2. A HOLY MAN’S VISIT
With great rejoicing, King Shuddhodana greeted his Queen and his new sonSplendid festivals were held and the whole kingdom was decked in beautifullycoloured banners. It was a time of great happiness and peace. There wasso much gladness everywhere that his parents decided to name the Prince"Siddhartha" (4), which means "the one who has brought about all good".
Now the wise men made new predictions about the baby. "O King," they said,"the signs of the Prince's birth are most favourable. Your son will growup to be even greater than you are now!" This news made the King very proud."If these wise men are correct," he thought, "my son, Prince Siddhartha,may one day be the ruler not only of my small kingdom, but perhaps of theentire world! What a great honour for me and my family!"
In the first few days after his birth, many people came to the palace tosee the new baby. One of these visitors was an old man named Asita (5).Asita was a hermit who lived by himself in the distant forests, and hewas known to be a very holy person. The King and Queen were surprised thatAsita would leave his forest home and appear at their court,"We are veryhonoured that you have come to visit us, O holy teacher," they said withgreat respect. "Please tell us the purpose of your journey and we shallserve you in any way we can."
Asita answered them, "I thank you for your kind welcome. I have come agreat distance to visit you because of the wonderful signs I have recentlyseen. They tell me that the son recently born to you will gain great spiritualknowledge for the benefit of all people. Since I have spent my entire lifetrying to gain such holy wisdom, I came here as quickly as
possibleto see him for myself."
The King was very excited and hurried to where the baby Prince lay sleeping.He carefully picked up his son and brought him back to Asita. For a longtime the holy man gazed at the infant, saying nothing. Then he finallystepped back, looked sadly up at the sky, sighed heavily and began
Seeing Asita weep, the King and Queen became very frightened. They wereafraid that the holy man had seen something wrong with their child. Withtears in his eyes, the King fell to his knees and cried out, "O holy teacher,what have you seen that makes you weep? All the other wise men say thatmy son was born to be a great man, to gain supreme knowledge. But now,when you look at my baby you cry. Does this mean that the Prince will diesoon? Or will something else very terrible happen to him? He is my onlychild and I love him dearly. Please tell me quickly what you have seenfor my heart is shaking with sadness and fear."
Then with a very kind look, Asita calmed the new parents and told themnot to worry.
"Do not be upset," he told them. "I am not crying because of somethingbad I saw for the Prince. In fact, now that I have seen your son, I knowfor certain that he will grow up to be more that just a great man. Thereare special signs that I have seen on this child-such as the light thatshines from his fingers-that tell me he will have a glorious future.
"If your son decides to stay with you and become a king, he will be thegreatest king in history. He will rule a vast realm and bring his peoplemuch peace and happiness. But if he decides not to become a king, his futurewill be even greater! He will become a great teacher, showing all peoplehow to live with peace and love in their hearts. Seeing the sadness inthe world he will leave your palace and discover a way to end all suffering.Then he will teach this way to whoever will listen.
"No, dear King and Queen, I was not crying for the child. I was cryingfor myself. You see, I have spent my whole life looking for the truth,searching for a way to end all suffering. And today I have met the childwho will someday teach everything I have wanted to learn. But by the timehe is old enough to teach, I shall already have died. Thus, I shall notbe
ableto learn from him in this life. That is why I am so sad.
Butyou, O fortunate parents, should not be sad. Rejoice that you have sucha wonderful child."
Then Asita took one long, last look at the child, and slowly left the palace.The King watched him leave and then turned towards his son. He was veryhappy that there was no danger to the Prince's life. He thought, "Asitahas said that Siddhartha will become either a great king or a great teacher.It would be much better if first he became a king. How proud I would beto have such a famous and powerful son! Then, when he is an old man likeAsita, he can become a holy man if he wants."