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The meaning of Shakyamuni Buddha's seven lotus steps at his birth

News & Updates, 08:45 AM, May, 30 2024
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"Seven golden lotuses support the majestic steps

Three thousand worlds welcome the Buddha."

Buddhist history recounts an extremely special event at the Buddha's birth. As soon as he was born, he took seven steps, each lifted by a lotus flower. On the seventh step, with one hand pointing toward the sky and the other toward the earth, he declared: “Above heaven, under heaven, I am the Most Honored One”

So what is the meaning of these seven lotus steps? Let's read the shared words from Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh through the following article.

Shakyamuni Buddha was born with the vow to save sentient beings and become their refuge.

Shakyamuni Buddha was born with the vow to save sentient beings and become their refuge.

Explaining the meaning of the first step, Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh said: "As he took the first step, he looked toward the East where the sun rises. He wanted to show that in this life, he was the Supreme Teacher, the light of wisdom bringing enlightenment to sentient beings, just like how the run brings lights to the world."

Indeed, after attaining Nirvana under the Bodhi tree, the Buddha became fully enlightened, understanding all phenomena in the world, the truth of life, and the path to liberation. Through 49 years of teaching the Dharma, he brought his extraordinary light of wisdom to guide sentient beings toward bliss.

The second step: The Bodhisattva looked toward the South - He would be the blessing field for all sentient beings.

In the second step, he looked toward the South. He manifested this gesture to let sentient beings know that he was the supreme field of blessings for all sentient beings. And it is the truth. After he attained Buddhahood, whoever made even a tiny offering to him would gain immeasurable benefits.

In the Milindapanha sutra, in the section "Small good deeds, great blessings; great evil deeds, small retribution," the Arahant Nagasena told the story of a sinner who had all his limbs severed, holding a lotus flower in his mouth to reverently offer to Shakyamuni Buddha. After accepting that offering, the Buddha said to his ordained disciples: "Thanks to this merit, that person will not fall into the three evil realms for the next ninety-one lifetimes. He will be reborn in heavenly realms and enjoy all the precious merits before being reborn again as a human."

The third step: The Bodhisattva looked toward the West - That was his final body.

In the third step, he turned his face toward the West, revealing to sentient beings that was his final body in the cycle of birth and death. Thay explained: "The West is the direction of rest and repose. The sun rises in the East and sets in the West.  It means the West symbolizes the eternal resting place. Therefore, the Buddha turning his face toward the West signified that was his final body." 

Indeed, the Buddha attained Buddhahood, putting an end to all suffering and eradicating all defilements as well as impurity within the mind. This marked his final existence as he no longer reincarnated in the cycle of birth and death.

Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh shared about the significance of the Buddhas seven lotus steps at his birth (illustrated image)

Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh shared about the significance of the Buddhas seven lotus steps at his birth (illustrated image)

The fourth step: The Bodhisattva looked toward the North - He would attain Supreme Enlightenment in that very lifetime.

In the fourth step, he turned his face toward the North, signifying that he would attain the Supreme Enlightenment right in that lifetime. After five years of learning from various teachers, six years of ascetic practices in the forest, and 49 days and nights of meditation under the Bodhi tree, he attained the Supreme Enlightenment, becoming the Perfect Buddha.

The fifth step: The Bodhisattva looked downward - He would subdue all demons.

Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh explained the Buddha's fifth step: "In the fifth step, he looked downward, letting sentient beings know that his appearance in this life was to subdue all kinds of demons. Demons reside below, while the noble reside above.

Therefore, he looked downward to tell sentient beings that his birth was to subdue all kinds of demons."

The sixth step: Bodhisattva looked upward - He was the refuge for both devas and humans.

In the sixth step, he looked upward, manifesting this action to let sentient beings know that he was the refuge for both devas and humans. "He looked upward toward the heaven, revealing himself as a refuge for us,” Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh explained. He added, “Heavenly and human beings must take refuge in him because only then can we escape from the cycle of birth and death. Thus, with these six steps, he traversed the entire universe."

The seventh step: The Bodhisattva pointed one hand to the sky, one hand to the earth.

At the seventh step, he paused, pointing one hand to the sky and one hand to the earth, and declared:

“Above heaven, under heaven, I am the Most Honored One.” 

Many scholars, when studying the birth of the Buddha, raised the question of why Shakyamuni Buddha made such an arrogant proclamation right after birth while his teachings were about selflessness and humility.

Thay Thich Truc Thai Minh explained: "That is indeed a timeless and true proclamation. In terms of both virtue and accomplishment, the Buddha is the most esteemed; no one could surpass him, even deities or Brahmas (devas of the Form Realm). Anyone who encounters the Buddha knows that they cannot equal him. His declaration was neither rooted in arrogance nor made without shame - it is entirely correct, justified, and well-deserved. He proclaimed boldly thus to let the entire universe know that the World-Honored One had emerged, the refuge for all beings had appeared."

Shakyamuni Buddha was born with the vow to save sentient beings and become their refuge.

Shakyamuni Buddha was born with the vow to save sentient beings and become their refuge.

Through Thay's teachings, we can see that was an extraordinary miraculous event that only happened for a fully enlightened being like the Buddha. Each lotus step carried profound and sublime meanings, signifying his supreme and unparalleled status.

"As he stepped through these six lotus flowers, it signified that he had traversed the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, Asuras, and deities and would no longer take birth in any of them.

He had transcended the cycle of rebirth and stood at the seventh lotus flower. While sentient beings continue to wander within the cycle of rebirth, the Buddha has gone beyond it and is no longer within the Three Realms. He declared he was the one who had stepped out of these Three Realms, and he was the most honored because no one else had stepped out of this cycle of rebirth."

May Vesak Day be widely celebrated, honored, and spread far and wide so that everyone will all take refuge in the Compassionate Father- Shakyamuni Buddha, and thereby quickly escape from the cycle of birth and death to attain eternal happiness.

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