Buddha's Childhood

The Buddha was born in 544 BC, over two thousand five hundred years ago. His father, King Suddhidana, was one of the best-known ruler of the Sakya dynasty. He, liked Lord Rama, was a Suryavanshi who traced his legendary descent from the sun.

On the full moon day of Vaisakh, the Buddha's mother, Queen Mahamaya, happened to be on her way from the capital Kapilavastu to her parent's home in Devdaha. During the journey she stopped under the shade of two Sal trees at Lumbini, where she gave birth to the Buddha. When she returned to Kapilavastu, an old sanyasi named Asit, who was also the court astrologer, came to the palace and predicted that the child would redeem the world.

The child was named Siddharth. But it was his clan name, Gautama, by which he came to be known, and he attained fame as Gautama the Buddha, Gautama the wise. The rejoicing at the birth of the prince was abruptly cut short because a week later his mother Queen Mahamaya suddenly died. Gautama was brought up by his mother's sister who was also her step mother.

Gautama was a serious-minded child who instead of playing with other children would sit alone, lost in his own thoughts. His father did his best to get him interested in various pursuits, but to no avail. When Prince Gautama came of age, King Suddhodana arranged his marriage to the beautiful Princess Yashodhara and saw to it the prince was kept occupied with diverse amusements and pleasures of life. None of these, however, succeeded in diverting Gautama's mind from its quest for truth.

Prince Gautama was a Kshatriya, who, like others of the warrior caste, was also expected to hunt animals and birds. But Gautama was different from other Kshatriyas; instead of killing animals and birds he wanted to protect them. Once his cousin Dev Datta shot a flying swan which fell near Gautama. He picked up the bird, took the arrow out of its body and dressed its wound. When Dev Datta came on the scene and demanded the bird he had shot, Prince Gautama replied, "He who saves life has a stronger claim to it than he who seeks to destroy it."

The dispute was referred to King Suddhodana. The king had the swan brought to court and put on a platform in the center. He then told the two princes that the swan would be awarded to the one to whose call it responded. First Dev Datta called the bird. It began to squawk and tremble. Then Gautama called it too. The bird waddled up to the prince and sat down in his lap. "The swan has chosen its protector and belongs to him, "pronounced King Suddhodana.


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