As the Buddha gathered more and more followers, stories spread of his miracles, which mixed the marvelous with the mundane.
One story tells how 500 pieces of firewood split at the Buddha's command. In another, a mad elephant charged wildly down a street forcing everyone to flee. Only the Buddha remained, quietly waiting. The elephant, overcome by the Buddha’s radiant kindness, knelt before him, and the Buddha patted his leathery trunk.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama: "What’s the meaning of miracle? Miracle is something unexpected. I think a hundred years ago, jumbo jets or some of these really...computers—I think in their eye this is something miracle. Because Miracle is something you cannot understand. So now I think within this century we may find some new ideas or new facts. So far we spent all our energy and time for research on matter, not internal world. This skull— small space, but lot of mysterious things still there."
W.S. Merwin, poet: "The great field of knowledge is as tiny as the earth is in the universe. I mean it's tiny…it's a speck, and the universe is what we don't know, and it will always be that way; however much we find out, it will still be that way because the unknown is vastly, it's unspeakably greater than anything we will ever know."
In one of the most storied miracles, the Buddha strode on a jeweled walkway suspended in mid-air while streams of water spouted and flames flashed from his body, shooting out to the very edge of the universe. And as the Buddha sat on a lotus flower giving his teachings, he replicated himself, filling the sky with multitudes of Buddhas for all to see and wonder.
Merwin: "Do we believe that literally? Does it matter whether we believe it literally? What many of those miraculous stories are about is the sheer wonder of it all. The very fact that the whole unknown time and space has led down to this…has led to this very moment where we're sitting here talking, when we are sitting here talking to each other, is utterly miraculous."
Jane Hirshfield, poet: "Sitting here in a room having had a cup of coffee, having taken it out of a beautiful blue and white porcelain mug…what could be more miraculous than that? Everyday life around us is already so implausible and so glorious but what need for further miracles. And that’s the teaching of the Buddha. That’s the miraculous teaching of the Buddha."