THE Buddha’s name became famous over all India and Suddhodana, his father, sent word to him saying: “I am growing old and wish to see my son before I die. Others have had the benefit of his doctrine, but not his father nor his relatives.” And the messenger said: “O world-honored Tathagata, thy father looks for thy coming as the lily longs for the rising of the sun.”
The Blessed One consented to the request of his father and set out on his journey to Kapilavatthu. Soon the tidings spread in the native country of the Buddha: “Prince Siddhattha, who wandered forth from home into homelessness to obtain enlightenment, having attained his purpose, is coming back.”
Suddhodana went out with his relatives and ministers to meet the prince. When the king saw Siddhattha, his son, from afar, he was struck with his beauty and dignity, and he rejoiced in his heart, but his mouth found no words to utter. This, indeed, was his son; these were the features of Siddhattha. How near was the great samana to his heart, and yet what a distance lay between them! That noble muni was no longer Siddhattha, his son; he was the Buddha, the Blessed One, the Holy One, Lord of truth, and teacher of mankind. Suddhodana the king, considering the religious dignity of his son, descended from his chariot and after saluting his son said: “It is now seven years since I have seen thee. How I have longed for this moment!”
Then the Sakyamuni took a seat opposite his father, and the king gazed eagerly at his son. He longed to call him by his name, but he dared not. “Siddhattha,” he exclaimed silently in his heart, “Siddhattha, come back to thine aged father and be his son again!” But seeing the determination of his son, he suppressed his sentiments, and, desolation overcame him. Thus the king sat face to face with his son, rejoicing in his sadness and sad in his rejoicing. Well might he be proud of his son, but his pride broke down at the idea that his great son would never be his heir.
“I would offer thee my kingdom,” said, the king, “but if I did, thou wouldst account it but as ashes.”
And the Buddha said: “I know that the king’s heart is full of love and that for his son’s sake he feels deep grief. But let the ties of love that bind him to the son whom he lost embrace with equal kindness all his fellow-beings, and he will receive in his place a greater one than Siddhattha; he will receive the Buddha, the teacher of truth, the preacher of righteousness, and the peace of Nirvana will enter into his heart.”
Suddhodana trembled with joy when he heard the melodious words of his son, the Buddha, and clasping his hands, exclaimed with tears in his eyes: “Wonderful in this change! The overwhelming sorrow has passed away. At first my sorrowing heart was heavy, but now I reap the fruit of thy great renunciation. It was right that, moved by thy mighty sympathy, thou shouldst reject the pleasures of royal power and achieve thy noble purpose in religious devotion. Now that thou hast found the path, thou canst preach the law of immortality to all the world that yearns for deliverance.” The king returned to the palace, while the Buddha remained in the grove before the city.
BUDDHA, THE GOSPEL
By Paul Carus
Chicago, The Open Court Publishing Company,