Shudhodhana's Advisors

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Chapter Two: The Father's Concern

"My lord, do not be concerned at these marvelous events.  Sons always surpass their fathers," said the advisors, each one giving a better example than the last from the myths, legends and history of the people. 

"Also, at different times and places extraordinary accomplishments occur, and age is no factor, for what is not achieved here by the father will later be achieved there by the son."

So the king's anxieties were assuaged, and he accepted the  congratulations of his trusted brahmin advisors dismissing all worry from his mind and allowing himself to enjoy the celebration. 

Well-pleased, he rewarded them with honours and riches saying, "As you have said: May he become a ruler of the earth, and when he reaches old age, enjoy his retirement in the woods, as is the ideal."

Now, the great seer Ashita the king's personal guru, as a result of his extraordinary spiritual accomplishment and merit, was drawn by The Embodiment of Ultimate Doctrine at the palace of the Sakya king.  The old man entered the women's quarters where everyone was delighting in the birth of the young prince. The king bowed to him and offered refreshing water both for his feet and for his cup, and expressed honour at the visit.  He asked his opinion.

The sage, his large eyes wide with wonder, spoke solemn words in a deep voice.  He praised the king for his generosity and sense of duty, and compared him to the ancient religious rulers who rejected material wealth, preferring instead to strive for loftier goals.

And in that context, he asked the king to pay close attention to what he had to say:  A heavenly voice had spoken saying that the newborn child was born for the sake of Supreme Knowledge.  This was corroborated by certain auspicious signs, and the guru referred to the child set up for all to admire,  Banner of the Sakyas, as if he were Indra's [King of Gods'] own brilliant standard.

In his highly emotional state the king could hardly keep his balance, but he got up and took the baby up in his arms from where he lay nursing, and showed him to the holy ascetic.

In that way the great seer, amazed, got to see the foot marked with a wheel, the webbed fingers and toes, the circle of down between his eyebrows, and the signs of a constitution like that of an elephant.

In his mind he saw the image of the Great Goddess [Parvati] holding her son, Skanda, and he stood with tears of devotion beaded on the tips of his eyelashes, and sighing he looked up towards heaven.

Now, seeing Asita all teary-eyed, the king became upset out of concern for his son, and with clasped hands and body bowed, he asked in a voice broken and choked with tears,  "Oh wise and precious master, my son has all these auspicious marks and his birth was a miraculous one, and you have prophesied a transcendent future for him -- so why are you in tears? Won't he have a long life?  Surely he cannot be born for my sorrow -- I obtained this Handful of Water with great difficulty. Surely it is not Death who gets to drink it !" 

"And please let me know that my lifetime accomplishments are not all in vain.  Is the chief prize of my family secure ?  Shall I die happy knowing my son will inherit his father's kingdom??  Even in sleep, I always keep one eye open to watch over him ... .  Surely this young shoot of my family line will live to have children himself?  Speak quickly, my lord, I am very eager to know. "

In sympathy for the king with his feelings of impending doom, the sage replied: 

"Don't worry, King, for all that I have said is absolutely true.  I don't get the feeling that anything bad will happen to him, but I am just distressed because of my own disappointment.  It is time for me to depart [this world] and this child who will eventually learn that hard-won mystery that is The Means to the End [of Suffering] has only just now been born.

For, having given up his kingdom, indifferent to all worldly things and attained the highest truth by strenuous application of effort, he will shine forth like a Sun of Knowledge and destroy all darkness of illusion in the world. 

And as the Vessel of Knowledge, he will save this foundering ship of a  distressed world that is being swept helplessly through the ocean of misery atop the foam of sickness, tossing about on the waves of old age as it rushes steadily towards the dreadful torrent of death.  

This world of thirsty living beings will drink from the flowing stream of his Law all bubbling with the Foam of Wisdom, contained between banks of strong moral principles, delightfully refreshing with contemplation and as sprinkled with religious precepts as with a flock of ruddy shelducks.

He will announce the Way Out to wanderers suffering in sorrow and all tangled up in sense objects, lost on the trails through the jungle of worldly existence. 

And, like a great cloud delivering monsoon showers at the end of the hot spell, by the Rain of Dharma he will gladden the crowds in this world that are being burned up by the fire of desire that is continuously refueled with material objects. 

With a smart hammer-blow of the Dharma that is so hard to find, he will break down the door whose bolt is desire -- whose two leaves are ignorance and delusion -- so that the living can then escape. 

He, King of that Supreme Law, when he has attained highest knowledge, will achieve liberation from its shackles for the world now overcome by misery lacking any place of refuge, and enveloped in its chains of delusion. 

So do not sorrow for him ---that reaction belongs rather, kind sire, to the pathetic world of human beings who through illusion, the pleasures of desire or of intoxication refuse to hear his Perfect Law.

And that is the reason why I am weeping; for I have just missed getting to know that Excellence.  Even though I have accomplished all the stages of contemplation, my life is still merely a failure since I have not heard his Law, and so I consider even to dwell in the highest heaven a misfortune."

Having heard that, the king with his queen and his friends stopped feeling so sad, and began to cheer up, thinking, 'What a great son I have,' as if he were the one who was great.

But although he let his heart be influenced by the thought, 'He will travel by the noblest of paths' -- for in all honesty he was not at all averse to religion -- yet still he was alarmed at the prospect of losing his child.

Then the sage Asita departed on the wind just as he had come, and everyone stood up to watch reverentially as his figure took flight.

Then feeling more confident, he noticed his saintly nephew, son of his younger sister, and filled with compassion the king earnestly enjoined him to pay attention to what the sage had said, and to consider what it all meant.

Well, the monarch now well-pleased at the birth of a son, gave himself up to the period of purification and then caused his son to go through the usual birth-ceremonies in a manner befitting that family.  So that when the ten-day period of ritual isolation was over, with his thoughts kept under restraint but filled with excessive joy, he offered up for his son the  most elaborate sacrifices to the gods including all the mantras, offerings and appropriately auspicious ceremonies.

He donated to the brahmin priests on behalf of his son's benefit, a hundred thousand perfect dairy cows along with their golden-horned, strong and healthy calves.

And finally, with his anxious mind under control and having performed all kinds of ceremonies which cheered his heart, at an auspicious moment on a fortunate day, he joyfully determined to re-enter his city.

Then the queen with her baby, having worshipped the gods for good fortune, got into a costly ivory palanquin a-blaze with gems and filled with all kinds of white flowers. 

With his wife and her child accompanied by faithful old attendants entering first, the king proceeded into the city while crowds of citizens joyfully saluted them, just like Indra entering heaven being saluted by the Immortals. 

The Sakya king entered his palace just like Lord Bhava [Ecstasy, Shiva] when he was delighted at the birth of his son Kartikeya, and beaming with joy he gave orders for lavish celebrations while generously  bestowing all kinds of honours.

So to celebrate the good fortune of the birth of the king's son, that city named for Kapila was host to all the people of the surrounding countryside and was full of joy.  Just like the city of Kubera, Lord of Wealth, when it was crowded with heavenly nymphs [Skt. apsaras] on the occasion of the birth of his son, Nalakubera.

< Kubera, a.k.a. Vaishravana, Lord of Wealth






NEXT: Chapter 3: Growing Up  

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