The Dreams of Monks: Studies on Chinese Buddhists’ Dream Content

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Abstract

The present study is a comparison of dream content between monks and nonreligious respondents, aiming to understand the unconscious of monks, and to further explore the influence of religion on our human mind. The authors interviewed participants to collect dreams and then explored similarities and differences through content analysis. A total of 127 participants reported their dreams, 65 monks and 62 nonreligious respondents. Results suggest a significant difference in dream themes between monks and nonreligious respondents. Compared with nonreligious respondents, there were more “prediction” and “revelation” themes in the monks’ dreams. Meanwhile, nonreligious respondents had more “death dream” and “others” than monks did. About the characters in the dream, “divine beings” and “teachers” appeared more often in the dreams reported by the monks, whereas “relatives,” “animals,” and “dead people” presented more in dreams of nonreligious respondents. There were also significant differences in the emotions expressed in the dreams between the two groups, with monks reporting more peaceful and reverent emotions than nonreligious respondents, as well as less anxiety. About the reaction to the dreams, monks chose “chanting and praying” more often than nonreligious respondents. The importance of the results was analyzed in relation to the characteristic of Buddhism and the living environment.

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