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  • Thong Tri Temple

The Story of Buddha: The Little Prince (3)

Updated: May 30, 2022

May 16, 2020 | Loving-kindness (Metta)


The birth of the crown prince, Siddhartha, was celebrated throughout the Shakya kingdom in Kapilavastu around 480 BCE, but tragedy and suffering soon struck the royal family.


Queen (Maya) Mahamaya, the wife of King Suddhodana, died seven days after giving birth to the prince. She was said to have been reborn in the Tavatimsa heaven. On her deathbed, she blessed her sister, Mahapajapati, and asked her to promise to take care of the little prince. Mahapajapati, who was also married to King Suddhodana, was the successor to the queen’s throne. She vowed to raise Prince Siddhartha with great care and love in the wealthy circumstances of a noble family as if he were her own child.


In his early years, the Little Prince was a lovable, curious child. He manifested curiosity, intelligence, propriety, and above all, kindness to all who surrounded him, including small animals and birds. Many times, the little prince demonstrated his pure, compassionate heart to anyone who would bear witness.


During his first appearance at the King’s court, Prince Siddhartha showed a convincing demonstration of compassion and selfless concern for other beings relating to a disagreement between a merchant and a farmer. The farmer was said to owe the merchant grains, a debt that he was not able to repay after two years. The merchant accused him of hiding his crops and applying oil to the grain before pouring it into the sacks.


The farmer pleaded with the king to not take his fields as payment for a debt he did not owe. He claimed to have applied oil to the grains to keep away rot so he could still feed his family. He insisted that he paid the merchant a bag of coins to settle the debt. The merchant denied this, saying that he had not received any payments from the farmer and that the bag of coins was, in fact, his.


Upon hearing the story, little Siddhartha became curious. He asked the merchant to hand him the bag of coins. The merchant, clueless of the little boy’s intention, handed the bag of coins to the little one. The prince poured the bag of coins into a vessel of water. Drops of oil quickly separated from the coins and floated onto the surface. Siddhartha declared that the coins truly belonged to the farmer.


The merchant confessed his dishonesty to the king, an offense punishable by lashing. A lashing can only be avoided if someone in the courtroom is willing to vouch that the offender would not commit such a crime once again. No one in the room was willing to vouch for the merchant, for everyone knew, including the little prince, that if the merchant was once again caught lying, he who vouched for him would have to face the consequences. Siddhartha, however, stepped forward and vouched for him.


On another bright summer day, little Siddhartha was playing with his friends in the garden when a bird punctured by an arrow fell suddenly to the ground. Siddhartha and his friends tended to the bird, covering its wound with a wet cloth. Devadatta, his older cousin, approached them, claiming that the bird belonged to him. He was the one who struck it with his arrow, he said. Siddhartha, however, refused to hand over the bird, inviting him instead to take the bird to the royal courtroom so that the minister and the king could decide who should have the bird.


After long arguments, the king gave up and asked his minister to lay down a verdict. The wise man asked, “To whom does this creature belong to—to the one who possesses the nature of a warrior or to the one who performs the duty of a warrior?”


Protecting life, according to Siddhartha, was the primary duty of a warrior. Hence, the high minister and the King agreed and pronounced that little Siddhartha should be the bird keeper.


The compassion and mercy of the little prince was proclaimed and hailed by the Shakya people.


To Be Continued….


May you all be free from suffering and all the causes of suffering!


Namo Shakyamuni Buddha.


References:

“Chơn Lý,” Tác Giả Đức Tổ Sư Minh Đăng Quang (Language in Vietnamese)

“Phật Học Phổ Thông,” Tác Giả Hòa Thượng Thích Thiện Hoa (Language in Vietnamese)

“The Seeker’s Glossary of BUDDHISM,” Edited by the Van Hien-Study Group, Sutra Translation Committee of the United States & Canada

“A Simple Path – Basic Buddhist Teachings,” by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama

“The Buddha and His Teachings,” by Venerable Narada Mahathera (Sri Lanka 1970), Buddha Dharma Education Association Inc.

"Kinh Tụng Hằng Ngày," Biên Soạn Thượng Tọa Thích Nhật Từ (Language Vietnamese)

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