The belief that a man must be born and live and die, only to be born and die again and again through a weary round of existences, was widespread in India long before Buddha’s day. And accordingly the “biography” of a Buddha must include an account of some of those former “births” or existences. The story of Sumedha〖H. C., xlv, 577–602. The story of the “Wise Hare,” pages 697-701, is a Jātaka or Birth story.〗 is one of these. The “Jtaka,” the most charming of all Buddhist story books,〖Translated by various hands under the editorship of E. B. Cowell, 6 vols., Cambridge, 1895-1907.〗 contains the narrative of not less than 547 former existences of Gotama. Next after all this prenatal biography comes the account of Buddha’s birth into the existence which concerns us most nearly, the actual one of the sixth century before Christ, and this forms the subject of the second of Warren’s translations, “The Birth of the Buddha.”〖H. C., xlv, 603-12.〗 That translation is from a later work. It is most instructive for the student of religious tradition to compare the meager statements of the oldest canonical account with such an account as this, in order to see how the loving imagination of devout disciples may embellish a simple and prosaic fact with a multitude of picturesque details. Thus the presages of Buddha’s birth〖H. C., xlv, 607-608.〗 are quite comparable, except for beauty of poetic diction, with those of the birth of Jesus in Milton’s hymn “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity.”〖H. C., iv, 7.〗 As an example of new accretions to the older story may be cited the later tradition that Buddha was born from his mother’s right side, a trait that appears not only in the Lalita-vistara and in St. Jerome, but also in many of the sculptured representations of the scene.

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