Chapter Three: Growing Up
From the moment the Bodhisattva was born, the prosperity of Kapilavastu
increased not only in wealth measured in gold, but in elephants, horses, and
allies, and as regularly as the rising waters of a river in springtime.
The king acquired treasure of all kinds -- more than he could have ever
imagined: Wild elephants that not even Padma,
supporter of the earth, could ever have subdued came obediently to his
side. And herds of horses: strong and wild ones with flowing manes, and
also gentle ones bedecked with golden trappings filled the city streets. Fat,
docile cows giving excellent milk, with healthy calves by their sides
stocked his kingdom.
Peace and harmony also increased. His enemies first became indifferent;
indifference grew to friendship, friends became united and where there once had
been opposing sides, now there was unity.
The rains came when they were needed and from gently rising winds out of
clouds bedecked in wreaths of lightning, and not with pounding hail and
thunderbolts. There were abundant harvests even without ploughing, and
even old plants increased in vigor and quality.
Even at that precarious moment which is childbirth, pregnant women had their
babies in good health, in safety, and without illness.
And people who in usual circumstances would reluctantly lend money only with
secure collateral, now did not refuse anyone even those of slenderest means.
There was no violence or murder -- not even domestic disputes, and no one even
went back on their word, or lied, or slandered others. It was like the
days of The Mahabharat all over again, a time when duty and
self-restraint were the norm as in the
days of Yayati.
Religious people were more motivated than ever to perform sacred works.
They sponsored or helped build gardens, temples, and retreat hermitages as well
as bathing pools, lakes, and groves.
Now the citizens no longer worried about famine, fear, and sickness, and life
was heavenly. There was no infidelity in marriages since husbands and wives were
so content. No one played around just for the fun of it; no one was greedy
and no one claimed to be a spiritual teacher just for financial gain.
Certainly, no one injured any living being just for the sake of traditional
Everywhere, fraud, theft and robbery had disappeared. There were no incursions
by enemy powers and the king's dominion was in peace -- at rest from all foreign
interference. There was only prosperity and plenty, and the cities in his
realm were as healthy as the forests.
So you could say that when his son was born, it was just as in times of old when
Manu, Child of the Sun, ruled India. There was joy and gladness everywhere,
and righteousness ruled the land. Evil had been vanquished. Sin did
The king had named his son Sarv'arthasiddha
meaning "complete attainment of
accomplishment" because his arrival had been so fulfilling both for himself
and for his land. But sadly, Queen Maya died, as if in some ancient
myth when the gods grant glory in exchange for tragedy, but at least she had
lived to see her newborn son, and she went to heaven, as if the great joy
he had brought her was sufficient for a whole lifetime. So the queen's
sister adopted the boy who was truly like a child of the gods, treating him as
her very own with all the affection and tenderness of a natural mother, and she
was the one who raised the young prince.
The prince grew up smoothly and flawlessly as the sun rising on an eastern
slope, a fire fanned by the wind, or like the gradually waxing moon. And
his friends brought him presents of sandalwood paste, gorgeous strings of
precious stones and little wheeled carts pulled by golden deer. He had
other toys suitable for his age, like elephants, deer, and horses made of gold,
oxcarts with teams richly decorated, and silver and gold chariots. But
though he had all the toys a child his age could want, he did not much play like
an ordinary boy for he was serious, neat and clean in his appearance; wise and
dignified in manner.
When he was mature enough, the young prince learned in only a few days all the
knowledge and the various skills suitable for one of his status -- things that
generally took a good many years to master.
But the king his father, recalling the great seer Asita's prediction that his
boy's destiny lay in pursuit of transcendental happiness, tried to undermine
that future by introducing him to various sensual pleasures. From a family
of unblemished moral excellence, he sought and obtained a bride for him, a girl
renowned for her beauty, modesty and gentle bearing who was called, after the
goddess of good fortune, Yasodhara. And the prince, the apple of
his father's eye (just as Sanatkumara [eternal prince] was Brahma's)
delighted in the company of the Sakya princess -- like Lord Indra with his own
The king, worried that his son might see some distressing or troubling thing,
had a sort of sanctuary prepared for him in the recesses of the palace, far from
the bustle of everyday life. Siddhartha spent his time in those royal chambers
gorgeously decorated especially for him to suit the changing seasons "like
heavenly chariots upon the earth, and bright like the clouds of autumn"
where performers entertained him whenever he liked.
Dancers gorgeous as the heavenly nymphs in Shiva's shining palace on Mount
Kailash swayed and swirled to the beat of their fingertips' striking the
soft-sounding tambourines with golden rims. The women delighted him
with their mild voices, their beautiful strings of pearls, their playful
intoxication, sweet laughter, and flirtatious glances.
In the arms of these women well-skilled in the ways of love and reckless in
pursuit of pleasure, he felt as if he were falling from the roof of a pavilion,
to land as gently as a saint alighting from a heavenly chariot.
The king, meanwhile, was behaving in a very restrained and modest fashion for
the sake of ensuring his son's prosperity, stirred somehow by the destiny which
had been predicted for him, delighting in poised and virtuous behaviour.
He was not at all self-indulgent nor taking delight in any of the states of
consciousness. He exercised self-control at all times and was exemplary in
his virtue. He did not try to out-do anyone, studying only that which was
beneficial to others and he wished well to one and all, not only his own
He regularly performed the fire puja that was the ritual obligation of his
people, praying for his son's long life. He also offered oblations to the
sacred fire, donating money and cattle to the priests. He went on
pilgrimage to bathe at holy places in order to purify body, mind and spirit, and
drank the soma-juice as enjoined by the Vedas. And this heartfelt ritual
induced in him the happiness of perfect equanimity.
He only said nice things but yet, not trivialities -- he was honest but never
tactless; not complaining nor criticizing, and he neither flattered nor
He did what needed to be done, making no distinction between what was pleasant
and what was not. In business, he sought to profit without cheating, but
at the same time, he did not overly value sacrifice.
When a petitioner offered a gift, he accepted graciously without pretext.
At the same time, he did not tolerate the arrogant approaches of two-faced
"... he took away the one, and protected the seven; he abandoned the seven
and kept the five; he obtained the set of three and learned the set of three; he
understood the two and abandoned the two." That is, he observed all
the precepts and principles of virtue, and the norms of mindful and righteous
behaviour as codified in the aphorisms of his culture.
As the land's highest authority, even though a guilty person had been sentenced
to death, he did not cause the sentence to be implemented but practiced
clemency. He refrained from scolding and only gently admonished, yet he
tried to see that the criminal was reformed. He was merciful, and saw that
no corporal punishment was inflicted.
He performed the great religious vows prescribed by the ancient Rishis. He
set aside long-cherished hostile attitudes and acquired a glory redolent with
the fragrance of virtue. He gave up all former habits or practices
He did not squander the taxes levied in the traditional amount of one-sixth of
an income, but acted as the custodian of the people's resources. He
had no wish to covet another's property. He had no desire to mention the
wrong-doings of his enemies, nor did he brood over past wrongs in an attempt to
fan any embers of wrath in his heart.
With such a righteous man for a monarch, the servants and citizens followed
his example, just as in meditation by stilling the mind, we control our senses.
In due course of time, by the son of Shuddhodana there was born to fair-bosomed
Yasodhara who truly was as glorious as her name, a baby boy named Rahula, with a
face like the sweet shining moon the eclipse
demon's [Rahu] enemy.
Then the king who himself had so longed for a son and heir, was exceedingly
delighted, and he rejoiced at the birth of his grandson just the same as he
had when his own son was born. He even exclaimed at the fact that he felt
that way all over again, and at the end of the ritual period, he meticulously
performed once more all the appropriate religious rites just as if he readying
himself for the ascent to heaven.
As the famous kings did in ancient times, he practiced austerities wearing only
simple white garments, and he made the traditional offerings, but only in ways
that involved no injury to living creatures.
His reputation shone gloriously, the consequence of his nobility but also of his
religious austerities, and he was renowned for his devotion to family, his fine
conduct and wisdom, and his enlightening attitude as brilliant as the sun.
Having offered worship, this glorious man muttered repetitions of Vedic texts to
Swayambhu [Brahma, God, the Self-manifesting] for the
protection of his son, and performed various complex ceremonies just like the
god Ka at the beginning of time when he wished to create living beings.
He set aside all weapons and pondered the Shastras. He meditated and
underwent various penances. Like an enclosed hermit, he rejected all
sensory pleasures, regarding his kingdom only as a father does his child.
He only endured the kingdom for the sake of his son, and his son for his
family's sake. And endured his family for the sake of the glory of his dynasty,
and that reputation -- only for the attainment of heaven. He only aspired
to heaven for his Soul's sake, and even that, only for the sake of Dharma [ie.
And in that righteous way, he practiced the various rites the way all pious
people had done since their inception, asking himself only one single thing,
"Now that he has seen the face of his son, how can my son be
prevented from going away to the forest? "
Prudent kings of this world wishing to guard their prosperity, bring up their
sons to behave circumspectly with regard to the ways of the world, but this
king, though loving religion himself, kept his son from religion and set
him loose among all objects of pleasure.
Now all bodhisattvas, those beings of finest nature -- after tasting the
pleasures of the world, depart to the forest as soon as a son is born to
them. However, this bodhisattva was specia. Though all his
past karma had completely played out, even when his culminating motivation had
begun to germinate -- he went on pursuing worldly pleasure. Right
up until the time of his Attainment of Supreme Wisdom.
Note: See The
Laws of Manu (ca. 1500 BCE) that codifies caste, ritual and civil laws.
contracted to Siddhartha. The young nobleman would later on in his life
be referred to, in India, as Shakyaputra Shramana, or "The
Shakya son who is an ascetic."
NEXT: Chapter 4: Springtime
Excursions & the Three Sights
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