Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dreams: When Buddhism and the World end

Dhr. Seven, Ashley Wells, Amber Larson (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly; Jataka Tales of the Buddha (Part IV) retold by Ken and Visakha Kawasaki (Mahasupina Jataka (Jat.77), BPS
Only the "elect" (the arya, the noble ones, those entered on the stages of enlightenment)
Deep in the jungles of formerly Buddhist Indonesia (Jeff Eliassen/mariafels/
To sleep, perchance to dream of a future.
One morning, when the ministers and Brahmins went to the palace to pay their respects to King Pasenadi, who ruled Kosala, and to inquire whether he had slept well, they found him lying in terror, unable to move from his bed.
"How could I sleep well?" answered the king. "Just before daybreak I dreamed 16 incredible dreams, and I have been lying here terrified ever since! Since you are my advisers, tell me what these dreams mean."
"What were your dreams, sire?" the Brahmins asked. "Surely we will be able to judge their importance."
As the king was telling them his dreams, the Brahmins looked very worried and began wringing their hands.
"Why are you wringing your hands, Brahmins?" asked the king. "Is it because of my dreams?"
"Yes, sire. These are harmful dreams. They are full of peril."
"What will come of them?" asked the king.
"They portend one of three calamities, sire -- great harm to your kingdom, to your wealth, or to your life."
"Is there any remedy?"
"These dreams are powerful and extremely threatening. Still, we will find a remedy, otherwise what is the use of our vast study and learning?"
"How do you propose to avert the harm?" asked the king.
"Wherever four roads meet, we will offer appropriate sacrifices, sire."
"My advisers!" cried the king. "My life is in your hands! Hurry and do your best to save me!"
Each of the exultant Brahmins had the same thought: "We are going to make a fortune from these dreams. Soon we will feast on the choicest foods." ...

"I have dreamed such unlucky dreams! The Brahmins [who served rulers as political ministers, chaplains, and spiritual counselors] tell me they point to disaster. They keep coming here because they are anxious to protect me from harm by offering [animal and other] sacrifices."
"Has your majesty consulted the 'Chief Brahmin' [ultimate noble] of all the worlds about this?" asked the queen.
"Who do you mean, my dear?" asked the king.

Comet Siding Spring makes a very close approach to the planet Mars (artist's rendering shown here) and is observed by means of surface rovers and satellites (wiki).
"Of course, I mean the Buddha. He will surely understand your dreams. Go to Jeta's Grove and ask him."
"A good idea, my queen," replied the king. "I will go at once."
When the king reached the monastic compound, he paid his respects to the Buddha and sat down.
"What brings your majesty here so early in the morning?" asked the Buddha.

"Just before daybreak, venerable sir, I dreamed 16 terrifying dreams. My Brahmins have warned that my dreams foretell calamity. To avert harm, they are preparing to sacrifice many animals wherever four roads meet. Queen Mallika suggested that I ask you to tell me what these dreams really mean and what will come of them."
"It is true, sire, that only I can accurately explain the significance of your dreams and tell you what will come of them. Tell me your dreams as they appeared to you."
"I will, Blessed One," answered the king, and began: 

The 16 Prophetic Dreams
The Buddha broken and headless but reparable (MaretH/
"In the first dream, I saw four jet-black bulls. They came together from the four cardinal directions to the royal courtyard with every intention to fight.

"A great crowd of people gathered to see the bullfight. The bulls, however, only made a show of fighting, pawing and bellowing. Finally, they went off without fighting at all. This was my first dream. What will come of it?"
"Sire, that dream will have no result in your lifetime or mine. But in the distant future, when rulers are stingy, when citizens are unrighteous, when the world is perverted (upside down), and when good is waning and bad waxing, in those days of the world's decline, no rain will fall from the sky, the monsoons will forget their season, the crops will wither, and famine will stalk the land. At that time immense clouds will gather from the four quarters of the sky as if for rain.

"Farmers will rush to bring in the rice they had spread to dry in the sun. Humans will take their spades and hurry to repair the dams (dikes). The thunder will roar, and the lightning will flash from the clouds. However, just as the bulls in your dream did not fight, these clouds will retreat without giving rain.

"This is what shall come of this dream. But no harm shall come to you from this dream because it applies only to the remote future. The Brahmin priests only said what they said to get some profit [from the many sacrifices] for themselves. Now tell me your second dream, sire."
"My second dream was about tiny trees and shrubs which burst through the soil. When they were scarcely more than a few inches high, they flowered and bore fruit. This was my second dream. What will come of it?"
"Sire," said the Buddha, "this dream will be realized in future days when the world has fallen into decay and when human lives are short. Passions then will be so strong that even very young girls will cohabitate with men. Despite their immaturity, they will get pregnant and have children. The flowers and fruit symbolize their babies. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your third dream."
"I saw cows sucking milk from their very own newborn calves. This was my third dream. What can it possibly mean?"
"This dream will come about only when age is no longer respected. In that future time young people will have no regard for their parents or parents-in-law. Children will handle the family estate themselves. If it pleases them, they will give food and clothing to the old folks, but, if it doesn't suit them, they will withhold their gifts. Thus the old people, destitute and dependent, will survive only by the favor and whim of their own children, like big cows suckled by day-old calves. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your fourth dream."

"People unyoked a team of strong, sturdy oxen, and replaced them with young steers, too weak to draw the load. Those young steers refused to pull. They stood stock-still, so that the wagons didn't move at all. This was my fourth dream. What will come of it?"
"Here again the dream will not come to pass until the future, in the days of wicked rulers. In days to come, unjust and parsimonious rulers will show no honor to wise leaders, skilled in diplomacy. They will not appoint experienced, learned judges to the courts. On the contrary, they will honor the very young and foolish, and will appoint the most inexperienced and unprincipled to the courts. Naturally, these appointees, because of their ignorance of statecraft and the law, will not be able to bear the burden of their responsibilities.

"Because of their incompetence they will have to throw off the yoke of public office. When that happens, the aged and wise ones will remember being passed over and, even though they are able to cope with all difficulties, they will refuse to help, saying: 'It is no business of ours since we have become outsiders.' They will remain aloof, and the government will fall to ruins. It is just like when the young steers, not strong enough for the burden, were yoked instead of the team of sturdy oxen. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your fifth dream."
"I saw an incredible horse with a mouth on each side of its head being fed fodder on both sides. That dreadful horse ate voraciously with both its mouths. This was my fifth dream. What will come of it?"

"This dream will also come true only in the future, in the days of unrighteous and irresponsible rulers, who will appoint covetous people to be judges. These despicable magistrates, blind to virtue and honesty, will take bribes from both sides as they sit in the seat of judgment. They will be doubly corrupt, just like the horse that ate fodder with two mouths at once. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your sixth dream."

"I saw people holding out a brightly burnished golden bowl which must have been worth a fortune. They were actually begging an old jackal to urinate in it. Then I saw the repulsive beast do just that. This was my sixth dream. What can it mean?"

"This dream too will come to be only in the remote future, when immoral rulers, although from a royal line themselves, will mistrust the offspring of their old nobility, preferring instead the lowest-born of the country. Because of the rulers' blindness, nobles will decline, and the low-born will rise in rank. Naturally, the great families will give their daughters to them in marriage. The union of the noble maidens with the ignoble, nouveau-riche will be like the urinating of the old jackal into the golden bowl. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your seventh dream."

"I saw a man braiding rope. As he worked, he dropped the finished rope at his feet. Under his bench, unknown to him, lay a hungry and pregnant jackal female (bitch), which kept eating the rope as fast as he braided it. This was my seventh dream. What shall come of it?"

"This dream also will happen only in far off days. At that time women will crave men, strong drink, extravagant clothes, jewelry, and entertainment. In their profligacy these women will get drunk with their lovers and carry on shamelessly. They will neglect their homes and families. They will pawn household valuables, selling everything for drink and amusements, even the seed needed for the next crop. Just as the hungry jackal under the bench ate the rope of the rope-maker, so these women will squander the savings earned by their husbands' labor. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your eighth dream."

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"At a palace gate there stood a big pitcher full to the brim. Around it stood many empty pitchers. From all directions there came a steady stream of people carrying pots of water which they poured into the already full pitcher. The water from that full pitcher kept overflowing and wastefully soaking into the sand. Still the people came and poured more and more water into the overflowing vessel. Not a single person even glanced at the empty pitchers. This was my eighth dream. What shall come of it?"
"This dream too will not come to pass until the future when the world is in decline. The country will grow weak, and its rulers will be poorer and more demanding. They in their poverty and selfishness will make the whole country work exclusively for them. They will force citizens to neglect their own work and to labor only for the throne.

"For the rulers' sake they will plant sugar cane, make sugar-mills, and boil down molasses. For the rulers' sake they will plant flower gardens and orchards and gather fruits. They will harvest all the crops and fill the royal storerooms and warehouses to overflowing, but they will be unable even to glance at their own empty barns [storerooms, sheds] at home. It will be like filling and overfilling the full pitcher, heedless of the needy, empty ones. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your ninth dream."
"I saw a deep pool with sloping banks overgrown with lotuses. From all directions, a wide variety of animals came to drink water from that pool. Strangely, the deep water in the middle was terribly muddy, but the water at the edges, where all those thirsty creatures had descended into the pool, was unaccountably clear and sparkling. This was my ninth dream. What does it mean?"
"This dream too will not come to pass until the future, when rulers grow increasingly corrupt. Ruling according to their own whim and pleasure, they will never make judgments according to what is right. Being greedy, they will grow fat on lucrative bribes. Never showing mercy or compassion to their subjects, they will be fierce and cruel.

"These rulers will amass wealth by crushing their subjects like stalks of sugar cane in a mill and by taxing them to the last penny.

"Unable to pay the oppressive taxes, the citizens will abandon their villages, towns, and cities, and will flee like refugees to the borders. The heart of the country will be a wilderness, while the remote areas along the borders will teem with people. The country will be just like the pool, muddy in the middle and clear at the edges. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your tenth dream."

"I saw rice boiling in a pot without getting done. By 'not getting done' I mean that it looked as though the cooking was going on in three distinct stages which were sharply delineated and separate from each other. One part of the rice was sodden, another part was hard and raw, and the third part looked like it was perfectly cooked. This was my tenth dream. What will come of it?"
"This dream too will not be fulfilled until the future. In days to come rulers will become unrighteous; the nobles [administrators] will follow the ruler's example, and so will the Brahmins. The townsfolk, the merchants, and at last even the farmers will be corrupted. Eventually, everyone in the country, the sages and even the gods (devas) of the land, will become immoral. Even the winds that blow over the realm of such an unrighteous ruler will grow cruel and lawless.
"Because even the skies and the spirits of the skies over that land will be disturbed, they will cause a drought. Rain will never fall on the whole country at once. It may rain in the upper districts, but in the lower it will not. In one place a heavy downpour will damage the crops, while in another area the crops will wither from drought. The crops sown within a single country -- like the rice in the one pot -- shall have no uniform character. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your eleventh dream."
"I saw rancid buttermilk being bartered for precious sandalwood worth a fortune in gold. This was my eleventh dream. What shall come of it?"
"This will happen only in the distant future, when my teaching is waning. In those days, there will be many greedy, shameless monastics (bhikkhu/unis), who for the sake of their bellies dare to preach the very words in which I have warned against greed!

"Because they desert the Truth to gratify their stomachs, and because they sided with sectarians [a name for non-Buddhist dharmas, listed as contemporary schools of thought in India -- Brahmanism and the other shramanic traditions like Jainism], their preaching will not lead to nirvana.

"Their only thought as they preach will be to use fine words and sweet voices to induce lay believers to give them costly robes, delicate food, and every comfort. Others will seat themselves beside the highways, at busy street corners, or at the doors of rulers' palaces, where they will stoop to preach for money, even for a pittance!

"Thus these monastics will barter away for food, for robes, or for coins, my teaching [the historical Buddha-Dharma, which led to enlightenment and nirvana, i.e., awakening and final liberation] which leads to liberation from all suffering!

"They will be like those who exchanged precious sandalwood worth a fortune in pure gold for rancid buttermilk. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your twelfth dream."
"I saw dried gourds sinking in the water. What shall come of it?"
"This dream also will not have its fulfillment until the future, in the days of unjust rulers, when the world is perverted. In those days rulers will favor the low-born, not the nobility. The low-born will become great lords, while the nobles will sink into poverty. In the ruler's court and in the courts of justice, the words of the low-born alone will be recognized, so that they, like the dried gourds, will be firmly established. In the assemblies of monastics it will be the same.
"Whenever there are enquiries about proper behavior, rules of conduct, or discipline, only the counsel of wicked, corrupt monastics will be considered. The advice of modest [polite, humble] monastics will be ignored. It will be as when the empty pumpkins sank. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your thirteenth dream."

Then the king said, "I saw huge blocks of solid rock, as big as houses, floating like dried gourds upon the waters. What shall come of it?"
"This dream also will not come to pass until those times of which I have spoken. At that time unrighteous rulers will show honor to the low-born, who will become great lords, while the true nobles will fade into obscurity. The nobles will receive no respect, while the ignorant upstarts will be granted all honors.

"In the ruler's court and in the law courts, the words of the nobles [administrators, professionals], learned in the law, will drift idly by like those solid rocks. They will not penetrate deep into the hearts of people.

"When the wise speak, the ignorant will merely laugh at them with scorn saying, 'What is it these fellows are saying?' In the assemblies of monastics as well, people will not respect the excellent monastics. Their words will not sink deep, but will drift idly by, the same as the rocks floating on the water. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your fourteenth dream."

"I saw tiny frogs, no bigger than miniature flowerets, swiftly pursuing huge black snakes and devouring them. What can this mean?"
"This dream too will not have its fulfillment until those future days of which I have already spoken, when the world is declining. At that time people's passions will be so strong that husbands will be thoroughly infatuated with their childish wives. Men will lose all judgment and self-respect. Being completely smitten, they will place their infantile wives in charge of everything -- servants, livestock, granaries, gold and silver, everything in the house.

"Should the over-fond husband presume to ask for some money, or for a favorite robe, he will be told to mind his own business and not to be so inquisitive about property in her house. These abusive young wives will exercise their power over their husbands as if the men were slaves. It will be like the tiny frogs that gobbled up the big black snakes. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your fifteenth dream."

"I saw a village crow, a vile creature with all the ten vices [Note 1], attended by an entourage of Mandarin ducks, beautiful birds with feathers of golden sheen. What shall come of it?"
  • 1. The crow is destructive, reckless, greedy, gluttonous, rough, merciless, weak, noisy, forgetful, and wasteful.
"This dream too will not come to pass until the far distant future, in the reign of weakling rulers. Then there will be rulers who know nothing about ruling. They will be cowards and fools. Fearing revolt and revolution, they will elevate their servants (footmen), bath-attendants, and barbers to nobility [administrative positions].

"These rulers will ignore the real nobility. Cut off from royal favor and unable to support themselves, authentic nobles will be reduced to dancing attendance on the upstarts, as when the crow had regal Mandarin ducks for a retinue. However, you have nothing to fear from this. Tell me your sixteenth dream."

"I saw goats chasing wolves and eating them. At the sight of goats in the distance, the wolves fled terror-stricken, quaking with fear to hide in thickets. Such was my dream. What will come of it?"
"This dream too will not have its fulfillment until the reign of immoral rulers. The low-born will be raised to important posts and will become royal favorites. True nobles will sink into obscurity and distress. Gaining power in the law courts because of the ruler's favors, the parvenu will claim the ancestral estates of the impoverished old nobility, demanding their titles and all their property.

"When the real nobles plead their rights in court, the ruler's minions will have them beaten and tortured, then taken by the throat and thrown out with words of scorn. 'That will teach you to know your place, fools!' they will shout. 'How dare you dispute with us? The ruler shall hear of your insolence, and we will have your hands and feet chopped off!' At this, the terrified nobles will agree that black is white and that their own estates belong to the lowly upstarts.

The Noble Ones
Jhana meditation (PeterFroehlich/flickr)
"They will then hurry home and cower in an agony of fear. Likewise, at that time, corrupted monastics will harass good, worthy monastics until the worthy ones flee from the monasteries to the jungle. This oppression of true nobles [arya, those who have undergone a change of lineage from ordinary worldlings to "nobles" in the ultimate sense of the term, which is to have achieved one or more of the stages of enlightenment beginning with stream entry] by the low-born and of good monastics by the corrupted monastics will be like the intimidation of wolves by goats. However, you have nothing to fear from this. This dream refers to the future only."
When he had thus reassured the king, the Buddha added: "It was neither truth nor love for you that prompted the Brahmins to prophesy as they did. It was pure greed and selfishness that led them to prescribe sacrifices."
Thus, the Buddha explained the meaning of the 16 dreams. Then he said, "Nor are you the first to have had these dreams. They were dreamed by kings of bygone days as well. Then, as now, Brahmins found in them a pretext for sacrifices."
At the king's request, the Buddha told this story of the past.
Story of the Past
Long, long ago, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Varanasi [when a hybrid or extraterrestrial, like a pharoah, was reigning from the ancient holy city of Benares], the Bodhisatta [Buddha-to-be] was born into a Brahmin family in the North country [northern India or northern Central Asia]. When he grew up, he renounced the world and became a hermit. Having attained a high level of meditation [mastery of the jhanas], he acquired supernatural powers (abhinna).
One day, King Brahmadatta dreamed 16 mysterious dreams and asked his advisers about them. The Brahmins explained that the dreams foretold harm and began preparing great sacrifices. Seeing this, one of the pupils of the chief Brahmin, a young man of considerable learning and wisdom, approached his teacher and said:

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