As promised, I meditated on the question of whether dreams can create karma last night, and I also discussed it with the tenzo (cook) at the Zen Center before the Monday night service began.
By the way, Zen literature abounds with stories on the wisdom of the cook. If you have a real question and want a practical answer, they say, don't talk to a monk or some robed cleric, talk to the guy sweating it out in the kitchen - he's the one who probably knows a thing or two.
One day, while Dogen was in China, he saw the old tenzo of the monastery sweating out in the midday sun as he sifted the rice. "You have much seniority here," Dogen said, asking, "Why don't you get some one else to do that for you?"
"Because others are not me," the old man replied, and Dogen was moved by the wisdom of his answer. On the one hand, his answer was direct and simple - he's doing this because he's the cook and others aren't, and he's not about to pick and choose over what he likes and dislikes about those roles (after all, who's to say what's good and what's bad?).
But on a deeper level, he was gently correcting Dogen's error on discriminating between one thing and the other. "Tenzo" and "monk," and "senior" and "junior," are all just arbitrary distinctions of the discriminating mind, and from an absolute perspective, they are not different. The words "others" and "not me" are loaded with meaning in Zen, and by phrasing his answer in those relativistic terms, he was reminding Dogen that he had fallen back into ignorant, dualistic thinking.
But the old tenzo's mind was quick and agile, and although he was not stuck to the relative, he wasn't stuck to the absolute view either. Although self and others are the same from an absolute viewpoint, relatively speaking, there was himself and there were others who were not himself, and he could see the relative difference as well as the absolute sameness, and that is the two arrows meeting in mid-air of the enlightened mind.
So, listen to the cooks - they know a thing or two. Back in the 1950s, when Jack Kerouac and his friends were first discovering Zen, they went around asking each other and their acquaintances koans they had read about in books, which they perceived as sort of Zen riddles. "Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?," they read, and when they posed the question to the night chef at their local bar and grill, he immediately replied "I don't care," and they all agreed that his was the best answer.
But back in the here and now (or there and then, as I'm writing about this later), I had a good talk with the Zen Center tenzo about dreams and karma, and about whether dreams cause karma or karma causes dreams, and we talked about whether we can differentiate between waking thoughts and sleeping dreams, or between the subconscious mind and the so-called conscious mind, and the whole conversation lasted all of about three minutes and neither one of us were talking very rapidly or even very much. Being a good cook, the tenzo knew just how much salt needed to be put in the pot and did not waste a grain, and then let me bring it to a boil in zazen.