Did it really happen?

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    Over on YouTube, underneath one of Dharmaviyda’s talks from the Bodhi retereat last year, someone asked, do we know for definite that the Buddha’s mother died during childbirth?

    I said:

    ‘For definite’ is a tricky concept when we are talking about so long ago. The oldest texts that we have say that the Buddha’s mother died in childbirth.

    There is one other account of the Buddha’s life where ‘parents’ are referred to later on, but this could be the step-mother that is mentioned elsewhere. So we can say it’s *probable* but not definite. These are always interesting questions to ask, and in terms of Buddhist practice the most important question is “What meaning does this story hold for me today?”

    A while back I read Paul Knitter’s Without Buddha I Couldn’t Be Christian, and one of the phrases that stayed with me was that the opposite of taking something literally was taking something seriously. What does this teaching mean? The other similar phrase was – how can we go beyond a Sunday school understanding of Christianity?

    When I first read some of the Mahayana Sutra’s I was so hung up on whether they had really happened or not – in fact I was convinced the miracles described hadn’t happened – that I couldn’t receive the teachings that were wrapped in this beautiful packaging.

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