Stories of the Buddha

Is there any records of prince siddhartha walking 7 steps when he was born and then collapsing onto the ground immediately thereafter?

Also is there any records of queen maha maya dreaming an elephant entering her body?


What do you mean by records? Like sutta references?

There’s an indirect reference in DN14:

It’s normal that, as soon as he’s born, the being intent on awakening stands firm with his own feet on the ground. Facing north, he takes seven strides with a white parasol held above him, surveys all quarters, and makes this dramatic statement: ‘I am the foremost in the world! I am the eldest in the world! I am the best in the world! This is my last rebirth. Now there are no more future lives.’ This is normal in such a case.


I can recall ven @Dhammanando previously identifying the texts in which these are found.

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MN 123 for the seven steps (though no collapsing at the end!).

The Jātaka’s Nidānakathā (Jāt-a. 50) for the dream of an excellent white elephant (setavaravāraṇo). Actually the latter seems to be a stock feature of all post-canonical Buddha biographies, but I think the Nidānakatha is the earliest.


Isn’t there a Buddhacarita (biography) compiled much later?

The Buddhacarita was composed in Sanskrit in the 2nd century CE, but its author, Aśvaghoṣa, represents the Bodhisatta as actually assuming the form of an elephant, rather than Mahāmayā merely dreaming of one.

Then falling from the host of beings in the Tuṣita heaven, and illumining the three worlds, the most excellent of Bodhisattvas suddenly entered at a thought into her womb, like the Nāga-king entering the cave of Nandā.

Assuming the form of a huge elephant white like Himālaya, armed with six tusks, with his face perfumed with flowing ichor, he entered the womb of the queen of king Śuddhodana, to destroy the evils of the world.
(ch. XII 19-20. E.B. Cowell tr.)


I’ve never really looked into the relative dating of the various Buddha legends. Clearly something like Buddhacarita is somewhat later, as it gives a literary form to diverse legends. And something like the Mahavastu is earlier, or at least includes earlier materials. But do you have a more detailed view of how these texts relate?


This could be the source of the story of Siddharta’s life as taught in Sri Lanka. It’s good as a literary creation but in Sri Lanka some take it on faith as the truth. It’s also a reason to lose faith. Deciding what’s fact and what is a creation, is difficult… my mom told me she saw an elephant, too…! I’m afraid to say it’s not turned out like it :laughing:.


Not really. My knowledge is pretty much limited to what’s given in “The Successive Stages of the Legends of the Buddha” in ch. 7 of Lamotte’s History of Indian Buddhism.


There is Hermann Hesse’s novel “Siddhartha”.
It is a beautiful and well written story but I don’t know how historically accurate it is, and would love to hear about it if anyone has knowledge about that.

It shaped much of the perception of the story of Buddha in Western Europe and the United States.

I recall it created some controversy.

Due to it sexual content or for any other reason?

I can’t recall but it felt it was more about the way he was depicted!

Interesting, thank you. Will look into what caused that controversy.

I re-read it about a year ago - so a pre-buddhist reading and now a reading after I’m more familiar with the words of the Buddha.

I cannot describe it as using a sound Buddhist framework. It is a novella based on a fictitionally imagined Siddharta. There are aspects that are in line with the Dhamma, but I would recommend against using it as a text to get an accurate understanding of the Buddhas teachings. It is a nice book though :slight_smile:


Thank you that’s some very valuable input.

This book was never intended to be historically accurate. Actually, it was never intended to be accurate at all. And it isn’t. Hesse was just mashing up different ideas to sell to westerners who wouldn’t know the difference. Take a look at this quote:

Knowledge can be conveyed, but not wisdom. It can be found, it can be lived, it is possible to be carried by it, miracles can be performed with it, but it cannot be expressed in words and taught. This was what I, even as a young man, sometimes suspected, what has driven me away from the teachers. I have found a thought, Govinda, which you’ll again regard as a joke or foolishness, but which is my best thought. It says: The opposite of every truth is just as true! That’s like this: any truth can only be expressed and put into words when it is one-sided. Everything is one-sided which can be thought with thoughts and said with words, it’s all one-sided, all just one half, all lacks completeness, roundness, oneness. When the exalted Gotama spoke in his teachings of the world, he had to divide it into Sansara and Nirvana, into deception and truth, into suffering and salvation. It cannot be done differently, there is no other way for him who wants to teach. But the world itself, what exists around us and inside of us, is never one-sided. A person or an act is never entirely Sansara or entirely Nirvana, a person is never entirely holy or entirely sinful. It does really seem like this, because we are subject to deception, as if time was something real. Time is not real, Govinda, I have experienced this often and often again. And if time is not real, then the gap which seems to be between the world and the eternity, between suffering and blissfulness, between evil and good, is also a deception…

Therefore, I see whatever exists as good, death is to me like life, sin like holiness, wisdom like foolishness, everything has to be as it is, everything only requires my consent, only my willingness, my loving agreement, to be good for me, to do nothing but work for my benefit, to be unable to ever harm me. I have experienced on my body and on my soul that I needed sin very much, I needed lust, the desire for possessions, vanity, and needed the most shameful despair, in order to learn how to give up all resistance, in order to learn how to love the world, in order to stop comparing it to some world I wished, I imagined, some kind of perfection I had made up, but to leave it as it is and to love it and to enjoy being a part of it.—These, oh Govinda, are some of the thoughts which have come into my mind.

You tell me if you think any of that accurately represents anything.


I hope you are aware that while the Buddha’s life story is helpful it can create a false image. Understanding his teachings and their potential makes understanding his life style choice much more clear. It’s a rags to riches story. The riches being the well-being riches won’t give you!

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@Mat I trust the Pali Canon to convey biographical information (or even biographies written by Buddhists themselves) more than westerners with agendas and little understanding, wouldn’t you say? If people are going to investigate the life story of the Buddha, they might as well use reliable sources.

Yes of course, but how can today’s youth, understand a Prince becoming a begger!? It’s fraught with misunderstanding