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A Young People's
Life of the Buddha
MAKING KNOWN THE TEACHING
As a man who long has struggled to swim across a wide and stormy water and at length after much effort reaches the safe shore, lies down awhile to rest his wearied limbs and look back with satisfaction on the dangers he has safely passed, as a man who has climbed into the cool pleasant air of a high mountain slope, when he gets there turns round, pleased and contented, and looks down upon the hot, dusty plain whose stifling air he had left behind, so now, his long toil past, his labors successfully accomplished, there in the quiet wood of Uruvela the victor in this fierce fight, rested Himself for a time, enjoying the relief of release from toil and labor, tasting in peace well-won, the fruits of truth and knowledge He had gained. Then having rested Himself sufficiently beneath the tree of victory, Siddhattha Gotama, now and henceforth Gotama the Buddha, passed from under that tree and went towards another near by under which the goatherds of the place were accustomed to take shelter from the sun while they watched their flocks.
As He sat resting here, a Brahmin happened to come past that way, and after the usual greetings to the ascetic under the goatherd's tree, he said to Him, "Gotama, what makes a man a real Brahmin? What qualities does he require to possess in order really to be a man of the highest caste?"
And the Buddha, taking no notice of the proud Brahmin's rudeness in addressing Him by His family name of Gotama without any title of courtesy before it such as "reverend Sir," or the like, pointedly replied to him in this verse:
"The Brahmin who has put away all evil, Has put off pride, is self-restrained and pure, Has learning, follows out the Holy life, He alone has the light to be called Brahmin, He nothing has to do with worldly thing."
And the Brahmin went away muttering to himself: "This ascetic Gotama knows me, this ascetic Gotama knows me."
A few days after this, while the Buddha was still staying under the goatherd's tree, two merchants who were going about the country selling their wares, came along the road, and seeing the ascetic sitting there under the goatherd's tree so calm and content, enjoying its fruits in the peace and quietude it has brought him, they offered Him an offering of the best food they had, and struck by His noble and majestic look, asked Him to accept them as believers in Him. These two merchants, whose names were Tapussa and Bhallika, were thus the first persons in the world who became the followers of the Buddha Gotama.
But now, having rested long enough, the Buddha began to think about what He should do next. He had found the Truth He sought, and now it seemed to Him that He ought not to keep such precious knowledge to Himself, but that He ought to tell it to others, so that they too might taste the comfort it brought. This was what He thought at first. But then other thoughts came into His mind.
"This doctrine of mine is not a very easy doctrine to understand," he said to himself. "It is deep and subtle. Only the thoughtful and reflective can grasp it fully so that it will do them good. But there are not many men who are thoughtful and reflective. The great majority of men do not want to take the trouble to think and reflect. They want something easy; something that will amuse and entertain them. Their minds are inclined only to what promises to give them pleasure and delight. They are altogether given over to love of pleasure. If I were to preach this doctrine to them, they would not know what I was talking about. They would not pay attention to me. I should only be giving myself trouble all for nothing."
Thus did the Buddha consider within himself almost making up his mind not to tell the Truth He had found to anybody, but just to keep it and enjoy it by Himself, since it did not seem to Him that anybody else in the world would want to hear it or thank Him for telling them.
However He did not stop at this point in His reflections or else the world would not know as it does to-day, the Truth He taught. He went on to consider the matter further; and this is what He next thought:
"Yes, it is true that most of the people in the world, will not want to hear this Truth I have found, and would not understand it even if they did hear me tell about it, they are so fond of what is easy and pleasant and comfortable and costs them no trouble. But still, everybody in the world is not alike. There are sure to be some, not very many, but still some who are not satisfied with the way they are living now, who want to know more than they know now, who are not content to follow pleasure wherever it may lead them. What a pity it would be that I should know this Truth which would bring to these few comfort and happiness, if only they heard it, and yet never give them a chance to hear it! No, I shall not do like that. I shall go forth now and make known, to all men I meet, these Four Noble Truths, these Four Great Facts I have discovered, of Ill, and its Cause, and its Cure, and the Way in which it can be cured; and among the many I speak to, there will always be a few who will listen, and listening, understand me.
"Just as in a lotus pond where all kinds of lotus lilies are growing, pink and blue and white, many of them have grown only a little way about the muddy bottom of the pond; and some have grown half way up through the water; and some have reached the top of the water and rest there; but a few grown up so as to lift their blossoms right out of, and above the mud and water, into the open air and the sunshine. So there are some beings whose minds are much sunk in the mud of passions and desires; and there are some that are not so much sunk in that mud; while some, a few are only a little touched with the mud of passion. These last will be able to understand my teaching when they hear it. I will let them hear it. I will go forth now and preach it to all men everywhere."
And then the Buddha began to consider who would be the best people to whom to tell His doctrine first, who would be the most likely to listen to Him and quickly understand what He said.
Then He thought about His old teacher Alara Kalama, and how learned and thoughtful, how quick in the brain, how pure in his life he was. And He said to himself: "I will go and tell Alara Kalama first. He will very quickly understand."
But as He was getting ready to go to Alara Kalama, some one came and told Him that Alara Kalama was dead. The Buddha was very sorry to hear this, for He felt sure that so good and so wise a man as His old teacher would have been sure to understand His doctrine as soon as he heard it. Then He began to think who else there was who would be likely to understand His doctrine. And the thought came to Him that perhaps the other teacher He had studied under in former days, Uddaka the disciple of Rama, would be a good person to whom to tell it, for Uddaka too, like Alara Kalama, was quick to understand anything new when he was told it. But when He made enquiry where Uddaka was staying, then He learned that he had died just the night before.
So once more He had to consider who among all those He once had known, would be most likely to listen to Him and understand the Truth He wanted to tell them. And then He remembered the five hermits who had waited upon Him and attended to Him so faithfully during the time when He was striving by Himself at Uruvela. After enquiring where they had gone to when they had left Him, He learned that they were staying in a deer-park near the city of Benares. So, rising up and leaving Uruvela, the Buddha set out to walk to Benares, about a hundred and fifty miles away, to find His former attendants and disciples and tell them what He had found. And wandering on day after day from place to place, at length one evening He drew near to the grove in the deer-park where those five ascetics were staying.
And they say Him approaching in the distance, and said to one another:
"Look yonder! There is that ascetic Gotama coming here -- a luxurious fellow who gave up striving and fell back into a life of ease and comfort. Don't let us speak to Him! Don't let us show Him any respect! Let nobody go and offer to take His bowl or His extra robe from Him. We'll just leave a mat there for Him to sit on if He wants to, and if He doesn't want, He can stand. Who is going to attend on a good-for-nothing ascetic like Him!"
However, as the Buddha came nearer and nearer, they began to notice that somehow He was not the same as He used to be in the days when they had lived with Him and studied under Him. There now was something about Him, something noble and majestic, such as they never had seen before. And almost in spite of themselves, before they well knew what they were doing, they had forgotten all they had just agreed on as to how they were going to receive Him. And one was hastening forward to meet Him, and respectfully taking His bowl and robe from Him, another busily preparing a seat for Him, while a third hurried off and brought Him water for His feet.
Then, after He had taken the seat offered Him, the Buddha spoke to them and said:
"Listen, ascetics. I have found the way to deathlessness. Let me tell you. Let me teach you. And if you listen and learn and practice as I instruct you, very soon you will know for yourselves, not in some future life but here and now in this present lifetime that what I say is true. You will realize for yourselves the state that is beyond all lives and deaths."
Naturally the five ascetics were very much astonished to hear their old master and teacher talking like this. They had seen Him give His hard life of going without proper food and rest; they had seen Him cease, as they thought, from all efforts to find the Truth, and here He was actually coming to them and telling them that He had found the Truth! They simply did not believe Him; and they told Him so.
"Why, friend Gotama," they said, "when we were living with you, you practiced all sorts of stern austerities and bodily mortifications such as were practiced by no other ascetic we ever heard of in the whole of India, and that was why we took you for our master and teacher. Yet with all you did, you never found out the Truth you wanted to find. How is it possible you can have found it now when you are living a life of luxury, have ceased from striving, and turned to live in ease and comfort?"
But the Buddha replied: "You are mistaken, ascetics. I have not given up all efforts. I am not living a life of self-indulgence and idle comfort and ease. Listen to me. I really have attained supreme knowledge and insight. And I can teach it to you so that you also may attain to it and possess it for yourselves."
But still the five ascetics could not believe what their old teacher now was telling them. It seemed to them impossible that such a thing could be true, even though He begged them once more to listen to Him and believe what He said.
Then when He saw that they did not believe Him when He said He found the Deathless, He looked at them very earnestly, very seriously, and said:
"Listen, ascetics! In all the time that you used to be with me, did I ever say anything like this to you before? Did I ever before tell you that I had found the supreme knowledge and insight that leads beyond birth and death? Come, answer me!"
The five ascetics had to answer the Buddha that it was true He had never said anything like this to them before.
"Very well," urged the Buddha. "Listen to me now when I tell you that I really have found the way to deathlessness. And let me show you what I have found."
So gravely and impressively did the Buddha speak these words, so gravely and impressively did He look at them as He spoke, that the five ascetics found themselves unable any longer to refuse to listen to Him. They invited their old master and teacher to stay with them and teach them. So, day after day, during the next few months, the Buddha taught these five old disciples of His, the new Truth He had discovered. First He taught two out of the five, while the other three went out with their begging bowls to the city, and collected enough food for the whole six of them. Then these three stayed at the deer-park and were taught by the Buddha while the other two went out begging and brought back sufficient for them all. Thus the little party of the five pupils and their teacher lived happily together, He teaching, the other five busily learning and practicing, until in a short time (for they were all diligent pupils, and they had the best master and teacher in the world) the whole five of them, one after another, reached and realized for themselves the Truth their Master had found. They came to know even while alive in this body, the state that is called Nibbana.
Out of these five ascetics, the one who was the first thus to learn and realize for himself what his Master taught, was called Kondanna. The names of the other four were, Bhaddaka, Assaji, Vappa, and Mahanama. These five ascetics were the first five Arahans that appeared in the world; for Arahan is the name that is given to one who in this life, in the body he now is in, comes to realize the state that cannot be touched by birth and death, the state that is called Nibbana. These five Arahans were the first members of the Sangha or Brotherhood of Bhikkhus who acknowledged the Buddha as master and teacher and guide for all their life.
While the Buddha thus was staying in the deer-park at Isipatana, there came to see Him a rich young man of the neighborhood called Yasa. And after the young man Yasa had heard the Buddha explain his teaching and what it led to, he was so well pleased with what he heard that he became a Bhikkhu there and then, and stayed on with the Buddha in order to hear and learn more.
But towards evening that day an elderly man came to where the Buddha was, and told Him that his son had left home that morning saying he was going to visit the Buddha, but he had not come again, and his mother was crying for him thinking that he must have been killed by robbers on the way. Then the Buddha told the man that his son had become a Bhikkhu; and He began to explain His doctrine to the new Bhikkhu's father. And so well did He speak that when He had ended, the father also asked to be allowed to become a Bhikkhu, the same as his son had done; and he too, stayed with the Buddha and did not return home. And next morning, when the Buddha and the new young Bhikkhu went to his mother's house for food, she was quite pleased to learn that her son and her husband had become disciples of so great a teacher, and she herself became a lay-follower of the Buddha.
After this, four close friends of young Yasa, when they saw what their companion had done, also did the same, and became Bhikkhus also, disciples of the Buddha Gotama, members of His Sangha. And in this way, more and more young men became Bhikkhus, until at last the Buddha had gathered round Him there at Isipatana, a body of about sixty young Bhikkhus, all of the best families, and all of them eager and diligent in study, and strenuous and persevering in practice under their Master's training, so that in no very long time, all of them had realized for themselves the supreme knowledge and insight, and become Arahans.
But the Buddha did not allow them to stay there with Him. Now that they had learned all He had to teach, He told them that now they must go out and teach others, so that these others who were ready to accept His teaching, might hear It and learn It, and be saved from all trouble and distress.
"Go forth," He said to them, "and make known the Teaching which is excellent in its beginnings, excellent in its progress, and excellent in its goal. Proclaim the perfect life, holy and pure. There are in the world beings not altogether blinded with the dust of passion and desire; and if they do not learn my doctrine, they will perish. They will listen to you: they will understand."
And the Buddha sent out these first sixty disciples, not in pairs nor in groups of three or four. He sent them out one by one, and each of them in a different direction, so as to make sure that His teaching should be spread as far and wide as possible. And these sixty Arahans did as their Master told them to do, and carried a knowledge of His Teaching and Discipline, North and South, and East and West. They were the first men in the world who went abroad into foreign countries for the sole purpose of spreading a knowledge of the religious truth they believed in. They were, in fact, the first duly appointed missionaries of a religion the world has seen.
And they were brave men, these first missionaries of the Buddha's religion.
One of them came to the Buddha and told Him that he wanted to be sent to a certain country where everybody knew the people were very wild and rough.
"But what will you do there, Bhikkhu," said the Buddha, when He heard his request, "if the people of the country abuse you and say all sorts of bad things about you."
"Then," answered the Bhikkhu, "I shall say to myself: 'These people are very good people; they only use their tongues to me; they do not beat me with their fists.'"
"But suppose they beat you with their fists, Bhikkhu, what will you do then?" asked the Buddha.
"Then I shall say to myself: 'These people are very good people; they do not thrash me with sticks,'" replied the Bhikkhu.
"But if they thrash you with sticks, what then?"
"Then I shall say that they are very good people; they do not cut me with swords."
"And if they cut you with swords?"
"Then I shall say they are very good, they do not kill me."
"But if they make to kill you, O Bhikkhu; what will you do then?" said the Buddha.
"Then Lord," said the Bhikkhu calmly, "I shall say to myself: 'These people are doing me a great favor, for this body of mine is an evil thing of which I shall be glad to be rid; and these good people are going to rid me of it.'"
Then the Buddha said:
"Go O Bhikkhu, and make known my Teaching among these people. Bhikkhus like you are the proper kind of Bhikkhus to publish abroad my Doctrine among all the peoples and nations of the world." #11; *#11;#11;
* * *
In the meantime the two merchants Tapussa and Bhallika, the first men in the world to call themselves the followers of the Buddha, had traveled on, and in the course of their journeying, come to Kapilavatthu. There they told everybody that they had seen Siddhattha the son of their king, at Uruvela, and that He had actually become, as had been prophesied, a very great religious teacher, indeed, the greatest religious teacher in the world, an Awakened One, a Buddha. And they said they had heard that He was coming soon to Kapilavatthu.
And, shortly after the Buddha had sent out the sixty Arahans to preach His Doctrine everywhere, He himself also left the deer-park at Isipatana, and turning Southwards in the direction of the Magadha country, at length came back to Uruvela. Here he stayed for a time, and entered into talk and discussions with a number of hermits who were living there under a leader called Kassapa. And after He had explained His Doctrine to them, Kassapa himself, their leader and teacher, accepted the Buddha's doctrine as true, and asked the Buddha to receive him into the Order of His Bhikkhus. And later on, by meditating and practicing as the Buddha taught him, he became an Arahan, and after the Buddha had passed away, he was one of the leading Arahans who maintained the doctrine in its original purity.
But now, leaving Uruvela, the Buddha wandered on through the country towards Rajagaha the capital city of Magadha, to keep His promise to its king, Bimbisara, that when He had found the Truth, He would come and let him and his people know it. And King Bimbisara and his people received Him with great gladness, now that He had become a Buddha. And in a grove of bamboo trees a little way outside the city He stayed many days, teaching and preaching so kindly and so persuasively, that the king and all his people accepted His teaching entirely and became His declared followers. And the king, to show the respect in which he held the Buddha and His Teaching and the Brotherhood of Bhikkhus, made Him a gift of the Bamboo Grove and of a fine Vihara he caused to be build there, so that He and His Sangha would always have a comfortable place to live in during the rainy season.
Now one morning as the Buddha left the Bamboo Grove to go into Rajagaha to beg alms of food, He saw a young man all dripping wet as if he had just come from bathing, standing in the roadway and bowing in each of the four directions, East, South, West and North, as well as to the sky overhead and to the ground beneath his feet, at the same time throwing rice in each of these directions.
The Buddha looked at the young man as he went through this strange performance on the public street, and then He stopped and asked the young man why he was acting like that. The young man replied that he was only doing what his old father had asked him to do each morning so as to keep any evil from coming to him during each day from any of the four directions, or from the gods above, or from the demons below. It was his father's last wish, spoken on his death-bed, so he could not deny him his wish. And every day since his father had died, he had faithfully observed his promise without missing a single morning.
"It is very right of you," said the Buddha when He heard the young man's answer, "to keep the promise you made to your dying father and carry out his wish faithfully; but what you are doing is not really what your father meant."
"When your father told you that you were to bow down to, and make an offering of rice to the East, he meant that you were to show respect and honor to those through whom you have come into life, namely, to your parents. By worshiping the South, he meant worshiping and honoring your teachers through whom you get knowledge. By worshiping the West, he meant cherishing and supporting wife and children. By worshiping the North, he meant holding in esteem all relatives and friends, and helping them where they have need of help. By worshiping the sky, he meant worshiping and reverencing all that is good and holy and high. And by worshiping the earth, he meant respecting the rights of every creature, even the smallest and meanest that lives upon it. This is the way in which your father wished you to behave so that no harm would come to you any day from any quarter whatsoever."
And there and then the Lord Buddha went on to give Sigala -- for that was the name of the young man He was speaking to -- some good counsel as to how he should live so as to make his own and other people's lives happy and fortunate here and now, and in the future earn an equally happy and fortunate lot. He told Sigala to abstain from killing and stealing and lying and lewdness and the using of intoxicating drinks or hurtful drugs. He told him to avoid bad companions and cultivate the acquaintance of good people. He told him to work diligently so as to get wealth, and then to take care of the wealth he earned, but yet not to be greedy in keeping it all to himself, nor yet foolish in throwing it away again on foolish objects, but to use a fourth part of it in supporting himself and all depending on him, his wife and family, another fourth part in building up and extending his business further, another fourth part in helping any one in need of help, and the last fourth part he was to lay aside and keep in case misfortune should come to him and he should need help himself.
Young Sigala listened respectfully to all the good counsel the Lord Buddha thus gave him. Then he confessed that when his father was living, he had often told him about the Buddha and what a great and good teacher He was, and had tried to get him to go and see the Buddha and hear Him preach; but he always refused to go, saying that is was too much trouble and would only weary him, and that he had neither time nor money to spend on wandering ascetics like Gotama. And Sigala now asked the Buddha kindly to pardon him for his former neglect, and to accept him as a follower; for, so he promised the Lord Buddha, he meant to worship the six directions of space exactly in this right way which the Buddha had just taught him, for all the rest of his life.
The full account of all the Buddha said to Sigala that morning in the streets of Rajagaha, can be read in the Sigalovada Sutta of the Samyutta Nikaya.
* * *
SARIPUTTA AND MOGGALLANA
Now about this time there was staying near Rajagha a famous religious teacher called Sanjaya, along with a large following of disciples and pupils, numbering about two hundred in all. And among these two-hundred disciples of Sanjaya, there were two very close friends who were not at all satisfied with the teaching their master gave them. These two friends whose names were Upatissa and Kolita, wanted to know something more than their teacher knew and taught: they wanted to find that state which is beyond the power of death. They wanted to find what they called "The Deathless." And these two friends were so fond of one another, that they always shared together what ever either of them got. And they made a solemn promise to each other that they would both search and study and meditate with all their power, and try to find "The Deathless," and whichever of them found it first, he would let the other know.
Now it chanced that one morning early, as Upatissa was in the main street of Rajagaha, he saw some distance away, an ascetic going round from door to door begging alms of food. And as he looked at him, he was very much struck by everything about him. The unknown ascetic seemed to him most modest in his demeanor, and so calm and collected in his way of walking along and standing still while the people brought out rice from their houses and put it in his bowl. But when he had come nearer, his admiration of the ascetic was turned into wonder and reverence, for there was a look in his face such as he had never seen on the face of any ascetic before -- a look of perfect peace, of unshakable serenity as of a smooth unruffled lake under a calm, clear sky. "Who is this?" said Upatissa to himself. "This ascetic must be one who has found what I am seeking, or else he must be the pupil of such an one. I wonder who is his teacher? Whose doctrine can it be that he follows? I must go after him and find out."
Upatissa, however, knew that it was not proper to ask questions of a stranger ascetic while he was busy begging his morning meal, so he patiently walked on some way behind him as he passed in and out among the houses with his begging bowl; but at last, when the ascetic had gone round all the houses, and now was going out of the city gate, Upatissa went up to him, and greeting him with respect, humbly asked him if he would kindly tell him who was the teacher at whose feet he sat and learned. "Your coming and going, brother, are so serene and placid," he said, "your face is so clear and bright; very much would I like to know who is that teacher, to follow whom you have left home and friends behind. What is your teacher's name? What is the doctrine he preaches?"
"I can soon tell you that, brother," said the ascetic pleasantly. "There is a great ascetic of the Sakya race who has left his home and country behind in order to follow the homeless life. And it is to follow him that I have left the household life. It is that Blessed One who is my teacher. It is His teaching that I follow and practice."
"And what is that teaching, Venerable Sir? What is it that your master teaches? I also would like to know it," said Upatissa eagerly, thinking that perhaps at last now he was going to hear from this ascetic about that "Deathless" for which he and his friend Kolita had been looking for so long.
"I am only a novice, a newcomer into the Brotherhood of the Blessed One," replied the ascetic modestly. "It is only a little while ago since I began to study under the Blessed One, and to follow His rules of discipline, so I do not know very much yet about His Teaching. I cannot explain it to you in every little point. But if it is only the pith of His teaching that you want; I can give you that just in a few words."
"That is all I want, brother," said Upatissa quickly. "Tell me the substance. The substance is just what I want. What need to make a lot of words about it?"
"Very well, then," said the ascetic. "Listen!"
"How all things here through Cause have come, He hath made known, the Awakened One. And how again they pass away, That, too, the Great Recluse doth say."
That was all the ascetic said. But as Upatissa stood there listening to him by the city gate in one great flash of insight there burst upon his mind in all its force and verity, the great truth taught by all the Buddhas -- the truth that everything that ever has come into existence, or ever will come into existence, inevitably, unfailingly, without exception, must and will again Pass out of existence. Upatissa in this great moment saw clearly with his whole heart and mind that only whatever has not arisen, never had come into existence can be free from the law that it must pass out of existence again, must die. And he said to the ascetic: "If this is the doctrine you have learned from your teacher, then indeed you have found the state that is free from sorrow, free from death, the state of the Sorrowless, the Deathless, which has not been made known to men for ages and ages." Then, with expressions of joyful gratitude, he took leave of the ascetic who thus in a moment had brought light to his mind, and he went off to find his friend Kolita and bring him the great news that at last he had found "The Deathless."
But just as he had seen the unknown ascetic from a distance and wondered at his impressive walk and behavior; so now Kolita saw his friend Upatissa coming near, and wondered what had made such a change in his whole appearance. And he said to him:
"Why, brother, how clear and shining your face is! Can it be, brother, that at last you have found "The Deathless" we both have been seeking so long?"
"It is so, brother; it is so," was Upatissa's glad reply. "I have found the Deathless."
"But how, brother, how?" Kolita asked eagerly.
Then Upatissa told his bosom friend Kolita about the unknown ascetic he had seen that morning begging in the streets -- an ascetic all dressed in yellow, and looking so calm and collected as he never had seen an ascetic look before. And how he had followed him out of the city gate and then asked him to tell him the secret of his peace and serenity. Then he repeated to Kolita the four line stanza the ascetic of the happy countenance had repeated to him. And there and then, in a flash of perception, Kolita also saw the Truth that the Deathless is that which never has arisen in this world of sights and sounds and scents and tastes and touches and ideas, and, because it never has so arisen, therefore cannot pass away again, cannot die.
So these two friends, with minds now happy and joyful, went to the place where the Buddha was, and asked to be allowed to take Him as their master and teacher henceforth instead of Sanjaya whom they now left. And the Buddha accepted them into the Brotherhood of His Bhikkhus, and within a very short time they became the very foremost of the Buddha's disciples for their learning and practical knowledge. In fact, these two friends Upatissa and Kolita, became the two great Theras known to the world as Sariputta and Moggallana. And the name of the ascetic who told them the Doctrine of the Buddha in one little stanza or gatha of four lines only, was Assajii. And ever afterwards this little stanza was known as "Assaji's stanza."
But it was not only Upatissa and Kolita who joined the Buddha's Order of Bhikkhus while he was staying at Rajagaha at this time. Many of the youths of the best families of Magadha left their homes, their fathers and mothers and all their relations behind them, and became the Bhikkhu disciples of the great Sakya teacher who was so different from the ordinary religious teachers of the country -- so great and noble by birth and attainments, and whose Teaching, if followed to its end, brought about the ceasing of all things evil. Indeed, so many young men left their homes to follow the Sakya Sage, the Buddha Gotama, that the people of the country began to get alarmed and annoyed, and some of them even got angry. And they went to the Buddha and complained saying that if things went on much longer as they were doing, soon there would be no young men at all left in the country to live the household life. Soon, they said, there would be no more families, no more wives and children, and the whole country would go to ruin and become an empty wilderness, for all the young men in the country would be Bhikkhus.
So when the Buddha heard this complaint of the people, He gave orders that after this, no one was to come and follow Him as a Bhikkhu without first getting permission to do so from his father or mother; or, if his father and mother were dead, then from his nearest relation, whoever that might be. And when the people of Magadha heard of this new rule of the Buddha, they were once more pleased and contented to have a Buddha in their midst, and they gave Him and His Bhikkhus the best of everything they had got. And this new rule which the Buddha thus first gave out at Rajagaha with regard to Bhikkhus joining the Order, is the one we find in the Vinaya Rules of the Sangha to this day.
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When the Buddha's father, King Suddhodana, heard that his son was now at Rajagaha, he sent a messenger to tell Him that His father was now getting old, and begged that He would come and let him see his son once more before he died. But the messenger he sent happened to arrive at Rajagaha just when the Buddha was preaching to the people. So he sat down and listened to the preaching till it was finished before trying to deliver his message. But what the Buddha said seemed to him so good and so true as he listened to it, that when the discourse was ended, in his pleasure and delight with it, he had forgotten all about what he had come for, he had forgotten the message King Suddhodana had sent him to take to his son the Buddha, and instead of delivering it, he remained with the Buddha so as to hear Him preach some more.
King Suddhodana at Kapilavatthu, meanwhile waited a long time for his messenger to come back and tell him what his son had said in reply to his message, but no messenger came. Then he sent another messenger to take the same message to his son the Buddha, and to see what had happened to his first messenger. But this second messenger also, when he arrived, found the Buddha preaching, listened to His preaching, became converted to His doctrine, and remained with Him. Then King Suddhodana sent out a third messenger with his message and to see what had happened to the first two he had sent; but the same thing happened to him as to the other two before him; he did not come back with any answer. And so, one after another, King Suddhodana sent out other messengers until he had sent out nine altogether; but none of them came back. They were also charmed by the Buddha's words that they forgot what they had been sent to say, and stayed with the Buddha so as to hear more of His preaching.
The King thought it was very strange that none of his messengers had come back with any answer. He asked Yasodhara, his son's wife, to try do what she could to get an answer from Him, and to bring Him to Kapilavatthu. So now Yasodhara sent a messenger asking her husband to come and see her and Rahula, who was a fine little boy seven years old. But the same thing happened to her messenger as happened to King Suddhodana's: he was so pleased with the Buddha's preaching that he forgot the message he had been sent with, and did not return. Then another and another messenger was sent by Yasodhara but none of them returned. All were captivated by the Buddha's words, and remained with Him.
And now Yasodhara did not know what more she could do to get her husband to come and see her and His son. Then King Suddhodana remembered that there was a young man about the court called Udayi who had formerly been the Buddha's favorite playmate when they both were boys together. And he thought that if he sent Udayi to tell his son that His old father wanted to see Him once more before he died, perhaps He would listen to this old friend of His boyhood's days, and come to Kapilavatthu. For of course, neither the King nor Yasodhara knew that all the messengers they had sent before had never delivered their message at all.
So now the friend of His youth, Udayi, was sent to ask the Buddha to come to Kapilavatthu and let everyone there see His face once more -- His father, His wife, His son, and all the people of the country who would have called Him their king one day if He had not gone away to become a religious teacher. And when Udayi came to Rajagaha he soon learned the real reason why King Suddhodana's and Princess Yasodhara's messengers had never come back. So Udayi stopped his ears while the preaching was going on for fear that he too might do as the others had done. But when the preaching was over, he went to the Buddha and after greeting Him with profound reverence, he told Him that His father and wife and son, as well as all the people of Kapilavatthu, were very, very anxious to see the Buddha that had appeared in the world, and asked Him out of compassion to come and visit them soon. Then the Buddha very kindly said that He would not refuse to gratify the wish of those who were His own people, and that very soon He would go to Kapilavatthu and see them all. So Udayi hurried back to King Suddhodana bearing the news that He who before was Prince Siddhattha, and now was the great, the universally honored Buddha, soon would be coming to the city to do the duty of a son to his father.
Then every one in Kapilavatthu, from the King downward, was filled with joy to know that their prince who had left them seven long years ago and become a homeless beggar in order to follow the religious life, had succeeded in His efforts to find the Truth, and was now a Buddha, a teacher not only of men but of the very gods, and soon would be back among His own folk again to tell them what he had found.
So they swept up all the streets of the city and made them clean as they never had been made clean before. They decorated all their houses with flowers, and hung flags and streamers of many colored cloth along the streets, and prepared to give their prince a reception worthy of the eldest son of their Raja, and a great Buddha as well.
And on the day when the Buddha was expected to arrive in the city, the king sent out his best elephants decorated with all their royal ornaments, along the road by which he thought his son would come, in order that they might meet Him and conduct Him in regal state into the city of His fathers. Yasodhara also, on this great day, ordered her bearers to carry her litter out to the borders of the city so that she might meet her husband at the city gate. But as they were carrying her along the main street, she saw ahead of her an ascetic dressed all in yellow who was going round from door to door with a bowl in his hand begging alms of fool. "Who can that ascetic be?" she thought to herself. "Never before have I seen a begging ascetic look so noble an dignified as this one does. He must be a very good and holy man." But as she came nearer, what was her surprise to find that the yellow-robed beggar was her own husband, the father of her child, the handsome Prince Siddhattha of former days! He was not handsome now in the way that he used to be handsome. About Him now there was something that was better than handsomeness, something great and high and holy that made her get down out of her litter and bow low before His feet, as He passed upon His silent way, His eyes fixed on the ground, not seeing her.
But when she returned to the Palace and told the king her father-in-law in what way his son and her husband, had come into the city, as a beggar, King Suddhodana was filled with humiliation and anger at the news. At once he ordered his charioteer to get the chariot ready and he drove furiously through the streets of the city towards the place where Yasodhara had told him she had seen her husband begging. When the king got there he found the Buddha calmly pacing along towards the Palace with a worshiping crowd all round Him. But the king's indignation and anger at his son's behavior in begging where He had the right to take all He wanted without asking leave, remained as great as ever, and he at once began to scold and upbraid Him.
"What is this I hear about you, my son?" he cried. "Was it for this that you left your father's home, to come back begging your daily food like the commonest beggar in the kingdom -- you, the son of the king, the heir to the throne? O my son, you have this day disgraced me and the royal house to which you belong. When did any of your race and lineage do a thing like this? When did any of our family before beg his food like a common beggar?"
But the Buddha quietly answered his grieved, indignant father: "Indeed, my father, this is how my race and lineage have always done."
"Your race have always been kings for as long as men can remember," said King Suddhodana proudly. "Not one of them ever did a thing like this."
"That is true, my father," the Buddha gently answered. "But now I do not think of my earthly descent. Now I belong to the race of the Buddha of all time. It is of them that I speak when I say that I only do as my race has always done. For the Buddhas have always done like this, and now, as is only right and proper, I do the same."
And as the Buddha walked along beside his father towards the Palace, He told him that He was not coming back to the home of His fathers, by any means poor or empty handed. He told him that He was bringing back with Him a precious jewel, the richest, most precious jewel in the world, the jewel of the security of Nibbana. And then He went on to tell His father all about that great security, Nibbana, and about the way in which it can be reached. And when He had come to the Palace, He sat down and explained the Truth He had discovered so simply and persuasively that not only His father and Yasodhara and His son Rahula, but all the people of Kapilavatthu became his followers and accepted His Teaching as true. And after a short time, His son Rahula was ordained and became a member of the Order of Bhikkhus.
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last updated: 13-06-2005