How does one summarize the Buddha's birth narrative as detailed in the Lalitavistara Sūtra, otherwise called the Buddhist Sutra that details the story of the Buddha?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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To summarize any piece of literature, all you have to do is zero in on the main characters and main events. Think about the following questions as you pick out important details: What's the main purpose of the story? What characters drive the story forward, showing the main purpose of the story? What events drive the story forward, also showing the main purpose of the story? How does the story end? How does the story begin? The answers to all of those questions should help you quickly pinpoint all of the important details, enabling you to quickly summarize what you need to summarize. As we are limited in space, below are a few ideas to help get you stared.

The story of the Buddha's birth is a miraculous birth story similarly to how the births of Lord Krishna and Jesus Christ are also miraculous birth stories. One of the central characters in the story is Queen Maya, the Buddha's mother and, naturally, the Buddha himself. There are probably many accounts of the narration due to differences in translation, but one narrative states as an important event that during the midsummer festival, the queen went to her room to take a nap and, while asleep, had a very vivid dream. She dreamed about a white elephant carrying a lotus flower. The white elephant circled her three times, struck her with his trunk on her right side, and then emerged into her own being. As a second important event, the king had 64 different Brahmans interpret the dream, and they all acknowledged it meant that the queen would bear a son who would either grow up to be either a "universal ruler" if he remains at home or a "buddha" if he leaves the home (Lalitavistara Sutra, "Episode 1: The Prelude to the Birth of Buddha"). One account of the narration also states that she expressly asked the king permission to give birth in the blossoming Lumbini Pleasure Garden. In the garden, she takes hold of a branch of an ashoka tree that is miraculously bending down to her, and as she does so, her son is born out of her right side ("Episode 1"). Again, other narrations may be different, but all accounts say that the baby is miraculously born able to stand and walk. One narration states that he "takes seven steps in each of the four compass directions," north, south, east, and west ("Episode 1"). With each step he takes, a lotus blossom grows. All narrations also state that, as a final important event, the queen dies seven days after giving birth, and the baby is raised by her sister Pajapati, another one of the king's wives.

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