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Story of Gotama
The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma
|072 - Birth Story of Gotama|
Gotama Buddha is
considered as the twenty-fourth Buddha.
Buddha is a generic and appelative name, which means “one who has
attained Enlightenment”. The Pali commentaries mention four categories
of the Buddha, first being the category of the Sabbannu Buddhas or the
Omniscient Buddhas, which refers to the class of the Enlightened Ones (Buddhas)
committed to the Nibbana for others. The second category of the Buddhas is
that of the Paccheka Buddhas, who are also Enlightened but do not preach
for the spiritual evolution of the others. The third group of the Buddhas
commonly designated by Chatusaccha Buddhas refers to the arahantas
(i.,e., those who have destroyed their defilements or asavas);
and finally there is the category of the Bahussuta Buddhas, which refers
to the learned ones.
The Pali tradition
furnishes a list of twenty-four Buddhas born before Sakyamuni Gotama
Buddha. (See Introduction).
In accordance with the
tradition of the Buddhas, the Bodhisatta Sumedha made a solemn pledge
mulanidhana) before Dipankara Buddha for the welfare and liberation
of all creatures. (A Bodhisatta is an aspirant of the bodhi
or Englightenment). The latter then
approved of the pledge (abhinihara) by the declaration
(vyakarana) that ‘this Bodhisatta
shall become a Buddha’. The Bodhisatta then sought to develop the unique
qualities of the Buddhahood (Buddhakarakadhamma)
by way of ten perfections (dasa-parami),
namely, dana (charity), sila
(right-conduct), nekkhama (dispassionateness), panna
(wisdom), viriya (steadfastness),
khanti (forbearance), saccha
(truthfulness), aditthana (pledge),
metta (loving compassion), upekkha
(non-attachability). His struggle for those perfections are well exemplified
in Ekaraja, Khantivadi, Chulla Sankhapala, Maha Janaka, Mahasutasoma,
Mugapakkha, Lomahamsa, Sattubhattaka, Sasa and Sutasoma Jatakas.
Sumedha abhinihara-karana or mulanidhana before the Dipankara Buddha.
Sumedha later became Gotama Buddha
Before his conception
he was born in the Tusita heaven and waited for the opportune time for the
final course of his birth. According to the Lalitavistara
he had appointed the Bodhisattva Vishvapani as the king of the Tusita Loka
before his conception. It may be noted that Vishvapani shall be the next
Buddha and is called the Future Buddha or Maitreya (Pali: Metteya) Buddha.
conceived in the womb of Mahamaya, the consort of the king Suddhodana of
Kapilavatthu on the full-moon day of Asalha. Her pregnancy was
supernatural as the baby had entered her womb without any physical
relationship. This event is particularly ascribed to the Maha Maya’s
dream of a white elephant, which entered her womb from her right side.
conception is marked by the appearance of thirty-two special events like
the earth-quake; light flooding the ten thousand world-systems (Chakkavalas);
and extinction of the fire in hells.
Ten months later, on
the full-moon day of Vishaka (May), Maya Devi undertook a journey to
Devadaha to visit her parents. On her way she saw the beautiful grove of
Lumbini; and desired to break the journey for a while. Walking around, she
came under a great sal tree. No sooner than she reached there she had a sudden labour
pain. Thus, seizing one of the branches of the sal she delivered the baby Siddhattha.
When the baby was born
it is said that the four regent devas
(Chatur-Mahabrahmas) received him in a golden net; and the celestial
shower from the sky washed him. When born, the boy instantly stood on the
earth and took seven steps towards north and roared like a lion to utter -
“I am the Master of the world”.
On the same day, seven
other beings were born, namely, the bodhi tree; Yashodhara or Rahulamata
(his wife); the horse Kanthaka; Channa, the charioteer; his elephant;
Kaludayi (his friend in his child-hood) and seven treasure troves.
He was taken back to
Kapilavatthu on the same day. His mother, however, died a week after his
See Acchariyabbhutadhamma Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya iii.118; Digha Nikaya ii.12 f.; Mahavastu ii.47 ff.
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