Birth of the Buddha

(This article was published in the Shenzhen Daily on June 15, 2015.)

Nine dragons bathe the Baby Buddha in front of Dongshan Temple, Dapeng, Shenzhen

The story of Buddhism begins with the historic Buddha, sometimes known in China as "Ben Shi" (本师)--"Original Teacher" or "Founder." And of course, his story begins with his birth.

Visitors to the gorgeous new Dongshan Temple in Dapeng are greeted by a figure of this new-born Buddha, standing with one hand pointing to earth and the other to heaven, and being bathed by nine spouting dragons...

Maya, Queen of Kapilavastu (in modern Nepal, or perhaps northern India) and her husband, King Suddhodana, had been unable to have a child--an important concern for royalty, what with succession and all.

One night she dreamed that a white elephant circled her three times, and then entered her body through her right side. When she awoke, she told the wise men, who confirmed that she was pregnant.

As the child's birth drew near, the Queen traveled to her home country, as in those days a woman was supposed to give birth in her father's house. On the way, her entourage stopped in a garden called Lumbini. While she rested, the time arrived, and as she stood holding a tree branch the baby boy emerged--from her right side.

This was not the only wonder to be seen. The new-born boy then took seven steps forward, each step producing a lotus petal. Next he struck the pointing pose already described and (in one version of the story) declared: "In heaven above and on earth below, I am the most honored one. I shall eliminate the suffering that fills the world."

Nine dragons then appeared in order to bathe the newborn---and thus the story of the fountain at Dongshan Temple is complete.

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