Five Dreams of Gautama the Buddha with his interpretation. A brief Jungian analysis of the dreams. Plus nine dreams of this blogger (2003-2005) with brief interpretation

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, responsibility, Eros, Sophia, animus and anima.

Julian asked me to write down my dreams and bring them with me to the 60 minute session.

At the first meeting, I told him I rarely have a dream, perhaps a handful of dreams in a year.  I cannot recall having a nightmare, nor experience anguish or anxiety in daily life, but I was committed to looking into the depths of the inner life in fresh ways.

Julian told me I would have a dream the night before a consultation. He was right. In this time, I travelled to four continents a year to teach the Dharma. I would go to bed at home thinking I have not had a dream for a month or two. Then wake up remembering a dream. I would then leave to see Julian. We would sit in two armchairs besides the fireplace in his study at Luscombe Farm outside Totnes.

About a year after the first consultation, 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 10,000 discourses where the Buddha refers to his dreams.

Julian was very keen to see the dreams. I printed them out from the Pali text and took them with me. I read the dreams without telling him of the Buddha’s explanation of the dreams.

The discourse reads:

“Before enlightenment, while still a bodhisattva (a Buddha to be) five great dreams appeared to him:

1. 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.

2. He dreamt that from his navel arose a kind of grass called tirrya and continued growing until it touched the clouds.

3. White worms with black heads crawled on his legs up to his knees, covering them.

4. Four birds on different colours came from the four directions, fell at his feet and turned all white.

5. He climbed up a huge mountain of dung without being soiled by the dung.”

The Buddha-to-be then reflected on his dreams.

Julian said he interpreted the dream from a Western viewpoint of the 21st century not from an Indian viewpoint going back 2600 years.

He said: “If a client came to me and told me he or she had these five dreams, I would treat the client as an ego-maniac suffering from immense self-delusion.”

We both laughed. He added: “I don’t think the Western interpretation is appropriate with the Buddha.”

I then told him of the Buddha’s explanation adding “It is hard to imagine such a contrast in interpretation,”

Gautama’s dream revealed the expanse of the Dharma, via the awakened mind (meaning of the word buddha). The teachings/practices can spread through the whole body of life to transform the pollution of the world. Buddha-Dharma can change the world from sky above to earth below, from darkness to light (black to white) for the benefit of all beings in the air and on the ground without being soiled by the state of things.

His dreams had a prophetic nature to it since the Buddha-Dharma spread throughout the sub-continent of India from the Himalayas to Sri Lanka and as far west as Afghanistan and throughout the rest of Asia. The teachings now take root in the West appealing to religious minds, secular minds and spiritually minded.

Nine Dreams and Interpretation

Here are nine of my dreams I shared with Julian. I wrote the one-line summary after the dream following the exchanges between Julian and I on the significance of the dream.

At the risk of the “I” being enmeshed in the “I”, here is a summary of the dreams “I” experienced between August 2003 and November 2005, and the essence of the reflections that accompanied the dreams.

1. 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 with Sting’s face hidden from public view. I was asked to interview Sting instead of the chat show host. Sting 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.

2. 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 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, what had I turned my back on?

3. 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.  Buddhist nuns never wear make-up. There were four or five friends standing in front of us who were also smiling.

Reflection: Does the red lipstick signal danger?

4. October 26 2004

I am driving in a small car along a very icy, winding road to take two friends, Gail and Hal from California, home to their city apartment. The two of them are sitting on the back seat. I have to be mindful all the way because of the icy conditions, and other cars driving 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 walked back to the parked car.

Reflection: Figures come in and out of consciousness, in and out of our life. We must take care of all – inner and outer.

5. December 12 2004

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. 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.

6. 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 wheel of a taxi was stuck in the mud, so we lifted it up to get it clear. At the top of the hill, I could hear beautiful voices singing in the stadium.

Reflection: There is much to be seen from the highest point especially including others to help get unstuck.

7. May 2 2005

Nicole and I (anima and animus) 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. Nicole and I just walked around appreciating the gardens.

Reflection: Has the religion of Buddhism disappeared from my life leaving only the nature of the Buddha-Dharma?

8. June 15, 2005

I decided to go and buy 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 the lovely aroma of 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: I feel rich even in my dreams and feel nourished through the five senses as well as the enjoyment and appreciation of authority, inner and outer.

9. 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 calm and affectionate.

Reflection: There is no substitute for being at peace with oneself. Self and other can support each other.

Dreams shed light upon the waking state. The waking state sheds light on the dream state. Deep sleep and daily clarity offer receptivity to the insights that can emerge from dreams and the waking state.

The Buddha and Carl Jung shared much together with their emphasis on a full waking up/complete individuation.


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