Wonderful & Marvelous: Recollection of the Buddha

In honor of Vesak, coming up this year on May 19, a series of talks on the Buddha themself, interwoven with some discussion of the traditional verses of praise we chant in our Refuge & Precepts Pūja.

We’ll use as a framework this month a strange and beautiful sutta known as “Wonderful and Marvelous,” (Acchariya-abbhūta Sutta, MN 123, here in Ven. Sujato’s translation, though I’m reading from Bhikkhu Bodhi’s in class). This text describes the Buddha interrupting a bunch of monks sitting around praising them, and then asking Ānanda to say more, to which Ānanda unfurls a long invocation of all the miraculous phenomena that occurred around the Buddha’s conception and birth.

It ends with the famous ‘newborn baby takes seven strides to the north’ passage:

‘As soon as he’s born, the being intent on awakening stands firm with his own feet on the ground. Facing north, he takes seven strides with a white parasol held above him, surveys all quarters, and makes this dramatic statement: “I am the foremost in the world! I am the eldest in the world! I am the best in the world! This is my last rebirth. Now there are no more future lives.”’

MN 123

One of the beautiful Vesak rituals is to “bathe the baby Buddha”: pouring water over a statue of this tiny perfect person standing there with a finger in the air, declaring this transcendent status. So here’s some reflection on this being we call the Buddha, and ancient rituals and meditations honoring what they were/are/brought into the world.

Meditation: Recollection of the Buddha. Some simple ways to explore this most classical, and devotional, of meditation subjects. (5.7.19)

Talk: the Triple Jewel, the verses honoring Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha, and the opening of the discourse “Wonderful and Marvelous.” (5.7.19)

Talk: The full narrative of the Wonderful and Marvelous events surrounding Gotama’s birth, and the Buddha’s smart right turn at the end. (5.14.19)

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