At the Buddha's enlightenment, he pointed to the earth or touched the earth, meaning the earth (or world) was adequate witness to his spiritual accomplishment or new status, or, perhaps the only witness that would be acceptable to Mara. Mara accepted the witness. I do not understand the principle or truth of this event. Earth or the world seems to be personified in some way, or endowed with a capacity to accept or reject a plea for witnessing. Explanations and clarifications would be greatly appreciated. Thx.

  • I've edited the title to better reflect the content of the question. Please roll back if the title isn't suitable. Metta Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 20:10
  • I knew I needed help with titling and tagging. thx :)
    – PaPa
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 20:19
  • Just discovered this explanation re the "earth-witness mudra": buddhism.about.com/od/eightauspicioussymbols/a/earthwitness.htm . ... an excerpt - "It not only symbolizes Gotama's rejection of Mara's sterile machismo, but makes a profound point that a Buddha does indeed belong to the world. The Dhamma is exacting, but it is not against nature. . . . The man or woman who seeks enlightenment is in tune with the fundamental structure of the universe."
    – PaPa
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 1:40

3 Answers 3


PaPa, I believe touching the earth is a later addition to pali cannon, but i could be wrong. Bodhirajakumara Sutta is one of the best sutta of autobiography of Bhudda. Buddha also told Ven Anuruddha in dozens of sutta about himself from the history of sakaya clan, when he came down from Dusita into his mother's womb and so on to after the evening of enlightment.


  • @D.Alkas: So, what's with the significance of relying on the earth to serve as witness? Evidently it was important to both the Buddha AND Mara! Who is/was this "earth"? ... something/someone more than one of the four elements, I.e. earth, water, air, fire?
    – PaPa
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 22:17
  • A legend added later that, before buddha sat down under bodhi tree, he made a determination that he would not get up until he found a way to escape all sufferings. As night progressed, a mara and his demon army came to face him and demanded the plot under bodhi tree belonged to him. Buddha moved his right hand and touched the earth and proclaim that as the goddess of earth as his witness, this spot belonged to him. Goddess of earth appear and flooded the Mara with water supposedly each drop represented a merits collected by buddha over 16+ Asongkaya +100K maha kappa (time measurement) ..
    – user5056
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 22:28
  • flood washed away mara and his demons, left buddha alone to reach enlightment. I'm not sure but this story might be later addition to pali cannon. I personally give very little credit to later additions because it contains many contradictions, they do not come from someone with infinite wisdom, and lastly, buddha said not to add or delete his teaching.My way of studying might not be the same as others especially those who seeks buddhist gurus and teachers. Buddha's words are perfect and none contradiction.if you dont understand one sutta,keep reading and you will find explanation in another.
    – user5056
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 22:35
  • later additions might contain errors, time specific, frivolous, or even flat out wrong. Usually Buddha's word or Buddhawajana , the sutta starts with "i have heard" followerd by place and names but later additions start with a story right away or even gives credit to the author. Another addition sutta, king King Pasenadi of kosala asked buddha the anisong or merits from building buddha statue.... that sutta was added to pali cannon siamese version about 500 years ago.
    – user5056
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 22:55
  • I wished i get more space for comments :-) another subject that i did extensively study was what karma (verb) is? my finding, buddha said itstraight forward, "intention is karma". However, later addition to pali cannons and many modern teachers added "unintentional karma" (eg. accidently step on an ant and killing it" . IMO, that later addition is contradiction to Buddha's teaching. I personally concluded that no such thing as unintentional karma. People, have metta on me if i upset you. :-) Buddha also said 40 years of teachings, there was no contradictions whatsoever.
    – user5056
    Commented Jul 8, 2015 at 23:03

Because it was on this earth he cultivated the ten Paramithas in 3 different ways. He was training his generals(Dana, Sila, Nekkhamma etc.) for eons for the final battle against the evil one. It wasn't a plea, he was making the ultimate statement, saying that he needs no other witness when the great earth itself has witnessed it all.

perhaps the only witness that would be acceptable to Mara

No, it wasn't a case of finding something that the Mara would accept. Mara had no way to defeat the Buddha. He had no choice but to flee in fear because the earth started trembling.


Some versions of the story include a deva named Prithvi:

Prithvi (pṛthvī, also pṛthivī) "the Vast One" is the Sanskrit name for the earth as well as the name of a devi in Hinduism and Buddhism.

In Buddhist texts and visual representations, Pṛthvī is described as both protecting Gautama Buddha and as being his witness for his enlightenment. Prithvi appears in Early Buddhism in the Pāli Canon, dispelling the temptation figure Mara by attesting to Gautama Buddha's worthiness to attain enlightenment.[2] The Buddha is very frequently illustrated in figurative art wielding bhūmisparśa or "earth-touching" mudrā.

I haven't found it in the Pali cannon.

Various places though say that the story evolved, that people added to it or retold it; for example,

One element, however, is still not evident: Maara does not claim the seat on which the Bodhisatta is seated, and hence the need to call as witness the earth (or the earth-goddess, as the later versions have it) has not arisen.

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