The virgin birth of Gautama.

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The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 06, 2010 1:52 pm

I recently read about this one passage in a certain sutra (Lokānuvartanasūtra is the Sanskrit title) that states Gautama was not born from copulation between his parents, but was actually a virgin birth.

The original Chinese reads:

《佛說內藏百寶經》卷1:「菩薩不從父母[9]遘精而生。其身化作。譬如幻示現父母。隨世間習俗而入。」(CBETA, T17, no. 807, p. 751, c2-3)
[9]遘=構【宋】【元】【明】。

"The Bodhisattva was not born from a sexual union between his father and mother. His body was conjured like an illusion. He demonstrated [having] a father and a mother entering [the world] according to worldly conventions."


So, at least according to this sutra, the Buddha was of a virgin birth. This is evidently a transcendental vision of the Buddha which may indicate it is from the Mahasamghika or a related sect. In contrast to the Sarvastivada, they insisted on a transcendental and pure Buddha. The Sarvastivada school stressed the human mortal quality of the Buddha's flesh and blood (his rupakaya). If Buddha was indeed not born from the copulation of his parents, then the claim that his worldly body was impure (asrava) has less force, and thus this lends more authority to the claims of the Mahasamghika school.

Basically, I don't know if this scripture was or would have been universally accepted by all parties in early Indian Buddhism. However, I'm just speculating here.

In any case this might surprise people (if only because it sounds remarkably similar to the birth of Christ).

What do you think or feel about this?
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Astus » Thu May 06, 2010 2:04 pm

I don't see the "virgin birth" part here. That would presume he had at least a mother. But it says he had no parents at all.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 06, 2010 2:09 pm

Astus wrote:I don't see the "virgin birth" part here. That would presume he had at least a mother. But it says he had no parents at all.


Well can we infer he was born out of the womb? Or am I assuming too much?

I read this as meaning he was born but just not a result of copulation.
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Astus » Thu May 06, 2010 2:21 pm

Says he had an illusion body. Nirmanakaya (化身 - 身化). Looked as if it was from father and mother, but wasn't. Half a parent could still be "half real/impure".
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 06, 2010 2:33 pm

Astus wrote:Says he had an illusion body. Nirmanakaya (化身 - 身化). Looked as if it was from father and mother, but wasn't. Half a parent could still be "half real/impure".


If he came out of the womb of his mother though despite his parents not having copulated, it could be called a virgin birth, no?

Unless the whole birth process was an illusion too.
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Astus » Thu May 06, 2010 2:36 pm

I'd rather vote for the whole conception-birth as an illusion. If only the conception was unreal but birth real, well, tricky causal situation, don't you think? Not to forget that the whole buddha-life story was an illusion. Well, in Mahayana. :tongue:
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 06, 2010 2:38 pm

Astus wrote:I'd rather vote for the whole conception-birth as an illusion. If only the conception was unreal but birth real, well, tricky causal situation, don't you think? Not to forget that the whole buddha-life story was an illusion. Well, in Mahayana. :tongue:


Illusions have causal efficacy.

Let me use two classical Indian Buddhist examples:

The illusionist can get aroused by his illusory woman.

An erotic dream can cause orgasm and ejaculation despite no flesh and blood partner present (I think Vasubandhu used this example if I'm not mistaken).
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby catmoon » Thu May 06, 2010 2:41 pm

Virgin birth. Are you serious? You really want to discuss that?

This is very far from the matter of ending suffering.
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 06, 2010 2:45 pm

catmoon wrote:Virgin birth. Are you serious? You really want to discuss that?

This is very far from the matter of ending suffering.


The early Buddhist schools thought it was relevant. It came down to understanding the quality of the Buddha: his flesh and blood, his attainments, his transcendence of samsara and how all of that relates to what he was and what he became.

If you want to know how to become a Buddha, you need to know what one is first and foremost.
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Astus » Thu May 06, 2010 2:52 pm

Huseng,

Does Vasubandhu actually affirm that there is a real cause for unreal effects? It is contradictory by the way. No, those are just examples. Vasubandhu doesn't say that mind is real, that's a misinterpretation of mind only.

Causal efficacy works within illusion and not something real creating the illusion. It's more like in the Srimaladevi Sutra, shadowmen killing each other.

But perhaps you could find some other references on the paragraph you quoted.

Catmoon,

Virgin birth has everything to do with liberation from suffering. It is understanding the nature of things, seeing truth. Yoniśo-manaskāra!
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu May 06, 2010 3:04 pm

Just out of curiosity, how was little Rahula conceived? Was he also "conjured like an illusion"?

And can any of this be tied in with Vimilakirti who manifested children despite being chaste?
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Astus » Thu May 06, 2010 3:14 pm

Lazy_eye,

Very good questions. The Vimalakirti Sutra says,

"He had a son, a wife, and female attendants, yet always maintained continence. He appeared to be surrounded by servants, yet lived in solitude. He appeared to be adorned with ornaments, yet always was endowed with the auspicious signs and marks. He seemed to eat and drink, yet always took nourishment from the taste of meditation."

And at another place,

"Reverend Ananda, the Tathagatas have the body of the Dharma - not a body that is sustained by material food. ... Ananda, do not be ashamed, and go and get the milk!"

The Diamond Sutra sums up neatly,

"What the Tathāgata calls a perfectly-formed body is not a perfectly-formed body. Hence it is called a perfectly-formed body."
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby catmoon » Thu May 06, 2010 10:31 pm

Astus wrote:Lazy_eye,



And at another place,

"Reverend Ananda, the Tathagatas have the body of the Dharma - not a body that is sustained by material food. ... Ananda, do not be ashamed, and go and get the milk!"



Well geez, if the Buddha's body is not sustained by material food, then why did he nearly starve to death in the pursuit of enlightenment?

The Diamond Sutra sums up neatly,

"What the Tathāgata calls a perfectly-formed body is not a perfectly-formed body. Hence it is called a perfectly-formed body."


I sure hope this is a misquote, because if a text contains such blatant illogic as this, I consign it to the trash without a moment's hesitation.
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Will » Thu May 06, 2010 10:37 pm

The Lalitavistara Sutra (among others) said conception occurred after a dream of a 6-tusked white elephant. Birth was not from the womb, but from her side.
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby catmoon » Thu May 06, 2010 10:39 pm

So if we are going to believe that Buddha had a virgin birth, I suppose next we are going to have to believe there are little white elephants running around making people pregnant? Maybe we should all believe the Jonah story while we're at it? And of course if Buddha had a virgin birth there is no reason to disbelieve the Immaculate Conception story either, is there? Geee maybe we should all go be Jehovah's Witnesses or something.
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Astus » Thu May 06, 2010 11:05 pm

Catmoon,

Don't you see the Zen in what Vimalakirti says? First he gives a long speech on how the Buddha's body is beyond concepts and is the diamond-hard dharma-body, then at the end tells Ananda to bring the Buddha the milk he asked for.

There is no illogic in the Diamond Sutra. It is the teaching of emptiness, of prajnaparamita, of the whole deep wisdom of enlightenment. Perhaps you can look around for some explanation on it, or start a topic in the Sutra Studies section, or Mahayana.

Will,

Conception was through the side of Maya but not birth. Such a birth would be really strange!
Here we shouldn't forget the 3 component requirement of a foetus - sperm, egg, mind. So the Bodhisattva "moving in" through the side may not refer to any kind of immaculate conception.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Indrajala » Fri May 07, 2010 1:27 am

catmoon wrote:So if we are going to believe that Buddha had a virgin birth, I suppose next we are going to have to believe there are little white elephants running around making people pregnant? Maybe we should all believe the Jonah story while we're at it? And of course if Buddha had a virgin birth there is no reason to disbelieve the Immaculate Conception story either, is there? Geee maybe we should all go be Jehovah's Witnesses or something.


Take it easy and set your anti-Christian sentiments aside for a moment.

This was an issue discussed in India many many centuries before Christianity entered India.
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Indrajala » Fri May 07, 2010 1:29 am

Astus wrote:Huseng,

Does Vasubandhu actually affirm that there is a real cause for unreal effects? It is contradictory by the way. No, those are just examples. Vasubandhu doesn't say that mind is real, that's a misinterpretation of mind only.

Causal efficacy works within illusion and not something real creating the illusion. It's more like in the Srimaladevi Sutra, shadowmen killing each other.


I said illusory causes have real causal efficacy.
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Indrajala » Fri May 07, 2010 1:34 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Just out of curiosity, how was little Rahula conceived? Was he also "conjured like an illusion"?

And can any of this be tied in with Vimilakirti who manifested children despite being chaste?



Now that is an interesting point. How was little Rahula conceived if the Buddha was really a manomayakaya (mind-body)?

I imagine the Mahasamghika could reply stating that Rahula was also just a manifestation of the Buddha's manomayakaya.

I don't know though as I'm not a Mahasamghika proponent and I don't think there are any anymore. :smile:
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Re: The virgin birth of Gautama.

Postby Astus » Fri May 07, 2010 8:24 am

Huseng,

OK, my bad. I think we can go on with this illusory part and say that even our seemingly ordinary birth is illusory. Vimilakirti looked like a busy layman, but it was all an illusion, for all is illusion. Whether we realise it or not, it is an illusion. But to see it as an illusion, that all is mind made (manomayakaya), is the point of it. Of course, we can still take it on another level how the Buddha had a magical birth unlike ordinary beings.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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