The Mahavastu (great story)

by J. J. Jones | 1949 | 305,330 words | ISBN-10: 086013041X

This page describes dreams of shuddhodana and others which is Chapter XV of the English translation of the Mahavastu (“great story”), dating to the 2nd-century BC. This work belongs to the Mahasanghika school of early Buddhism and contains narrative stories of the Buddha’s former lives, such as Apadanas, Jatakas and more..

Chapter XV - The dreams of Śuddhodana and others

Now Śuddhodana had a dream:—

My son, in a dream I saw an elephant emerging from a bath of precious stones, all covered in a net-work of jewels. I n the middle of the city it stayed in its course, and then, trembling ran out of the city through the night.

And when I saw this in my dream I was moved to great laughter, and unrestrained weeping too. My body trembled and was disturbed by torments and inward fevers. (134) For what, I wondered, might be toward that day?

Then the Guardians of the World[1] said to the chief of men, “Fear not, O king, but be thrilled with joy. Come, hear what the true significance of your dream is. It means that one is arisen who will bring an awakening to the great multitude.

“He, the possessor of great virtue, renouncing his kingdom, his four female companions[2] and his prosperous folk, unheeding its fair power, will undoubtedly go away from your fair city. Let this be known

“By his going forth he will overcome the many forms of ill. That is the true meaning of your laughing in your dream. As for your weeping in your dream, it means that unending bliss will be theirs who hearken to the Conqueror, the vanquisher of his foes.

His aunt, too, had a dream:—

His aunt said, “My boy, who art beautiful as a mass of gold, in my dream I saw a noble buū, white, with an exceeding lovely hump,[3] with an extra[4] horn, whose very motion spoke of love, and it was sleek of body.

“The bull bellowed most sweetly, and ran out of Kapilavastu, taking the path his heart was bent on. There is none that can beat his bellowing when he bellows—the noble bull that is like a heap of flowers.”

(135) The lords of the devas said to the piteously weeping king,[5] “Do not weep, you whose affection brings joy to the house of Śākya. I shall tell you the truth without guile. Stir up within you the bliss that is born of joy.

“O valiant king, he who is of exceeding pure conduct, replete with goodness,[6] intelligent in his ways,[7] and devout, a noble lion-man renouncing his folk and leaving his city, desires the state of a bull-man.

“He, the great seer of clear vision, points out the deathless, immovable, sure, unshakable and peerless nirvana. When they hear the roar of the lion-man, crowds of unbelievers will wander forth in its direction

Yaśodharā, too, had a dream:—

Then Rāhula’s mother, with her heart bound in a passion that was greater than friendship, said, “My lord, hear how I, too, saw a charming vision to-day, and may its realisation also be so to me.

“For, O lord of men, in a moment a cloud engulfed Śuddhodana’s palace all around, and a flash of lightning accompanied by thunder and a downpour of rain, repeatedly lit up the three worlds.

(136) “The cloud, holding an ocean of water, with a soft rumbling sound, shedding rain that was cool and incomparably pure and clear, rained down though it was the summer season.[8] And Sahāmpatīka[9] also was rendered inwardly glad.

Then Brahmā came and said to Rāhula’s mother, “Listen, be not cast down. This significant dream portends the realisation of your wish. Quickly, therefore, recover your joy.

“This lovely-eyed son of Śuddhodana, like a cloud raining on the three worlds, will bring relief to those who are scorched by the great fires of passion, by bringing to birth immovable dharma, and compassion beyond compare.”

The Bodhisattva, also, had five great dreams, which he interpreted to the monks at Śrāvastī after he had attained to the supreme enlightenment.

Monks, said he, before the Tathāgata had awakened to the full enlightenment he saw five great visions in dreams. What five? Monks, before the Tathāgata had awakened to complete enlightenment he dreamt that this great earth was a high vast bed to him. Sumeru, monarch of mountains, was his pillow. His left arm rested in the eastern ocean, his right in the western, and the soles of his two feet in the southern. This, monks, was the first great vision the Tathāgata saw before he had awakened to enlightenment.

(137) When the Tathāgata, monks, as yet had not awakened to enlightenment, he dreamt that the grass called kṣīrikā[10] sprouted from his navel and reared up to heaven. This, monks, was the second great vision the Tathāgata saw before he had awakened to enlightenment.

When the Tathāgata, monks, as yet had not awakened to enlightenment, he dreamt that reddish creatures with black heads stood covering him from the soles of his feet up to his knee-caps. This, monks, was the third great vision the Tathāgata saw before he had awakened to enlightenment.

When the Tathāgata, monks, as yet had not awakened to enlightenment, he dreamt that four vultures of different colours came flying through the air from the four quarters, and having kissed the soles of his feet went away all white. This, monks, was the fourth great vision the Tathāgata saw before he had awakened to enlightenment.

When the Tathāgata, monks, as yet had not awakened to enlightenment, he dreamt that he walked to and fro over a great mountain of dung without being soiled by it. This, monks, was the fifth great vision the Tathāgata saw before he had awakened to enlightenment.

When the Tathāgata, monks, as yet had not awakened to enlightenment, he dreamt that this great earth was his high vast bed. Sumeru, monarch of mountains, was his pillow. His left arm rested in the eastern ocean, his right in the western, and the soles of his feet in the southern. Now when the Tathāgata awoke to perfect enlightenment, then was this great dream fulfilled.

Then with regard to the vision of the grass called kṣīrikā growing out of his navel and rearing to the sky, which the Tathāgata saw before he had awakened to enlightenment. The Tathāgata, monks, with his higher knowledge of this world, (138) of the world beyond, of the deva world, of Māra’s world, of Brahmā’s world, and of the race of recluses, brāhmans, devas and men, in the Deer Park at Ṛṣipatana in Benares set rolling the incomparable wheel of dharma which is thrice-revolved and twelve-fold[11] and was never set rolling by any recluse, brāhman or deva, nor by Māra or anyone else. Again was he in the world with the dharma which consists of the four Aryan truths, namely, the Aryan truth of ill, the Aryan truth of the origin of ill, the Aryan truth of the cessation of ill, and the Aryan truth of the way that leads to the cessation of ill.

And monks, when the devas of earth heard the proclamation of such dharma by the Tathāgata they raised a shout, saying to one another, “Lo, friend, the Exalted One, in the Deer Park at Ṛṣipatana in Benares, has set rolling the incomparable wheel of dharma which is thrice-revolved and twelve-fold and which has never been set rolling by any recluse, brāhman, deva, by Brahmā, Māra or anyone else. Once more is he in the world with the dharma of what ill is, the origin of ill, the cessation of ill, and the way that leads to the cessation of ill. This will mean the welfare and happiness of the multitude, compassion for the world, the good of the multitude, and the welfare and happiness of devas and men.”

When they heard the shout of the devas of earth, the devas of the regions between heaven and earth, the Four Royal devas, the Three and Thirty devas, the Yāma devas, the Tuṣita devas, the Nirmāṇarati devas and the Paranirmittavaśavartin devas[12] all instantaneously raised a shout that reached Brahmā’s world, saying to one another, “Lo, friend, in the Deer Park at Ṛṣi-patana in Benares, the Exalted One has set rolling the incomparable wheel of dharma, which is thrice-revolved and twelvefold and has never been set rolling by any recluse, brāhman, deva, or by Māra or anyone else. Once more is he in the world with the dharma of what ill is, the origin of ill, the cessation of ill, and the way that leads to the cessation of ill.” This was the fulfilment of that great vision.

With regard, monks, to the vision seen by the Tathāgata before he had awakened to enlightenment, wherein reddish creatures with black heads stood covering him (139) from the soles of his feet up to his knee-caps. Now, monks, there is a large number of people who have performed acts of service to the Tathāgata, and these on the dissolution of the body at death, will be reborn in the happy bourne, in heaven among the devas. This is the fulfilment of that vision.

With regard, monks, to the vision seen by the Tathāgata before he had awakened to enlightenment, wherein four vultures of different colours came flying through the air from the four quarters, and, having kissed the soles of the Tathāgata’s feet, went away all white, these four colours, monks, correspond to the four castes. What four? Kṣatriyas, brāhmans, vaiśyas and śūdras. Those of them who live the holy life steadfastly[13] under[14] the Tathāgata realise deliverance of heart and emancipation through wisdom. This is the realisation of that great vision.

With regard, monks, to the vision seen by the Tathāgata before he had awakened to enlightenment, wherein he walked to and fro over a mountain of dung without being soiled by it. Now the Tathāgata while he tarries in the east is there honoured, revered, esteemed, worshipped, and respected. He receives the requisites of robes, almsbowl, bed, seat and medicines for use in sickness. He is free from attachment[15] and infatuation[16], and his heart is untainted. While he tarries in the south the Tathāgata is there also honoured, revered, esteemed, worshipped, and respected. He receives the requisites of robes, almsbowl, bed, seat and medicines for use in sickness. He is free from attachment and infatuation, and his heart is untainted. While the Tathāgata tarries in the west he is there also honoured, revered, esteemed, worshipped and respected. He receives the requisites of robes, almsbowl, bed, seat and medicines for use in sickness. He is free from attachment and infatuation, and his heart is untainted. While the Tathāgata tarries in the north, he is there also honoured, revered, esteemed, worshipped and respected. He receives the requisites of robes, almsbowl, bed, seat and medicines for use in sickness. He is free from attachment and infatuation, and his heart is untainted.

That, monks, is the realisation of the great vision the Tathāgata saw before he had awakened to enlightenment.

Thus did the Exalted One speak, and the enraptured monks rejoiced at what he said.

(140) Here end the five great visions of Śuddhodana.[17]

Footnotes and references:

1.

See Vol. I, p. 25, n. 3.

2.

Dutiyā, Pali for Sk. dvitīyā. Cf. V. 4, 225, 230, 270, 297, 315. Senart adds that the word bears the same sense in various cave inscriptions in the western parts of India.

3.

Reading kakudha (Pali = Sk. kakuda, “hump of an Indian bull”) for kakubha of the text. One MS. has kakuda.

4.

Atiriktaśṛṅga, cf. atiriktāṅga, “having a redundant limb, finger, or toe.”

5.

The devas speak to the king (rudantaṃ—masc.).

6.

Reading śuddhacataṇo kuśalopeto, nom., for °caranaṃ °upetaṃ of the text.

7.

Reading gatimatimān for °matinān (sic) of the text.

8.

Reading samaye nidāghe for śayane nidāghaṃ of the text.

9.

Cf. Sahāmpati, p. 6o, n. 9. But the allusion is by no means obvious. Perhaps we should read instead mahāpratāpo, alluding to the ‘scorched’ nature of the earth before the rain.

10.

Evidently a grass or reed having a milky (kṣīra) sap.

11.

Triṣparivartaṃ dvādaśākāraṃ. At V. I. n tiparivaṭṭaṃ dvādasākāraṃ are epithets of ñāṇadassanaṃ, “knowledge and insight,” i.e. into the four Aryan truths, and are to be explained by the number and character of the precedent conditions to, or stages in, the acquirement of that knowledge and insight. Nāṇadassana is practically equivalent in this connection to dharma as defined immediately below. Hence our text applies the epithets to the dharmacakra, a symbol of the dharma.

12.

For these devas see Vol. I, p. 34, n. 2. Cf. also V. 3. 18 f.

13.

Akopya, Pali akuppa, a + gerundive of kup.

14.

Literally “in the Tathāgata,” simply, Tathāgatae.

15.

Anadhyavasita, cf. Pali ajjhosita.

16.

Anadhimūrchita (v.l. °mūcchita), cf. Pali adhimuccita and adhimucchita, “either adhi + muc or mūrch; it would seem more probable to connect it with the former, cf. adhimuccati and consider all vv. 11. °mucchita as spurious but in view of the several passages we have to assume a regular analogy from °mucchitā, cf. mucchati, and see also J.P.T.S. 1886, 109” (P.E.D.). The form in our text would seem to confirm this assumption.

17.

Sic.