The Buddha’s dreams and reflections on the Dream World
In the summer of 2003, I started seeing Julian David, a senior and respected Jungian analyst at his home near Totnes, Devon, England. I regard these meetings as an invaluable opportunity to explore the dynamics of relationships, love, authority, transference, responsibility, Eros, Sophia, animus and anima. Julian asked me to write down my dreams. Inquiry into the dreams formed a feature of the analysis.
At the first meeting, I told him that I very rarely have a dream, never had a nightmare, and can’t recall being unhappy or anxious, but I was committed to looking into the depths of the inner life in fresh ways.
Every figure appearing in the dream is an aspect of our ‘selves,’ of our inner life. The witness to the dream is only one identity in the dream. The dream informs us about our inner life and outer life.
About a year later, I told Julian of the five dreams of the Buddha just prior to his enlightenment. (AN 5. See Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, number 113, page 14), translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi. It is the only place in all these texts where the Buddha refers to his dreams.
The discourse reads:
“Before enlightenment, while still a bodhisattva (a Buddha to be) five great dreams appeared to him:
He dreamt that this might earth was his great bedstead; the Himalaya, king of mountains, was his pillow; his left hand rested on the eastern sea, his right hand rested on the western sea; his two feet on the southern sea.
He dreamt that from his navel arose a kind of grass called tirrya and continued growing until it touched the clouds.
White worms with black heads crawled on his legs up to his knees, covering them.
Four birds on different colours came from the four directions, fell at his feet and turned all white.
He climbed up a huge mountain of dung without being soiled by the dung.”
The Buddha-to-be then reflected on his dreams. He explained:
The first dream meant that he would awaken to unsurpassed enlightenment (spreading the body of teachings throughout the Indian sub-continent).
The second dream meant he would fully understand the Path and teach it to all.
The third dream meant householders would go for refuge in the Buddha.
The four castes, noble, priests, business and poor, would go into homelessness to explore the Dharma.
He would receive gifts in terms of food, clothing, accommodation and medicine without becoming attached to such donations (dana)
My Nine Dreams for the Analyst
At the risk of the “I” being enmeshed in the “I”, here is a brief summary of dreams “I” experienced between August 2003 and November 2005, and the very essence of the reflections that accompanied the dreams.
August 15, 2003
I was standing on the studio floor. The chat show host was about to interview Sting (the rock singer). Sting did not want to be seen. The chat show floor was in semi-darkness. Sting’s face hidden from public view. I was then asked to interview Sting instead of the chat show host. He agreed. As I began to ask him questions, he warmed to the questions, his face went from darkness to light.
Reflection: How the power of attention lights up a public role, and what can be revealed.
March 10 2004
I was standing on Reading Railway station platform with Catherine, (a Gaia House teacher), after we returned from India. The train came in. I hurried up the platform to get to the front carriage. She said that I left my backpack behind. I went back to the backpack on the platform. The top of the backpack was fully open and the clothes were all clean. I picked up the backpack and walked back up the station platform.
Reflection: Although the backpack was open, nothing hidden, what had I turned my back on?
June 25 2004
I was in a green field on a lovely summer day. I was standing in front of a thin redbrick wall in the middle of the field with Meichee Patomwon, a beautiful Thai Buddhist nun. We have been friends since we were in our mid-20's. She had a little red lipstick on. There were four or five friends standing in front of us who were also smiling.
Reflection: Does the red lipstick signal danger?
October 26 2004
I am driving in a small car along a very icy, winding road to take two friends, Gail and Hal home to their city apartment. The two of them are sitting on the back seat. I have to be very mindful all the way because of the icy conditions, and other cars driving rather fast. I drive just past their apartment block to park the car. I turn around they have disappeared. I was surprised. Gail and Hal shout down to me ‘We are here.’ I wave back, happy to see them, and then walk back to the parked car.
Reflection: Figures and identities come in and out of consciousness, in and out of our life, nobody and no roles can be taken for granted We must take care of them all – inner and outer.
I went swimming in the Red Sea. I suddenly spotted a beautiful dolphin. The dolphin soared out of the water and up into the air. I had the capacity to do the same. So in complete harmony, the dolphin and I dived down into the water, turned around, and soared straight up in the air, turning and diving down, again and again.
Reflection: A liberated, non-dual bliss!
March 17, 2005
I was walking to the top of Crystal Palace hill in South London. There were others walking as well with me for a big gathering (not a football match). Some of us walked lightly and quickly but there was another crowd walking more slowly carrying baggage. There were only a few of us at the top of the hill, who were very welcoming. It was a lovely day with magnificent views all around. I looked down and noticed that the front left taxi wheel was a bit stuck so we lifted up to get it clear. At the top of the hill, I could hear beautiful voices singing in the stadium.
Reflection: Isn’t there so much to be seen from the highest point and to help others get unstuck, as well as from within?
May 2, 2005
Nicole and I went to Thailand to visit my old monastery, where I spent three years. To my surprise, it was a monastery without any huts left. They had all gone. The grounds of the monastery were beautiful with flowers and trees everywhere - like a small park. So Nicole and I just walked around appreciating the gardens.
Reflection: Has Buddhism of form disappeared from my life? Is harmony of animus and anima a vital issue and the Dharma of relationship the great practice?
June 15, 2005
I decided to go and get some wine at the local shop. The wine manager knew his wine, he was about my age, and very likeable. He suggested three brands and told me to sniff one. I thought that I had no money with me. I put my hand in my wallet and pulled out the wallet. It was absolutely fat with money. Hundreds if not thousands of £££'s. I paid him for the wine and put the rest of the money back in my pocket.
Reflection: Why do I always feel so rich, even in my dreams?
November 16 2005
I walked into a den of lions. I knew that I had to sit among them, not panic, stay relaxed, and no harm could come. I did that and the lions proved to be very affectionate.
Reflection: There is a profound peace within through absorbing into our being all that appears to form our identity.