Butterfly Dream Parable
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.
Between a man and a butterfly,
there is necessarily a distinction.
The transition is called the transformation of material things.
The famous Taoist parable attributed to Chinese philosopher
Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu) (369 BCE to 286 BCE)
UNDERSTANDING THE Butterfly Dream Parable
The Butterfly Dream is one of the most famous of all Taoist parables. It is attributed to Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu) (369 BCE to 286 BCE).
It articulates Taoism's challenge toward the definitions of reality vs. illusion.
The story has had a substantial impact on later philosophies, both Eastern and Western.
This story raises some fascinating and much-explored philosophical issues, stemming from the relationship between the waking state and the dream-state, or illusion and reality:
How do we know when we’re dreaming, and when we’re awake?
How do we know if what we’re perceiving is “real” or a mere “illusion”?
Is the “me” of various dream-characters the same as or different from the “me” of my waking world?
How do I know, when I experience something I call “waking up,” that it is a waking up to “reality” as opposed to merely waking up into another level of dream?