Buddha's Conception & Birth?

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Buddha's Conception & Birth?

Postby danieLion » Mon Jun 27, 2011 6:49 am

Hi,
I just read Bikkhu Bodhi's abridged translation of MN 123 (Achiriya-abbhuta Sutta) in In the Buddha's Words (pp. 50-55--there are online versions but I do not know if his tr. is). This is the first time I have read this sutta. And even though BB says this is the mythological-symbolic mode of the sutta (p. 48) I am incredulous. Buddha did not dismiss or deny Ananda's claims. Did the Buddha really believe these things about his birth, or is that metaphorical too? Are these the right questions or line of inquiry? Is it normal to be so bewildered by stuff like this on first encounter?
Regards,
Daniel
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Re: Buddha's Conception & Birth?

Postby cooran » Mon Jun 27, 2011 7:47 am

Hello Daniel,

This might be of help so you can point out exactly what verses in the Sutta are causing your concern.
Scoll down a little to (2) The Buddha’s Conception and Birth
Middle Length Collection No. 123
http://www.vgweb.org/sutta/bodhi05.pdf

with metta
Chris
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Re: Buddha's Conception & Birth?

Postby danieLion » Mon Jun 27, 2011 8:11 am

I do not know whose tr. this is. I found it on http://www.buddhagautama.com/apps/blog/ ... the-buddha
Thus have I heard.

At one time the Blessed One lived in the monastery offered by Anathapindika in Jeta’s grove in Savatthi. A number of bhikkhus assembled and seated in the assembly hall after the alms round, when this conversation arose among them :

‘Friends, it is wonderful , it is marvelous ,mighty is the power of the Tathagata! For he is able to know the Buddhas of the past , who attained to final Nibbana, cut off proliferation, broke the cycle, ended the round, and ended all dukkha ( various aspects of unpleasantness, dissatisfaction, and suffering in life) . Knowing those Blessed Ones were of such birth, name, clan, virtues, state, wisdom, abidings and such deliverance.’ When this was said venerable Ananda told the bhikhus; ‘Friends, indeed Tathagatas are wonderful and marvelous, and endowed with wonderful and marvelous qualities.’ However, this discussion was left unfinished.

When this conversation was going on, the Blessed One emerged from his solitude meditation when it was evening ,went to the assembly hall and sat on the prepared seat. Then he addressed the bhikkhus: ’Bhikkhus, for what discussion are you sitting together here now ? And what was the discussion that was left unfinished?’

“Venerable sir, after the alms round, we were assembled and seated in the assembly hall and this conversation arose among us: ‘Friends, it is wonderful , it is marvelous ,mighty is the power of the Tathagata! For he is able to know the Buddhas of the past , who attained to final Nibbana, cut off proliferation, broke the cycle, ended the round, and ended all dukkha ( various aspects of unpleasantness, dissatisfaction, and suffering in life) . Knowing those Blessed Ones were of such birth, name, clan, virtues, state, wisdom, abidings and such deliverance.’ Venerable sir, when this was said venerable Ananda said to us: ‘Friends, indeed Tathagatas are wonderful and marvelous, and endowed with wonderful and marvelous qualities.’ This was our discussion that was left unfinished when the Blessed One arrived.”


Then the Blessed One addressed venerable Ananda. ‘If so Ananda, for the great pleasure of many explain in full the wonderful and marvelous qualities of the Tathagata.’



“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘‘Attentive (sampajana) and fully aware (sata) , Ananda, the Bodhisatta rose in the Tusita heaven.’ Venerable sir, this I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Attentive (sampajana) and fully aware ( sata), Ananda, the Bodhisatta remained in the Tusita heaven.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘ Ananda, the Bodhisatta for the remained for the whole of his life span in Tusita heaven.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Attentive (sampajana) and fully aware ( sata), Ananda, the Bodhisatta passed away from Tusita heaven, and descended into the mother’s womb.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

‘Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘ Ananda, when the Bodhisatta passed away from the Tusita heaven and descended into his mother's womb, there arose an immeasurable radiance transcending the splendor of the gods in the world with its devas, Mara, and Brahma, in this population with its ascetics and brahmins, and human beings. Even the dark uncovered recesses between the world systems where the resplendent moon and sun do not shine there arose an immeasurable radiance transcending the splendor of the gods. The ten thousandfold world system shivered and trembled , and again an immeasurable radiance transcending the splendor of the devas appeared in the world.' Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, when the Bodhisatta was born into this world from the mother’s womb four gods stood guarding the four quarters so that no humans or non-humans or anyone at all could harm the Bodhisatta or his mother.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, when the Bodhisatta descended into his mother’s womb, she became intrinsically virtuous, abstaining from, destroying living things, taking what is not given, misbehaving sexually, telling lies and intoxicating drinks.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, when the Bodhisatta descended into his mother’s womb, sensual desires about men did not arise in her mind. And she was inaccessible to any man having a lustful mind.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, when the Bodhisatta descended into his mother’s womb, she was furnished and endowed with the five sense pleasures.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

‘Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, when the bodhisatta had descended into his mother’s womb, no kind of affliction arose in her; she was blissful and free from bodily fatique. She saw the Bodhisatta in her womb with all his limbs , lacking no faculty. Suppose a well completed comely lapis gem with eight facets, with a thread of blue, yellow, red, white or pale running through it, and a man who could see would place it in his palm and would reflect: ‘ This is the well completed comely lapis gem with eight facets, with a thread of blue, yellow, red, white or pale running through it.’ In the same manner, when the bodhisatta was born to this world , his mother was healthy, happy and had no ailments what so ever. She could see the one in her womb complete with all his limbs, lacking no faculty.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, seven days after the birth of the Bodhisatta, his mother passed away and was born in Tusita.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, other women give birth bearing the womb for about nine or ten months. That is not so with the Bodhisatta’s mother, the mother of the Bodhisatta bore the womb for exactly ten months.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, other women give birth either seated or lying down. That is not so with the Bodhisatta’s mother, the mother of the Bodhisatta gave birth standing.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, when the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, first gods received him, then human beings..’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, when the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, first gods received him, then human beings..’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, when the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, he did not touched the earth. Four gods received him and placing him in front of the mother saying: “Rejoice, O queen, a son of great power has been born to you.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, when the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, he was born pure uncontaminated with water in the passage, phlegm, blood or any impurity. As though a gem was placed on a Kasi cloth. The Kasi cloth is not soiled by the gem, nor the gem by the Kasi cloth. This is on account of the purity of both. In the same manner when the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, he was born pure uncontaminated with water in the passage, phlegm, blood or any impurity.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.



“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda,when the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother’s womb, two jets of water appeared to pour from the sky, one cool and one warm, for bathing the Bodhisatta and his mother.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.



“Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘Ananda, soon after the Bodhisatta was born, he stood firmly on his feet, and while a white parasol was held over him, took seven steps to the north, surveyed all four directions and uttered these majestic words: “ I’m the highest in this world, the best and the foremost. This is my last birth, I will not be born again.’ Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.

‘Venerable sir I have heard these words from the Blessed One himself and you acknowledged them. ‘ Ananda, when the Bodhisatta came forth from his mother's womb, there arose an immeasurable radiance transcending the splendor of the gods in the world with its devas, Mara, and Brahma, in this population with its ascetics and brahmins, and human beings. Even the dark uncovered recesses between the world systems where the resplendent moon and sun do not shine there arose an immeasurable radiance transcending the splendor of the gods. The ten thousandfold world system shivered and trembled , and again an immeasurable radiance transcending the splendor of the devas appeared in the world.' Venerable sir, this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.


‘Then Ananda, bear this too as something wonderful and marvelous about the Tathagata. Here, Ananda for the Tathagata feelings are known as they arise, as they are present, as they disappear. Perceptions are known as they arise, as they are present, as they disappear. Thoughts are known as they arise, as they are present, as they disappear. Ananda, bear this too as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.


‘Venerable sir, since for the Tathagata feelings are known as they arise, as they are present, as they disappear; perceptions are known as they arise, as they are present, as they disappear; thoughts are known as they arise, as they are present, as they disappear - this too I hold as something wonderful and marvelous about the Blessed One.”


That is what the venerable Ananda said. The Teacher approved. The bhikkhus were satisfied and delighted in the venerable Ananda’s words.
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Re: Buddha's Conception & Birth?

Postby santa100 » Sun Jul 31, 2011 4:15 pm

danielLion wrote:
I am incredulous. Buddha did not dismiss or deny Ananda's claims. Did the Buddha really believe these things about his birth, or is that metaphorical too?


Logically speaking, just the event of having a Buddha born into this world was an extremely rare phenomenon. The odds was much much rarer compared to someone winning the lottery. And yet it happened! So, follow the same logic, it's conceivable to see why He was born in quite "unique" ways and circumstances. Does it happen frequently? Heck no. Is it a possibility? Well, why not?
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Re: Buddha's Conception & Birth?

Postby daverupa » Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:25 am

santa100 wrote:
danielLion wrote:
I am incredulous. Buddha did not dismiss or deny Ananda's claims. Did the Buddha really believe these things about his birth, or is that metaphorical too?


Logically speaking, just the event of having a Buddha born into this world was an extremely rare phenomenon. The odds was much much rarer compared to someone winning the lottery. And yet it happened! So, follow the same logic, it's conceivable to see why He was born in quite "unique" ways and circumstances. Does it happen frequently? Heck no. Is it a possibility? Well, why not?


This is bad logic.

The Buddha was born to human parents, therefore his birth happened in a human way. Later mythologizing is just that.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Buddha's Conception & Birth?

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Aug 02, 2011 5:20 am

Hi Daniel,
danieLion wrote: Did the Buddha really believe these things about his birth, or is that metaphorical too? Are these the right questions or line of inquiry? Is it normal to be so bewildered by stuff like this on first encounter?

This is a tricky subject. There are many, many, suttas that talk about miraculous events, including the devas getting excited about the turning of the wheel of Dhamma during the First Discourse:
Now when the Blessed One set in motion the Wheel of Truth, the Bhummattha devas (the earth deities) proclaimed: "The Matchless Wheel of Truth that cannot be set in motion by recluse, brahmana, deva, Mara, Brahma, or any one in the world, is set in motion by the Blessed One in the Deer Park at Isipatana near Varanasi."
...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .piya.html


How we should approach such material is an interesting question: Do they have a purpose? What is it? Are they metaphorical, or not?

These questions are difficult to answer, but such passages do seem to me to serve a useful purpose. Though he goes on to talk about a slightly different example, Bhkkhu Bodhi's comments in In the Buddha's Words, page 24 (which can be read on-line at the link below) are, I think, relevant to such questions:
For the Buddha and Early Buddhism, this is above all the defining crisis at the heart of the human condition: we are bound to a chain of rebirths, and bound to it by nothing other than our own ignorance and craving. The pointless wandering on in samsara occurs against a cosmic background of inconceivably vast dimensions...
http://www.wisdompubs.org/Pages/display.lasso?-KeyValue=104&-Token.Action=&image=1

Of course, one approach is to dismiss all "miraculous" passages as "later additions". But to me that risks missing out on some of the things that the Buddha wanted to teach us about the scale and difficulty of the task he set for us. And it risks reducing his miraculous teachings to a set of dull self-help instructions, rather than a path to the end of suffering.

As MN 123 says, what the Buddha discovered was indeed miraculous, and I think that this sutta gets it across rather well:
Then Ananda, bear this too as something wonderful and surprising of the Blessed One. Ananda, to the Thus Gone One knowing feelings, arise, persist and fade, knowing perceptions, arise, persist and fade, knowing thoughts, arise, persist and fade. Ananda, bear this too as something wonderful and surprising of the Blessed One.
http://www.metta.lk/tipitaka/2Sutta-Pit ... tta-e.html

In the end, I think the only useful answer to the original question is: "Keep reading and practising".

:anjali:
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