This Life of the Buddha (also mentioned among Wikipedia's Miracles of Gautama Buddha) says,

According to the legends about this birth, the baby began to walk seven steps forward and at each step a lotus flower appeared on the ground. Then, at the seventh stride, he stopped and with a noble voice shouted:

"I am chief of the world,
Eldest am I in the world,
Foremost am I in the world.
This is the last birth.
There is now no more coming to be."

However I feel like the legend is far-fetched from the truth. Any comments or alternative views are very welcome.

  • For me, it helped to compare the miraculous stories of the Bodhisatva's birth with the suttas that the mention how the Buddha aged and eventually died. Apr 2, 2016 at 6:30

8 Answers 8


It depends what you mean by truth. If you mean did this actually occur then I would agree it does seem far fetched. However if you understand it as a myth then it will have truth. I think sometimes we understand myths as been basically being synonymous with fiction. However myths have a deeper truth that is relevant to the culture or society that it comes from. Authors such as Joseph Campbell go further and say that myths have a truth that cuts across cultures and societies - a comparative mythology.

The story above could be understood as a variant of the hero story which typically have miraculous or supernatural beginnings. The story of Christ could be understood in the same way (though obviously not everyone would be happy with this interpretation). This kind of comparative mythology can be seen in other places in the Buddha's life story. His enlightenment experience can be seen as occurring on the world navel (axis mundi) as well as more prosaically under the Bodhi tree.

Joeseph Campbells book, The Hero with a 1000 Faces, is a good place to start if you are interested in these ideas.


Buddhism has been taught throughout centuries to people of different cultural backgrounds and intellectual capabilities.

Western people with critical minds who spent years at school read some legends with a pinch of salt. But they should accept it that for other people such stories make perfect sense, inspire them and bring them closer to enlightenment. Buddhism is like a pharmacy, we can't get all the teachings in one go, we only need some specific medicine to treat our individual illness. No need to elaborate on what other patients are taking.


There are a lot of different stories regarding the Buddha, some of them became popular, but we know are not true, for example: He escaped in the middle of the night while no one was watching. We know he didn't scape like a prisoner, instead he cut his hair in front of his father, his father knew Siddharta was leaving to a homelessness life.

The birth and death of the Buddha have also the same issues with different versions, some say he was born from the arm of her mother, some say he walked before crawing, some say he spoke imeditialy without teeth, well, this is what I think is important: If the story is clear in the sutta pitaka, then you have a good basis to believe in it, if the story is just some popular story, then it is more suspicious.


Concerning the study of religion, an approach for historical accuracy is irrelevant. Most creation myths/stories contain their own disclaimers. . . its a myth/story. However in context of the religion the story may be evaluated. It does not need to hold to outside standards, but rather internally to the context of the religion.

One example would be that what was said in your example was not Siddhartha, but the Buddha speaking. That the transcendent nature of the Buddha allowed him to express his nature and overcome the human limitations.

Another approach would be to examine the cultural significance of the reaction and make them a parable of the divine nature of Siddhartha. Many people point out that the 'seven days' of creation can be accepted into science by giving a god a 'cosmic' sense of time. By attaching meanings to these actions these legends are not meant to carry the numerical truth, but rather a higher truth or knowledge.

But the question "Did Siddhartha live?" is one of history. The question of "Did [Mythical Religious leader] do [Action]?" becomes very touchy, and are usually studied without asking if they existed, but rather how their existence influenced a religion.

But with religious figures and the stories of their lives, it is better to separate historical from religious purposes. So many people feel that adding a historical 'fact' to their beliefs will validate their beliefs. And yet most people wish to ignore everything we call fact starts from belief in a thing called fact.

Look into philosophy and religious studies to see how beliefs are handled and keep in mind your beliefs on science are beliefs. Just because you believe in your history and data, does not trump another beliefs no matter how far fetched they are. Nobody has 'proven' gravity, history or even reality. The more you know, the more you are aware of how little we know.


If a question is being asked about the precise details of a purported factual event in historical time 2500 years ago, then there is no possible answer other than to say that there is no hope of ever confirming or denying any such thing on that level. There are no video recordings left over from 2500 years ago, and so on. The kinds of evidence that one might take as strictly definitive simply do not exist.

I'd suggest a "middle way" between two extremes of doubt and credulity. Doubt says, I know how the world works; and this doesn't accord with what I know, so it's wrong, wrong, wrong. Credulity says I'm desperate for something to believe in to make me feel like there's something special out there to hold on to, so I'm going to rabidly defend all the myths against any kind of interpretation or anything short of my own strict literalism. Either one of these extremes are really just manifestations of some kind of neuroticism and suffering. A flexible mind simply must accept that no solid answer is possible. Conversely, opening up to the uncertainty is a good exercise for making the mind more flexible.

Another good exercise in flexibility is understanding context. So probably don't say you believe this story when you are in the context of, say, a job interview for a position as a scientist...


That story might be from a Jataka tale, or (I'm not sure which) from the introduction to the Jatakas.

This ...

The Commentarial Introduction Entitled

... says (on pages 154-155),

Thousands of world- systems became visible to him like a single open space. Men and devas offering him sweet-smelling garlands, said : " great man, there is no other like thee, how then a greater ? " Searching the ten directions 1 and finding no one like himself, he took seven strides, saying : " This is the best direction." And as he walked the Great Brahma held over him the white umbrella, and the Suyama followed him with the fan, and other devas with the other symbols of royalty in their hands. Then, stopping at the seventh step, he sent forth his noble voice and shouted the shout of victory, beginning with : "I am the chief of the world."

There's a footnote:

The Madurattha Vilasini adds the rest : " I am supreme in the world ; this is my last birth ; henceforth there will be no rebirth for me."

The "Madhuratthavilasini" is apparently a commentary on the Buddhavamsa (which like the Jataka tales is in the Khuddaka Nikaya).

There's another topic (question and answers) here, about the Jataka stories: Does Theravada Buddhism accept Jataka Stories?


It depends on how 'far-fetched' your definition of far-fetched is. In islamic scripture, Mohamed rides a flying animal (the 'buraq') to heaven. If you think it makes sense, then it make sense.


Could all the myths of the Buddha story, was actually some symbolises of the Buddha? For eg, there were lotus lotus flower blooming from the ground when baby prince siddhattha walked oon the 7 steps, symbolised the purity of the Buddha. The Brahma and devas holding the baby prince siddhattha, symbolised the noble of the Prince Siddhattha(later the Buddha) or symbolised the Prince Siddhattha(later the Buddha) was respected by the nobles. The words "I‘m the cheif of the world…" spoken by the baby siddhatha symbolised the noble and mighty of his future. I‘m not sure whether am my prediction correct or wrong. I think all this myths that don‘t seem possible in realistic life, might only be the symbols and metaphor that describes the Buddha.

In some story, Prince Siddhartha was born under the right arm of his mother,Queen Maya.This does not seems right to logically and is hard to believe. But if you have understand some of the cultures of India; this will be easier to understand. In India, there are cultures of 4 classes in the society. The highest class is the Brahmins ( families of Brahmin priests), 2nd class is Kshatriyas (families of royals and warriors), 3rd class is Vaishyas (families of skilled traders, merchants), and lowest class is Shudras (unskilled workers). It is pass down by the lineage of the family; that means the descendants from a lowest class family will always be in the lowest class in his whole lifetime, the descendants from the higher class family will always be in the higher class, regardless of his acquired efforts he have made.The lineages are pass down through generations, that means if the grandfather is a lower class people, his children, his grandchildren will also considered to be a lower class people in their lifetime. The higher classes will get more respect from others; where the lowest class will hardly get respect from others, especially it is hard to get respect from the highest classes. They believed that their religion the Brahma god created everythings,so in their cultures, to symbolize their classes; the highest class of Brahmins was say to be born from the mouth of Brahma God, 2nd class of the royals and warriors was say to be born under the arm of the Brahma God, the 3rd class of skillful people or merchants etc. was say to be born from the belly of Brahma god(this ones not too sure), the lowest class of servants was say to be born from the knees of Brahma god. Thus, in some stories saying that the Prince Siddhattha was born through the arm of Queen Maya , I think this was just to symbolise that he was from the 2nd class of the royals family; where in India traditional cultures, they symbolise the classes just as the 2nd class of royals and warriors was born through the arm if Brahma god. Therefore, I think this was just a symbolisation of the Buddha. Not really a baby was delivered from the arm of the Queen in realistic life.

Maybe in the olden days, people liked to describe things through symbolises and metaphor, instead of telling things in a straight forwards manner. Thus, all the myths of the Buddha, might be some symbolises and metaphors that represented the Buddha‘s life, his background, his thoughts and his teachings.

  • dear friend, it is not good to attach the word "Myth" to a such a holy one's life. I guess that's why the answer was down voted. The birth story is not symbolism. It is taken as facts and historic records.
    – Theravada
    Apr 4, 2016 at 14:01

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