THE BUTTERFLY DREAM

TAOIST PARABLE BY Zhuangzi (Chuang-Tzu)

Zhangzi's (Chuang-Tzu's)

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)

昔者莊周夢為胡蝶,栩栩然胡蝶也,

 

自喻適志與。不知周也。

俄然覺,則蘧蘧然周也。不知周之夢為

 

胡蝶與,胡蝶之夢為周與。周與胡蝶,

 

則必有分矣。此之謂物化。

WHAT IS REALITY?

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?