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Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Buddhist Prophecy (Sixteen Dreams)
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Is time running out in the countdown to 2012? In this dream interpretation the Buddha predicts the future based on moral and ethical decay, which we can do something about, rather than the calendar, which we cannot (mayanprophecy2012).
Sixteen Dreams (Jataka 77)
King Pasenadi of Kosala once had 16 frightening dreams. His court chaplains, brahmin advisers, offered to interpret them.
As the king recounted the dreams, the brahmins looked worried. Wringing their hands they said, “These dreams portend one of three calamities: harm to your kingdom, your wealth, or your life.”
The Brahminical "solution" they offered was a ritual animal sacrifice reminiscent of the Jewish and outmoded Christian practice of slaughtering red heifers and sacrificial lambs, a practice that unfortunately still lingers in Hinduism (as in Nepal).
Queen Mallika advised him to seek out best of all brahmins in the human and deva worlds, the Buddha, rather than the advice of his court brahmins.
JETAVANA, India - The king arrived at the monastery, paid his respects, and told the Buddha about his 16 bewildering dreams:
1. “Four black bulls came together from the four directions with every intention to fight. A great crowd gathered to see them fight, but they were bluffing and dispersed. What will come of it?” The Buddha explained: “This was a dream of the distant future when rulers are stingy, citizens corrupt, the world upside down, and good is declining while bad is increasing. At that time, no rain will fall from the heavens, monsoons will forget their season, crops will wither, and famine will spread across the land. Immense clouds will gather, farmers will rush to bring in the rice they had spread to dry in the sun, workers will take their tools and hurry to repair the reservoir walls. Thunder will roar, and lightning will flash from the clouds. However, just as the bulls in your dream did not fight, these clouds will retreat without giving rain. This is what shall come of this dream. But this dream applies to the remote future. The brahmins only said what they said to profit and have their livelihood from it. What was the second dream, sire?”
2. “My second dream was about tiny trees and shrubs that burst through the soil. When they were only a few inches high, they flowered and fruited.” “Sire, this dream will be realized in future when the world has fallen into decay and the average human lifespan is short. Passions then will be so strong that even very young girls will live with men, get pregnant, and have children symbolized by the the flowers and fruit.”
3. “I saw cows suckling from their own newborn calves.” “This dream will come when age is no longer respected. In the future young people will have no regard for parents or parents-in-law. They will handle the family estate themselves. If they please they will give food and clothing to the old folks but not if it does not suit them. The aged, destitute and dependent, will survive only by the favor and whim of their own children, like big cows suckled by newborn calves.”
4. “Men unyoked a team of strong, sturdy oxen, and replaced them with young steers, too weak to draw the load. Those young steers refused to pull. The wagons did not move at all?” “In the future, in the days of corrupt rulers, unjust and stingy leaders will not honor wise leaders skilled in diplomacy. They will not appoint experienced, learned judges to the courts. On the contrary, they will honor the very young and foolish and appoint inexperienced and unprincipled judges to the courts. Naturally, these appointees, due to ignorance of statecraft and the law, will not be able to bear the burden of their responsibilities. Because of incompetence they will have to throw off the yoke of public office. When that happens, the aged and wise will remember being passed over. And even though they are able to cope with the difficulties, they will refuse to help, saying: ‘It is no business of ours since we have become outsiders.’ They will remain aloof, and the government will fall to ruins. It will be just as when young steers yoked instead of a team of sturdy oxen.”
5. “I saw an incredible horse with a mouth on each side of its head being fed fodder on both sides. That dreadful horse ate voraciously with both its mouths.” “In the days of corrupt and irresponsible leaders, covetous people will be appointed judges. These despicable magistrates, blind to virtue and honesty, will take bribes from both sides. That is, they will be doubly corrupt, eating with two mouths at once.”
6. “I saw people holding out a brightly polished golden bowl, which must have been worth a fortune. They were actually begging an old jackal to pee in it. Then I saw the repulsive beast do just that.” “In the remote future, when immoral rulers from royal lines mistrust the established administrators, preferring instead the low of the country. Because of the rulers’ blindness, nobles will decline and the low will be raised to the status of leaders. Naturally, the great families will give their daughters to them in marriage. The union of the noble with the ignoble will be like the urinating of the old jackal into the golden bowl.”
7. “I saw a man braiding rope. As he worked, he dropped the finished rope at his feet. Under his bench, unknown to him, lay a hungry pregnant jackal kept eating the rope just as fast as he braided it.” “In far off days women will crave men, strong drink, extravagant clothes, jewelry, and base entertainments. In their profligacy these women will get drunk with their lovers and carry on shamelessly. In so doing they will neglect their homes and families. They will pawn household valuables, selling everything for drink and amusements, even the means of future earnings. Just as the hungry jackal under the bench ate the rope of the rope-maker, so these women will squander the savings earned by their families.”
8. “At a palace gate there stood a big pitcher full to the brim. Around it stood many empty pitchers. From all directions there came a steady stream of people carrying pots of water they poured into the already full pitcher. The water from the full pitcher kept overflowing wastefully soaking into the sand. Still the people came and poured more and more water. Not a single person even glanced at the empty pitchers more in need of filling.” “In the future when the world is in decline, the country will grow weak, and its leaders will be poorer and more demanding. These rulers in their poverty and selfishness will make the whole country work exclusively for them. They will force citizens to neglect their own work and to labor for them. For the rulers’ sake they will plant sugar cane, make sugar-mills, and boil down molasses. For the rulers’ sake they will plant flower gardens and orchards and gather fruits. They will harvest the crops and fill the storerooms and warehouses to overflowing, but they will be unable even to glance at their own empty stores at home. It will be like filling and overfilling the full pitcher, heedless of the needy, empty ones.”
9. “I saw a deep pool with sloping banks overgrown with lotuses. From all directions, a wide variety of animals came to drink water from that pool. Strangely, the deep water in the middle was terribly muddy. But the water at the edges, where all those thirsty creatures had descended into the pool, was unaccountably clear and sparkling.” “When rulers grow increasingly corrupt, ruling capriciously according to their own whim and pleasure, they will not make judgments according to what is right. Being greedy, they will grow fat on lucrative deals and bribes. Showing no mercy or compassion to their people, they will be fierce and cruel. These rulers will amass wealth by crushing their subjects like stalks of sugar cane in a mill and by taxing them to the last cent. Unable to pay these oppressive taxes, citizens will abandon villages, towns, and cities and flee like refugees to the borders. The heart of the country will be a wilderness, while the remote areas along the borders will teem with people. The country will be just like the pool, muddy in the middle and clear at the edges.”
10. “I saw rice cooking in a pot but never getting done. By ‘never getting done’ I mean that it looked as if the cooking were going on in three distinct stages sharply delineated and separate from each other: One part of the rice was sodden, another part was hard and raw, and the third part looked like it was perfectly cooked.” “In days to come leaders will become corrupt. The administrators (noble caste) will follow the leader’s example and so will the elite educated class (brahmin caste). The townspeople, the merchants, and at last even the laborers will become corrupt. Eventually, everyone in the country, the sages and even the devas of the land, will become immoral. Even the winds that blow over the realm of such a corrupt leader will grow cruel and lawless. Because even the skies and the spirits of the skies over that land will be disturbed, they will cause a drought. Rain will never fall on the whole territory at once. It may rain in the upper districts, but in the lower it will not. In one place a heavy downpour will damage the crops, while in another area the crops will wither from drought. The crops sown within a single country -- like the rice in the pot -- shall have no uniform character.”
11. “I saw rancid buttermilk being bartered for precious sandalwood worth a fortune in gold.” “In the distant future, when my teaching is waning [note the Buddha's teaching was predicted to remain uncorrupted for 1,000 years], there will be many greedy, shameless monastics, who for the sake of their bellies dare to preach the very words in which I have warned against greed! Because they desert the liberating-Dharma to gratify their stomachs, and because they sided with holders of various views, their preaching will not lead to nirvana. Their only thought as they preach will be to use fine words and sweet voices to induce lay believers to give them costly robes, delicate food, and every comfort. Others will seat themselves beside the highways, at busy street corners, or at the doors of rulers’ palaces where they will stoop to preach for money, even for a pittance! Thus these monastics will barter away my teaching that leads to liberation from suffering for food, robes, or coins! They will be like those who exchanged precious sandalwood worth a fortune in pure gold for rancid buttermilk.”
12. “I saw dried gourds sinking in the water.” “In the days of unjust rulers, when the world is upside down, when leaders favor the low rather than the noble, the low will become great leaders, while the nobles will sink into poverty. In the leader’s court and in the courts of justice, the words of the low alone will be recognized. Like the dried gourds, they will be firmly established. In the assemblies of monastics it will be the same. Whenever there are inquiries about proper behavior, rules of conduct, or rules of discipline, only the counsel of wicked, corrupt monastics will be considered. The advice of modest monastics will be ignored. It will be as when the empty pumpkins sank.”
13. “I saw huge blocks of solid stone as big as houses floating like dried gourds on water.” “At a time of corrupt rulers who honor the low, who become great leaders, while the nobles fade into obscurity. The nobles will receive no respect, while ignorant upstarts are granted honors. In the ruler’s court and in law courts, the words of nobles, learned in the law, will drift idly by like those solid stones. They will not penetrate deep into the hearts of people. When the wise speak, the ignorant will merely laugh at them with scorn, saying ‘What is it these individuals are saying?’ In the monastic assemblies as well, people will not respect the excellent elders. Their words will not sink deep but will drift idly by, just like those rocks floating on water.”
14. “I saw tiny frogs, no bigger than miniature flowers, swiftly pursuing huge black snakes and devouring them.” “In future days when the world is declining, at that time human passions will be so strong that husbands will be thoroughly infatuated with childish brides. Men will lose all judgment and self-respect. And being completely smitten, they will place their infantile wives in charge of everything -- servants, livestock, granaries, gold and silver, everything in the house. Should the over-fond husband presume to ask for some money or a favorite robe, he will be told to mind his own business and not to be so inquisitive about property in her house. These abusive young wives will exercise power over their husbands as if their men were hired servants or slaves. It will be like the tiny frogs that gobbled up the big black snakes.”
15. “I saw a village crow, a vile creature with all the ten vices,* attended by an entourage of Mallard ducks, beautiful birds with feathers of golden sheen.” “In the reign of weakling rulers there will be some who know nothing about governing. They will be fools and cowards who understand neither battle nor the art of leadership. Fearing that they may be deposed in a revolt or revolution, they will elevate even their servants, bath-attendants, barbers, and the like [that is, loyal but shockingly unqualified people) to positions of power. These rulers will ignore the real administrators. Cut off from favor and unable to support themselves, the real administrators will be reduced to kissing up like sycophants to the upstart rulers, as when the crow had regal Mallard ducks for a retinue. And, sire, your sixteenth dream?”
16. “I saw goats chasing leopards and eating them. At the sight of goats in the distance, the leopards were stricken with terror and fled to hide in thickets quaking with fear. Such was my dream. What will come of it?” “This dream too will not have its fulfillment until the time of immoral rulers. The low will be raised to important posts and will become the favorites of the administration. Real administrators will sink into obscurity and distress. Gaining power in courts of law because of such favor, the low will claim the ancestral estates of the impoverished traditional leaders, demanding their titles and property. When the real owners plead for their rights in court, the ruler’s minions will have them beaten and tortured, then taken by the throat and thrown out with words of scorn: ‘That ought to teach you to know your place, fools!’ they will shout. ‘How dare you dispute it? The ruler shall hear of your insolence, then we will have your hands and feet chopped off!’ At this, the terrified nobles will agree that black is white and that their own estates belong to these upstarts. They will then hurry off and cower in agony and fear. Likewise, at that time, unprincipled monastics will harass good and worthy recluses until the worthy ones flee from the monasteries to the forest. This oppression of real nobles by the low and of good monastics by bad ones will be like the intimidation of leopards by goats. However, you have nothing to fear from this. This dream like the others only refers to the future.”