The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes The Five Great Dreams of the Bodhisatta contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Attainment of Buddhahood. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 2 - The Five Great Dreams of the Bodhisatta

The Group of Five Bhikkhus (Pañcavaggī) left The Bodhisatta

It is a natural course of event, (dhammatā), that when a Bodhisatta is about to attain Buddhahood after having completed the practice of dukkaracariyā, either the attendant bhikkhus abandon him for some reason or other or he himself leaves them behind. This being so, when the Bodhisatta began to sustain his body by taking whatever coarse food of rice he received on his alms-round, the said group of Five Bhikkhus became disgusted with him, grumbling: “The Bhikkhu Gotama has become one who practises for the gain of material wealth. He has become one who has abandoned the practice of meditation, and reverted to the material accumulation.” Following the natural course of events, they abandoned the Bodhisatta and went on their way to Isipatana, the Deer Park near Varanasi where the First Sermon, the Wheel of Dhamma, is taught by all the Buddhas. (It is a natural rule for the attendant bhikkhus to abandon the Bodhisattas who are about to attain Buddhahood and to proceed to the Deer Park where every Buddha will teach without fail the First Sermon of Dhammacakka.)

The Group of Five Bhikkhus left the Bodhisatta about the new moon day of Citta and moved to Migadaya, the Deer Park. (It was. in fact, the time when the Bodhisatta had completed the practice of dukkaracariyā.) When the attendant bhikkhus had abandoned him, the Bodhisatta, living a solitary life, gained a considerable degree of solitude which was conducive to extra-ordinary progress and strengthening of his mental concentration. Thus, living in complete seclusion for fifteen days practising meditation and making progress in it, the noble Bodhisatta dreamed five Great Dreams after midnight, just approaching dawn on the fourteenth waxing day of the month of Vesākha.

The Five Great Dreams of The Bodhisatta

The said five Great Dreams were as follows:

(1) He dreamed that he was sleeping on the surface of the earth as his bed, with the Himalaya mountains as his pillow, placing his left hand on the Eastern Ocean, his right hand on the Western Ocean and both his legs on the Southern Ocean. This first dream presaged his realization of Omniscience and becoming a Buddha among devas, humans and Brahmās.

(2) He dreamed that the species of grass called Tiriyā with a reddish stalk about the size of a yoke emerged from his navel and while he was looking on, it grew up, first half a cubit, then one cubit, one fathom, one ta, one gāvuta, half of a yojana, one yojana and so on, rising higher and higher until it touches the sky, the open space, many thousands of yojanas above and remained there. This second dream presaged that he would be able to teach the Path of Eight Constituents (Aṭṭhāngika-magga), which is the Middle Way (Majjhima-paṭipadā), to humans and deva.

(3) He dreamed that hordes of maggots, with white bodies and black heads, slowly crept up his legs covering them from the tip of the toe-nail right up to the knee-cap. This third dream presaged that a great many people (with black heads) who wear pure white clothes would adore the Buddha and take Great Refuge (Mahāsaranagamaṇa) in him.

(4) He dreamed that four kinds of birds, blue, golden, red and grey in colour, came flying from the four directions and when they threw themselves down to prostrate at his feet, all the four kinds of birds turned completely white. This fourth dream presaged that clansmen from the four classes of people, namely, the princely class, the brahmin class, the merchant class, the poor class, would embrace the Teaching of the Buddha, become bhikkhus and attain arahantship.

(5) He dreamed that he was walking to and fro, back and forth on a large mountain of excreta without getting besmeared. This fifth dream presaged large acquisition of the four requisites of robe, alms-food, dwelling place and medicines and that he would utilise them without any attachment and clinging to them.

The Four Causes of Dreams

Dreams are caused by these four causes:

(1) Due to disturbance of metabolism, like malfunctioning of biles, etc., one dreams frightful dreams, examples, falling down from the mountain, travelling in the sky with a frightened heart, being followed closely by beasts of prey, such as wild elephant, wild horse, lion, leopard, tiger, etc., or by evil persons.

(2) Because of experiences of the past, one dreams seeing, hearing and using objects one had seen, heard or used before.

(3) All kinds of illusory objects are made manifest by devas in one’s dream, a good vision if they want to do one a good turn, or a bad vision if they want to do him an ill turn. One sees all these objects through the supernormal powers of devas.

(4) When one experiences a dream of omen, one sees pleasant or unpleasant visions that predict coming event because of one’s past good or evil deeds. Such dreams are like the dream of Mahā Māyā Devī which foretold the conception of a son or like that of King Kosala which presaged the sixteen great events or like the Five Great Dreams of the Bodhisatta.

Of the four kinds of dream, those due to (1) disturbance in metabolism and (2) experiences of the past generally prove to be false. (3) As for the dreams due to the deception by devas, they may or may not turn out to be correct. True, the devas, when angered are apt to show wrong visions in the dreams as a stratagem to cause ruin (see the story below). (4) The dreams which presage coming events invariably prove correct.

The Story of the Devas showing Wrong Visions in The Dream out of Anger

At the monastery of Nāga, in Rohana locality, in Sihala island, the presiding monk ordered a large ironwood tree to be cut down without informing the Sangha. The Rukkha deva (the tree spirit), who had his abode on the said ironwood tree, gave correct dreams to the said presiding monk in the first instance, in order to trick him into believing them. After winning the monk’s trust, the deva told him in a dream: “On the seventh day from today, Venerable Sir, your lay supporter, the king, will die.” The presiding monk, believing these words, informed the female palace attendants accordingly. Thereupon, they wept loudly in unison. When asked by the king, they told him what the presiding monk had said. With the king counting the days, the seven days had passed and the king, who was still alive, ordered the limbs of the presiding monk to be cut off (for causing panic by giving out wrong information).

     ——Sāraṭṭha Dīpanī Tika Volume II——

The said four kinds of dream are experienced only by the worldlings, the sotāpannas, the sakadāgāmins and the anāgāmins, because they have not divested themselves of hallucination (vipallāsa)[1]. Arahats, who have discarded the vipallāsa, do not dream such dreams.

As regards the time of the dreams, those dreamed during the day time, the first watch, the middle watch and the last watch of the night are usually not correct, whereas those dreamed at day break, when the food eaten has been digested and the resulting nutrients are absorbed by the body, are apt to be correct. A dream conveying a good omen usually brings good fortune, whereas one with bad omen usually brings ill-luck. (These notes are extracts from expositions on the Mahāsupina Sutta in Brāhmaṇa Vagga, Catutthapaṇṇsāka, Pañcaka Nipāta of the Aṅguttara Commentary.)

The aforesaid Five Great Dreams are not dreamed by worldlings, nor by kings, nor by Universal Monarch, nor by Chief Disciples, nor by Paccekabuddhas, nor by Omniscient Buddhas. Only the Bodhisattas dreamed such dreams. Our Bodhisatta dreamed the said Five Great Dreams after midnight, just before day break, on the 14th waxing day of Vesākha in the year 103 Mahā Era.

The Interpretation of The Five Great Dreams by The Bodhisatta Himself

The Bodhisatta, rising from his sleep and sitting cross-legged, after having dreamed the Five Great Dreams, thought to himself: “Had I dreamed the Five Great Dreams at the time when I was living in the royal city of Kapilavatthu, I could have related them to my father, King Suddhodāna. I could have related them also to my mother, if she were alive. But now, in Uruvelā forest, there is no one to listen to the Five Great Dreams and interpret them for me. I, myself, will read these omens. And then he himself read the dreams thus: “This first dream presages the attainment of such and such a benefit; this second dream such and such a benefit” and so on as has been said above.

Footnotes and references:


Vipallasa: P.E.D. renders it as reversion, change, perversion, derangement, corruption, distortion. In the translation of Mahā Thera Ledi Sayadaw’s Vipassanā Dīpanī, Sayadaw U Ñyāṇṇa renders it: Vipallasa means halluciation, delusion, erroneous observation, or taking that which is true as being false, and that which is false as true. There are three kinds of Vipallasa, to wit: 1. Saññā-vipallasa: hallucination of perception, 2. Citta-vipallasa: hallucination of thought, 3. Diṭṭhi-vipallasa: hallucination of views. Of these three, hallucination of perception is fourfold, thus; (i) It erroneously perceives impermanence as permanence; (ii) Impurity as purity;(iii) Ill as good; and (iv) No-soul as Soul. The same holds good with regard to the remaining two vipallasa, i.e., those of thinking and viewing.”

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