Home page Up (parent) Next (right) Previous (left) Abbreviations

Page last updated on 8 October, 2020

Association for Insight Meditation Home Page


The mother of the Buddha (D.ii.52; see Thomas: op.cit., 25).

Her father was the Sakyan Añjana of Devadaha, son of Devadahasakka, and her mother Yasodharā, daughter of Jayasena. (Mhv.ii.17 ff; elsewhere her father is called Mahā Suppabuddha (ThigA.141), while the Apadāna (ii.538) gives the name of her mother as Sulakkhaṇā).

Daṇḍapāṇī and Suppabuddha were her brothers, and Mahāpajāpatī her sister. Both the sisters were married to Suddhodana in their youth, but it was not until Māyā was between forty and fifty that Siddhattha was born (VibhA.278). She had all the qualities necessary for one who was to bear the exalted rank of being the mother of the Buddha: she was not too passionate, she did not take intoxicants, she had practiced the perfections (pāramī) for one hundred thousand world-cycles, and had not, since her birth, violated the five precepts. On the day of her conception she kept her fast, and in her sleep that night she had the following dream: the four Mahārāja gods took her in her bed to Himavā and placed her under a sāla tree on Manosilātala. Then their wives came and bathed her in the Anotatta Lake and clad her in divine robes. They then led her into a golden palace and laid her on a divine couch; there the Bodhisatta, in the form of a white elephant, holding a white lotus in his gleaming trunk, entered into her right side. This was on the day of the Uttarāsāḷha constellation (nakkhatta), after a festival lasting seven days, in which she had already taken part.

From the day of her conception she was guarded by the Four Regent Gods; she felt no desire for men, and the child in her womb could be seen from outside. At the end of the tenth month she wished to return to her people in Devadaha, but, on her way there, she stopped at the sāla grove in Lumbinī and there her child was born as she stood holding on to the branch of a sāla tree (J.i.49 ff). Seven days later Māyā died and was reborn as a male in Tusita, under the name of Māyādevaputta (Thag.vss.533 f; ThagA.i.502).

The Buddha visited Tāvatiṃsa immediately after the performance of the Twin Miracle at the foot of the Gandamba tree, on the full-moon day of Āsāḷha, and there, during the three months of the rainy season, the Buddha stayed, teaching the Abhidhamma Piṭaka to his mother (who came there to listen to him), seated on Sakka’s Paṇḍukambalasilāsana, at the foot of the Pāricchattaka tree. (It is said that, during this time, at certain intervals, the Buddha would return to earth, leaving a seated image of himself in Tāvatiṃsa to continue the teaching while he attended to his bodily needs, begging alms in Uttarakuru and eating his food on the banks of Anotatta, where Sāriputta waited on him and learnt of what he had been teaching the devas.) (DhSA.i.15; DhA.iii.216 f)

The Commentaries (UdA.276 f ) state the view, held by some, that had Māyā been alive the Buddha would not have shown such reluctance to bestow ordination on women. This view, says Dhammapāla is erroneous. It would have made no difference, for it is the natural rule (dhammatā) of all Buddhas that women shall be ordained, but subject to certain important restrictions. The mothers of all Buddhas die very soon after the birth of their son, because no other child is fit to be conceived in the same womb as a Buddha.

Māyā is mentioned in several Jātaka stories as the mother of the Bodhisatta:

According to some contexts, after her birth as Phusatī in the Vessantara Jātaka, Māyā became one of the daughters of King Kikī.

Māyā’s resolve to be the mother of a Buddha was formed ninety-one world-cycles ago in the time of Vipassī Buddha (J.vi.480 f). She was then the elder daughter of King Bandhumā. One of the king’s vassals sent him a piece of priceless sandalwood and a golden wreath, worth one hundred thousand. The sandalwood the king gave to his elder daughter and the wreath to the younger. The elder powdered the sandalwood and took it in a golden casket to the Buddha. Some of the powder she offered to the Buddha to be rubbed on his body, and the rest she scattered in his cell. It was the sight of the Buddha’s golden body that inspired her with the desire to be the mother of such a being. Her sister later became Uracchadā.