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King Bimbisara

Siddhattha had cut his waving hair and had exchanged his royal
robe for a mean dress of the color of the ground. Having sent
home Channa, the charioteer, together with the noble steed
Kanthaka, to king Suddhodana to bear him the message that the
prince had left the world, the Bodhisatta walked along on the
highroad with a beggar's bowl in his hand.

Yet the majesty of his mind was ill-concealed under the poverty
of his appearance. His erect gait betrayed his royal birth and
his eyes beamed with a fervid zeal for truth. The beauty of his
youth was transfigured by holiness and surrounded his head like a

All the people who saw this unusual sight gazed at him in wonder.
Those who were in haste arrested their steps and looked back; and
there was no one who did not pay him homage.

Having entered the city of Rajagaha, the prince went from house
to house silently waiting till the people offered him food.
Wherever the Blessed One came, the people gave him what they had;
they bowed before him in humility and were filled with gratitude
because he condescended to approach their homes.

Old and young people were moved and said: "This is a noble muni!
His approach is bliss. What a great joy for us!"

And king Bimbisara, noticing the commotion in the city, inquired
the cause of it, and when he learned the news sent one of his
attendants to observe the stranger.

Having heard that the muni must be a Sakya and of noble family,
and that he had retired to the bank of a flowing river in the
woods to eat the food in his bowl, the king was moved in his
heart; he donned his royal robe, placed his golden crown upon his
head and went out in the company of aged and wise counselors to
meet his mysterious guest.

The king found the muni of the Sakya race seated under a tree.
Contemplating the composure of his face and the gentleness of his
deportment, Bimbisara greeted him reverently and said:

"O samana, thy hands are fit to grasp the reins of an empire and
should not hold a beggar's bowl. I am sorry to see thee wasting
thy youth. Believing that thou art of royal descent, I invite
thee to join me in the government of my country and share my
royal power. Desire for power is becoming to the noble-minded,
and wealth should not be despised. To grow rich and lose
religion is not true gain. But he who possesses all three, power,
wealth, and religion, enjoying them in discretion and with
wisdom, him I call a great master."

The great Sakyamuni lifted his eyes and replied:

"Thou art known, O king, to be liberal and religious, and thy
words are prudent. A kind man who makes good use of wealth is
rightly said to possess a great treasure; but the miser who
hoards up his riches will have no profit.

"Charity is rich in returns; charity is the greatest wealth, for
though it scatters, it brings no repentance.

"I have severed all ties because I seek deliverance. How is it
possible for me to return to the world? He who seeks religious
truth, which is the highest treasure of all, must leave behind
all that can concern him or draw away his attention, and must be
bent upon that one goal alone. He must free his soul from
covetousness and lust, and also from the desire for power.

"Indulge in lust but a little, and lust like a child will grow.
Wield worldly power and you will be burdened with cares.

"Better than sovereignty over the earth, better than living in
heaven, better than lordship over all the worlds, is the fruit of

"The Bodhisatta has recognized the illusory nature of wealth and
will not take poison as food.

"Will a fish that has been baited still covet the hook, or an
escaped bird love the net?

"Would a rabbit rescued from the serpent's mouth go back to be
devoured? Would a man who has burnt his hand with a torch take up
the torch after he had dropped it to the earth? Would a blind man
who has recovered his sight desire to spoil his eyes again?

"The sick man suffering from fever seeks for a cooling medicine.
Shall we advise him to drink that which will increase the fever?
Shall we quench a fire by heaping fuel upon it?

"I pray thee, pity me not. Rather pity those who are burdened
with the cares of royalty and the worry of great riches. They
enjoy them in fear and trembling, for they are constantly
threatened with a loss of those boons on whose possession their
hearts are set, and when they die they cannot take along either
their gold or the kingly diadem.

"My heart hankers after no vulgar profit, so I have put away my
royal inheritance and prefer to be free from the burdens of life.

"Therefore, try not to entangle me in new relationships and
duties, nor hinder me from completing the work I have begun.

"I regret to leave thee. But I will go to the sages who can teach
me religion and so find the path on which we can escape evil.

"May thy country enjoy peace and prosperity, and may wisdom be
shed upon thy rule like the brightness of the noon-day sun. May
thy royal power be strong and may righteousness be the sceptre in
thine hand."

The king, clasping his hands with reverence, bowed down before
Sakyamuni and said: "Mayest thou obtain that which thou seekest,
and when thou hast obtained it, come back, I pray thee, and
receive me as thy disciple."

The Bodhisatta parted from the king in friendship and goodwill,
and purposed in his heart to grant his request.

Next: The Bodhisatta's Search

Previous: The Bodhisatta's Renunciation

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