Part 2 Maya’s Dream

The same hour that spring was born, a dream came to Maya as she slept. She saw a young elephant descending from the sky. It had six great tusks; it was as white as the snow on mountain-tops. Maya saw it enter her womb, and thousands of Gods suddenly appeared before her. They praised her with immortal songs, and Maya understood that nevermore would she know disquietude or hatred or anger. Then she awoke. She was happy; it was a happiness she had never felt before. Arising, she arrayed herself in bright colors, and, followed by her most beautiful maidens, she passed through the palace-gates. She walked in the gardens until she came to a little wood, where she found a shaded seat. Then she sent two of her maidens to King Suddhodana with this message: “That the king should come to the wood; Queen Maya wishes to see him and will await him there.”

The king promptly complied. He left the hall where, with the help of his counsellors, he had been administering justice to the inhabitants of the city. He saw her; quietly, without arrogance, he asked: “Why did you send for me? What do you wish?” The queen told him of the dream she had had; then added: “My lord, there are brahmans who are clever at interpreting dreams. Send for them. They will know if the palace has been visited by good or evil, and if we should rejoice or mourn.” The king agreed, and brahmans familiar with the mystery of dreams were summoned to the palace. When they had heard Maya’s story they spoke in this manner:

“A great joy is to be yours, O king, O queen. A son will be born to you, distinguished by the favor of the Gods. If, one day, he should renounce royalty, leave the palace, cast love aside; if, seized with compassion for the worlds, he should live the wandering life of a monk, he will deserve marvellous praise, he will richly deserve magnificent gifts. He will be adored by the worlds, for he will give them that which they hunger after. O master, O mistress, your son will be a Buddha!” The brahmans withdrew. The king and queen looked at each other, and their faces were radiant with happiness and peace.

Suddhodana then ordered that alms be distributed to the poor in Kapilavastu; and food was given to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, and the women received flowers and perfume. Maya became the object of their veneration; the sick crowded her path, and when she extended her right hand they were cured. The blind saw, the deaf heard, the dumb spoke, and when the dying touched a blade of grass she had gathered they recovered at once their health and their strength. And above the city a ceaseless melody was borne on the wind, exquisite flowers rained from the sky, and songs of gratitude rose on the air around the palace walls.

Notes

Maya: The mother of the Buddha. Her father was the Koliyan king, Anjana of Devadaha. She had a sister Maha Pajapati. Both were married to Suddhodana in their youth.

Koliyas: One of the republican clans in the time of the Buddha. The Koliyas owned two chief settlements – Ramagama and Devadaha. The accounts of the origin of the Koliyas mention a king of Benares, named Rama (or Kola, from which comes their name). He suffered from leprosy, and being detested by the women of the court, left the kingdom to his eldest son and retired into the forest. There, living on woodland leaves and fruits, he soon recovered, and, while wandering about, came across Piya, the eldest of the five daughters of Okkaka, she herself being afflicted with leprosy. Rama, having cured her, married her, and they begot thirty-two sons. With the help of the king of Benares, they built a town in the forest, removing a big kola-tree in doing so. The city thereupon came to be called Kolanagara, and because the site was discovered on a tiger-track it was also called Vyagghapajja.

Devadaha: The city of the birth of the Buddha’s mother and aunt and of their companions, who married the Shakyas of Kapilavastu. Lumbinivana, where the Buddha was born, was near Devadaha. The name was originally that of a lake, so called either because kings held their sports in it, or because it came into existence without human intervention, hence divine. It was later transferred to the settlement near by.

Image Attribution: The image above, sourced from Wikimedia Commons, is the reproduction of a mid-19th century Burmese painting, ‘King Suddhodana asks Brahmans to interpret the Queen’s Dream’, preserved in the Asian Collection of the Wellcome Library, London, UK. The panel to the left shows King Suddhodana, with Queen Maya to his left, asking brahmans to interpret her dream. They predict that the child conceived will become either a Universal Monarch or a Buddha.. The panel to the right shows Queen Maya ten lunar months after conception , escorted by noblemen and women, setting out for her home, Devadaha, to have the child.

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