Siddhartha felt revitalized after eating the food offered him by
Sujata, a girl from a nearby village. Feeling much better, he walked to
the river’s edge. There, he washed. The riverbank was lined with some
very tall krusha grass. Siddhartha gathered a good bundle of it and
returned to the forest.
A very strong conviction then seized Siddhartha. If he wanted to help
others, he would need first to find out for himself how he could help.
He needed to understand the nature of the conditions that created
suffering. Only then would he be able to change them so that every
living being could enjoy happiness.
Under the pippala tree, Siddhartha
arranged the krusha grass into a seat and sat down. In his heart,
Siddhartha knew that his long solitary meditation was to enter a new
phase. He remembered his very first meditation under a rose apple tree. .
It was the day of the first plowing of the fields. The tradition was
that people would dress in fine clothes to attend a big ceremony held
outside in the fields. Flags and colorful cloths hung from the trees.
Many tables were set up as altars upon which the finest foods and drinks
were placed. The holy men of the Brahman class would chant prayers to
ask for blessings. They prayed that the fields would yield healthy and
So it was on that day, when Siddhartha
was nine, that King Suddhodana, his royal family and all his ministers
attended the ceremony. Many children were there. They loved this day
because after the prayers and chanting, they were to enjoy the most
delicious cakes and sweets. Nevertheless, the prayer readings proved
much too long and soon the children tired. The ladies-in-waiting led
them to the outer fields to watch the actual plowing. Siddhartha was
In the field, a man naked to the waist was
prodding a water buffalo to pull a plow. It was very close to noon, and
the sun shone relentlessly on his bare back. He was sweating profusely
and visibly tired from walking up and down in the field making the
furrows. Intermittently, he would whip the reluctant buffalo. The
buffalo had to pull very hard with the yoke upon its body. Its hoofs
gripped the ground beneath as its large body inched forward dragging the
heavy plow behind it. The plow turned up the soil exposing the worms
that made their homes there. The worms wriggled in distress trying
desperately to find cover. Others worms writhed in pain as they had just
been cut in halves. Siddhartha then realized why so many small birds
were hovering near the ground. They were eating the live, defenseless
worms and other tiny bugs that laid bare for their easy picking. Just
then, a hawk swooped down and caught one of the small birds. With its
lunch secured in its claws, it took to the air again giving out the loud
cry of a master of the sky.
Siddhartha watched in
silence. He felt the toil of the man who ploughed the field in the hot
sun. He felt the struggle of the water buffalo chained to the plow. He
felt the pain of the worms cut by the plow. It was heart wrenching to
witness the worms, the insects, and the small bird losing their lives so
abruptly. Siddhartha felt their fear, their pain, and the
unpredictability of life itself.
The noonday sun was
extremely hot. Siddhartha took shelter under a rose-apple tree. The
leaves provided a much needed shade away from the heat. He sat down on a
stone slab. He curled up his legs to rest on the cool surface of the
stone. He straightened his body to gather his breath. He rested his
hands on his lap. With his eyes lowered, Siddhartha reflected on the
scene that had transpired in the field. He sat detached from the noises
of the children laughing and playing around him.
sitting quietly for a while, Siddhartha noticed that his thoughts
subsided. He experienced a calm and clear awareness from within. He
recognized that the man, the water buffalo, the birds, and the worms had
one thing in common: each of them was tied to the conditions of its
life. A worm was tied to the condition that it was a food source for
birds. A small bird was bound by the condition that it might fall prey
to larger birds. A water buffalo had to live in captivity and work for
Siddhartha continued to look deeper. He
recognized that life conditions brought fear and pain at times, and
enjoyment at others. In one moment, the small bird was enjoying the
worms, but in the next moment, it was food for the hawk.
Moreover, Siddhartha observed that the conditions were different for
everyone. Some animals enjoyed a greater degree of freedom and safety
than others. The peacocks of the royal gardens certainly led a better
existence than that of a water buffalo. It was the same with people.
Some were good looking and some were not. Some were strong while some
were weak. Some were smart and some were dumb. One thing stood out above
all else: regardless of what conditions they were born with, all living
things wanted to live in peace and happiness. All living things wanted
to avoid suffering. All living things were thus interconnected with one
another through this universal wish to be happy.
Siddhartha himself was no exception. It was through his own experience
of heat, pain, fear, and fatigue that he was able to connect with the
man, the water buffalo, the worms, and the birds in the field. His want
of happiness and his aversion to suffering connected him to the
experiences of others. Without the common ground of experience, there
could be no connection. Siddhartha remembered the time when he had tried
to describe the taste of chocolate to his attendant who had never
tasted one. He could not.
shook the Prince’s shoulder. King Suddhodana and Queen Gotami both saw
Siddhartha sitting under the tree. The Queen was in awe of the fact that
a nine year old could sit in a meditation posture so serenely. However,
the King’s facial expression tensed up right away. In his heart, his
greatest fear was taking shape—that Siddhartha would leave him one day
in search of the Truth.
“Reading the holy Veda cannot help
the worms!” Those were the first words that Siddhartha uttered when he
looked up and saw his parents. The King’s brows could not have been more
knitted than in that moment.
“Ouch!” Siddhartha cried. He
had scraped his leg against a sharp edge of the stone slab as he was
getting up. Queen Gotami immediately waved for the attendants to come.
“It’s nothing. The cut is not deep. Sometimes the skin breaks,” said the
Prince. He had understood and accepted pain as a normal experience of
the physical body. He took off his scarf and wrapped it around the
wound. He smiled at his parents whom he loved dearly. He reached out his
two hands to hold one hand from each parent. Giving their hands a
loving squeeze he walked between them to rejoin the festivities of the
day. . . .
under the pippala tree, Siddhartha recollected the events of that day
some thirty years ago. Since he had left home, he had learnt a lot. He
was grateful to his two teachers, Arada and Udraka, for showing him
their meditation methods. The methods were necessary and helpful in the
beginning. They helped him to calm his mind and to achieve a strong
concentration. The methods revealed to him the deep peace that was
within him. But the methods did not show him how to stop the suffering
of living beings—neither did the extreme neglect of his physical body
that nearly killed him.
Siddhartha then reflected on how
the insights had come to him naturally in that first meditation sitting.
He reflected on how relaxed his mind had been. He reflected on how his
mind had not been fixed on this or that method. Perhaps that was what
was missing in his meditation now, a natural letting go. With this new
insight, Siddhartha’s meditation entered another phase.