Right-Side Conception and Birth

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Radich writes that there is a problem of maternity concerning the Buddha’s apparent corporeal birth. The MPNMS (Mahāparinirvāṇa-mahāsūtra) says:

At times, I show myself entering into my mother’s womb in Jambudvīpa, and let my father and mother think of me as their child; and yet, ultimately, this body of mine is not engendered by lascivious copulation. For countless kalpas, I have already long been far removed from all lascivious desire…I [only] show myself entering into the womb, in order to conform with the ways of the world. Gentle sir, I [only] show myself being born from my mother Māyā in the Lumbinī grove here in Jambudvīpa. (Radich, pg. 116)

It’s best at this junction to piece-together the manner of the Buddha’s Immaculate Conception. The traditional narrative runs:

One day during a midsummer festival, Queen Māyā retired to her quarters to rest, and she fell asleep and dreamed a vivid dream. Four angels carried her high into white mountain peaks and clothed her in flowers. A magnificent white bull elephant bearing a white lotus in its trunk approached Māyā and walked around her three times. Then the elephant struck her on the right side with its trunk and vanished into her.

Today’s accompanying image (at top) depicts this extraordinary occurrence. The figure of a White Elephant depicts a sacred animal that signifies fertility and wisdom. The White Lotus is a depiction of profound cognitive and spiritual purity. The entry of the White Elephant and Lotus into the Right Side is an indication that this is a Noble Conception, one whose developing embryo will always follow the Right Path of Light and Wisdom, and not the left-path of darkness and destruction. Later the MPNMS reveals that the father of lies, Mara, makes an appearance under the guise of an Arhat and states that, “He was born this body due to a lustful copulation of this father and mother.” This is in direct violation of the Docetic-Factor, which is reinforced by the above quote of the Tathāgata in the MPNMS. This was no evil and lust-filled conception, but truly a Noble implantation of the Bodhiseed that would one day mature into a Bodhisattva and eventual Buddhahood. Radich further states that the “Mūlasarvāstivāda-vinaya Saṅghabheda-vastu (“MSVSBhV”) does not deny that the bodhisattva entered the womb, but denies that he was defiled by any of the filth found there.” (ibid, pg.118)  The Mahāmegha-sūtra states that while within the womb, the maturating gotra is immaculately pure:

…not polluted by bile, phlegm, blood or any other unclean matter. For the Bodhisattva, while he is in his mother’s womb, is rubbed with perfumes and washed clean. He is able to see his mother, while she, in her turn, can see the Bodhisattva in her womb like a body of pure gold…It is as though a jewel of beryl were placed in its crystal casket. (ibid, pg.121)

For a Lankavatarian, what all this further reveals is that this Immaculate Conception and gestation concerns no human embryo, but a miraculous spiritual unfoldment of the Bodhichild. IT’s a Spiritual Conception and gestation—the Right Development of the Bodhi-Being (Bodhisattva). Jewel of beryl=Bodhiseed; crystal casket=Tathāgatagarbha. Thus the eventual birth is that of a Spiritual-Child, one that is housed in Siddhartha until fully maturing beneath the Bodhi-Tree. The further issuance of the bodhisattvas’ birth reveals that Māyā felt no discomfort or pain; he is “born from her right side, “rather than emerging from her vagina or some other part of her body”, because “the Bodhisattva is best in the triple world for cleanliness of habits…” The following is a classical depiction of this miraculous birth:

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The bodhisattva issues from his mother’s right side (which is “like gold”) without piercing it, thus leaving no scar or wound; and the process is painless. This is possible because “Tathāgatas are born with a body that is made of mind (manomayena rūpena).” (MV) (ibid, pg. 122)

As Radich rightly states, this bears an obvious connection to the doctrine of manomayakāya. This adds another salient-factor to this whole Immaculate and miraculous enterprise. Śākyamuni’s own manomayakāya houses the direct Mind-Stream of the Tathāgatas, thus this is about a Mind-Made-Body, devoid of all skandhic outflows. Not issuing forth from vaginal impurities, but directly from Bhutatathata (Absolute Suchness) Itself. Once again, issuing-forth from the Right Side, indicating a Right-handed path vs. that of a left-handed, or evil, path. There’s an old Huron North American Indian Legend that states how a Divine Mother had twin boys; they were total opposites, one good and one evil. The evil one was not born in a normal manner but rather pierced through the mother’s left-side, and she died. Within Lankavatarian gnoseologies, this is representative of the Tathāgatagarbha (Right Path) and the Alayavijñana (Left path), or the Right-garbha and Its evil twin. See the blog, The Other, for a thorough breakdown. For now let us suffice to say that the Alaya-receptacle houses unwholesome karmic-seeds that leads to death, while its direct opposite constitutes a resilient Dharma-field of undefiled Bodhi, leading to deathlessness.

The Gaṇḍavyūha declares the following description and significance of Māyā’s pregnancy:

Māyā describes how, when she was pregnant with the bodhisattva, her body miraculously came to embrace the entire world, and her womb became as expansive as all space, although, at the same time, both remained concordant with normal human proportions; all the magically manifested palaces that serve as dwelling places in the womb for bodhisattvas in all the ten directions then entered into her body. Not just one bodhisattva, but an entire host of bodhisattvas, as countless as grains of sand in all the Buddha-fields, then entered into [these dwellings in] Māyā’s womb. Each of these bodhisatvas was ensconced within a kūṭāgāra made of jewels from the bellies (?garbha) of serpent-kings. This miraculous palace-womb is then the site of various grandiose practices of taking darśan of, worshipping, and hearing the Dharma from the bodhisattva. The lesson of the episode is that Māyā is always the mother of all bodhisattvas in all worlds, even when they take birth by other means, such as arising in a lotus flower (in which case Māyā will be the goddess of the lotus pond), or being born into a Buddha-field (in which case Māyā is the goddess of the seat of awakening). Thus, Māyā’s apparent motherhood of the Buddha, in all these cases, is an expedient means (upāya), just as much as the various modes of birth are expedient means “displayed” (saṃdarśayanti) by the respective bodhisattvas. (ibid, pg. 129)

Furthermore, as was stated in our series, Entry into the Dharmadhātu:

Being the Auspicious-Mother of all Buddhas, where all “those enlightening beings grow in my belly and come forth from my right side”, it leaves one to wonder that she is, in essence, a truly “Magical Being”. She highly avows “Right-Magic”, wherein from her “right side” supernal and magical power produces “Magical Liberation”; hence Māyā is THE liberating mother. Māyā—the womb through which all Buddhas enter into the field of illusion in order to liberate sentient beings…..this liberation is unborn, because its practice is like magic.

Thus, this Immaculate Conception and ensuing “Magical Liberation”, not only for Gautama, but for ALL aspiring bodhisattvas, is an upāya of the Tathāgatas in issuing forth all future Bodhi-Beings through the Recollection of their True Nature.

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