1. A Fortunate Birth2. A Holy Man's Visit3. The Kind Prince
4. The Marriage Contest [next]
>> 5. The Pleasure Palaces 6. A Song of Beauty
7. An Unexpected Sight 8. The Second Journey
9. The Final Shock 10. Fading Pleasures 11. A Vision of Peace 12. A
Father's Fear 13. Escape 14. The Journey Begins 15. Six Years of Struggle
An Offering 17. The Great Battle 18. Awakened 19. Whom to Teach 20. The
First Teaching 21. A Mother's Grief 22. A Rude Man 23. Words of Praise
24. Kindness to Animals 25. The power of Love 26. The return 27. The
King and the Spirit Tree 28. Equal love to All 29. The Final days
Many, many years ago, in a small kingdom in
the north of India,
Something was happening that would change the whole world.
Queen Maya, wife of the good King Suddhodana, lay asleep and had
a wondrous dream. She dreamt she saw a brilliant white light shining
down to her from the sky, and in the rays of this light was a magnificent
elephant of light flew closer and closer to the Queen and finally melted
into her body. Queen Maya awoke, filled with greater happiness than
she had ever felt before.
Quickly she went to the king and together they asked the wise men at the
court what this strange and wonderful dream might mean. The wise men
answered "O Your Majesties, this dream is a most excellent one! It means
that the Queen will give birth to a son, and this prince will someday
become a great man. Not only you, but the entire world is fortunate that
the Queen will have such a special child."
Hearing this good news, the King and Queen were overjoyed. The King was
especially happy because he belonged for a son who would someday rule his
kingdom hin his place. And now it seemed his wish was being granted.
It was the custom in those days for a woman to return to her parents home
in order to give birth. And so, when the time had almost come for the baby
to be born, Queen Maya and many of her friends and attendants left the
palace of the king and began to journey to her childhood home.
They had not traveled far when the Queen asked that they stop and rest.
She knew the baby would be born very soon. They had reached the beautiful
gardens of Lumbini and the Queen went into this garden looking for a
comfortable place in which she could give birth. The stories say that even
the animals and plants, somehow understanding what a special child was
about to be born, wanted to help. A large tree bent down one of its
branches and the Queen took hold of it with her right hand. Supporting
herself in this way, she gave birth to a son. The attendants cradled the
baby in their arms and were amazed at how beautiful he was and how
peaceful he seemed.
At that moment, throughout the land,
there was a great feeling of peace and happiness. People forgot their
troubles, ceased their quarrels and felt great love. and friendship for
one another. Some people saw rainbows suddenly and unusual things were
Wise men from all over the kingdom noticed these signs of peace and joy
and excitedly said to each other, "Something very fortunate has just
happened. Look at all these wonderful signs! Today is the full moon day of
the fourth month. It must certainly be a special day!"
Queen Maya, unaware that her joy at having a son was being shared at that
very moment throughout the kingdom, took the new-born baby in her arms and
returned to the palace of the King.
With great rejoicing, King Shuddhodana greeted his Queen and his new son.
Splendid festivals were held and the whole kingdom was decked in
beautifully colored banners. It was a time of great happiness and peace.
There was so much gladness everywhere that his parents decided to name the
Prince "Siddhartha", which means "the one who has brought about all good
Now the wise men made new predictions about the baby. "O King," they said,
"the signs of the Prince's birth are most favorable. Your son will grow up
to be even greater than you are now!" This news made the King very proud.
"If these wise men are correct," he thought, "my son, Prince Siddhartha,
may one day be the ruler not only of my small kingdom, but perhaps of the
entire world! what a great honors for me and my family !"
In the first few days after his birth, many people came to the palace to
see the new baby. One of these visitors was and old man named Asita. Asita
was a hermit who lived by himself in the distant forests, and he was known
to be a very holy person. The King and Queen were Surprised that Asita
would leave his forest home and appear at their court, "We are very
honored that you have come to visit us, O holy teacher," They said with
great respect. "Please tell us the purpose of your journey and we shall
serve you in any way we can."
Asita answered them, "I thank you for your kind welcome. I have come a
great distance to visit you because of the wonderful signs I have recently
seen. They tell me that the son recently born to you will gain great
spiritual knowledge for the benefit of all people. Since I have spent my
entire life trying to gain such holy wisdom, I came here as quickly as
possible to see him for myself."
The King was very excited and hurried to where the baby Prince lay
sleeping. He carefully picked up his son and brought him back to Asita.
For a long time the holy man gazed at the infant, saying nothing. Then he
finally stepped back, looked sadly up at the sky, sighed heavily and began
Seeing Asita weep, the King and Queen became very frightened. They were
afraid that the holy man had seen something wrong with their child. With
tears in his eyes, the King fell to his knees and cried out, "O holy
teacher, what have you seen that makes you weep? Didn't you and all the
other wise men say that my son was born to be a great man, to gain supreme
knowledge? But now, when you look at my baby you cry. Does this mean that
the Prince will die soon? Or will something else very terrible happen to
him? He is my only child and I love him dearly. Please tell me quickly
what you have seen for my heart is shaking with sadness and fear."
Then with a very kind look, Asita calmed the new parents and told them not
to worry. "Do not be upset," he told them. "I am not crying because of
something bad I saw for the Prince. In fact, now that I have seen your
son, I know for certain that he will grow up to be more than just a great
man. There are special signs that I have seen on this child-such as the
light that shines from his fingers-that tell me he will have glorious
"If your son decides to stay with you and become a king, he will be the
greatest king in history. He rule a vast realm and bring his people much
peace and happiness. But if he decides not to become a king, his future
will be even greater! He will become a great teacher, showing all people
how to live with peace and love in their hearts. Seeing the sadness in the
world he will leave your palace and discover a way to end all suffering.
Then he will teach this way to whoever will listen.
"No, dear King and Queen, I was not crying for the child. I was crying for
myself. You see, I have spent my whole life looking for the truth,
searching for a way to end all suffering. And today I have met the child
who will someday teach everything I have wanted to learn. But by the time
he is old enough to teach, I shall already have died. Thus, I shall not be
able to learn from him in this life. That is why I am so sad. But you, O
fortunate parents, should not be sad. Rejoiced that you have such a
Then Asita took one long, last look at the child, and slowly left the
palace. The King watched him leave and then turned towards his son. He was
very happy that there was no danger to the Prince's life. He thought, "Asita
has said that Siddhartha will become either a great king or a great
teacher. It would be much better if first he became a king. How proud I
would be to have such a famous and powerful son! then, when he is an old
man like Asita, he can become a holy man if he wants."
So, thinking like this, King Shuddhodana stood happily with his baby in
his arms, dreaming of the fame that his son would someday have.
While the new baby was still very
young, his mother, Queen Maya died. Shortly before she passed away, the
Queen said to her sister, "Soon I shall not be able to take care of my
baby anymore. Dear Sister, after I have gone, please look after Siddhartha
for me." Her sister promised that she would. She loved the little Prince
very much and brought him up as if he were her own child.
The Prince grew into a bright, handsome and kind hearted boy. His father,
the King , arranged for him to be educated by the best teachers in the
kingdom, and very quickly he showed his remarkable intelligence. After the
first few days of classes the teachers reported to the King, "Your
Majesty," they said, "the Prince does not need us anymore. After only a
few lessons he has learned everything we have to teach him. In fact, he
has taught us a few things that we ourselves never knew before!"
Hearing this, the King's pride in his son grew even greater. "With his
intelligence, my son will certainly grow up to be a wise and powerful
king," he thought, and this made the King very happy.
But there was something else about this boy that was even more remarkable
than his intelligence. He had a very kind, gentle and loving nature. The
rest of his young playmates enjoyed the rough and tumble games of small
children, or pretended they were soldiers and fought with one another. But
Prince Siddhartha quietly spent most of his time alone. He loved the small
animals that lived in the palace gardens and became friendly with them
all. The animals knew that the Prince would never hurt them, so they were
never afraid of him. Even the wild animals, who would run away if anyone
else came near, would come to greet the Prince when he entered the garden.
They approached him fearlessly and ate from his hand the food he always
brought with him for them.
One day as the Prince was sitting in the garden, a flock of white swans
flew overhead. Suddenly an arrow shot up into the air, striking one of
them. It fell out of the sky and landed at the Prince's feet, the arrow
still stuck into its wing. "Oh, you poor swan," Siddhartha whispered as he
gently picked up the wounded bird, "do not be afraid. I shall take care of
you. Here, let me remove this arrow." Then, with one hand he gently
stroked the bird, calming its fear. With his other hand he slowly pulled
out the painful arrow. The Prince was carrying a special lotion with him,
and softly rubbed it into the bird's wing , all the time speaking in low,
pleasant voice that the swan would not become afraid. Finally he took off
his own silk shirt and wrapped it around the bird to keep it warm.
After the short time, another young boy came running into the garden. It
was the Prince's cousin, Devadatta, he was carrying a bow and some arrows
and he was very excited. "Siddhartha, Siddhartha," he shouted "great news!
I got a swan! you should have seemed. I hit it with my first shot! It fell
down somewhere near here. Help me look for it."
Then Devadatta noticed one of his arrows, with blood still on its tip,
lying on the ground near Siddhartha's feet. Looking closer he saw that the
Prince was holding something in his arms, and realized it was the swan he
was searching for. "Hey, you took my swan," he yelled. "Give it back to
me. I shot it and it's mine!" Devadatta grabbed at the bird, but the
Prince held onto it, keeping his angry cousin from even touching it.
"I found this bird lying here bleeding," the Prince said firmly, "and I
don't plan to give it to anyone while it is still wounded." "But it's
mine!" shouted Devadatta again. "I shot it fair and square, and you've
stolen it from me. Give it back or I'll take it back."
The two boys stood arguing like this for some time. Devadatta was getting
angrier and angrier, but Siddhartha refused to give him the swan. Finally
the Prince said, "When two grown-ups have a quarrel like this, they settle
it in court. In front of a group of wise people, each one explains the
story of what happened. Then the wise people decided who is right. I think
you and I should do the same."
Devadatta did not like this idea very much, but because it was the only
way he could ever get the swan back, he agreed. So the two of them went to
the palace and appeared in front of the King and his ministers. The people
at court smiled at each other when they heard what these two children
wanted. "To Think," they said, "that they want to take up our time over a
mere bird!" But the King said, "Both Siddhartha and Devadatta are royal
princes, and I am glad they brought their quarrel to us. I think it is
very important that , as future rulers, they become used to the ways of
this court. Let the trial begin!"
So in turn each of the boys described what happened. Then the minster
tried to decide which boy was right and should therefore have the swan.
Some thought, "Devadatta shot the bird; therefore it should belong to him.
" Others thought, "Siddhartha found the swan; therefore it should belong
to him." And for a long the ministers talked and argued about the case.
Finally, into the court came a very old man whom no one remembered ever
seeing before. But because he looked so wise, they told him the story of
the boys and their swan. After listening to what they had to say, he
declared, "Everyone values his or her life more than anything else in the
world. Therefore, I think that the swan belongs to the person who tried to
save its life, not to the person who tried to take its life away. Give the
swan to Siddhartha."
Everyone agreed that what the wise man said was true, so they decided to
let the Prince keep the swan. Later, when the King tried to find the old
man and reward him for his wisdom, he was nowhere to be found. "This is
very strange, " the king thought. "I wonder where he came from and where
he went." But no one knew. This was just one of the many unusual things
that happened concerning the Prince, so many people thought he must be a
very special child indeed!
As the Prince grew older, his
kindness made him well-loved by everyone who knew him. But his father was
worried. "Siddhartha is too gentle and sensitive," He thought. "I want him
to grow up to be a great kind and kings must, be strong and powerful. But
the Prince is more interested in sitting by himself in the garden than he
is in learning how to be the ruler of a kingdom. I am afraid that my son
will soon want to leave the palace and follow the lonely life of holy men
like Asita. If he does this he will never become a great king."
These thought bothered the King very much. He sent for his most trusted
ministers and asked them what he could do. Finally one of them suggested,
"O King your son sits and dreams of other worlds only because he is not
yet attached to anything in his world. Find him a wife, let him get
married and have children, and soon he will stop dreaming and become
interesting in learning how to rule the kingdom."
The King thought this was an excellent idea. So he arranged for a large
banquet at the palace. All the young women from noble families were
invited. At the end of the evening the Prince was asked to give presents
to each of the guests, while several ministers watched him closely to see
which of the young women the Prince seemed to like.
The women, who were scarcely more than young girls, were all very
embarrassed to appear before the Prince. He looked so handsome but so
distant as he stood in front of the table bearing all the expensive gifts.
One by one they shyly went up to him, timidly looking downwards as they
approached. They silently accepted the jewel or bracelet or other gift,
and quickly returned to their places.
Finally, only one young woman was left. She was Yasodhara, the daughter of
a neighbouring King. Unlike the others, she approached the Prince without
any shyness. For the first time that evening, the young Prince looked
directly at the woman before him. She was very beautiful and the Prince
was immediately attracted to her.
They stood in silence for a while, looking into each other's eyes. Then
Yasodhara spoke, " O Prince, where is the gift for me?" The Prince was
startled as if awakening from a dream. He looked down at the table and saw
it was empty. All the gifts had already been given out to the other
guests. "Here , take this," said the Prince, taking his own ring from his
finger. "This is for you." Yasodhara graciously accepted the ring and
walked slowly back to her place.
The ministers saw all that happened and excitedly ran to the King. "Sire!"
they reported happily, "we have found the perfect bride for the Prince.
She is Princess Yasodhara, daughter of your neighbor, King Suprabuddha.
Let us immediately go to this King and arrange for the marriage of his
daughter and your son.
King suddhodana agreed and somm afterwards visited Ysodhara's father. The
other King greeted him warmly and said, "I am sure that your son is a fine
young man, but I can not give my daughter away to just anyone. Many other
princes want to marry her, and they all excellent young men. They are
skilled in riding, archery and other royal sports. Therefore, if your son
wants to marry my daughter, he will have to compete in a contest with the
other suitors, as is out custom."
And so it was arranged for a great contest to be held, with beautiful
Yasodhara as the prize. King Shuddhodana was worried. He thought, "My son
has never showed the slightest interest in warrior games. How can be ever
win this contest?" But the Prince understood his father's fears and said
to him, "Do Not be worried. I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to
win Yasodhara for my bride."
The first event was archery. The other men placed their targets a long
distance away, yet each was able to hit the bull's eye. And when it was
Devadatta's turn for Siddhartha's cousin was also one of the suitors-he
not only hit the bull's eye, but sent his arrow right through the target
until it stuck out the other side. The crowd cheered, but Yasodhara
covered her eyes in fright. "How can my beloved Siddhartha ever beat that
shot?" She thought. "How dreadful if I had to marry Devadatta!"
But the Prince was confident. When it was his turn he had his target
placed so far away that most of the people could hardly even see it. Then
he took an arrow from his quieter and pulled back on his bow. The Prince
was so strong, however, that the bow burst in half; he had drawn it back
"Please fetch me another bow," the Prince asked "but a much stronger one
this time that will not break like the other one." Then a ministers called
out, "O Prince, there is a very old bow in the palace. IT belonged to one
of the greatest warriors of the past. But since he died many years ago no
one has been strong enough to string it , much less shoot it."
"I shall use that one," said the Prince, and everyone was amazed. When
he was handed the bow he carefully bent it and strung it easily. Then he
notched an arrow on the string, drew it back so far that the ends of the
bow almost touched, aimed, and let the arrow fly. Twang! The bow made such
a loud sound that people in far away villages heard it. The arrow shot
away so fast that when it hit the distant target right in the central of
the bull's-eye-it did not even slow down, but continued to fly until it
was out of sight.
The crowd roared in delight! "The Prince has won! The Prince has won!" But
archery was only the first event of the day; the next contest was in
swords man ship.
Each young man selected a tree and showed his strength by slashing through
it with his sword. One suitor cut through a tree six inches thick, another
nine inches, and a third cut through a tree a foot thick with a single
stroke of his sword!
Then it was the Prince's turn. He selected a tree that had two trunks
growing side by side. He swung his sword so quickly that it cut through
the tree faster than anyone could see. His sword was so sharp and his cut
so even that the tree did not even fall over. Instead it remained
standing, perfectly balanced. When they saw the tree still standing
upright, the crowd and especially Yasodhara moaned, "He has failed. The
Prince's sword did not even cut into the first trunk."
But just then a breeze stirred up and blew over the neatly severed tree
trunks. The crowd's moans turned into cheers, and again they shouted, "
The Prince has won!" The final contest was in horsemanship. A wild horse,
while had never been ridden before was held down by several strong men
while each young suitor tried to mount it. But the horse bucked and kicked
so furiously that none of them could stay on its back for more than a few
seconds. Finally on young man managed to hold on and the attendants let go
of the horse. But it jumped and lunged about with such fury and anger that
the rider was thrown to the ground. And he would have been trampled if the
men had not rushed out and pulled him to safety.
The crowd began screaming loudly, "Stop the contest! Don't let the Prince
near that horse! It is too dangerous; the horse will kill him! But
Siddhartha had no fear. "Gentleness can be more powerful than brute
strength, " he thought, and slowly reached out and took hold of a small
tuft of hair that grew from the horse's forehead. Speaking in a low and
pleasant voice, and gently stroking the wild horse's head and sides, he
calmed its anger, rage and fear.
Soon the horse was so gentle that it began licking Siddhartha's hand.
Then, still whispering sweetly to the horse, the Prince climbed onto its
back. While the crowd roared happily, he paraded the steed in front of the
kings and ministers, and bowed low to his fair prize, the lovely
Yasodhara. The contest was over; young Siddhartha had won! And he had done
so not only by the power of his great strength, but of his gentleness and
kindness as well. top