THE LIFE OF SAKYAMUNI BUDDHA
2. The Birth of the Prince
About ten months after her dream of a white elephant and the sign that she would give birth to a great leader, Queen Maya was expecting her child. One day she went to the king and said, “My dear, I have to go back to my parents. My baby is almost due.” Since it was the custom in India for a wife to have her baby in her father’s house, the king agreed, saying, “Very well, I will make the necessary arrangements for you to go.”
The king then sent soldiers ahead to clear the road and prepared others to guard the queen as she was carried in a decorated palanquin. The queen left Kapilavatthu in a long procession of soldiers and retainers, headed for the capital of her father’s kingdom.
On the way to the Koliya country, the great procession passed a garden called Lumbini Park. This garden was near the kingdom called Nepal, at the foot of the Himalayan mountains. The beautiful park with its sala trees and scented flowers and busy birds and bees attracted the queen. Since the park was a good resting place, the queen ordered the bearers to stop for a while. As she rested underneath one of the sala trees, her birth began and a baby boy was born. It was an auspicious day. The birth took place on a full moon (which is now celebrated as Vesak, the festival of the triple event of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and death), in the year 623 B.C.
According to the legends about this birth, the baby began to walk seven steps forward and at each step a lotus flower appeared on the ground. Then, at the seventh stride, he stopped and with a noble voice shouted:
“I am chief of the world,
Eldest am I in the world,
Foremost am I in the world.
This is the last birth.
There is now no more coming to be.”
After the birth of her baby son, Queen Maha Maya immediately returned to Kapilavatthu. When the king learnt of this he was very happy, and as news of the birth of the long-awaited heir spread around the kingdom there was rejoicing all over the country.
EXERCISE 2. The Birth of the Prince
1. Why did Queen Maha Maya want to leave Kapilavatthu?
2. Where was her father’s palace?
3. How did the king send her off?
4. Why did the queen stop at the park?
5. What was the park called?
6. When did the birth of the baby take place?
7. What does the legend say about the birth?
8. The baby was supposed to have said something. What did he say?