1. The Shakya clansmen dwelt along the Rohini River which flows among the southern foothill of the Himalayas. Their king, Shuddhodana, established his capital at kapilavastu
and there had a great castle built ruled wisely, winning the acclaim of his people.
The Queen’s name was mahamaya. She was the daughter of the king’s uncle who was also king of a neighboring district of the same Shakya Clan.
For twenty years they had no children. But one night Queen maya had a strange Dream, in which she saw a white elephant entering into her womb through the right side of her chest, and she becomes pregnant. The King and the people looked forward with anticipation to the birth of a royal child. According to their custom, the Queen returned to her parents’ home for the birth, and her way, in the beautiful spring sunshine, she took a rest in the Lumbini Garden.
All about her were Ashoka blossoms. In delight, she reached her right arm out to pluck a branch and as she did so a prince was born. All expressed their heart-felt delight with the glory of the Queen and her princely child; Heaven and Earth rejoiced. This memorable day was the Full Moon day of may.
The joy of the king was extreme and he named the child Siddhartha, which means “Every wish fulfilled”
2. In the place of the king, however, delight was followed quickly by sorrow, after several days the lovely Queen Maya suddenly died. Her younger sister, Mahaprajapti, become the child’s foster mother and brought him up with loving care.
A hermit called Asita, Who lived in the mountains not far away, noticed a radiance about the castle. Interpreting it as a good omen he comes down to the palace and was shown a child. He predicted: “This prince if he remains in the palace when grown up, will become a great king and subjugate the whole world. But if he Forsakes the court life to embrace a religious life, He will Become a Buddha, the Savior of the world.”
At first, a king was pleased to hear this prophecy, but later he started to worry about the possibility of his only son leaving the palace to become a homeless recluse.
At the age of seven, the Prince began his lessons in the civil and military arts, but his thoughts more naturally tended to other things. One spring day he went out of the castle with his father. Together they were watching a farmer at his plowing when he noticed a bird descended to the ground and carried off small worm which had been turned up by the farmer’s plough. He sat down in the shade of a tree and thought about it, whispering to himself:
“Alas! Do all living creatures kill each other?”
The prince, who had lost his mother so soon after his birth, was deeply affected be the tragedy of these little creatures.
This spiritual wound deepened day by day as he gew up; like a little scar on a young tree, the suffering of human life become more and more deeply engrained in his mind.
The king was increasingly worried as he recalled the hermit’s prophecy and tried in every possible way to cheer the prince and turn his thoughts in other directions. The King arranged the marriage of the prince at the age of nineteen to the princess Yashodhara. She was the daughter of Suprabuddha, the Lord of Devadaha Castle and bother of the late Queen Maya.
3.For ten years, in the different Pavilions of spring, Autumn and rainy season, the Prince was immersed in rounds of music, dancing, and pleasure, but always his thoughts returned to the problem of suffering as he pensively tried to understand the true meaning of human life.
“The luxuries of the palace, this healthy body, this rejoicing youth! What do they mean to me? ” He thought.
“Someday we may be sick, we shall become aged; from death, there is no escape. Pride of youth, a pride of health, pried of existence – all thoughtful people should cast them aside.
“A man struggling for existence with naturally look for something of value. There are two ways of looking – a right way and wrong way if he looks in the wrong way he recognizes that sickness, old age, and death are unavoidable, but he seeks the opposite.
“If he looks in the right way he recognizes the true nature of sickness, old age, and death, and he searches for meaning in that which transcends all human suffering. In my life of pleasures, I seem to be looking in the wrong way”.
4. Thus the spiritual struggle went on in the mind of the Prince until his only child, Rahula, was born when he was 29. This seemed to bring things to climax, for he then decided to leave the palace and look for the solution of his spiritual unrest in the homeless life of a mendicant. He left the castle one night with only his charioteer, Chandaka, and his favorite horse, the snow-white Kanthaka.
His anguish did not end and many devils tempted him saying; “You would do better to return to the castle for the whole world would soon be yours.” But he told the devil that he did not want the whole world. So he shaved his head and turned his steps toward the south, carrying a begging bole in his hand.
The Prince first visited the hermit Bhagava and watched his ascetic practices. He then went to Arada Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra to learn their methods of attaining Enlightenment through meditation; but after practicing them for a time he becomes convinced that they would not lead of Magadha and practiced asceticism in the Forest of Uruvila on the banks of the Nairanajana River, which flows by the Gaya Village.
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