§ 5. The Young Gotamid Prince

Translated from the Introduction to the Jātaka (i.54.11).


On this same day the happy and delighted hosts of the Heaven of the Thirty-three held a celebration, waving their cloaks and giving other signs of joy, because to king Suddhodana in Kapilavatthu had been born a son who should sit at the foot of the Bo-tree, and become a Buddha.

Now it came to pass at that time that an ascetic named Kāladevala, who was an intimate friend of king Suddhodana, and practised in the eight stages of meditation, went, after [49] his daily meal, to the Heaven of the Thirty-three to take his noon-day rest. And as he was sitting there resting, he noticed these gods, and said,--

"Why do you frolic so joyously? Let me too know the reason."

"Sir," replied the gods, "it is because a son has been born to king Suddhodana, who shall sit at the foot of the Bo-tree, and become a Buddha, and cause the Wheel of the Doctrine to roll; in him we shall be permitted to behold the infinite and masterful ease of a Buddha, and shall hear the Doctrine."

On hearing this, the ascetic descended from the world of the gods in haste, and entered the dwelling of the king; and having seated himself on the seat assigned to him, he said,--

"Great king, I hear that a son has been born to you. I would see him."

Then the king had the prince magnificently dressed, and brought in, and carried up to do reverence to the ascetic. But the feet of the Future Buddha turned and planted themselves in the matted locks of the ascetic. For in that birth there was no one worthy of the Future Buddha's reverence; and if these ignorant people had succeeded in causing the Future Buddha to bow, the head of the ascetic would have split in seven pieces.

"It is not meet that I compass my own death," thought the ascetic, and rose from his seat, and with joined hands did reverence to the Future Buddha. And when the king had seen this wonder, he also did reverence to his son. Now the ascetic could look backward into the past for forty world-cycles, and forward into the future for forty world-cycles,--in all, eighty world-cycles. And, noting on the person of the Future Buddha all the lucky marks and characteristics, he began to reflect and consider whether or not they prophesied his Buddhaship. And perceiving that undoubtedly he would become a Buddha, he thought to himself, "What a marvellous personage he is!" and smiled.

Next he considered in his mind whether he would live to see him attain the Buddhaship; and he perceived that he was [50] not to have that opportunity. For he would die before that time, and be reborn in the formless mode of existence, where it would be out of the power of even a hundred or a thousand Buddhas to come and enlighten him. And he thought, "It will not be mine to behold this so marvellous a personage when he has become a Buddha. My loss, alas, will be great," and wept.

The people noticed his behavior, and said to him,--

"Our good father smiled but a moment ago, and now has begun to weep. Reverend sir, is any misfortune to happen to our young master?"

"No misfortune is to happen to him. He will become a Buddha without any manner of doubt."

"Then why did you weep?"

"I wept at the thought of my own great loss; for, alas, I am not to have an opportunity of seeing this marvellous person after he has become a Buddha."

Next he considered in his mind whether or not any of his relatives were to have the opportunity; and he saw that his sister's child Nālaka was to have it. And he went to his sister's house, and inquired,--

"Where is your son Nālaka?"

"Good father, he is in the house."

"Call him hither."

"My child," said he to the lad when he had come, "a son has been born in the family of Suddhodana the king, who is the coming Buddha. Thirty-five years from now he will become a Buddha, and you will have an opportunity of seeing him. Retire from the world this very day."

And the child did so, although he belonged to a family possessing eight hundred and seventy millions of treasure; for he thought, "My uncle would not lay such a command upon me for any trifling reason." Sending to the bazaar, he procured some yellow garments, and an earthenware bowl, and cut off his hair and his beard, and put on the yellow garments. And stretching out his joined hands in the direction of the Future Buddha, he said, "I retire from the world to follow earth's greatest being." Then he prostrated himself, [51] so that he touched the ground with the fivefold contact. Having thus done reverence, he placed the bowl in his scrip, slung the latter over his shoulder, and going to the Himalaya Mountains, he there performed the duties of a monk.

And after the Great Being had achieved the absolute and supreme wisdom, Nālaka came to him, and had him prescribe the Nālaka course of conduct.[1] Then, returning to the Himalaya Mountains, he attained to saintship, and adopted that excellent course. And keeping alive for seven months more, and being at the time near a certain Gold Hill, he passed out of existence by that final extinction in which none of the elements of being remain.

Now on the fifth day they bathed the Future Buddha's head, saying, "We will perform the rite of choosing a name for him." And they prepared the royal palace by anointing it with four kinds of perfumes, and by scattering Dalbergia blossoms and other flowers, five sorts in all. And making some porridge of whole rice-grains boiled in milk, they invited one hundred and eight Brahmans, men who had mastered the three Vedas. And having seated these Brahmans in the royal palace, and fed them with delicate food, and showed them every attention, they asked them to observe the marks and characteristics of the Future Buddha's person, and to prophesy his fortune.

Among the hundred and eight, --


"Rāma, Dhaja, Lakkhana, also Manti,
Kondañña, Bhoja, Suyāma, Sudatta,
These Brahmans eight were there with senses six subdued;
They from the magic books disclosed his fortune."

These eight Brahmans were the fortune-tellers, being the same[2] who had interpreted the dream of the night of the [52] conception. Seven of these raised two fingers each, and gave a double interpretation, saying, "If a man possessing such marks and characteristics continue in the household life, he becomes a Universal Monarch; if he retire from the world, he becomes a Buddha." And then they set forth all the glory of a Universal Monarch.

But the youngest of them all, a youth whose clan-name was Kondañña, after examining the splendid set of marks and characteristics on the person of the Future Buddha, raised only one finger, and gave but a single interpretation, saying, "There is here naught to make him stay in the household life. He will most undoubtedly become a Buddha, and remove the veil of ignorance and folly from the world." For this Kondañña was one who had made an earnest wish under former Buddhas, and was now in his last existence. Therefore it was that he outstripped the other seven in knowledge, and saw but one future; inasmuch as a person possessed of such marks and characteristics would never stay in the household life, but would undoubtedly become a Buddha. So he raised only one finger, and gave that interpretation.

Then the seven Brahmans went home and said to their sons, "Children, we are old, but whether we ourselves are alive or not when the son of Suddhodana the king shall attain omniscience, you, at least, should then retire from the world under his dispensation."

And after these seven persons had lived out their term of life they passed away according to their deeds; but Kondañña, being younger, was still alive and hale. And when the Great Being, after making the great retirement in pursuit of wisdom, had arrived at Uruvelā in his progress from place to place, he thought: "How pleasant indeed is this spot! How suitable for the struggles of a young man desirous of struggling!" and took up his abode there. Kondañña heard the news that the Great Being had retired from the world, and drawing near to the sons of those seven Brahmans, he spoke to them as follows: --

"I hear that prince Siddhattha has retired from the world. Now he will unquestionably become a Buddha, and if your [53] fathers were alive they would follow after him this very day. If you also would like to retire from the world, come with me. I mean to follow after that man in his retirement from the world."

But they could not all agree; and three of them did not retire from the world. But the remaining four did so, and made the Brahman Kondañña their chief. And these five persons became known as the "Band of Five Elders."

Then said the king, "What shall my son see to make him retire from the world?"

"The four signs."

"What four?"

"A decrepit old man, a diseased man, a dead man, and a monk."

"From this time forth," said the king, "let no such persons be allowed to come near my son. It will never do for my son to become a Buddha. What I would wish to see is my son exercising sovereign rule and authority over the four great continents and the two thousand attendant isles, and walking through the heavens surrounded by a retinue thirty-six leagues in circumference." And when he had so spoken he placed guards for a distance of a quarter of a league in each of the four directions, in order that none of these four kinds of men might come within sight of his son.

On this same day, also, eighty thousand clansmen assembled together in the festival-hall, and each dedicated a son, saying, --

"Whether the young prince become a Buddha or a king, we will each one give a son: so that if he become a Buddha, he shall be followed and surrounded by monks of the warrior caste; and if he become a king, by nobles of the warrior caste."

And the king procured nurses for the Future Buddha, -- women of fine figure, and free from all blemish. And so the Future Buddha began to grow, surrounded by an immense retinue, and in great splendor.

Now on a certain day the king celebrated the Sowing [54] Festival, as it was called. On that day they used to decorate the whole city, so that it looked like a palace of the gods; and all the slaves and other servants would put on new tunics; and, perfumed and garlanded, they would assemble together at the king's palace, where a thousand plows were yoked for the royal plowing.

On this occasion there were one hundred and eight plows, all save one ornamented with silver, as were also the reins for the oxen and the cross-bars of the plows. But the plow that was held by the king was ornamented with red gold, as also the horns, the reins, and the goads for the oxen. And the king issued forth with a large retinue, taking his son along with him. And in the field where the plowing was to be done was a solitary rose-apple tree of thick foliage and dense shade. Underneath this tree the king had a couch placed for the young prince, and spread over his head a canopy that was studded with gold stars; and he surrounded him with a screen, and appointed those that should watch by him; and then, decked with all his ornaments and surrounded by his courtiers, he proceeded to the place where they were to plow. On arriving there, the king took the gold plow, and the courtiers took the silver plows, -- one hundred and eight save one, and the farmers the other plows; and then all plowed forward and back. The king went from the hither side to the farther side, and from the farther side back again; and the pomp and magnificence of the festival was at its climax.

Now the nurses who were sitting about the Future Buddha came out from behind the screen to behold the royal magnificence. And the Future Buddha, looking hither and thither and seeing no one, arose in haste and sat him down cross-legged, and mastering his inspirations and his expirations, entered on the first trance. The nurses delayed a little, being detained by the abundance of good things to eat. And the shadows of the other trees passed over to the east, but the shadow of the rose-apple tree remained steadily circular. Suddenly the nurses remembered that they had left their young master alone; and [55] raising the screen, they entered and saw the Future Buddha sitting cross-legged on the couch, and also noticed the miracle of the shadow. Then they went and announced to the king, --

"Sire, thus and so is the prince sitting; and the shadows of the other trees have passed over to the east, but the shadow of the rose-apple tree remains steadily circular."

And the king came in haste, and seeing the miracle, he did obeisance to his son, saying, "This, dear child, is my second obeisance."

And thus, in due course, the Future Buddha attained to the age of sixteen years. And the king built three palaces for the Future Buddha, suited to the three seasons, -- one of nine stories, another of seven stories, and another of five stories. And he provided him with forty thousand dancing girls. And the Future Buddha, with his gayly dressed dancers, was like a god surrounded by hosts of houris; and attended by musical instruments that sounded of themselves, and in the enjoyment of great magnificence, he lived, as the seasons changed, in each of these three palaces. And the mother of Rāhula was his principal queen.

Now while he was thus enjoying great splendor, one day there arose the following discussion among his relatives: --

"Siddhattha is wholly given over to pleasure, and is not training himself in any manly art. What could he do if war were to occur? "

The king sent for the Future Buddha, and said, --

"My child, your relatives are saying that you are not training yourself, but are wholly given over to pleasure. Now what do you think we had best do?"

"Sire, I do not need to train myself. Let the crier go about the city beating the drum, to announce that I will show my proficiency. On the seventh day from now I will show my proficiency to my relatives."

The king did so. And the Future Buddha assembled together bowmen that could shoot like lightning and at a hair's-breadth; and in the midst of the populace, and before his [56] kinsfolk, he exhibited a twelvefold skill, such as none of the other bowmen could equal. All of which is to be understood after the manner related in the Sarabhañga Birth-Story. So the assembly of his kinsfolk doubted him no longer.

[1]The Nālaka course of conduct is given in the Nālaka Sutta of the Sutta-Nipāta, and consists of a number of precepts for leading the holy life.

[2]See p. 43. They presumably were the spokesmen for the sixty-four, as here for the one hundred and eight.

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