11 January 2008

Nativity of the Buddha, Nativity of the Christ

Some interpretations of the life story of the Buddha attribute his birth to a virgin birth. This is likely due to a specific interpretation of the prophetic dream Queen Māyā is said to have had prior to conception and is not a widely held view amongst Buddhists. As she is described to have been married to King Śuddhodhana for many years, there is no indication that she would have been a virgin at the time of Siddhārtha's conception. Nonetheless, this interpretation has led to parallels being drawn with the birth story of Jesus.

The story of the birth of the Buddha was known in the West, and some say it may have influenced the story of the birth of Jesus. Saint Jerome (4th century CE) mentions the birth of the Buddha, who he says "was born from the side of a virgin". Also a fragment of Archelaos of Carrha (278 CE) mentions the Buddha's virgin-birth.

Other interesting parallels in the birth stories include:
  • The similarity in the sounds of the names of Mary and Maya.
  • Both women conceived during a remarkable vision.
  • Both women gave birth "outside" of a home.
  • Heavenly wonders appeared in the sky.
  • Angels announced the newborn as "savior" of the world.
  • Sages came to visit the newborn and make prophecies of auspicious careers.

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