3. THE KING PRINCE
While the new baby was still very young, his mother, Queen Maya, died.
Shortly before she passed away, the Queen said to her sister, "Soon I shallnot be able to take care of my baby anymore. Dear Sister, after I havegone, please look after Siddhartha for me." Her sister promised that shewould. She loved the little Prince very much and brought him up as if hewere her own child.
The Prince grew into a bright, handsome and kindhearted boy. His father,the KIng, arranged for him to be educated by the best teachers in the kingdom,and very quickly he showed his remarkable intelligence. After the firstfew days of classes the teachers reported to the King,
"Your Majesty," they said, "the Prince does not need us anymore. Afteronly a few lessons he has learned everything we have to teach him. In fact,he has taught us a few things that we ourselves never knew before!."
Hearing this, the King's pride in his son grew even greater. "With hisintelligence, my son will certainly grow up to be a wise and powerful king,"he thought, and this made the King very happy.
But there was something else about this boy that was even more remarkablethan his intelligence. He had very kind, gentle and loving nature. Therest of his young playmates enjoyed the rough and tumble games of smallchildren, or pretended they were soldiers and fought with one another.But Prince Siddhartha quietly spent most of his time alone. He loved thesmall animals that lived in the palace gardens and became friendly withthem all. The animals knew that the Prince would never hurt them, so theywere never afraid of him. Even the wild animals, who would run away ifanyone else came near, would come to greet the Prince when he entered thegarden. They approached him fearlessly and ate from his hand the food healways brought with him for them.
One day as the Prince was sitting in the garden, a flock of white swansflew overhead. Suddenly an arrow shot up into the air, striking one ofthem. It fell out of the sky and landed at the Prince's feet, the arrowstill stuck into its wing.
"Oh, you poor swan," Siddhartha whispered as he gently picked up the woundedbird, "do not be afraid. I shall take care of you. Here, let me removethis arrow." Then, with one hand he gently stroked the bird, calming itsfear. With his other hand he slowly pulled out the painful arrow. The Princewas carrying a special lotion with him, and softly rubbed it into the bird'swind, all the time speaking in a low, pleasant voice so that the swan wouldnot become afraid. Finally he took off his won silk shirt and wrapped itaround the bird to keep it warm.
After a short time, another young boy came running into the garden. Itwas the Prince's cousin, Devadatta (6). He was carrying a bow and somearrows and he was very excited. "Siddhartha, Siddhartha," he shouted, "greatnews! I got a swan! You should have seem me; I hit it with my first shot!It fell down somewhere near here. Help me look for it."
Then Devadatta noticed one of his arrows, with blood still on its tip,lying on the ground near Siddhartha's feet. Looking closer he saw thatthe Prince was holding something in his arms, and realized it was the swanhe was searching for. "Hey, you took my swan," he yelled. "Give it backto me. I shot it and it's mine!" Devadatta grabbed at the bird, but thePrince held onto it, keeping his angry cousin from even touching it.
"I found this bird lying here bleeding," the Prince said firmly, "and Idon't plan to give it to anyone while it is still wounded."
"But it's mine!" shouted Devadatta again. "I shot it fair and square, andyou've stolen it from me. Give it back or I'll take it back."
The two boys stood arguing like this for some time. Devadatta was gettingangrier and angrier, but Siddhartha refused to give him the swan. Finallythe Prince said, "When two grown-ups have a quarrel like this, they settleit in court. In front of a group of wise people, each one explains thestory of what happened. Then the wise people decide who is right. I thinkyou and I should do the same."
Devadatta did not like this idea very much, but because it was the onlyway he could ever get the swan back, he agreed. So the two of them wentto the palace and appeared in front of the King and his ministers. Thepeople at court smiled at each other when they heard what these two childrenwanted. "To think," they said, "that they want to take up our time overa mere bird!" But the KIng said, "Both Siddhartha and Devadatta are royalprinces, and I am glad they brought their quarrel to us. I think it isvery important that, as future rulers, they become used to the ways ofthis court. Let the trial begin!"
So in turn each of the boys described what happened. Then the ministerstried to decide which boy was right and should therefore have the swan.Some thought, "Devadatta shot the bird; therefore it should belong to him."Others thought, "Siddhartha found the swan; therefore it should belongto him." And for a long time the ministers talked and argued about thecase.Finally, into the court came a very old man whom no one remembered everseeing before. But because he looked so wise, they told him the story ofthe boys and their swan. After listening to what they had to say, he declared,"Everyone values his or her life more than anything else in the world.Therefore, I think that the swan belongs to the person who tried to saveits life, not to the person who tried to take its life away. Give the swanto Siddhartha."