English translation of the original story in Hindi. Many people wanted it translated. But if you can read Hindi, it’d be better if you read the original one. I have tried to translate it as well as I can, but original is still the original. Any suggestions regarding the words and phrases which could be replaced by more suitable ones are welcome. Even well known words do not come to mind when you sit down to translate!
The summer season is here. Now for four months I will be staying in the Water Palace. I like staying here because of the small lakes that are built all over in the palace. I enjoy playing with water.
Father was discussing my wedding with aunt today. He mentioned that Yashodhara is very beautiful. I am excited, but am also a little scared. The married life would be so different from childhood, wouldn’t it? With new set of duties. I have no idea as to what her likes and dislikes would be. Aunt doesn’t like my habit of playing with water at all. How would she like it? If she dislikes it, would or would not she tell me? I do hope she would not be cross without telling me about it. As much as I have heard, its not easy to understand the nature of women. And it does appear to be very right. Just look at aunt. How difficult it is to predict as to what will cause her to be angry, what will cause her to be pleased and what will make her all love and affection! I wonder what will please or provoke Yashodhara.
I always though that the life was so pleasant. Only after Yashodhara has walked into my life that I have realized that, that was nothing. Now I want time to just stop where it is. But no, why should it stop? Every new moment is as beautiful as the one gone by. Now life will always be like this. How sweet, how pleasant. Her sweet voice, her soft laughter, the sound of the jewelry she wears, and the music all around in this Spring Palace! One can not thank the creator of life enough!
Aunt told me today that I am going to be a father soon. The baby that would be a part of mine. The way father has always loved me, I will also love it, love it more than my own life.
When I had seen Yashodhara for the first time, I thought she was the most beautiful woman on the earth. But after Rahul is born, with the glow and pride of motherhood, she looks even more beautiful. And Rahul? I don’t feel like ever letting him go. He is a part of mine. Aunt always says that his appearance, behaviour everything reminds her of me as a child. How good does it feel to be a father. Life is even more beautiful now. And yesterday Rahul stood on his feet for the first time without any support. How cute did he look!
What kind of falsehood was I living with till now. Father and aunt would not be with us forever. Yashodhara will grow old and ugly someday. I will probably die of illness. And Rahul? He would have to go through the same tortures. That innocent, vulnerable creature will have to go through all this? The life will not always be as comfortable as it is today. What is the point of having the comforts today then? Why are we there in this world? Why do we come here? To live in the falsehood of comforts for a while and then to go through immense torture. Whosoever created life, why did he do so? Why did he fill the life with so much misery?
When the life has to end, when one has to suffer, what is the point in living with this falsehood of comfort? What is the truth of life? What is its purpose? Father knowingly kept me in this false world all this while. He would not let me search for the truth even now. I will have to go somewhere far from here. I will have to find the truth.
Yashodhara and Rahul? No, no. I don’t know where I am going. I can’t take them with me on this uncertain path. They will be sad to find me gone. But this has to happen someday or the other. It may as well happen today. When I find the truth, I will come back and tell them about that too.
But I must leave now.
I wandered around to find the truth. I tried to understand it, find it through several different means. And here it is. So simple a thing. Its within us. Why, then, do people suffer so much in the world? And why can’t they get out of this cycle of birth and death?
No. This need not happen any longer. I have spent so many years of my life in finding this truth. Now, I am not going to let my knowledge go waste. I will tell everyone. But why am I feeling so anxious? Why do I feel that there is something pending for me to do? What is bothering me so much?
Yashodhara! How would she be? She has probably spent all these years in some kind of mourning. But now? Now she need not be unhappy any longer. I will go to her. I will make her see the truth of life, that I have found after so much suffering. She, too, has suffered all this while. Both of us have suffered due to our ignorance. Now the sufferings would be gone. I will leave tomorrow before sunrise.
I got up today with the intention of leaving for Kapilvastu. But I could not do that. Yashodhara is a simple woman. She has endless faith in me. She would certainly try to understand what I say. She would even believe them. But father? He has seen me growing up slowly, since I was a new-born baby. Things like finding the truth would sound childish to him coming from me. He would never let me proceed in life in my own way. Its not that he wishes me ill. But people always remain little kids for their parents. Parents can never believe that their children could know and understand something which they themselves didn’t. I beg your pardon father. I don’t intend to disrespect you by thinking like this. Its not that I have become excessively proud or something. But the worldly definition of respect and disrespect has ignored some greater truths of life.
And Yashodhara? She would have to suffer. For the sake of the rest of the world.
So instead of going towards Kapilvastu from Bodhgaya, I proceeded in the opposite direction. I have to start a new phase of my life now.
Today, at a place called Sarnath, near Varanasi, I talked to five gentlemen. I tried to explain them my experience and the truth. It was clear that they have respect for me. But the respect did not come from them understanding what I was trying to say. Rather they respect me for all that I have gone through, for abandoning the royal life to find the truth. Yes – that is the reason they respect me. I thought that this truth is so simple that it would be very easy to explain it to everyone. But that didn’t happen. It was very difficult to explain the experience in words. It was very clear that they were not able to understand. I am going to talk to them again. But before that I have to think a bit over how to put that experience, that truth in simple words, so that everyone can understand it.
Today I was a bit more successful. Today I could explain to them the truth in simple words. I put forward my experience in three simple sentences:
- Life has sufferings.
- The origins of suffering are cravings and desires.
- By removing cravings and desires sufferings can be gotten rid of.
And these five people accepted this truth. They have promised to accompany me and help me in spreading this truth all over the world. It’s difficult to believe. In such short span of time there are six of us! If people keep coming in like this, it won’t be long before there would be no suffering in the world.
More and more people are joining the Sangha. When I reach a new place, people already know about me. They are very eager to give us alms and very keen to know the truth. It seems like the whole world was waiting for this truth.
Even father has heard of me. Today messengers have come from Kapilvastu with his message. For now I haven’t given them any answer. Tomorrow they will also attend my sermon. What will they tell father after going back? Would it be right for me to go to Kapilvastu? For Yashodhara, if nobody else. I have no idea of how she would be. And Rahul? He would be a grown up boy now. He might be curious to know about his father. What does Yashodhara tell him?
But no! It is not the right time to go there yet. Many people have joined Sangha. But I don’t think father still considers it anything more than my childish play. The right time has not come yet.
The messengers from Kapilvastu came to me today to ask for the permission to join the Sangha. I can’t describe how happy I felt.I have not been able to go to Yashodhara and other members of the royal family with this truth. But it is benefiting somebody from that place at least.
But these days I am facing another problem. While I was talking about this truth mostly to educated people, it was enough to tell them what the truth is. But now I am reaching out to common people and it seems like what I am telling them in not enough. The situation is similar to how it was in Sarnath several years ago. People respect me. The reason behind that respect is that they have heard a lot about me, my life before they met me. Therefore, they listen to me. They even join the Sangha. But internalizing the truth is difficult for them. I need to put my understanding into words. They need to be told as to how to attain the truth. I will have to think more over this.
Today I saw a sick child. The disease was curable with some easily available herbs and I cured him. I was surprised as to why hadn’t any doctor cured him till then. It turned out that the child belonged to a so called lower caste and no upper caste doctor was willing to attend him. How unfair it is! This caste system is making our society so hollow from inside. And worst of all, even those for whom it is unfair, don’t think that the system is inappropriate. Then who is going to oppose the system? I have decided that I will work harder to get these people to see the truth. More and more of them need to join the Sangha.
But there is a good news too. The eight fold path that I had thought of, to help common people attain the truth, has gained traction with people. In fact they have heartily accepted it. People who are already with the Sangha now see their path more clearly. The number of people joining the Sangha is also accelerating. Now I have added a fourth sentence to my explanation of truth. That cravings and desires can be removed by following the eight fold path.
Father has sent seven message till now. All the messengers have joined the Sangha and have not gone back. But I still don’t feel prepared to go to Kapilvastu.
No. I should not think about her. I don’t have anything to do with the worldly attachments. This is the biggest problem of Sangha too. The attachment of the members of Sangha towards women often creates problems. Till now women have not been associated with the Sangha. I think I will have to make that a rule, so that it does not happen even in future. Otherwise these members will go astray from their path of the truth.
Today I received tenth message from father. From the language of the letter, it looks like he has accepted my way of living. He still does not seem to believe in it, but I don’t think he would try to stop me any longer.
Probably now is the time to go to Kapilvastu.
But there are things that are not going all right. Today I saw a man who was suffering from an incurable disease. His family wanted me to bless him and to cure him with my powers, as I have supposedly done in past. I tried to explain to them that the disease was not curable and that I had never cured anyone through a divine power, but through medicines. And that there was no cure known in the medical science for the disease that the man was suffering from. But they didn’t believe me. They thought there was something lacking in their hospitality and hence I did not bless the man. I could not make them understand and I am nobody to be blessing people!
Yashodhara! I was not prepared to see her dull face. Where was that youth, that glow on the face, the long hair, those shining eyes? It seemed like I was looking at somebody else. Was I the reason behind this transformation?
But when she spoke, I realized that nothing has changed of her self-assured nature. I had thought that she would be angry with me, that she would taunt me, that she would cry. And then I would tell her about the truth and she would no longer suffer. But none of that happened. She asked me very simply, “If there is one truth in the world, why does one have to go to the jungle to find that? What is the problem with the palace?”
When I had set out to find the truth, I did not know what the truth is. The only thing I knew that in the palace people didn’t let me see the truth. So, I ran away. But I could not tell her all this. Because this was still no justification for what I had done to her. When I did not know the truth, I still knew something else. I knew the duties of a man and a father. But I ran away from even those.
When I looked at her face, then even in the physical dullness, I saw a glow that was not seen on the faces of even the best, the most learned members of Sangha. And I felt that Yashodhara knew the truth. And that she knew something beyond the truth too. Probably what she knew could bring more good to the world . But I have gone too far now. According to my own rules, women can not join the Sangha. At that moment, everything that I ever wanted to tell her, every experience I ever wanted to share with her, had lost their meaning.
I could not think of anything else; so I changed the topic. “Madame! A Sangha member asks for alms from you.”
“I have nothing with me other than my son. I give him to you. I hope that he would find his truth in a different way and another Yashodhara would not be born in this world.”
She had taunted me. But it wasn’t a wife taunting a husband. It was a learned person taunting an ignorant one. I should be stayed on; I needed to learn something. But I have gone too far. I can’t look back now.
After today’s sermon many people from Kapilvastu joined the Sangha.
It has been so many years now. So many people have joined the Sangha. So many of them have adopted the four noble truths and eight fold path. But why do I feel dissatisfied? Why do I get this feeling that despite accepting these principles, people have not been able to attain the truth?
These days people welcome me with scented sticks, earthen lamps and other things used for worship rituals. Many songs have been written praising my divine qualities. People want to touch my feet and they think they will be able attain Nirvana simply with my blessings. Rich people are trying to attend Nirvana by donating gardens and Viharas to the Sangha. What is all this? I had set out to spread the message of truth in the world. How come I have become more important than the truth itself. Something is terribly wrong.
Now the Sangha has grown so big, that many members travel all over the country and elsewhere without me accompanying them. I have no control over what is being preached to the people in my name. From what I hear, at many places people have written down the principles of the eight fold path and pasted it on the walls of their houses. Will I ever be able to make them understand that reading that would lead them nowhere. When I try to explain to people the importance of truth; so that they don’t equate me with the truth and a God, they consider it my humility and go on believing what they want to believe.
What have I done? I had started off to show the truth to the world, but I have put them all on a wrong path. What had that young man said, whom I met in Jetvana, several years ago. He knew that I have found the truth. But everyone has to find his own truth. So, he would not join the Sangha. He was right. Did he attain the truth after all?
Today when Rahul got up after his meditation, I saw the same glow on his face that was there on Yashodhara’s when I last met her. Rahul touched my feet for blessing and said, “Sir. I have attained the truth today. And now I need to go.”
I believed him at once. He had found the truth. For the first time I went for a walk with him alone. He was no longer just a little kid or a student to me. He was my equal and I could talk to him like one. I spoke to him about my dilemma. How I was realizing that I have put people on the wrong path and how I feel like getting away from all of this.
The depth and sincerity of his answer took me by surprise, “Sir. I can very well understand what is going on in your mind. When mother was sending me off with you she had said, ‘Son! I am giving you to your father. I expect you to be inspired by him and search for the truth. But son, everyone has to find his own truth. And there is something more that one needs to understand after attaining the truth. That you should follow the path of truth after attaining it, but should not expect that others will find the truth easily through you.’ When I remember her words, I don’t feel surprised at your thoughts.”
Yashodhara knew. This is what she knew, beyond my truth.
Rahul continued, “But Sir. There is something else that is important too, and which you are ignoring in your disappointed state of mind.”
“What is that?”
“Sir! I agree that the world has not understood your truth. And would never easily understand it. But can’t you see that for the first time, people oppressed due to caste system are seeing a ray of hope for the first time. People have at least started questioning showy rituals and other social evils for the first time. I agree that if people had been able to attain the truth, these things would not have mattered anyway. But something is better than nothing. Until the whole world understands the truth, at least some things can be improved. If you leave them now, the state of faithlessness they would get into would leave no hope for the discovery of truth, ever!”
And Rahul went away. He would not try to spread the message of truth in the world. He would only follow the truth himself. But few people who would be benefited by that, would make a lot of difference. Much more than I could ever do.
Yashodhara! Why didn’t I stay with you that day? But now I have gone even further. Now there is even less scope of going back.
It has been a long time since I attended Nirvana. People have moved much father from truth than they had in my time. They are erecting temples in my name. At many places I am considered a God. In China and Japan they even talk of my several incarnations. Buddhism is a religion now, with its own set of rules and rituals, which I am supposed to have founded!
But I don’t have the power to change the history. I wish I actually possessed the divine power people think I possessed. Then I would have gone and changed some events in the history. The first sermon of Mahatma Buddha, in Sarnath, would never have happened.