The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes The Birth of the Bodhisatta contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Jewel of the Buddha. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 4 - The Birth of the Bodhisatta

Women, other than the mother of a Bodhisatta in his last existence, are apt to give birth either after or before the ten-month period of pregnancy. They know no definite time when their babies would be born. Their childbirth takes place unexpectedly while they are in one of the four postures. Some deliver their babies while lying, others while sitting, still others while standing or walking.

As for the mother of a Bodhisatta in his last existence, it is quite to the contrary. Her pregnancy lasts precisely ten full months or 295 days from the date of conception. Furthermore, a Bodhisatta is born only while the mother is assuming the standing posture. When he is born, he is immaculately clean, without even a speck of impurity, like a ruby placed on a freshly woven cloth of Kāsi origin.

An ordinary baby has to go through a very miserable ordeal at the time of birth. When the first spasms of the mother signalling the impending delivery begins, they set in motion a sequence of events, turning the baby into a head-down position; he also has to force his way out through the tight grip of the hard muscles in the region of the birth-canal thus suffering excruciating pains in the process, which could be compared to a man falling into a fathomless pit, or to an elephant being pulled through a narrow keyhole.

But unlike such childbirth, Bodhisattas always comes out at birth as easily as water filtered through a water strainer. Like a preacher of Dhamma slowly and calmly descending from the Dhamma throne after having delivered a sermon; or like a man slowly coming down to the covered stairways of a stupa; or like the sun with its one thousand brilliant shafts of light breaking through the golden mountain and peering out, the Bodhisatta emerges in ease and comfort with stretched legs, open hands, wide-opened eyes, with mindfulness and comprehension, totally without fear.

Mahāmāyā’s Journey to Devadaha City

[For Anudīpanī, see Queen Mahā-Māyā’s Journey from Kapilavatthu to Devadaha]

When Queen Mahāmāyā reached the final stage of her pregnancy, carrying the Bodhisatta for ten full months in the lotus-like chamber of her womb, as though she were carrying oil in a bowl, she felt the urge to visit Devadaha City of her royal relatives. She requested permission from King Suddhodāna, saying: “O Great King, I would like to pay a visit to my relatives in Devadaha.”

King Suddhodāna gave his assent and had adequate preparations made for the Queen’s journey. The entire stretch of road from Kapilavatthu to Devadaha was repaired and smoothed evenly, banana plants, betel palms, and water pots filled to the brim were placed (on stand) lining both sides of the roadway; flags and banners were also hoisted on poles along the road. Having prepared and decorated the highway comparable to a divine one, the King had Mahāmāyā Devī seated in state on a newly made golden palanquin which was carried by one thousand royal servants, accompanied by guards and attendants to perform sundry duties on the way. With such pomp and grandeur, the Queen was sent off to Devadaha City.

(Different versions regarding the journey of Mahāmāyā Devī from Kapilavatthu to Devadaha are given in the Anudīpanī.)

Lumbinī Garden of Sāla Trees

Between Kapilavatthu and Devadaha cities, there was a grove of sāla trees by the name of Lumbinī Garden, which was frequented by people from both kingdoms for recreation. When Mahāmāyā Devī reached it, every sāla tree in the grove was in full bloom, from the bottom of the tree to the topmost branches.

Amidst flowers and twigs of sāla trees, swarms of bumblebees in five colours hummed, and flocks of birds of many species chirped, producing sweet melodious sounds. The whole sāla grove was so delightful and enjoyable, with special features that it might be likened to Cittalatā Garden of Sakka, the deva King. It was also like a place constantly filled with the sounds of mirth and merriment at a feast well organized by a powerful king. (This is the description of Garden given in the Jātaka Commentary.)

On account of the melodious sounds emanating from the female bees, which were buzzing delightfully among the buds and flowers, the twigs and branches and which were excited with the intoxicating nectar produced by fragrant sāla flowers (and which were hovering around and enjoying the nectar themselves and carrying it for others as well); Lumbinī was very much like Nandavana Garden, the delight of devas. (For the note on the words within the brackets, read the Anudīpanī.)

Vibhūsitā bālajanāticālinī
Vibhūsitaṅgī vaniteva mālinī
Sadā janāna[?] nayanālimālinī
Vilumpinīvātiviroci lumbinī

Just as a youthful maiden who can infatuate all men, who is possessed of limbs adorned with strings of beads and ear-ornaments, who is wearing flowers, is exceedingly fair, even so Lumbinī Garden with all its ornamental features, the ever delightful resort which human beings feast their bee-like eyes on, was exceedingly beautiful as though it could even vie in splendour with that fair damsel. (These are the words in praise of Lumbinī Garden by the Venerable Buddhadatta, the author of the Buddhavaṃsa Commentary)

On seeing Lumbinī Garden of such immense splendour, Mahāmāyā Devī felt a desire to amuse herself in it.

The ministers sought permission from King Suddhodāna and with the royal consent they entered the garden carrying the Chief Queen on the golden palanquin.

The Congregation of Devas and Brahmās

[For Anudīpanī, see The Birth of The Bodhisatta]

The moment Mahāmāyā Devī entered Lumbinī Garden, all devas proclaimed with an uproar which reverberated throughout the ten thousand world-systems: “Today, the Bodhisatta will be born from the lotus-like chamber of his mother’s womb.” The devas and Brahmās from the ten thousand world-systems congregated, crowding the whole of this universe, bringing with them a large variety of auspicious treasures as gifts to pay homage and to celebrate the birth of the Bodhisatta. The vault of heaven was covered all over with their celestial white umbrellas and the entire universe resounded with their auspicious songs, celestial music and the sounds of conch shells blown by them.

As soon as Mahāmāyā Devī went into Lumbinī Garden, she felt a sudden urge to grasp a branch of the fully blooming sāla tree, with her hand. The trunk of which was straight and round. As if it were animate, the branch bent down itself like a cane stalk, made pliant by boiling, until it reached the palm of the queen. This is a marvellous event that stirred the minds of many.

Queen Mahāmāyā stood holding the sāla branch that came down into the palm of her outstretched lovely right hand, which was adorned with newly made gold bracelets, her fingers were shapely like a lotus stem, her finger-nails were bright red, like the colour of a parrot’s beak. The great beauty of Queen Mahāmāyā at that instant resembled the moon that newly emerges from the dark, sombre clouds showing signs of impending rain or the lightning that dazzles in a momentary flash, or a celestial nymph who makes her appearance in Nandavana Garden.

The Birth of The Bodhisatta

Holding the sāla branch, Queen Mahāmāyā stood majestically in a dress of gold-threaded brocade and draped down to the tip of her feet in a full-length white embroidered shawl with exquisite patterns resembling the eyes of a carp. At that very moment, she felt the unmistakable signs of the impending birth. Her retinue hastily cordoned off the area with curtains and withdrew.

Instantaneously, the ten thousand world-systems together with the great ocean roared, quaked, and trembled like the potter’s wheel. Devas and Brahmās acclaimed in joy and showered flowers from the sky; all musical instruments produced mellifluous melodies automatically. The entire universe became unveiled with unobstructed visibility in all directions. These and other strange marvellous phenomena, thirty-two in all, occurred simultaneously to herald the birth of the Bodhisatta. As the flying precious jewel emerging from the top of Mount Vepulla hovers and then descends slowly on a readily placed receptacle, so the Bodhisatta magnificently adorned with major and minor physical marks, was delivered clean and pure from the stupa-like lotus-womb of Mahāmāyā Devī on Friday, the full moon of Vesākha, a summer month in the year 68 Mahā Era, when the moon was in conjunction with the constellation Visākha.

The moment the Bodhisatta was born, two fountains of pure spring water, warm and cold, flowed down from the sky and fell on the already pure and clean bodies of the Bodhisatta and his mother as a token of homage, thereby enabling them to adjust the heat and cold in their bodies.

(Note on this is given in the Anudīpanī.)

Receiving The Bodhisatta by Brahmās, Devas and Humans

The four great Brahmās, who were free from all sensual defilements, first received the Bodhisatta with a golden net the moment he was born Then they placed him before the mother and said:

“Great Queen, rejoice yourself, a son of great power has been born to you!”

Next, the four Great Devas received the Bodhisatta from the hands of the four Brahmās with a black antelope skin, which regarded as an auspicious object. Again, from the hands of the four Great Devas, the human beings received the Bodhisatta with a piece of white cloth.

Then, after leaving the hands of the people, the Bodhisatta stood firmly on his feet with the soles like those of a golden footwear, and touching the ground fully and squarely, he looked towards the eastern direction. As he did so, thousands of world-systems in the east became one continuous stretch of open space without any barrier or boundary between one another. The devas and human beings in the eastern quarter most respectfully paid homage to the Bodhisatta with perfumes, flowers, etc. and said:

“O Noble Man, there is no one in this eastern direction who is your equal. How can there be anyone who is superior to you?”

Similarly, the Bodhisatta looked into the rest of the ten directions, which are the four cardinal, the four intermediate, the downward and the upward directions, one after another. He saw no one equal to him in all these quarters. Thereupon, he faced northward from where he stood and took seven steps forward.

The Bodhisatta was followed by Mahā Brahmā, King of Brahmās who gave shelter over him with a white umbrella and by Deva Suyāma who held a fly-flap made of a yak tail. Other devas, with the remaining emblems of royalty, such as the footwear, the sword and the crown, also followed him from behind. The celestial beings in this procession were not visible to the people who could see only the regalia.

Special points for note:

When the Bodhisatta walked, he did so on the natural ground, but to the human beings, he appeared to be walking on the air. The Bodhisatta walked 'au natural' without any clothes on, but to the human beings, he appeared to be walking fully clad. Only as a new born child, the Bodhisatta walked, but to the human beings, he appeared to be sixteen years old.

(What has been heretofore narrated in connection with the Bodhisatta’s taking the seven steps in the northern direction is in accordance with the Commentaries on the Buddhavaṃsa, the Sutta Mahāvagga and the Jātaka. In the Chapter on Vijāta Maṅgala of the Jinālaṅkāra, however, the birth of the Bodhisatta is somewhat more elaborately related as follows:)

While the Bodhisatta took his steps, the great Brahmas followed and shaded him with the royal white umbrella measuring three yojanas. So did the great Brahmas from the remaining worlds with their white umbrellas of the same size. Thus, the whole universe was fully covered by white umbrellas resembling the garlands of white blooms.

The ten thousand Suyāma devas from the ten thousand world-systems, stood, holding individually their yak-tail fly-flaps;the ten thousand Santusita devas of the same worldsystems, stood, holding their ruby-studded round fans, all swinging their fly-flaps and round fans right up to the mountain sides on the edge of the universe.

In the same way, the ten thousand Sakkas, residing in the ten thousand world-systems, stood, blowing ten thousand conches.

All other devas stood in like manner, some carrying flowers of gold while others carrying natural flowers or scintillating glass flowers (flowers glittering like glass); some carrying flaps and banners, while others carrying gem-studded objects of offering. Female deities with various gifts in their hands also stood, crowding the entire universe.

While the phenomenal display of homage, which was like the rasāyana, gratifying sight for the eye, was in progress, while thousands of conches were being blown melodiously by devas and humans, while celestial and terrestrial musical instruments were being played and female deities were joyfully dancing, the Bodhisatta halted after taking seven steps in the northward direction.

At that moment, all the devas, humans and Brahmās maintained complete silence, waiting expectantly with the thought: “What is the Bodhisatta going to say?”

The Fearless Roar

When he halted after taking the seven steps in the direction of north the Bodhisatta made a fearless roar to be heard simultaneously by all throughout the entire ten thousand worldsystems as follows:

(a) “Aggo' haṃ asmi 1okassa!”
I am the most superior among the living beings of the three worlds!

(b) “Jeṭṭho' haṃ asmi lokassa!”
I am the greatest among the living beings of the three worlds!

(c) “Seṭṭho' haṃ asmi lokassa!”
I am the most exalted among the living beings of the three worlds!”

(d) “Ayaṃ antimā jāti!”
This is my last birth!

(e) “Natthi dāni punabbhavo!”
There is no more rebirth for me!”

When the Bodhisatta made this bold speech, there was no one capable of challenging or rebutting him; the whole multitude of devas, humans and Brahmās had to tender their felicitations.

The Bodhisatta’s Extraordinary Acts and Their Significance

Out of the extraordinary acts at the time of the Bodhisatta’s birth, the following were omens, each with its significance.

(1) The Bodhisatta’s firm standing, with both feet evenly on the earth’s surface, was the omen signifying his future attainment of the four bases of psychic power (iddhipāda).

(2) The Bodhisatta’s facing northwards was the omen signifying his future supremacy over all living beings.

(3) The Bodhisatta’s taking seven steps was the omen signifying his future attainment of the seven Constituents of Enlightenment, the Jewel of the Dhamma.

(4) The Bodhisatta’s having the cool shade of the celestial white umbrella was the omen signifying his future attainment of the fruition of arahantship.

(5) The Bodhisatta’s acquisition of the five emblems of royalty was the omen signifying his future attainment of five kinds of Emancipation (Vimutti), namely, Emancipation through performance of meritorious deeds of Sensuous Sphere (Tadanga vimutti); Emancipation through attainment of jhānas (Vikkhambhana vimutti); Emancipation through attainment of the Paths (Samuccheda vimutti); Emancipation through attainment of Fruitions (Paṭippassaddhi vimutti); Emancipation through attainment of Nibbāna (Nissaraṇa vimutti).

(6) The Bodhisatta’s seeing in the ten directions without any obstruction was the omen signifying his future attainment of Unobstructed Knowledge (Anāvaraṇa ñāṇa).

(7) The Bodhisatta’s fearless roar: “I am the most superior, the greatest and the most exalted!”, was the omen signifying his future turning of the Wheel of the Dhamma (Dhamma Cakka) which no devas, humans or Brahmās beings are capable of halting or retarding its process.

(8) The Bodhisatta’s fearless roar: “This is my last birth! There is no more rebirth for me!” was the omen signifying his future attainment of Nibbāna with no remaining physical and mental aggregates (anupādisesa).

The Three Existences in which The Bodhisatta spoke at Birth

The Bodhisatta spoke immediately after his birth, not only in this last existence as Prince Siddhattha, but also when he was born to become Mahosadha the wise, and when he was born to become King Vessantara. Hence there were three existences in which he spoke at birth.

Brief explanation:

(1) In his existence as Mahosadha the wise, the Bodhisatta came out of the mother’s womb, holding a piece of sandalwood which had been placed in his hand by Sakka, King of Devas. The mother on seeing the object in the hand of her newly born baby, asked: “My dear son, what have you brought in your hand?” “O mother, it is medicine,” answered the Bodhisatta.

He was thus initially named Osadha Kumāra meaning “Medicine Boy.” The medicine was carefully stored in a jar. All patients who came with all kinds of ailment, such as blindness, deafness, etc., were cured with that medicine, beginning with the Bodhisatta’s wealthy father, Sirivaddhana, who was cured of his headache. Thus, because of the great efficacy of his medicine, the youthful Bodhisatta later came to be popularly known as Mahosadha, the young possessor of the most efficacious medicine.

(2) In the existence of the Bodhisatta as King Vessantara also, the moment he was born, he extended his right hand with open palm and said: “O mother, what do you have in your golden palace that I can give in charity.” The mother answered: “My dear son, you are born to wealth in this golden palace.” Then the mother took the child’s open hand, placed it on her palm and put a bag of one thousand silver pieces. Thus, the Bodhisatta also spoke at birth in the existence of King Vessantara.

(3) As has been narrated above, in his last existence as Prince Siddhattha, the Bodhisatta made the fearless roar the moment he was born.

These are the three existences in which the Bodhisatta spoke immediately after the mother had given birth to him.

The Phenomenal Events at The Bodhisatta’s Birth and what they presaged

Also at the moment of the birth of the Bodhisatta certain events manifested clearly. These events and what they presaged will be explained below in accordance with the Mahāpadāna Sutta and Buddhavaṃsa Commentaries.

(1) At the time of the birth of the Bodhisatta, the ten thousand world-systems quaked. This was the omen presaging his attainment of Omniscience.

(2) Devas and Brahmās living in the ten thousand world-systems congregated in this universe.

This was the omen presaging the assembly of devas and Brahmās for listening to the Discourse of the Wheel of Dhamma when delivered.

(3) The devas and Brahmās were the first to receive the Bodhisatta at the time of his birth.

This was the omen presaging his attainment of the four Rupāvacara-jhānas.

(4) The human beings received the new born Bodhisatta after the devas and Brahmās. This was the omen presaging his attainment of the four Arūpāvacara-jhāna.

(5) Stringed instruments such as harps made sound of music without being played. This was the omen presaging his attainment of the nine Anupubba vihāra samāpatti consisting of the four Rupāvacara-samāpatti, the four Arūpāvacara-samāpatti and the Nirodha-samāpatti.

(6) Leather instruments, such as big and small drums, made sound of music without being played.

This was the omen presaging his beating the most sacred drum of Dhamma to be heard by devas and humans alike.

(7) Prisons and fetters, which kept men in bondage, broke into pieces.

This was the omen presaging his complete elimination of the conceited notion of “I”.

(8) All kinds of diseases afflicting the sick disappeared, like the dirt on copper when washed away by acid.

This was the omen presaging the attainment by human beings of the Four Noble Truths, eradication of all suffering of saṃsāra.

(9) The blind, since birth, could see all forms and colours, just like normal people do. This was the omen presaging the acquisition by human beings of the Divine Eye (Dibbacakkhu.)

(10) The deaf, since birth, could hear all sounds just like normal people do.

This was the omen presaging the acquisition by human beings of the Divine Ear (Dibbasota).

(11) The cripple gained healthy legs and could walk about.

This was the omen presaging the acquisition of the Four Bases of Psychic Power (Iddhipādas).

(12) The dumb since birth gained mindfulness and could speak.

This was the omen presaging the acquisition of the Four Methods of Steadfast Mindfulness (Satipaṭṭhāna).

(13) Ships on perilous voyages abroad reached their respective havens.

This was the omen presaging the acquisition of the fourfold Analytical Knowledge (Paṭisambhidā ñāṇa).

(14) All kinds of precious gems, both celestial and terrestrial, glittered most brilliantly.

This was the omen presaging the acquisition of the light of Dhamma. It was also the omen presaging the brilliant glory of the Buddha who disseminated the light of Dhamma to those who were bent on receiving it.

(15) Loving-kindness pervaded among all beings who were at enmity with one another.

This was the omen presaging the attainment of four Sublime States (Brahmavihāra).

(16) The hell-fires were extinguished.

This was the omen presaging the cessation of eleven kinds of fires, such as greed, anger, etc.

(17) There appeared light in the Lokāntarika hells which normally are in total darkness. This was the omen presaging the ability to dispel the darkness of ignorance and to shed the light of Wisdom.

(18) The river water, which had been perennially flowing, ceased to flow. This was the omen presaging the acquisition of Fourfold Confidence (Catu-vesārajja ñāṇa).

(19) All the waters in the great ocean turned sweet in taste.

This was the omen presaging the acquisition of unique sweet taste of peace resulting from the cessation of defilements.

(20) Instead of stormy winds, light winds blew cool and pleasant.

This was the omen presaging the disappearance of the sixty-two kinds of wrong beliefs.

(21) All kinds of birds in the sky or on top of trees or mountains alighted to the ground.

This was the omen presaging the life-long taking of refuge (in the Triple Gem) by human beings after listening to the Teaching of the Buddha.

(22) The moon shone forth, far brighter than ever before.

This was the omen presaging the delighted mood of human beings.

(23) The sun, being of moderate heat and clear radiance, brought clement weather.

This was the omen presaging the physical and mental happiness of human beings.

(24) The devas, standing at the doorways of their mansions, slapped their arms with the other hands, whistled and flung their clothes in merriment.

This was the omen presaging his attainment of Omniscient Buddhahood and making solemn utterance of joy.

(25) Torrential rain fell all over the four continents.

This was the omen presaging the heavy Dhamma rain of Deathlessness which fell with the great force of wisdom.

(26) All human beings felt no hunger. This was the omen presaging their attainment of the Deathless Dhamma of kāyagatasati which is mindfulness related to the body, or freedom from hunger for defilements after enjoying the Deathless food of kāyagatasati.

(27) All human beings felt no thirst.

This was the omen presaging their attainment of the bliss of the Fruition of Arahantship.

(28) Closed doors burst open by themselves.

This was the omen presaging the opening up of the gates of Nibbāna which is the eightfold Noble Path.

(29) Flower trees and fruit trees bore flowers and fruits respectively.

This was the omen presaging the people’s bearing the flowers of Emancipation (Vimutti) and the fruits of the four Noble Ones (Ariya-phala.)

(30) All the ten thousand world-systems were covered with the one and only flower- banner. The ten thousand world-systems were covered with the banner of victory. This was the omen presaging the overspreading by the flower-banner, i.e., the Noble Path.

Moreover, the showering of exquisite flowers and exceedingly fragrant flowers, the brightness of stars and constellations even in sunlight, the appearance of springs of pure clean water, the coming out of burrowing animals from their habitat, the absence of greed, hate and bewilderment, the absence of clouds of dust from the ground, the absence of obnoxious smells, the pervasion of celestial perfumes, the clear visibility of rūpa-brahmās to human beings, the absence of birth and death of human beings and other phenomena occurred distinctly. The occurrence of these phenomena constituted omens presaging the Buddha’s attainment of attributes other than those mentioned above.

The Seven Connatals of The Bodhisatta

At that precise moment of the birth of the Bodhisatta, the following seven were born simultaneously:

(1) Princess Yasodharā, also named Baddakaccānā, mother of Prince Rāhula;
(2) Prince Ānanda;
(3) Minister[1] Channa;
(4) Minister Kāḷudāyī;
(5) Royal stallion Kandaka[2];
(6) Mahābodhi tree or Assattha Bodhi tree; and
(7) Four jars of gold appeared.

Since they were born or coming into being at the same time as the Bodhisatta, they were known as the Seven Connatals of the Bodhisatta. Of these seven:

(1) Princess Yasodharā Bhaddakaccānā was born of Suppabuddha, King of Devadaha City, and Queen Amittā;

(2) Prince Ānanda was the son of the Sakyan Amittodāna, younger brother of King Suddhodāna;

(3) The Mahābodhi tree grew at the centre of the site of victory where the Buddha attained Enlightenment in Uruvelā forest of the Middle Country;

(4) The four large jars of gold appeared within the precincts of the palace of Kapilavatthu City.

Of these four:

(a) one was named Sankha, the diameter of its brim was one gāvuta;
(b) another was named Ela, the diameter of its brim was two gāvuta;
(c) the third was named Uppala, the diameter of its brim was three gāvuta;
(d) the last one named Puṇḍarīka, the diameter of its brim was four gāvuta, equivalent to one yojana.

When some gold were taken out of these four jars, they became replenished; there was no trace of depletion. (The account of these four jars of gold is given in the exposition of the Caṅkī Sutta of the Majjhima-paṇṇāsa Commentary, and also in the exposition of the Sonadaṇḍa Sutta of the Dīgha Nikāya Sīlakkhandhavagga Commentary.)

The order of the name of the seven birth-mates of the Bodhisatta given above is that contained in the Commentaries on the Jātaka and the Buddhavaṃsa and also in the exposition of the Mahāpadāna Sutta of the Dīgha Nikāya Mahāvagga Commentary.

In the exposition of the story of Kāḷudāyī in the Aṅguttara Commentary and also in the exposition of the story of Rāhula in the Vinaya Sārattha Dīpanī Tika. Ānanda’s name has been left out from the list. It includes: (1) Bodhi Tree, (2) Yasodharā, (3) The four jars of gold, (4) Royal elephant named Ārohanīya, (5) Kaṇḍaka the steed, (6) Minister Channa, (7) Minister Kāludāyī, in that order.

It should be noted that the order of the items is given according to their respective reciters (bhāṇakas).

Mahāmāyā’s Return to Kapilavatthu

The citizens from the two cities of Kapilavatthu and Devadaha conveyed Queen Mahāmāyā and her noble Bodhisatta son back to the city of Kapilavatthu.

[The story of Kāḷadevila the Hermit]

(In connection with the birth of the Prince, the history of his lineage together with the founding of Kapilavatthu City is mentioned in the Anudīpanī.)

The Prognostication of The Marks on The Prince at The Head-washing and Naming Ceremonies

On the fifth day after the birth of the Prince, his father, King Suddhodāna, held the headwashing ceremony, and with the idea to name his son, he had his palace pervaded with four kinds of fragrant powder, namely, tagara (Tabernaemontana coronaria), lavaṅga (cloves, Syzygium aromaticum), kuṅkuma (saffron, Crocus sativus), and tamāla (Xanthochymus pictorius) and strewn with the five kinds of ‘flowers’, namely, saddala (a kind of grass), rice, mustard seeds, jasmine buds and puffed rice. He had also pure milk-rice cooked without any water, and having invited one hundred and eight learned Brahmins who were accomplished in the three Vedas, he gave them good and clean seats prepared in the palace and served them with the delicious food of milk-rice.

(The enumeration of the four kinds of fragrant powder here is in accordance with that given in the exposition of the Sekha Sutta, Majjhima Paṇṇāsa Tika and in the Tika on the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta. (a) In the exposition of the Mahāsudassana Sutta, however, kuṅkuma is replaced by turukkha (in Myanmar). (b) In the exposition of the Avidure Nidāna, etc., Jātaka Tika, the enumeration is black sandalwood, tagara, camphor and essence of sandalwood. (c) In the Magadha Abhidhāna (Abhidhānappadīpikā) the four are saffron, cloves, tagara and turukkha. (d) The exposition of the sixth Sutta of the Āsīvisa Vagga, Saḷāyatana Saṃyutta Tika contains saffron, turukkha, cloves, and tamāla. (e) The Mālālaṅkāra Vatthu has sāla, mahātagara, camphor essence and sandalwood essence, (f) The Jinatthapakāsanī mentions aguru (aloe wood), tagara, camphor and sandalwood.)

Having fed them, the King honoured them by making excellent offerings to them, and out of one hundred and eight Brahmins, eight were selected and asked to prognosticate the marks on the body of the Prince.

Among the eight selected Brahmins, seven, namely, Rāma, Dhaja, Lakkhaṇa, Jotimanta, Yañña, Subhoja and Suyāma, having examined the physical marks of the Prince each raised two fingers and made two alternative predictions with no decisiveness thus: “If your son, who is endowed with these marks, chooses to live the life of a householder, he will become a Universal Monarch, ruling over the four great Islands; if he becomes a monk, however, he will attain Buddhahood.”

But Sudatta of the brahmin clan of Koṇḍañña, the youngest of them, after carefully examining the Prince’s marks of a Great Man raised only one finger and conclusively foretold with just one word of prognostication thus: “There is no reason for the Prince’s remaining in household life. He will certainly become a Buddha who breaks open the roof of defilements.”

(The young Brahmin Sudatta of the Koṇḍañña clan was one whose present existence was his last and who had previously accumulated meritorious deeds that would lead him towards the fruition of arahantship. Therefore, he excelled the seven senior Brahmins in learning and could foresee the prospects of the Prince that he would definitely become a Buddha. Hence his bold reading with only one finger raised.)

This reading of the marks by young Sudatta, a descendent of Koṇḍañña family, with the raising of a single finger was accepted by all the other learned Brahmins.

[The Treatise on the Marks of a Great Man]

The Naming of The Prince

In this way, having examined the Prince’’s major and minor marks carefully, the learned Brahmins predicted saying: “The Prince will attain Buddhahood.” After discussing among themselves the matter of naming of the Prince, they gave him the name of Siddhattha as an omen indicating that he would successfully accomplish the task for the benefit of the entire world.

[The Story of The Five Bhikkhus (Pañcavaggī)]

Measures taken to prevent The Prince from seeing The Four Omens

After King Suddhodāna had his son prognosticated, he was reported by the Brahmins that “the son will renounce and become a recluse.” So he asked, “On seeing what will my son go forth?” “On seeing the four omens of an old man, a sick man, a dead man and a recluse, your son will renounce the world and become a recluse,” answered the Brahmins unanimously.

On hearing the Brahmins' reply, King Suddhodāna ordered, saying: “If my son will renounce after coming across these four omens, from now on, do not permit any person who is aged, ailing or a recluse to visit my son. They would create saṃvega in him and make him bent on renunciation. I do not want my son to become a Buddha. I want to see him only as a Universal Monarch ruling over the four great islands with two thousand surrounding smaller ones and travelling in the sky by means of the Wheel-Treasure in the company of followers, thirty-six yojanas in extent.” Then guards, in sufficient number, were placed around the four quarters at every distance of one gāvuta to ensure the absence of the aged, the sick, the dead and the recluse within the sight of the Prince.

That very day, an auspicious head-washing ceremony was held at which eighty thousand royal relatives were present and they discussed among themselves thus: “Whether the Prince will become a Buddha or a Universal Monarch, each of us will give a son to wait upon him. If he becomes a Buddha, he will travel magnificently in the company of recluses who are of royal blood. Or, if he becomes a Universal Monarch, he will tour majestically being accompanied by eighty thousand princes.” Then each of them promised to present a son (to the Prince).

The Death of Queen Mahāmāyā Devī and Her Rebirth in Tusitā

On the seventh day after the birth of the Prince, his mother, Mahāmāyā Devī, reaching the end of her life span, passed away and was reborn in Tusitā abode as a deva bearing the name of Santusita.

(The mother died not because she had given birth to a Bodhisatta, but because her life span had come to an end. It may be recalled that even when the Bodhisatta Deva Setaketu made the five great investigations, Mahāmāyā had only ten months and seven days left to live. Nobody else is worthy of occupying the lotus-like womb of a Bodhisatta’s mother, for it is like the perfumed chamber which has housed a Buddha or His statue or an object of worship. Besides, while a Bodhisatta’s mother is still alive, it is not appropriate to keep her aside and make another woman Chief Queen. So it is the usual course of event (dhammatā) that a Bodhisatta’s mother should remain alive for only seven days after giving birth to her son. Hence the passing away of the mother at that time.)

The Age of Mahāmāyā Devī at The Time of Her Demise

To the query, “In which period of life did Mahāmāyā die?”, the answer is: “She died in the middle period.” To elaborate: Since desires and passions abound in sentient beings in the first period of life, a woman who conceives in this period cannot take good care of her pregnancy. Accordingly, the baby at that time is susceptible to many diseases. But the womb of the mother remains clean when she passes two thirds of her middle period and reaches the last third. And whoever takes conception in such a clean womb is free from diseases. Therefore, the Bodhisatta’s mother, after enjoying palatial luxuries in the first period of life, gave birth to a son and died when she came to the third and last stage of her middle period of life. (Dīgha-Nikāya Commentary, Vol. II, in the exposition of Bodhisatta dhammatā.)

Strictly following the exposition of this Commentary, famous teachers of old have composed an aphorism in a verse form to state that the mother of the Bodhisatta passed away when she was precisely fifty-six years, four months and twenty-seven days old. There is also another one saying that the royal mother conceived at the age of fifty-five years, six months and twenty days.

Further explanation in brief: At the time when the mother Māyā was born as a human being, the general life span was one hundred years which may be equally divided into three periods, each consisting of thirty-three years and four months. She enjoyed her luxurious life in the first period of thirty-three years and four months. If the second period of thirtythree years and four months are made into three portions, each portion covers eleven years, one month and ten days. The sum of the first two portions will then be twenty-two years, two months and twenty days. To this, add the number of years and months of the first period, and the result is fifty-five years, six months and twenty days. At this age, Mahāmāyā conceive the Bodhisatta. Hence the second aphorism.

If and when the ten months duration of pregnancy as well as the seven days that followed the Prince’s birth are added to the fifty-five years, six months and twenty days, the sum total will be fifty-six years, four months and twenty-seven days. Hence the first aphorism.

(An elaboration of the meaning of the subject-matter under discussion is given in the Samantacakkhu Dīpanī, Vol. I.)

Was Royal Mother Māyā reborn as A Male or A Female Celestial Being

To the question as to whether the royal mother, Māyā, was reborn as a male or a female celestial being in the abode of Tusitā, the answer, no doubt, should be that she was reborn as a male.

In this matter, after superficially studying the Pāli statement “mātaraṃ pamukhaṃ katvā” some scholars say or write that she was reborn as a female deity; but such reliable works as the Theragāthā Commentary and others hold that “Māyā was only a male deity in Tusitā world of gods.” Concerning Thera Kāḷudāyī’s verses in the Dasaka Nipāta of the Theragāthā Commentary, Vol. II, it is said: “dev'ūpapatti pana purisabhāven'eva jātā

(Māyā's) rebirth in the abode of gods took place only in the form of a male.” Also in the section on the Bodhisatta’s auspicious birth, the Jinālaṅkāra Tika mentioned: “Yasmā ca Bodhisattena vasitakucchi nāma cetiyagabbhasadisā hoti, na sakkā aññena sattena āvasituṃ vā paribhuñjituṃ vā. Tasmā Bodhisattamātā gabhhavuṭṭhāṅato sattame divase kālaṃ katvā Tusitapure devaputto hutvā nibbatti—The womb in which the Bodhisatta had stayed was like the chamber of a cetiya: other beings did not deserve to stay there or to use it. Therefore, seven days after giving birth, the Bodhisatta’s mother died and became 'son of a god' in the celestial city of Tusitā.”

Still in the exposition on the Vīsatigathā of the Manidīpa Tika, Vol. I, it is asserted: “Sirī Mahāmāyā hi Bodhisattaṃ vijayitvā sattāhamattaṃ ṭhatvā ito cavitvā Tusittabhavane purisabhāven'eva nibbattā, na itthibhāvenā ti—Having lived only for seven days after giving birth to the Bodhisatta, Sirī Mahāmāyā passed away from this world and was reborn only as a man (male deity), not as a woman (female deity). It is a regular incident that all the mothers of Bodhisattas should live only seven days after childbirth and that they should all die and reborn in Tusitā Deva abode only as a god and never as a goddess.” Therefore, the fact that Mahāmāyā was born only as a male deity (deva) in Tusitā should be accepted without doubt.

Attendants for The Prince

For his son, Prince Siddhattha, King Suddhodāna selected and appointed two hundred and forty female attendants who were clean and fair, skilled in carrying out their duties such as breast-feeding, by giving sweet milk free of pungent, salty and other unpleasant tastes, bathing, carrying and nursing.

The King also appointed sixty male servants to help the female attendants and further appointed sixty officers who would oversee the duties of these men and women.

Of the two hundred and forty female attendants, sixty were to breast-feed the Prince; another sixty were to bathe him with scented water and dress him; still another sixty were to carry him, supporting and clasping with their hands, or in their laps and so on for long;and the remaining sixty had to share the same duty by taking over the Prince in turn. Thus the nursing work was distributed among two hundred and forty female attendants. With the sixty male servants and sixty officers, there were altogether three hundred and sixty persons responsible for looking after the little prince.

All this is given in accordance with the Sutta Mahāvagga and its Commentary, where mention is definitely made of appointment of attendants by King Bandhumā for his son Prince Vipassī (the Bodhisatta). On this basis, the appointment by King Suddhodāna has been described.

In the Swezon Kyawhtin. (Question No.33 of Volume I), this is asked in verse form by Shin Nandadhaja, the celebrated Sāmaṇera of Kyeegan village. The answer given by Kyeethai Layhtat Sayadaw is: “There are 60 Myanmar hours in one day and one night; since four nurses had to take charge in turn every one hour, multiply 60 by 4, and the result is 240.”

If we take the reckoning made in the Swezon Kyawhtin; “four nurses had to take charge in turn every one hour” in the sense that one was to feed, and another one was to bathe and dress, still another one to tend to him, supporting and clasping with her hands or in her lap, and the last one to carry on the same task after taking over the Prince in turn, then it is quite in consonance with what is contained in the exposition of the Mahāpadāna Sutta of the aforesaid Sutta Mahāvagga Commentary.

The Selection of Attendants as described in The Temiya Jātaka

In the exposition of the Temiya Jātaka, Jātaka Commentary, the detailed description of how the King of Kāsi chose attendants for his son Temiya (the Bodhisatta) is recorded as follows:

(1) A tall woman was not appointed nurse because the child’s neck is apt to become elongated for having to suck milk while remaining close to her bosom.

(2) A short woman was not appointed nurse because the child’s neck is apt to become stunted for having to suck milk while remaining close to her bosom.

(3) A thin woman was not appointed nurse because the child’s limb, such as thighs, etc., are apt to be hurt for having to suck milk while remaining close to her bosom.

(4) A fat woman was not appointed nurse because the child is apt to become crippled with its thighs, knees and legs deformed for having to suck milk while remaining close to her bosom.

(5) A long-breasted woman was not appointed nurse because the child’s nose is apt to become snub as it might be pressed by her long breasts as he sucks milk while remaining close to her bosom.

(6) A woman with too dark a complexion was not appointed nurse because her milk is very cold and not suitable for the child in the long run.

(7) A woman with too white a complexion was not appointed nurse because her milk is very warm and not suitable for the child in the long run.

(8) A woman suffering from cough was not appointed nurse because her milk is very sour and not suitable for the child.

(9) A woman suffering from phthisis was not appointed nurse because her milk is pungent and bitter and not suitable for the child.

Thus such women were not appointed attendants; only those free from the above defects were appointed, so says the above mentioned Commentary.

Relying on the statement of the Commentary, Manli Sayadaw describes the same selection of attendants in verse form (v.498) in his Mahāsutakārī Magha Deva Liṅkā Thit.

(The author then quotes the whole verse in toto, but we have skipped it over.)

Mahāpajāpati Gotamī brought up The Prince

Though attendants were selected and appointed for Prince Siddhattha in the said manner, it was his aunt (or step mother) Mahāpajāpati Gotamī who more often than not breast-fed him. To explain: After the demise of Mahāmāyā Devi, King Suddhodāna raised the Prince’s aunt to the status of Chief Queen. Two or three days after the birth of the Prince by Queen Māyā, his aunt Mahāpajāpati Gotamī bore Prince Nanda. When Queen Māyā passed away on the seventh day after the Prince’s birth, Mahāpajāpati Gotamī entrusted her own son Prince Nanda (who was only three or four days old) to nurses, and she herself breast-fed Prince Siddhattha and looked after him. It was in the lap of his aunt (and step mother) that Prince Siddhattha stayed most of the time. (From the exposition of the Dakkhiṇāvibhanga Sutta in the Uparipaṇṇāsa Commentary.)

In this way, Prince Siddhattha, the Bodhisatta, grew up blissfully in a gradual manner under the care and treatment of hosts of attendants and in great pomp and splendour.

Footnotes and references:


Minister: Minister is the translation of an equivalent Myanmar word, which in turn is the author’s rendering of the Pāli amacca. Among the meaning of amacca given in the Tipiṭaka Pāli-Myamnar Dictionary are minister, chief minister, king’s advisor; friend, companion. In using the designation Minister' for Channa, the author obviously means one of these person of intimate relationship apart from the official rank as in Minister Kāludāyī. Malalasekera describes Channa only as charioteer.


The name of the Bodhisatta’s steed is spelt in various ways: Kantaka, Kaṇḍaka and Kanthaka. Here in this chapter the author’s choice is Kantaka but later on he changes it to Kaṇḍaka. Since the second word usually overrules the first, we write Kaṇḍaka even here and stick to it throughout for the sake of consistency.

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