14.The Journey Begins
As Siddhartha stood alone in the forest, ready to begin his great adventure,he thought, "From today onwards I am no longer a prince. Therefore, itis not right that I continue to look and dress like one." He took his knifeand cut off his long, flowing hair, a sign of royalty. Then he met a poorhunter and said to him, "Sir, I have no more need of these silke clothes.If I am to live in the forest I should wear something rough like yours.Let us switch." The hunter was surprised and delighted to receive suchexpensive clothing in exchange for his own and quickly agreed to Siddhartha'ssuggestion.
Now that he was properly dressed as a poor seeker of the truth, Siddharthabegan to look for a teacher who could show him the way to end all suffering.He wandered through the forests and spoke to all the many holy men he foundthere. Everywhere he went he was welcomed with respect. Even though henow wore ragged clothes and ate only the poor food he could beg, he wasstill a very handsome and striking looking man. When the people in theforest saw him coming they said to each other, "Here comes a very specialperson. His face is so strong and determined! If such a man is lookingfor the truth, he is sure to find it."
Siddhartha studied with several teachers, but was not satisfied with whathe learned from them. "What they teach is helpful," he thought, "but itdoes not lead to perfect happiness." Finally he heard that some very wisemen lived in the kingdom of Magadha (13) where King Bimbisara (14) ruled.So he decided to travel far to the south and east to find them.
One day, as he was walking through Rajagriha, (15) the capital city ofMagadha, he passed near the palace gates. One of King Bimbisara's ministerssaw him and immediately ran to the King.
"Sire", he said excitedly, "I have just seen a most unusual man in thecity. He is dressed in rags and begs his food from door to door, but Iam sure he must be a great person. His face is so strong and he walks withsuch dignity. It almost seems that a special light shines from him!"
The King was very interested and asked that Siddhartha be brought beforehim. They talked together for a while and the King was very impressed byhis intelligence, modesty and kind manner. Then the King said, "I havenever met a man I felt I could trust more than you. Please settle herein Rajagriha and help me rule my kingdom."
But Siddhartha replied politely, "O King, I have already had the chanceto rule a kingdom, but I had to refuse.
I amnot interested in wealth or power, only in the path of truth. I thank youfor your offer, but I have come to your kingdom only to find teachers whocan help me with my search."
Then the King bowed to the man in rags and said, "I wish you luck in yourjourney. If you do find what you are looking for, please return here andteach it to me. But even if you fail, you are always welcome to returnto my palace."Siddhartha thanked him very much and continued on his way.