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Dreams, Sweet And Otherwise

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dreams (supina) are mental images that occur during sleep. There is widespread belief that dreams have some significance. Some people believe they foretell the future, others that the dead can communicate with the living through them. Modern psychoanalysts say that when interpreted correctly, dreams can offer an insight into suppressed desires and drives and thus can lead to a deeper self-understanding. Buddhist psychology recognizes several types of dreams. According to the Milindapanha these are (1) dreams caused by physical stress, (2) by psychological irritability, (3) by spirits, (4) because of mental clarity and (5) prophetic dreams (Mil.II,298). It also says that dreams mainly occur in the interval either between falling asleep or waking up (okkante middhe) and deep sleep (asampatte bhavnge, Mil.II,299), a fact confirmed by science.

Before the Buddha was enlightened, he had seven dreams full of strange symbolism which did in fact foretell his enlightenment (A.III,240). However, he was sceptical of those who claimed that they could interpret other people's dreams and he forbade monks and nuns from doing so (D.I,8). He said that a person who does loving kindness meditation (metta bhavana) will not be disturbed by nightmares (A.V,342) and also that a monk who falls to sleep mindfully will not have a wet dream (A.III,251). The Buddha also said that dreaming of doing something, i.e. killing someone or stealing something, is not ethically significant and therefore has no kammic effect (Vin.III,111). Thus he understood that dreams are beyond the power of the will. Legend says Maha Maya, Prince Siddhattha’s mother, had a dream dreamed of a white elephant soon after he was conceived and that this was a portent of his future greatness. The story is not in the Tipitaka and the earliest version of it is found in the Jatakanidana 50.

The best attempt I know of in any medium to depict a dream is Salavador Dali’s dream sequences from Hitchcock’s Spellbound and Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou. If you have never seen this second clip, be warned, it’s pretty startling, or you might say ‘nightmarish’.

The picture above shows the oldest representation of Maha Maya’s dream from the Bharhut Stupa 2nd century BCE 
Source:  http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/



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