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.


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.