ON next morning the Buddha took his bowl and set out to beg his food. And the news spread abroad: "Prince Siddhattha is going from house to house to receive alms in the city where he used to ride in a chariot attended by his retinue. His robe is like a red clod, and he holds in his hand an earthen bowl."
On hearing the strange rumor, the king went forth in great haste and when he met his son he exclaimed: "Why dost thou thus disgrace me? Knowest thou not that I can easily supply thee and thy bhikkhus with food?" And the Buddha replied: "It is the custom of my race."
But the king said: "how can this be? Thou art descended from kings, and not one of them ever begged for food."
"O great king," rejoined the Buddha thou and thy race may claim descent from kings; my descent is from the Buddhas of old. They, begging their food, lived on alms." The king made no reply, and the Blessed One continued: "It is customary, O king, when one has found a hidden treasure, for him to make an offering of the most precious jewel to his father. Suffer me, therefore, to open this treasure of mine which is the Dharma, and accept from me this gem": And the Blessed One recited the following stanza:
"Arise from dreams and delusions,
Awaken with open mind.
Seek only Truth. Where you find it,
Peace also you will find."
Then the king conducted the prince into the palace, and the ministers and all the members of the royal family greeted him with great reverence, but Yasodhara, the mother of Rahula, did not make her appearance. The king sent for Yasodhara, but she replied: "Surely, if I am deserving of any regard, Siddhattha will come and see me."
The Blessed One, having greeted all his relatives and friends, asked: "Where is Yasodhara?" And on being informed that she had refused to come, he rose straightway and went to her apartments.
"I am free, the Blessed One said to his disciples, Sari putta and Moggallana, whom he had bidden to accompany him to the princess's chamber; "the princess, however, is not as yet free. Not having seen me for a long time, she is exceedingly sorrowful. Unless her grief be allowed its course her heart will cleave. Should she touch the Tathagata, the Holy One, ye must not prevent her."
Yasodhara sat in her room, dressed in mean garments, and her hair cut. When Prince Siddhattha entered, she was, from the abundance of her affection, like an overflowing vessel, unable to contain her love. Forgetting that the man whom she loved was the Buddha, the Lord of the world, the preacher of truth, she held him by his feet and wept bitterly.
Remembering, however, that Suddhodana was present, she felt ashamed, and rising, seated herself reverently at a little distance.
The king apologized for the princess, saying: "This arises from her deep affection, and is more than a temporary emotion. During the seven years that she has lost her husband, when she heard that Siddhattha had shaved his head, she did likewise; when she heard that he had left off the use of perfumes and ornaments, she also refused their use. Like her husband she had eaten at appointed times from an earthen bowl only. Like him she had renounced high beds with splendid coverings, and when other princes asked her in marriage, she replied that she was still his. Therefore, grant her forgiveness."
And the Blessed One spoke kindly to Yasodhara, telling of her great merits inherited from former lives. She had indeed been again and again of great assistance to him. Her purity, her gentleness, her devotion had been invaluable to the Bodhisattva when he aspired to attain enlightenment, the highest aim of mankind. And so holy had she been that she desired to become the wife of a Buddha. This, then, is her karma, and it is the result of great merits. Her grief has been unspeakable, but the consciousness of the glory that surrounds her spiritual inheritance increased by her noble attitude during her life, will be a balm that will miraculously transform all sorrows into heavenly joy.