Dream Within a Dream

Chuang Tzu Translation and Commentary

The one who dreams of drinking wine,
In the morning may be crying.
The one who dreams of crying,
In the morning may go hunting.

These lines above mean we live totally different existences in our dreams and our daily lives. You may be merrily drinking wine in a dream, but upon awakening encounter some saddening event. Conversely, you may be sad in a dream, but after waking up engage in some exhilarating activities like hunting. It’s like that old James Bond theme song: “You only live twice / Or so it seems / Once for yourself / And once for your dreams.”

When one is in a dream,
One does not know one is dreaming.

One may even dream while in the middle of dreaming.
Only after awakening does one realize it was a dream.

Similarly, only after one experiences Great Awakening,
Does one realize that this is all one big dream.

Just as we cannot tell we’re in a dream while dreaming, we cannot tell, as we are moving through life, that life itself is one big dream. Just as we sometimes dream that we are dreaming, our nightly dreams are no more than dreams within a dream, the dream called life.

But the fool thinks he is awake.
He is self-assured in knowing this.

The so-called kings!
The so-called ministers!
Persist in their delusions.

Chu and you are both dreaming,
I say you’re dreaming, I’m dreaming too.
This kind of talk,
Its name is “bizarre.”

Derek Lin
Latest posts by Derek Lin (see all)