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Thread: The Great Dreams

  1. #1
    I was looking at this sutta earlier, and wondered if anyone had any comments about it:




    AN 5.196 The Great Dreams


    “Mendicants, before his awakening five great dreams appeared to the Realized One, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha, when he was still not awake but intent on awakening. What five? This great earth was his bed. Himalaya, king of mountains, was his pillow. His left hand was laid down in the eastern sea. His right hand was laid down in the western sea. And both his feet were laid down in the southern sea. This is the first great dream that appeared to the Realized One before his awakening.

    Next, a kind of grass called ‘the crosser’ grew up from his navel and stood pressing against the cloudy sky. This is the second great dream that appeared to the Realized One before his awakening.

    Next, white caterpillars with black heads crawled up from his feet and covered his knees. This is the third great dream that appeared to the Realized One before his awakening.

    Next, four birds of different colors came from the four directions. They fell at his feet, turning pure white. This is the fourth great dream that appeared to the Realized One before his awakening.

    Next, he walked back and forth on top of a huge mountain of filth while remaining unsoiled. This is the fifth great dream that appeared to the Realized One before his awakening.

    Now, as to when, before his awakening, the Realized One, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha was still not awake but intent on awakening. This great earth was his bed. Himalaya, king of mountains, was his pillow. His left hand was laid down in the eastern sea. His right hand was laid down in the western sea. And both his feet were laid down in the southern sea. This was fulfilled when the Buddha awakened to the perfect awakening. This was the first great dream that appeared to him while he was still not awakened.

    As to when a kind of grass called ‘the crosser’ grew up from his navel and stood pressing against the cloudy sky. This was fulfilled when, after the Buddha had awakened to the noble eightfold path, it was well proclaimed wherever there are gods and humans. This was the second great dream that appeared to him while he was still not awakened.

    As to when white caterpillars with black heads crawled up from his feet and covered his knees. This was fulfilled when many white-clothed laypeople went for refuge to him for life. This was the third great dream that appeared to him while he was still not awakened.

    As to when four birds of different colors came from the four directions. They fell at his feet, turning pure white. This was fulfilled when members of the four castes—aristocrats, brahmins, merchants, and workers—went forth from the lay life to homelessness in the teaching and training proclaimed by the Realized One and realized supreme freedom. This was the fourth great dream that appeared to him while he was still not awakened.

    As to when he walked back and forth on top of a huge mountain of filth while remaining unsoiled. This was fulfilled when the Realized One received robes, alms-food, lodgings, and medicines and supplies for the sick. And he used them untied, uninfatuated, unattached, seeing the drawbacks, and understanding the escape. This was the fifth great dream that appeared to him while he was still not awakened.

    Before his awakening these five great dreams appeared to the Realized One, the perfected one, the fully awakened Buddha, when he was still not awake but intent on awakening.”


    https://suttacentral.net/an5.196/en/sujato

    Alternate translation from Bhikkhu Thanissaro:

    https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/AN/AN5_196.html



  2. #2
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    When I read things like this my eyes glaze over and I feel a deep wave of depression come over me.

  3. #3
    I wondered if it might have been a later addition to the Pali Canon like the Jataka Tales are said to have been.

    On page 130 of "The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts" by Bhikkhus Sujato and Brahmali it says:


    The Jātaka literature is attested in the Mauryan period, yet it is clearly later than the EBTs.

    https://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/...thenticity.pdf
    However, returning to the subject of dreams again, according to Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera in his article "Dreams and their Significance"....

    " Buddhas and Arahants never dream"

    https://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/321.htm



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  4. #4
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    I'm really quite interested in the function of dreams. I think they are there to keep the brain healthy, together with a cleansing action which takes away toxins which build up during the day. This is important as the membrane around the brain is difficult for things to pass through, so a specific process has been developed to allow such processes to take place. Dreams seem to be a by-product of the brain sorting out information and playing around with scenarios while you sleep. In this way there are many more 'past' activities to call on if something different happens during waking hours and you can be more creative in your response. Anything to give the survival edge.

    Buddhas and Arahants may never dream, but until you can test this using technology which can record such activity we can only assume that such people have no recollection of having dreams if they did indeed report having none. Which would make sense if their state of mind was such that they only slept soundly, without recalling any dreams.

    Personally I would feel quite cheated without my dreams. They give me glimpses of worlds I will never inhabit and scenarios which I will never encounter. I have had dreams which have seemed to last for months, where I wake up and have to adjust to this reality. At times I think they extend my life, at least the subjective part, by tens of years and so make up for some of that time wasted by sleeping.

    There have been occasions where my practice has leaked into my dreams. It started with dreaming that I was meditating in various locations, often in temples in the far East, but came to my assistance when I started having bad dreams where I was trapped. For some reason I found myself meditating, and the trapped feeling simply evaporated.

    As a last thought I have started to wonder whether part of the brain simply gets bored while other parts are asleep and just amuses itself creatively by running through possible, or impossible, events throughout the night. Maybe the brain of a Buddha or Arahant wouldn't get bored.

  5. #5
    I seemed to stop dreaming a few years ago. (Which doesn't mean I'm claiming to be an Arahant or a Buddha, lol!)

    Some time before that, when I was involved with TB, I had a couple of premonitions in dreams, which were shared with my late Tibetan teacher and nobody else. However, they might have been triggered by some intensive practices I was doing at the time, who knows.

    Anyway, as this is the Sutta studies forum, I think if there's any interest in chatting about dreams in general, it would be better for someone to start a different topic about them in one of our other forums on the website.

  6. #6
    I've just discovered that there are 2 videos by Bhante Sujato in which he discusses sutta AN 5.196.

    Here's the first one:

    Bhante Sujato - Encounters with the Buddha's Words 1 - The Great Dreams (part 1)




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  7. #7
    ...and here's part 2



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