Significance of dreams

Following the previous article, Dreams of a great Being; let us dive deeper into the significance of the dreams in a Buddhist way of life.

What causes us to Dream?

According to some Buddhist text, there are the following causes of dreams.

  1. Physical conditions of our body and disturbances to our bodily functions can result in dreams. For example, sleeping immediately after a heavy meal may cause dreams.
  2. Memories of experiences that we had experienced through our senses. Basically, our monkey mind decided to piece different block of data together to entertain itself. Our preoccupation during the day often results in dreams at night.
  3. External influence by a terrestrial or celestial supernatural being. This are dreams that are caused supernaturally by an external being. (Rare if you don’t go about cultivating opportunities for it)
  4. Prophetic or dream of omen. Our mind is actually very powerful and capable of providing insights. That’s why we can be enlightened. (Rare)

Dreams that result from 1 and 2 are false and just delusions of our mind. Attaching an importance to them is foolish. Most dreams belong to these two categories. Our thoughts and monkey mind are the culprits. Therefore, it is like a window to see the mess that is in our mind.

Dreams arising from 3 can be true but can also be deceptions created by beings with ill intent. If one falls prey to the deception, consequences can be bad. For example (https://bodhi-bowl.com/2018/04/11/fake-buddha/) As seen in the linked articles, supernatural beings can assume different forms to confuse and fool us in our dreams. They can appear as our respected teachers or elders, friends and relatives who had passed away, malevolent and frightful beings etc. We do not know for sure if such dreams convey a truthful message. Sometimes, even advanced meditators and psychics are fooled.

In the case of Ascetic Siddhartha’s dream, it is prophetic because of his level of spiritual progress. This belongs to the 4th type of dreams. Even then, the dreams are cryptic in nature. It is more like an omen instead of dreaming exactly what will happen.

Dream type number 4 usually occur during the last watch of the night, just before dawn.

However, we need to always remember; Dreams are just Dreams.

We must always remind ourselves that they are unreliable. This is evidentially so because enlightened beings such as the Arhat or Buddha do not have dreams. Therefore, dream arises from an imperfect state of mind.

Dreams can have an impact on our well-being (If we allow it)

 A wonderful dream can see us wake up with happiness and a nightmare can haunt us for the rest of the day. If we dwell on our dreams and lend it strength to influence our waking moments, the result can be good or bad; depending on how we manage it.

For example, if we become complacent because of a good dream; then it become detrimental to our progress. On the other hand, if we allow a nightmare to depress us, then we are just ruining ourselves because our deluded mind is playing its usual tricks.

How to deal with dreams

  1. Recognise that it is just a dream. Don’t give it too much credibility
  2. Recognise how your emotion is being affected by the dream. Do you become elated, sad or fearful etc?
  3. Deal with your emotion with rationale and logic. Dreams are just fantasy. If you become happy, remind yourself to work even harder. If you become sad or fearful, remind yourself that dreams are delusion of the mind. It is better to practice care and mindfulness in reality.
  4. In summary, do not feed your dreams and lend it strength by believing it and dwelling on it. Life is in the waking moment. Moment to moment.
  5. If a nightmare really terrifies you, take refuge in the Triple Gems upon waking up. Apply wisdom and rationale to calm yourselves.Practice the way to gain confidence in your own beings. We all have potential to become Buddha too!

Craving for dreams

Sometimes people crave for dreams to deal with the harsh reality of life. Especially when the matter concerns situations that are beyond this world. For example, people may crave to have dreams of their love ones who had passed away. They hope to get some assurance that their love ones are well and happy. We do not encourage this in Buddhism. It is better to double our diligence in Buddhist practice and dedicate the merits in honour of the deceased. The Buddhist practice will help lessen our pain and also help the deceased.

Buddhist practitioners may also crave for prophetic dreams or dreams of Buddha. Such cravings are unhealthy because improvement in our practice should be measured by our good qualities; and not dreams. Furthermore, such craving may result in the 3rd type of dreams that we discussed earlier.

Therefore in summary, dreams are just delusions, either our own or other beings’. Either one will not result in happiness because delusions cause ignorance. Ignorance cause sufferings.

So while we continue to dream and live our life dreamily. Let’s remember wisdom and practice properly. May all be well and happy.