To fully understand and appreciate the spiritual life of the Lord Buddha is a difficult task.In His grace, the Lord Buddha left us with the knowledge of how to conquer the cycle of suffering in life, including old age, sickness and death. For western readers or non-Buddhists, it is necessary to add some explanation in case certain aspects of Buddhist culture and knowledge may be confusing or vague.
Although the whole of the Lord Buddha’s life has been fully explained in the Buddhist scriptures, Thais and/or other Buddhists seldom study it. Some of the following background information, then, will include answers to questions such as: How is it that Prince Siddhattha was able to walk for seven steps immediately after being born, or, How is it that at the age of seven he could complete the highest knowledge of liberal arts within seven days? It can be simply answered if you study his countless former lives where he pursued perfection as a Bothisattava (a Pali word meaning a man who seeks Buddhahood and fully cultivates the 30 branches of perfection) for more than 20 X 10140 kappas (one kappa is equated to the time from the origination to the extinction of the earth). Additionally, Prince Siddhattha was familiar with all knowledge ARTS (Arts and Liberal Arts) from his countless lives. The length of time taken in cultivating the perfection and self development in his former lives made him become the greatest of his time.
The reader should remember that the Lord Buddha himself had the most luxurious life before his renunciation: He was the Crown Prince ready to be the King of his country, Sakka. How is it possible, then, for such a man, who seemingly had everything that he could desire, to leave it all behind? Even the thought of this seems alien to the normal person who feels that only those things that are luxurious are worthy of pursuit. Therefore, because of this dissatisfaction that he felt with his life, it makes an interesting, valuable, and beneficial study.
Prince Siddhattha Gotama’s Conception
To begin, it is important to understand that the majority of people live in a world of impermanence. We all have to face instability in our lives and this instability makes our existence difficult because we seek perfection with our senses: In essence, we seek and question the source of our (perfect) eternal existence. From his birth, Prince Siddhattha Gotama questioned this himself.
He was born more than 500 years before the Anno Domini Era. One full moon night, sleeping in the palace, the Queen Maha Maya, his mother, had a vivid dream. She felt herself being carried away by four devas (spirits) to the
Anatatta Lakein the . After bathing her in the lake, the devas dressed her in celestial clothes, anointed with perfumes and bedecked with divine flowers. Soon after, a white elephant holding a white lotus flower in its trunk, appeared, circled around her three times, and entered her womb through the right side. Once the elephant disappeared, the Queen awoke, knowing that she had been delivered an important message because the elephant is a symbol of greatness in ancient times. Early the next day, the Queen told her husband, Kind Suddhodana, about the dream. The kind was puzzled and sent for some wise men to discover the meaning of the dream. The wise men said, “Your Majesty, you have great fortune. The devas have chosen our Queen as the mother of the Purest One and the child will become a very great being.” The King and Queen were so pleased that they invited many of the noblemen in the country to a feast in the palace and told them the good news. In order to celebrate, King Suddhodana and his wife donated food, clothing, and other supplies to the poor, and this became a yearly royal tradition. The whole kingdom eagerly awaited the birth of the new prince. Queen Maya was joyful because of the health and happiness brought on by her pregnancy and she lived a life of purity for herself and her unborn child. Himalaya Forest
It was the ancient tradition of the royal lineage for the wife to return to her father’s kingdom when she was experiencing childbirth. On the way from Kapilavastua, the city where she lived with King Suddhodana, Queen Maya gave birth in
beneath the Sala Tree. On the day of his birth, many miracles were reported to occur – the deaf could hear, and the blind could see. On the seventh day of his birth, his mother died: The Buddhist scholars state in the scriptures that she died because she had accumulated all perfections in becoming the mother of a person who was to be the enlightened Buddha and, therefore, her body was no longer suitable to birth any other children. Her life, however, did not simply end because she was then reappeared as a male angel in the Tusitta Heaven Realm and waited there for Siddhattha’s enlightenment and his sermons. King Suddhodana then married Maha Pajapati, who was Maha Maya’s younger sister, and she raised his son. Queen Maha Pajapati also had two children with the King, Prince Nanada and Princess Rupananda, but her love for Siddhattha was equal to that of her own natural children. Lumpini Forest Garden
Siddhattha was given his name during the birthing celebrations and it means “he who achieves his aim”. At the beginning of these celebrations, the hermit seer Asita journeyed from his mountain home in order to attend. When Asita saw the child he laughed and he cried. King Suddhodana questioned these two opposing reactions that Asita had and the seer said that he laughed because the child would certainly become a great holy man, but he cried because his own life would be too short to see that day. This made Siddhattha rise up in the air, and the child placed his feet in Asita’s hair while Asita examined the birthmarks. After seeing this extraordinary event, King Suddhodana praised his son by placing his two hands into the middle of his chest. This was the highest form of worship that the King could give. Soon after the naming ceremony which was held on the fifth day, the King invited eight Brahmin scholars to read his son’s future. All of them except one gave a dual prediction by showing two fingers, which meant that the baby would either become a great king or a great holy man. The one exception, the holy man Kondanna who was the youngest and who later became the first arahant, showed only his index finger and unequivocally predicted that Siddhattha would become the Lord Buddha.Written by Thanapol Bumrungsri