1. A FORTUNATE BIRTH
Many, many years ago, in a small kingdom in the north of India, somethingwas happening that would change the whole world. Queen Maya (1), wife ofthe good King Suddhodana (2), lay asleep and had a wondrous dream. Shedreamt she saw a brilliant white light shining down to her from the sky,and in the rays of this light was a magnificent elephant. It was pure whiteand had six large tusks. This elephant of light flew closer and closerto the Queen and finally melted into her body.
Queen Maya awoke, filled with greater happiness than she had ever feltbefore.
Quickly she went to the king and together they asked the wise men at thecourt what this strange and wonderful dream might mean. The wise men answered,"O Your Majesties, this dream is a most excellent one! It means that theQueen will give birth to a son, and this prince will someday become a greatman. Not only you, but the entire world is fortunate that
theQueen will have such a special child."
Hearing this good news, the King and Queen were overjoyed. The King wasespecially happy because he longed for a son who would someday rule hiskingdom in his place. And now it seemed his wish was being granted.
It was the custom in those days for a woman to return to her parents homein order to give birth. And so, when the time had almost come for the babyto be born, Queen Maya and many of her friends and attendants left thepalace of the King and began the journey to her childhood home.
They had not travelled far when the Queen asked that they stop and rest.She knew the baby would be born very soon. They had reached the beautifulgardens of Lumbini (3) and the Queen went into this garden looking fora comfortable place in which she could give birth. The stories say thateven the animals and plants, somehow understanding what a special childwas about to be born, wanted to help. A large tree bent down one of itsbranches and the Queen took hold of it with her right hand. Supportingherself in this way, she gave birth to a son. The attendants cradled thebaby in their arms and were amazed at how beautiful he was and how peacefulhe seemed.
At that moment, throughout the land, there was great feeling of peace andhappiness. People forgot their troubles, ceased their quarrels and feltgreat love and friendship for one another. Some people saw rainbows suddenlyappear in the sky, and many other beautiful and unusual things were seen.
Wise men from all over the kingdom noticed these signs of peace and joyand excitedly said to each other, "Something very fortunate has just happened.Look at all these wonderful signs! Today is the full moon day of the fourthmonth. It must certainly be a special day!"
Queen Maya, unaware that her joy at having a son was being shared at thatvery moment throughout the kingdom, took the new-born baby in her armsand returned to the palace of the King.