A long time ago, in the kingdom of Kapilavatthu, there lived a king named Suddhodana and a queen named Maha Maya. The Dream of Queen Mahamaya One full moon night, the Queen had a strange dream. In her dream, she saw four devas carrying her to a lake and bathing her with scented water, then they put her on a bed. A white baby elephant, carrying a white lotus on its trunk, circled the bed three times and entered her belly.
When the King heard about the dream he called upon his sixty wise men to give the meaning of her dream. They told him that the Queen was going to give birth to a wonderful prince. The birth of Prince Siddhartha When it was time for the Queen to give birth to her baby, it was a traditional custom that the queen returned to her parents’ place. On her way there, she rested in the Lumbini Sal park in the kingdom of Kapilavasthu, which is now in the country of Nepal. There the Queen gave birth to her baby under a Sal tree. The baby was a boy and in the best of health. Immediately the new born baby prince stood up and all eyes were on him. To the amazement of all present, the Prince walked seven steps. At each step he took a lotus flower appeared.
Then he lifted a finger in the air and said: “Aggo hamasmi lokassa – Jettho hamasmi lokassa – Settho hamasmi lokassa Ayamantima jati, Natti dani punabbhavo. I am the supreme in this world – I am the chief in this world – I am the excellent in this world. This is my final birth. There is no more rebirth for me.” The queen Maha Maya then returned to the palace with her baby prince. On hearing the birth, the great sage, Asita, who was also known as Kaladewala, came to see the royal prince. The king felt honoured by the unexpected visit of his teacher. He carried the baby up to him in order to receive blessings from the sage. But, to the surprise of all, the prince’s legs turned and his feet rested on the turban of the sage. After examining the signs of the young baby, the sage declared that a very special child had been born to the king and the whole world. The sage worshipped the young Prince and seeing this, the King also followed him by worshipping the baby.
On the fifth day after the royal Prince’s birth, the King invited many learned brahmins to the palace for the naming ceremony. They included a group of eight extraordinary wise ascetics. After examining the features of the child, seven of them raised two fingers and said the Prince would either become a universal monarch or the Buddha. However, the youngest of the group, Koddanna, lifted one finger and declared that the prince would definitely become the Buddha. At the ceremony he was named “Siddhartha” meaning “wish fulfilled”. His family name was Gotama. Prince Siddhartha’s mother, Queen Maha Maya, passed away seven days after his birth. The King entrusted the care of the prince to Queen Prajapathi Gothami, the younger sister of Queen Maha Maya. Ploughing Festival The ploughing festival was celebrated in grand style in ancient India. This festival was arranged at the time of preparation of the soil for a rich harvest. On the day of the ploughing festival, King Suddhodana participated in the ceremony together with Prince Siddhartha. While the King was ploughing with the farmers, the Prince saw how the farmers were sweating in the field, the oxen were being whipped and the worms that surfaced from the loose soil were pecked by the birds. The Prince saw the sufferings in the world. He then sat cross-legged under a rose apple tree and went into deep meditation. On seeing this, the King Suddhodana was surprised and worshipped his son for the second time in his life. Education and Marriage Prince Siddharth was very talented. He had the best teacher in India, Sarvamitra, for his education. The young Prince trined and mastered all the skills which included learning many languages, sword fighting, horse riding and also using a bow and arrows (archery) within a short time. At the age of sixteen, Prince Siddhartha married his beautiful cousin Princess Yashodara. Before his wedding, he won the challenging skill performance to prove his suitability to marry Yasodara. After marriage, the royal couple lived in the best comforts of life. They had three palaces, one for the winter, one for the summer and one for the rainy season. The Four Sights King Suddhodana had built a wall around the palace to stop the Prince from seeing the outside world where there were many sufferings. However, when the young Prince decided to go for a ride with his charioteer, the King could not stop him. Along the way, the young prince saw an old man for the first time. He asked his charioteer, Channa about what he saw. With Channa’s answer, the young prince came to understand that everyone would become old, including himself. On the second trip, Prince Siddhartha saw a sick person on the street. Again, Channa explained that it was possible for any person to become sick including the young prince. On the third trip, the young prince saw a dead body being carried by people along the street. From Channa, Prince Siddhartha came to know that everyone including himself would die one day. The Great Renunciation Having seen these sights, Prince Siddhartha realised the sufferings in the world. As he was thinking about the problems he decided to visit the streets again. This time he saw a sage who looked serene and relaxed. Channa explained that he was a monk looking for the way to overcome the problems of life. These four unexpected sights were the turning point in the life of Prince Siddhartha. He had the urge to become a monk. He decided to renounce the world in search of a solution to these problems of suffering. Soon after his decision, Prince Siddhartha received news that Princess Yashodara had given birth to a son.
The Prince thought that the birth of the baby as an obstacle for his decision to leave the palace. Accordingly, the new born baby prince was named Rahula, meaning ‘Fetter or Bond” by the grandfather. Every day, there were singing, music and dancing parties in Prince Siddhartha’s palace. However, after seeing the four sights, the prince had no interest on them. The musicians and dancers noticed that the prince is not enjoying their performance. They retired to sleep early but the prince spent sleepless and restless night. They were groaning in their sleep with their mouths half-open and saliva dribbling. Some were even without their clothing on. Realizing the worthless of sensual pleasures, the prince decided to leave the palace that very night. Prince Siddhartha walked in to Yasodara’s chamber to look at his wife and new born son. They were fast asleep. Soon he left the palace with his charioteer, Channa and the royal horse, Kanthaka. At River Anoma, he cut off his hair and put on a yellow robe. Thus, prince Siddhartha became ascetic Gotama at the age of twenty-nine.