17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.


Travel Log - In Nepal and India with lama Puntso

See the original in French

December 14, 2017

And the Buddha Is Born!

I’ll spare you the sixteen hours of bus travel from Kathmandu to Lumbini—the tire that needed changing, the axel-balancing, the road under construction—you get the idea. We arrived at 10:30 at night: all three buses of Lama Nyima’s pilgrimage group, in which I nabbed a spot. This morning we got up fairly early to head off to the Mayadevi Temple.

The Long Path Leading to Mayadevi Temple.

When you enter the immense Lumbini Park, the calm increases as you get closer to the center of the park and the Mayadevi Temple itself. This temple protects the very spot where the Buddha was born. When you enter the temple, you see a few brick structures at a lower level, the results of archaeological excavation. The space is designed so that you circumambulate the interior of the building on a wooden passageway. We reach the center of the edifice and, there down below, a stone marks the precise location where the Buddha was born. (I’m forced to describe it because photo are strictly forbidden).

I never know what is merely projection and what comes from blessing; a profound serenity overtakes you in this place. We are seated along the wall; some recite wishing prayer (quietly as silence is the norm here), others mantras, and others simple meditate. There is a feeling of ease in practice that comes naturally.

But How Was the Buddha Born?

The Birth of the Buddha

(Excerpt from a Teaching Given by Shangpa Rinpoche at DKL in 2012)

The Buddha planned everything to realize enlightenment. He made five hundred great wishes focused on his activity, his environment, his disciples, etc. The Wishes of Excellent Conduct are a summary of this.

When we speak of the Buddha, why do we focus on Shakyamuni? Because he is the only historical Buddha who planned and prepared his arrival in the world as a guide for beings. That is why we all focus on him.

The Five Factors of the Buddha’s Birth

When he was in Tushita and known as Dampa Tobkar, he was teaching the gods, and he heard a sign that meant it was the moment to manifest in Jambudvipa (our Earth). He had defined five factors for his appearance in our world: the place, the time, the caste, the family, and the mother.

  • The birthplace: At Lumbini, in the Kapilavastu Realm of India; this was the perfect place for the three earlier Buddhas had been born there and the one thousand to come would be born there.
  • The social class: He decided to be born as a prince in a royal family. At that time, there was a kingly caste, that of the Brahman (priests), and the lower castes.
  • The family: He chose an upper echelon in the Sakya family. There are two branches of the Sakya family: the Litchavi Sakya and the Kolya Sakya. He chose the Kolya Sakya, which was very pure and uncontaminated for numerous generations.
  • The time of birth: He manifested during a difficult period; there was truly a need for him. Due to the suffering at that time, people were easily able to renounce.
  • The mother: Mahamaya or Mayadevi was of pure ethic and incarnated nearly all three hundred and sixty qualities that a woman should have.

The Buddha defined the parameters of his birth in the world in this way.

Mahamaya dreamed of a white elephant with six tusks who entered into her body, into her womb. She was delighted by this dream. It was on a full moon day; thus the Buddha’s consciousness entered her body. She likewise dreamed that she was flying through space, that everyone came to pay homage, etc. She dreamed all this in the night and awoke with her body feeling light and her mind happy.

The Buddha’s Birth (a Fresco in the Choje Trinchen Temple just beside Mayadevi Temple)

She told her husband of the dreams she had had. He consulted with the priests who studied astrology and texts. They concluded that she was pregnant and would give birth to a child with the thirty-two excellent qualities.

Mahamaya took care of herself. After ten months, she felt ready to give birth. She did not want to give birth at home. She wanted to leave for her parents’ home, which was also traditional (to give birth to one’s first child in the home of one’s parents). The king discouraged her and warned her of the voyage lasting several days. But she left all the same.

In Lumbini, there is a goddess to whom the Sakya clan pays homage. The king arranged for several chariots of food and numerous servants. They left for Lumbini Park. Everyone was very busy preparing the food, the lodgings, and looking after their responsibilities, etc.

Mahamaya felt contractions, but refused to lie down. She remained standing and held on to a tree branch. At the moment of birth, normally the karmic lung causes the body to turn in the womb so that the head arrives first, followed by the body. The Buddha came out feet and legs first and head last. Just after the Buddha’s birth, Indra and Brahma, two very powerful gods, arrived with numerous other gods and washed the infant’s body with nectar from the god realm.

The baby immediately stood and, what’s more, took seven steps in each direction while speaking.
Seven steps to the East, “I will attain enlightenment.”
Seven steps to the South, “I am the field of accumulation of living beings.”
Seven steps to the West, “This is my last birth.”
Seven steps to the North, “I will cross the ocean of samsara.”

His father arrived and numerous gods came to pay him homage. Shudhodana, awed by his son, paid him homage,
“You are supreme among humans.
You have taken four steps on this great earth.
You are supreme among all; to you, of great intelligence,
I pay homage.”

Shudhodana said, “Now that my son is born, seeing all the signs that manifest, all wishes will be accomplished. I give him the name of he who accomplishes wishes: Siddhartha, which means he who accomplishes all wishes.” (“Arta” means goal and “sidh” means accomplishment).

The entirety of the king’s entourage travelled to Kapilavastu and brought home the infant as part of a great procession in a sedan chair made of precious materials. The Sakyas are very stubborn and if others do not pay them homage, they cause trouble. This time, even the most arrogant Sakyas humbly payed homage to the baby as he passed. This is why one of the Buddha’s name is Sakya Tupa or Sakyamuni, which means “he who subjugates the arrogant Sakyas.”

The king asked his astrologers what would happen for this child. The child has thirty-two qualities. If he remains in the palace (which was unlikely), he will become a Universal Monarch. If he leaves the palace, he will become the liberator of all beings. All of the astrologers, mediums, and mages came to the same conclusion.

The wisest saint came to the palace.
- “What have you come for?”
- “I wish to see your son.”
With pride, the king showed the sleeping child to the saint. The saint began to cry. This worried the father.
- “What is the problem?”
- “It’s not the child. It’s me. I can see that this child will realize enlightenment and all will be fortunate to receive his teachings, which will show the path to all beings. I am crying because I will not live long enough to see this come to pass.”

Everyone agreed that he would be a universal monarch or a sage who would free all beings.

Buddha Land?

A Unesco program organized the digs that allowed the excavation of the Buddha’s birthplace and one of the famous pillars of Ashoka. In addition, any country that wished to was allowed to build a temple according to its tradition. Of course Korea, China, Nepal, Japan, and Vietnam had their temples, but also France, Germany, Austria, and Canada. The Western countries had generally built temples in the Vajrayana tradition. There are magnificent buildings, but, overall, it creates a feeling of being in Buddha Land. With a few exceptions, the temples may have impressive decors, but they generally lack any feeling of practice. What’s more, in paying homage to the Buddha’s birth, a few sites lent a bit of kitsch to the imagery—surely involuntary but tangible nonetheless.

At times you can feel the kitsch…


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