Maya | Mother of Buddha

Maya | Mother of Buddha

Maya (sometimes also Māyā) was - according to Buddhist tradition - the physical mother of Buddha. She is also called Mahamaya ("Great Maya") or Mayadevi ("Queen Maya", "Goddess Maya"). In Tibetan Buddhism, her name is Gyutrulma. Her name means "enchantment" or "illusion," which is associated with her extraordinary beauty.


Maya was the consort of King Śuddhodana of the Shakya tribe in Kapilavastu and the birth mother of Buddha. After her marriage to King Śuddhodana had not produced any children for 20 years, Maya dreamt on a full moon night that she was abducted by celestial spirits (devas) to a lake in the Himalayan mountains; after bathing in the lake, she was dressed by the devas in celestial robes, sprayed with precious perfume and sprinkled with flower petals.

While she slept, a white elephant with a lotus blossom on its tusk appeared to her, circled her three times, and then entered her through her right side. Later the elephant disappeared, but after awakening she knew that something very special had happened to her, because elephants - especially white ones - are regarded in Asia as embodiments or symbols of power and being chosen.

After ten months of pregnancy, she is said to have started a journey to her parents' house in Devadaha in order to give birth there, but already halfway there, near the present-day city of Lumbini (Nepal) - standing and holding on to the branches of a sal tree (Shorea robusta), which in ancient writings was often confused with an Ashoka tree (Saraca asoca) - she gave birth to a son, who was given the name Siddhartha.

According to tradition, the birth is said to have occurred through Maya's right side; seven days after the birth, she died. All this happened, according to Buddhist tradition, in 563 BC (this dating, however, has been questioned some time ago). Her son was raised by her sister Mahapajapati Gotami, who also became King Śuddhodana's second wife.

After Siddharta attained enlightenment and became a Buddha (Sanskrit: "Awakened One" or "Enlightened One"), he had visited his mother in heaven for three months, paying his respects and instructing her in the teachings of the Dharma.

Buddhism and Christianity

Christian and Buddhist traditions have certain parallels in terms of the virgin conception, the birth of the Son on a journey, and the royal descent - constructed by legend or by the evangelists Matthew (Mt 1:1-17 EU) and Luke (Lk 3:23-38 EU) themselves. But there are also clear differences - for example, Mary did not die after giving birth to her divine Son.

Greek and Roman mythology

It is also worth mentioning the similarity of the name to Maia, the mother of the Greek messenger of the gods Hermes, who was impregnated by Zeus at night. A Roman fertility goddess also bears the name Maia.

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