Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Life of the Buddha and His Greatness

by Narada Mahathera
I. The Birth

In the full-moon day of May [I] in the year 623 B. C. [2] there was born, in the Lumbini Park [3] at Kapilavatthu,[4] on the borders of Nepal, a noble Prince of aristocratic Saakya clan. His father was King Suddhoodana,[5] and his mother Queen Mahaa Maayaa. Seven days after the birth of the child, the mother died, and Mahaa Pajaapati Gootami, her younger sister, who was also married to King Suddhodana, became his foster-mother.

Great were the rejoicings of the people over the birth of this illustrious prince. A certain ascetic, named Asita, also known as Kaaladeevala, was particularly pleased to hear this happy news and, being a tutor of the King, visited the palace to see the royal baby. The overjoyed King brought the child, to pay him due reverence, but, to the surprise of all, his feet turned and planted them-selves in the matted locks of the ascetic. Instantly the ascetic rose from his seat and foreseeing the child's future greatness, saluted him with joined hands. When he thus honored him, the royal father too saluted him in the same way.

The great ascetic at first smiled and then was sad. Questioned as to his mixed feelings, he replied that he smiled because the Prince would, eventually become a Buddha; and that he was sad because he, owing to his prior death and rebirth in a Formless Plane - Aruupalooka,[6] could not benefit by the superior wisdom of the Enlightened One.

2. The Naming Ceremony

On the fifth day after the Prince's birth, he was named Siddhattha Gootama, which means 'wish fulfilled'. His family name was Gootama.[7]

In accordance with the ancient custom, many learned Brahmins were invited to the palace for this naming ceremony. Amongst them were eight distinguished men. Examining the characteristics of the child, seven of them raised two fingers and gave a double interpretation, saying that he would either become a Universal Monarch or a Buddha. But the youngest Kondanna, who excelled the others in knowledge, raised only one finger and firmly declared that he would definitely retire from the world and become a Buddha.