King Bimbisara of Kosala had several odd dreams one night. On waking up, he sent for the wise Brahmans and told them about his dreams.
“Consult the holy books and tell me what the dreams signify,” he requested.
The Brahmans held a secret conference. The King was perturbed, and this was a perfect opportunity for the Brahmans to fleece the King. Let us not miss this chance,” they thought among themselves.
Then they went to the King and said, “Sire, we referred to several rare texts. The dreams you had portended great calamities. These calamities are going to visit your person, your race, as well as your kingdom!”
The King was now positively frightened.
“Find out,” he implored the Brahmans, “how these calamities may be averted.”
“But we already know the remedy, too.” the Brahmans told the King. “To avert danger, you must have sacrifices performed wherever four roads meet throughout the kingdom. At the end of these sacrifices, feast on the Brahmans and give them great gifts. Not only will all danger be averted by doing so, but prosperity will follow.”
King Bimbisara accepted this advice blindly, called his cashier, and said, “Let a sacrifice be conducted wherever four roads meet. Set aside enough funds to feed the Brahmans and make them the proper gifts. Money is no consideration.”
The Queen heard of this order. She went to the King and said, “My Lord, don’t start these sacrifices in a hurry. I am sure these Brahmans know not what they say. The One who knows everything is in Jeta-vana. Go to see him, tell him about your dreams, and if he advises you to carry out these sacrifices, you can do so, by all means.”
King Bimbisara fell in with this advice. He went in person to Jeta-Vana and requested Lord Buddha to come to his house and dine with him. The Buddha conceded the King’s request and went to the palace.
The King submitted to the Great One, “Lord, you know all. Last night I had several frightful dreams. I beg you to tell me what those dreams signify.”
Lord Buddha smiled at the King’s superstition. “Tell me your dreams,” he said, “and I’ll tell you what they signify.”
“My Lord,” the King said, “in my first dream, I saw four bulls rush into the palace courtyard, bellowing frightfully. People gathered to see them fight. But the bulls departed without fighting at all. What does this dream portend?”
“O King,” the Buddha replied, “this dream does not portend anything to you or your epoch. In future, there will be evil rulers. During their reign, clouds gather in the sky, but no rain occurs. The people who hope for the rain will be disappointed.”
“Then I saw a strange thing,” the King said. “The plants which came out of the soil began to flower and bear fruit without growing to their full height. What does it signify?”
“During the sinful times I have already spoken, girls will be married too young, and they will become mothers before they are fully grown up. That is what your dream signifies,” the Buddha replied.
“Then I saw cows sucking milk from tiny calves,” the King said. “What does it mean?”
“It means,” the Buddha replied, “that in the evil days which are to come, old people will have to depend upon the young for their sustenance.”
“In the next dream,” the King said, “I saw men unyoke strong and sturdy oxen and set young steers to yoke. What can it mean?”
“In days to come,” the Buddha replied, “foolish kings will remove wise and capable men from the helm of statecraft and put incapable favourites of their own in their place. But these weaklings will not be able to move forward.”
“Later, I saw a queer horse with a mouth at both ends. With both mouths, it was eating up fodder. What does this dream signify?” the King asked.
“The dream says,” the Buddha replied, “how, in future, the corrupt officials of justice will fatten themselves with bribes taken from both sides of a dispute instead of dispensing real justice.”
“Please tell me the meaning of this dream,” the King asked the Buddha. “I saw a man weaving a rope. As he threw it down at his feet, she jackal swallowed it without his knowledge.”
“In times to come,” the Buddha replied, “society will be very corrupt. In such a society, sinful women will be wasting away for their vanity the hard-earned savings of their husbands.”
“And then I saw a strange thing,” the King said. “Near the palace, I saw a big pitcher full of water and several empty ones around it. People of all castes were bringing water and pouring it into the big pitcher. They did not notice that the pitcher was overflowing or that the other pitchers were empty. What does it signify?”
“There will come a time,” the Buddha replied, “when there will be no social justice. The people will toil and over-fill the King’s treasury while their homes stand empty and poor.”
“Then I saw rice boiling in a pot,” the King said. “One part of the rice was overcooked, another well cooked and yet another not cooked at all.”
“This shows the state of agriculture that will exist in future,” the Buddha replied. “The rulers will not take precautions to avoid floods and droughts. So there will be floods in one part of the land, enough rain in another part and no rain in yet another part. And crops will be uneven.”
“Lord, I saw men hawking highly precious sandalwood in the streets and exchanging it for money,” the King said. “What does it mean?”
“It means that, in future, fallen preachers sell sacred precepts to enjoy worthless worldly possessions,” the Buddha replied.
“In my dreams,” the King said, “I saw many horrid things. I saw heavy rocks and stones floating away in the water. I saw a batch of royal swans following a common crow. I saw goats chasing panthers and devouring them while wolves stood shivering with fear. Do they not signify evil?”
“O King,” the Buddha replied, “you have nothing to fear from these dreams. They do not pertain to you or your times. They signify what is going to happen in future times. Great politicians will be set adrift by foolish kings After they are deprived of their real work. Noble men will be compelled to walk behind worthless fellows who will be raised to high positions. Low-born lords will frighten the people of worth who have been deprived of their power. These persons will risk being victimized and sometimes punished for being high-born. This is the real meaning of your dreams.”
King Bimbisara was rid of all his fears and doubts. He stopped the arrangements for sacrifices and gave a feast in honour of the Lord.