Wings of a Butterfly

 In Fauna

There is a parable of a butterfly that has always intrigued me. This parable is from Chuang-tzu, a Chinese philosopher that lived around the 4th century BC during the warring states period.

It is said that one day Chuang-tzu woke up feeling sad. His disciples concerned, started to ask him what happened? They have never seen their master lose his composure, it must be something serious. Chuang-tzu talked about a dream he had and it is translated like this.

Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.

His disciples laughed, “But master, it is just a dream!”

Dreams and reality, what makes one real and the other not? One day when we take our final rest, will this life become a dream?

The disciples were perplexed by the question, so do most of us. It seems like a straight-forward question. A dream is but a dream and when we wake up, we feel that this must be the reality. What if we can be awakened from this life, will the world become Maya, an illusion?

This parable is exploring something deep, it is a hint at the essence of who we are, our true self. It cannot be answered literally.

Chuang-tzu is neither Chuang-tzu nor a butterfly. He is the awareness, the watcher, the observer that looks at both. When realized, that is the meaning of pure consciousness.

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