The Historical Buddha, Sakyamuni
(continued from Part 1) The fivefold vision the bodhisattva had was:
the place was right: our world was
ready for the dharma and Northern India was an advanced society in which
the dharma could become established and spread through the civilised
Although the above details form the prelude to the Buddha's life on Earth, they are not included in the twelve deeds, properly speaking, as they did not take place in our world. The twelve deeds are:
1. Knowing, through this vision, that the time had come, he left Tushita and came to our world, Jambudvipa. This is the dharmakaya's compassionate response to the hopes and prayers of good beings in the world. It is the arrival of the great light which illuminates the path to happiness and liberation, which shows the value of virtue and which accomplishes its work with a limitless love and totally fearless resolution.
2. His teachings of dharma would later point out the limitations of worldly wealth, status and achievement. It would be very necessary that these worldly goals be removed from their pedestal and given their proper place by someone who had known them to the full. The words of a social failure, denouncing gain and fame, may just be dismissed as ‘sour grapes', as personal rancour. His future father, King Suddhodhana, was a respected and wealthy monarch. His mother, Mahamaya, was a beautiful queen, capable of bearing him. Therefore, he entered the royal womb. His mother dreamed of a white, six-tusked elephant entering her womb, as though it were a beautiful palace. There was celestial music and many other miraculous signs.
3. He was born painlessly from her right side in a grove in Lumbini, presently near the Indo-Nepalese frontier. To those present, he was seen simply to emerge on a beam of light. When his feet touched the ground, lotus flowers of light sprung up. He took seven steps in each of the cardinal directions and ‘was heard to declare' (i.e. everyone knew spontaneously) himself to be the Enlightened One, Lord of the World. The major gods of the planet came and prostrated before him. However, of equal importance with these miracles was the fact that, to most other people, he was later thought of as having been born ‘ordinarily' as a human being. This was crucial for his teaching. People would think that an ordinary human being like themselves, and not a celestial one, had achieved enlightenment and that they could therefore do likewise.
4. As he grew up, he exhibited matchless prowess in every field of learning. His beautiful athletic body surpassed all others in sports such as wrestling, archery and so on. He mastered sixty different dialects and soon outclassed his teachers in the various domains of academic study and artistic expression. As we see so clearly these days, people can value highly—perhaps overvalue—scientific understanding, art or physical prowess. In order for the Buddha's teaching to show the transience and limitations of such worldly prowess, compared with the true science of mind and existence itself, it was indeed helpful that he had known them and excelled in each of them more than anyone of his day. It is said that his fame as an athlete and scholar spread far beyond his own kingdom. He was a legend long before his enlightenment: the wisest, most gifted youth that humankind had ever seen.