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E. J. Thomas
Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 77
Publication Date: 1913
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This is a short collection of excerpts from Buddhist scripture, selected by an expert in the field. It includes several stories drawn from the Buddhas' life, including past lives from the Jataka. While less stress is placed on theological matters, the basics of the Buddha's message are all here.
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Gotama, the future Buddha, was born about 567 B.C. as the son of the Raja of the tribe of Sakyas, at Kapilavatthu on the borders of Nepal, and about 130 miles north of Benares. This date is only a calculation made by reckoning back from the dates of the reigns of various kings, but there is a general agreement that it is approximately correct.
The story of Queen Māyā's dream, as well as the three following passages, are from the introduction to the Jātakas, which contains an account of Gotama's early life. The Lalita Vistara, the later Sanskrit account, shows the development of the legend. The event of the dream is there recorded as an actual occurrence, in which the Bodhisatta descends from the Tusita heaven in the form of an elephant. In the earlier legend there is no mention of a virgin birth, but in the later story the queen takes a vow of abstinence, to which the king gives his consent.
Then was proclaimed in the city of Kapilavatthu the midsummer festival of the month Āsālha, and many people celebrated the festivities. The queen Mahāmāyā, beginning from the seven days before the full moon, celebrated the festival with the splendour of garlands and perfumes, and without the drinking of intoxicants. On the seventh day she rose early, bathed in scented water, bestowed a great gift of 400,000 pieces of money as alms, being adorned with all kinds of ornaments, ate of choice food, performed the holy-day vows, and entered the splendidly adorned royal bedchamber, And lying on the royal bed she fell asleep, and dreamt this dream: The four kings raised her together with the bed, and took her to the Himalaya to the Manosilā tableland, sixty leagues in length, and placing her beneath a great sal-tree, seven leagues high, they stood on one side.
Then their queens took the queen to the lake Anotattā, bathed her to remove human stain, robed her in a divine dress, anointed her with perfumes, and decked her with divine flowers. Not far from there is Silver mountain, and on it a golden palace. There they prepared and set a divine bed with its head to the east. Then the Bodhisatta became a white elephant. Not far from there is a certain Golden mountain, and the Bodhisatta went there, descended from it, ascended Silver mountain, approaching it from the north, and in his trunk, like a silver chain, he bore a white lotus. He trumpeted, entered the golden palace, made a rightwise circle three times round his mother's bed, smote her right side, and seemed to enter her womb. Thus at the end of the midsummer festival he received a new existence.
The next day, on awaking, the queen told her dream to the king. The king summoned sixty-four famous brahmins, caused the ground to be strewn with festive lāja-flowers, prepared splendid seats, filled the gold and silver bowls of the brahmins seated there with cooked ghee, honey, sugar, and excellent rice, and gave it to them covered with gold and silver covers. He also delighted them with other gifts, such as new clothes and tawny cows. Then, when they were delighted with all these pleasures, he related the dream. "What will take place?" he asked. The brahmins said, "King, be not anxious, the queen has conceived, and the child will be a male, not a female. You will have a son, and if he lives a household life, he will become a universal monarch; and if he leaves his house and goes forth from the world, he will become a Buddha, a dispeller of illusion in the world. (Jāt. Introd, I. 50 ff.)
The personal name of Buddha was Siddhattha, "one who has accomplished his aim." Whether it was actually the name given to him as a child we do not know. His family name was Gotama, and it is as "sir, Gotama" (bho Gotama) or "the ascetic Gotama," that members of other sects are represented as addressing him. By the Buddhists he is called up to the time of his enlightenment the Bodhisatta, "being of enlightenment," a term applied to any one who is destined to become a Buddha. After his enlightenment he is called the Buddha "the enlightened one," and addressed as Bhagavan, "the Lord." Buddha, when speaking of himself, calls himself the Tathāgata, literally "one who has gone thus." The exact significance is disputed, but it probably means, "one who has gone in the way of previous Buddhas."
The queen Mahāmāyā, bearing the Bodhisatta like oil in a vessel for ten months, desired, when her time was come, to go to her relatives’ home, and addressed king Suddhodana, "Your Majesty, I wish to go to Devadaha, the city of my people." "Good," said the king, and he caused the road from Kapilavatthu to the city of Devadaha to be made smooth, adorned it with plantains in pots, flags and banners, seated the queen in a golden palanquin borne by a thousand courtiers, and sent her forth with a great retinue. Between the two cities, and belonging to the inhabitants of both, is a pleasure-grove of sal-trees, called the Lumbini grove. At that time from the roots to the ends of the branches the whole grove was in full flower, and among the branches and flowers were numberless bees of the five colours, and flocks of various kinds of birds, singing with sweet sounds. The whole Lumbini grove seemed like the heavenly Cittalatā grove or like an adorned banqueting pavilion for a mighty king.
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