parting with Siddhartha at the forest, Sujata went home as quickly as
she could. She did not want her mother to worry. When she got home, she
was relieved to learn that her mother was out. She grabbed a handful of
rice from the kitchen and went outside to feed the chickens. Soon, her
parents came home. When asked about her day, Sujata told them everything
that had happened without omitting a single detail.
After supper, Sujata’s family always sat outside their house to enjoy
the evening breeze. Sujata’s father called his daughter over.
“What is the name of the hermit you met today?” he asked.
“Siddhartha,” Sujata quickly replied.
“Do you know the meaning of his name?” Sujata shook her head. Her
father continued, “It means, the one who achieves his goals. King
Suddhodana Gautama, the ruler of the Shakya clan, also named his son
Sujata sat down on the chair in front of her
father. She could tell from his tone of voice that he was about to tell
her something interesting and important.
Siddhartha is a very special man, not because he is very handsome, very
intelligent, and yes, he is very kind to everyone. This prince is
special because he cares so much for all living things that he decided
to do something about it.
“His father, the King, gave him
everything grand and luxurious. He built Siddhartha three palaces for
the three seasons, winter, summer, and spring. Only young and healthy
people served the Prince, for you see, the King had a great fear.
Someone prophesized that one day Siddhartha would leave him to find an
end to suffering. So he tried to hide all the ugliness, like people who
are sick people and old people from his son. Life was very good for the
Prince for a long time. He married the beautiful princess Yasodhara.
They had a son named Rahula.
“But Sujata, how can anyone
hide sickness? Falling sick is part of living, isn’t it? How can anyone
hide old age? You walk down the street and there are old people
everywhere! How can anyone hide death when even a child knows that he is
going to die one day?
“So it was inevitable that
Siddhartha would find out the not so pleasant side of our existence.
When he did, he saw much more deeply into the suffering of living beings
than others. He wanted to find a way to stop suffering. One night, he
left the palace and to this day he has not yet returned to his family.
He was twenty-nine when he left.
“What we do know is that
he practised meditation under the guidance of two great teachers, Arada
and Udraka. He learnt everything that he could learn from them. But he
did not find the answer to end suffering. There were some travelers,
woodcutters, and hunters who have encountered a man believed to be him
meditating in the forests, and in the caves in the mountains.”
“Father, you think the man I saw today is Prince Siddhartha!”
“Yes, child,” Sujata’s father nodded. “It is a very good thing to offer
food to him. Maybe we will all have the good fortune to meet him one
day. I hope that you will learn from him. And Sujata, if you can help
it, try not to disturb him too much.”
Sujata had a hard
time falling asleep that night. She had so many questions in her head
that she would like to ask Prince Siddhartha, but her father’s words
came to her, “…. try not to disturb him too much…”