Hi Allison, you’re a great facilitator of inquiry.
I feel my goals are unclear at the moment and that’s why it’s difficult to find the motivation. I think this is a really valuable question that I need to sit with.
Hi Hiimmj15, this is true. Buddhism is a living spirituality. As it spreads across different cultures from India, Tibet, China, Japan and even America, it takes many different forms. At the heart of each tradition is a general intention to cultivate lucidity, a sense of awareness and recognition, whether that be through daytime practices of meditation, as most schools teach, or at night, as we are learning here.
Buddhism is generally divided into three vehicles or paths. There is the Hinayana, which is more commonly referred to as Theravada. Although, Theravada is actually a particular school of Buddhism predominately found in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. The Hinayana generally relates to the path of individual liberation to attain nirvana. This includes the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and works with practices of shamatha and vipassana, which is calm abiding and insight meditation.
In Mahayana Buddhism, you find the Bodhisattva ideal, which refers to anyone who has a made a vow to generate bodhicitta, awakened heart or enlightened mind, for the benefit of all sentient beings. The Mahayana path is therefore concerned with cultivating compassion, and also egolessness. This includes the Six Paramitas, and works with practices of Tonglen and the Four Immeasurables.
The Vajrayana is the path of tantra, which generally refers to taking all aspects of life as the path of liberation. This may include sleep and dreams, death and dying, sex, fear, and much more. The Vajrayana within Tibetan Buddhism begins with the preliminary practices, or ngondro, which one completes under the guidance of an authorised teacher. Following this are the generation stage and the completion stage of the inner yogas. This includes the practices of dream, sleep and bardo yoga.
Lastly, there are the formless practices of Dzogchen and Mahamudra. You also find similar approaches in the traditions of Zen Buddhism. These are direct paths that work with the clear seeing of primordial awareness, or the ground of all being.
As far as I’m aware the Vajrayana of Tibetan Buddhism is the only path within Buddhism that works with sleep and dreams. However, there are many other cultures and traditions across the world, such as the Dragon Gate school of Taoism, the Toltec tradition of Mexico, the Xhosa lineage of South Africa, and there are also many indigenous wisdom traditions that work with liminal worlds of the Dreaming or DreamTime.
Good luck finding a place to practice!