that is all.
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