Dreaming in the Lotus

Buddhist Dream Narrative, Imagery, and Practice

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About The Book

Dreams play a powerful role in the sacred biographies of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: they foretell the births of religious figures, describe their accomplishments, and reveal esoteric teachings.

In this fascinating study of the Buddhist dream experience, Dr. Serinity Young explores the complex functions of dreams in the sacred biographies of the Buddha and other central Buddhist figures, and reveals the ever-changing nature of dreams in Buddhist thought and practice.

Young presents a fascinating, culturally varied picture of the Buddhist dream experience and its revelations about Buddhist ideas of consciousness, cognition, and salvation. Using biographies of the Buddha and other important Buddhist figures, Serinity Young explores the functions of dreams and maps their role at the intersection of biography, history, and religious belief.

About The Author

Serinity Young received her PhD from Columbia University and is an adjunct assistant professor at Queens College, where she administers the Himalayan Studies minor. She is also a research associate in the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History, where she works on Tibetan artifacts and iconography. She has been awarded two Fulbrights, two Asian Cultural Council grants, was a research scholar in the History of Science and in Archaeology at ecole des Hautes etudes en Sciences Sociales, and has been elected to the Hunter College Alumni Hall of Fame. Her research focuses on gender issues in Buddhist texts, material culture, and rituals; shamanism; sacred biography; pilgrimage; healing and medicine; dream theory; and archaeology. She has done fieldwork in India, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China, and Russia. She is the author of Courtesans and Tantric Consorts: Sexualities in Buddhist Narrative, Ritual, and Iconography (Routledge, 2004) and Dreaming in the Lotus: Buddhist Dream Narrative, Imagery, and Practice (Wisdom, 1999); editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion (Macmillan 1998); editor of An Anthology of Sacred Texts By and About Women (Crossroads and HarperCollins, 1993); most recently she has published Body and Spirit: Tibetan Medical Paintings, (AMNH Publications and University of Washington Press, 2009) and has several electronic publications on the AMNH website,

Product Details

  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications (October 1995)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780861711581

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Raves and Reviews

"The author, a specialist of Asian culture and language and dream analysis, explores the powerful role that dreams play in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. She also explores lucid dreaming and the complex function of dreams in the biographies of Buddhist figures. Highly interesting and practical in its applications."

– The Beacon

"Excellent. I strongly recommend it for anyone desiring to enter into the world of dream studies."

– Tibet Journal

"Serinity Young has written a scholarly and very readable analysis of the function of dreams as an integral aspect of Buddhism's spiritual teachings and practices. After an informative analysis of how, in Buddhism, dreams shape the understanding of the waking world, she shows their specific role in both the public and private spheres of Tibetan Buddhism. Especially interesting is her discussion of how dreaming became the formalized practice known as Dream Yoga--a practice designed, as she says, 'to harness all aspects of human consciousness in order to direct it toward enlightenment.' Anyone with an interest in dreams or dream interpretation--and especially how these have been vested with religious authority in Buddhism--will find many suggestive insights in Young's book."

– Ainslie T. Embree, Columbia University, and former Cultural Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy, New Delhi, India

"'There would be no Buddha and no Buddhism without dreams.' Serinity Young's thought-provoking study of dreams in the sacred biographies of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism makes a very strong case to support that sweeping claim. She has made an important contribution to Buddhist Studies and to dream research. The book will acquaint students and scholars of Buddhism with important issues about dreams and dream research and how they relate to the Indo-Tibetan religious context. This excellent work. offers dream researchers crucial historical and theoretical background on dreams and dreaming in Eastern religion."

– Journal of Buddhist Ethics

"A brilliant analysis of the role of dreams in Buddhism. Packed with rich interpretive insights. An important book that will be welcomed by many with an interest in evolving Buddhist perspectives on dreaming."

– Dream Network

"A thoughtful exploration of dreams and visions in the context of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist practice. What distinguishes this book is the clear insistence on understanding these phenomena within their cultural context before embarking on cross-cultural exploration."

– The Middle Way

"This scholarly yet highly readable and intelligent book examines the powerful role that dreams play in Buddhist culture and religion... Filled with interesting insights, sound research, and beautiful images, this book is an important addition to Buddhist scholarship."

– Choice

“A complex and provocative study of dream in Tibetan Buddhism... Of particular interest is her extended treatment of gender in relation to dreams, revealing differences between what men and women dream about, how the culture validates their dreams, and the sharp contrast between female powers as experienced in men's dreams and social reality."

– Shambhala Sun

"Dreams play an uncelebrated but important role in the Buddhist tradition. Dreaming in the Lotus uses dream as a vehicle to understand Buddhism while simultaneously tracing Buddhism's understanding of dreams. Full of examples of dreams and dream imagery from throughout Buddhist history, Dreaming in the Lotus shows that dreaming itself can be a practice for awakening... As Dr. Young progresses through Theravada and into the Tibetan tradition, her discussion becomes more and more intriguing."

– Tricycle

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