A long time back some 2,600 years ago, in the kingdom of Kapilvastu in Northern India lived a wise and generous king Suddhodana, who belonged to the Sakya Clan. Mahamaya was his Queen.
One night Mahamaya dreamt of a white elephant, afraid she cried in her sleep. The worried King asked her
“Mahamaya…! Are you well my dear?
“Ahh… Yes. I had a dream. A divine dream! said Mahamaya to the king.
“Dreams at this early hour come true! King Suddhodana told Mahamaya.
“Hmmm, I saw a sky filled with white light and a bunch of rays became a white elephant with six tusks as it entered my womb. I…I feel happy and my heart is filled with joy.”
Next day the king asked the royal astrologer to interpret the dream.
“Dear wise and mighty King, I have interpreted the Queen’s dream. A great prince is going to be born, who will benefit the whole world by his wisdom.”
“Ohh, my dream has come true! I am going to have a son who will succeed me.” shouted the King gleefully.
Months rolled by and as per the custom the Queen decided to travel to her parents’ house to give birth to the child. The Queen and her attendants began their journey to her childhood home.
On seeing a beautiful place, Mahamaya ordered her attendants to rest. After resting for some time, the pangs of birth began. As she reached for the branch of a tree, the tree bent itself down to meet her hand. Unlike other women, the Queen delivered her child standing while holding onto the branch.
Mahamaya gave birth to a noble and beautiful prince, who would one day become the greatest spiritual teacher of the world, in the Lumbini Park on the full moon day of May.
She named her child Siddhartha, the one who achieves all his aims. Soon after birth, Siddhartha took seven steps and at each step, a lotus bloomed in the ground to receive the future Buddha. The infant arose, pointing one finger to the heaven and one to the earth declaring:
“In the heavens and on the earth, I am the most venerable teacher of Gods and Men. This is my last birth on this earth.”
The news of the birth of Siddhartha reached the king, and he ordered for a grand celebration. As the celebrations were taking place, a great sage Asita who had given up the worldly pleasures heard about the birth of Siddhartha.
“Let me visit the child,” said Muni Asita, and he travelled to the King’s court.
“Welcome… O great sage! Please bless our child, O great sage!” said Suddhodana and Mahamaya to the Muni.
Instead of blessing the child Asita Muni saluted him and exclaimed:
“Ahh… O great one!”
The sage told the King:
“O King, your son is no ordinary child. He will grow up to be more than a great man. If the prince decided to stay with you and rule the kingdom, he would become the greatest king ever. He will rule a huge kingdom and his people will have much joy and peace.
But… if he took a decision not to become a king, his future would be even greater. He will become a great teacher, who would show the people the way to live with their hearts filled with love and peace.”
I am both happy and sad, O king!” Muni Asita told Suddhodana
“Happy because your son would become a great teacher, and sad because I would not be alive to benefit from his superior wisdom.”
This was the story of the birth of Siddhartha who at the age of twenty-nine, after seeing the pain, suffering and death of the people renounced his family and kingdom and decided to live the life of an ascetic.
Siddhartha left the palace and travelled far and wide. Finally reaching a beautiful place he sat down under a rose apple tree to meditate. He saw a man and an ox ploughing the field. He saw the plough cut across the earth, and an earthworm was thrown out. A small frog hopped down and ate the worm. A snake came from a nearby bush and ate the frog. Siddhartha then saw an eagle swoop down, grab the snake and fly away.
“What sufferings the creatures go through! I do not like to see this sad and miserable existence in this world,” said Siddhartha and began meditating. For the very first time in his life, he could feel a sense of peace and serenity.
Siddhartha began meditating and went from village to village teaching people the way to lead a holistic life. People appreciated him and many became his disciples. The followers of Siddhartha began calling him Gautam Buddha. The title Buddha refers to an enlightened being who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance and has achieved freedom from suffering.
One day as Buddha was travelling from village to village teaching people, an angry and rude man came to him and said:
“You don’t know anything. You are stupid and fake and have no right to teach others.”
Looking at the man Buddha smiled gently and asked:
“Tell me if you give a gift to someone, and he does not accept the gift, whom does the gift belong to?”
The man was astonished and replied:
“Of course, it belongs to me as I bought it.”
Buddha smiled and said:
“That’s right. It is exactly same with your anger and frustration. If you insult me and I do not get insulted, the anger falls back on you. You have hurt yourself!”
According to the ancient Indian Philosophical traditions, it is believed that Buddhas have existed in the past and will exist in the future. All beings will become Buddha one day as each one of them possess the Buddha-nature (Tathagatagarbha)
Wishing everyone a Happy and Joyous Buddha Purnima!!