Posted by: ADMIN | April 2, 2011
The life of The Buddha: The Marriage of Siddhartha
7. The Marriage of Siddhartha
SUDDHODANA kept thinking of what Asita had told him. He did not want his family to die out, and he said to himself: “I will arouse in my son a desire for pleasure; then, perhaps, I shall have grandchildren, and they shall prosper.”
So he sent for the prince, and he spoke to him in these words:
“My child, you are at an age when it would be well to think of marriage. If there is some maid that pleases you, tell me.”
“Give me seven days to consider, father. In seven days you shall have my answer.”
And he mused:
“Endless evil, I know, comes of desire. The trees that grow in the forest of desire have their roots n suffering and strife, and their leaves are poisonous. Desire burns like fire and wounds like a sword. I am not one of those who seek the company of women; it is my lot to live in the silence of the woods. There, through meditation, my mind will
find peace, and I shall know happiness. But does not the lotus grow and flourish even amid the tangle of swamp-flowers? Have there not been men with wives and sons who found wisdom? Those who, before me, have sought supreme knowledge spent many years in the company of women. And when the time came to leave them for the delights of meditation, theirs was but a greater joy. I shall follow their example.”
He thought of the qualities he would value most highly in a woman. Then, on the seventh day, he returned to his father.
“Father,” said he, “she whom I shall marry must be a woman of rare merit. If you find one endowed with the natural gifts I shall enumerate, you may give her to me in marriage.”
And he said:
“She whom I shall marry will be in the bloom of youth; she whom I shall marry will have the flower of beauty; yet her youth will not make her vain, nor will her beauty make her proud. She whom I shall marry will have a sister’s affection, a mother’s tenderness, for all living creatures. She will be sweet and truthful, and she will not know envy. Never, not even in her dreams, will she think of any other man but her husband. She will never use haughty language; her manner will be unassuming; she will be as meek as a slave. She will not covet that which
belongs to others; she will make no inconsiderate demands, and she will be satisfied with her lot. She will care nothing for wines, and sweets will not tempt her. She will be insensible to music and perfume; she will be indifferent to plays and festivals. She will be kind to my attendants and to her maidens. She will be the first to awaken and the last to fall asleep. She whom I shall marry will be pure in body, in speech and in thought.”
And he added:
“Father, if you know a maid who possesses these qualities, you may give her to me in marriage.”
The king summoned the household priest. He enumerated the qualities the prince sought in the woman he would marry, then:
“Go,” said he, “go, brahman. Visit all the homes of Kapilavastu; observe the young girls and question them. And if you find one to possess the necessary qualities, bring her to the prince, even though she be of the lowest caste. For it is not rank nor riches my son seeks, but virtue.”
The priest scoured the city of Kapilavastu. He entered the houses, he saw the young girls, he cleverly questioned them; but not one could he find worthy of Prince Siddhartha. Finally, he came to the home of Dandapani who was of the Sakya family. Dandapani had a daughter named Gopa. At the very sight of her, the priest’s heart rejoiced, for
she was beautiful and full of grace. He spoke a few words to her, and he doubted no longer.
The priest returned to King Suddhodana. “My lord,” he exclaimed, “I have found a maid worthy of your son.”
“Where did you find her?” asked the king. “She is the daughter of the Sakya, Dandapani,” the brahman replied.
Though he had great confidence in his household priest, Suddhodana hesitated to summon Gopa and Dandapani. “Even the wisest men can make mistakes,” he thought. “The brahman may be exaggerating her perfections. I must put the daughter of Dandapani to a further test, and my son himself shall judge her.”
He had many jewels made out of gold and silver, and by royal command a herald was sent through the streets of Kapilavastu, crying:
“On the seventh day from this day, Prince Siddhartha, son of King Suddhodana, will present gifts to the young girls of the city. So may all the young girls appear at the palace on the seventh day!”
On the day announced, the prince sat on a throne in the great hall of the palace. All the young girls of the city were present, and they filed before him. To each one he presented a jewel, but, as they approached the throne, his striking beauty so intimidated them that they lowered their gaze or turned
their heads away. They hardly took the time to receive their presents; some were even in such haste to leave that they merely touched the gift with the tips of their fingers, and it fell to the floor.
Gopa was the last one to appear. She advanced fearlessly, without even blinking her eyes. But the prince had not a single jewel left. Gopa smiled and said to him:
“Prince, in what way have I offended you?”
“You have not offended me,” replied Siddhartha.
“Then why do you treat me with disdain?”
“I do not treat you with disdain,” he replied. “You are the last one, and I have no jewel to give you.”
But suddenly he remembered that on his finger he was wearing a ring of great value. He took it off and handed it to the young girl.
She would not take the ring.
She said, “Prince, must I accept this ring from you?”
“It was mine,” replied the prince, “and you must accept it.”
“No,” said she, “I would not deprive you of your jewels. It is for me, rather, to give you a jewel.” And she left.
When the king heard of this incident he was elated.
“Gopa, alone, could face my son,” he thought;
“she alone is worthy of him. Gopa, who would not accept the ring that you took from your finger, Gopa, O my son, will be your fairest jewel.”
And he summoned Gopa’s father to the palace.
“Friend,” said he, “the time has come for my son Siddhartha to marry. I believe your daughter Gopa has found favor in his eyes. Will you marry her to my son?”
Dandapani did not answer at once. He hesitated, and again the king asked him:
“Will you marry your daughter to my son?” Then Dandapani said:
“My lord, your son has been brought up in luxury; he has never been outside the palace-gates; his physical and intellectual abilities have never been proven. You know that the Sakyas only marry their daughters to men who are skillful and strong, brave and wise. How can I give my daughter to your son who, so far, has shown a taste only for indolence?”
These words disturbed King Suddhodana. He asked to see the prince. Siddhartha came immediately.
“Father,” said he, “you look very sad. What has happened?”
The king did not know how to tell him what Dandapani had so bluntly expressed. He remained silent.
The prince repeated:
“Father, you look very sad. What has happened?”
“Do not ask me,” replied Suddhodana.
“Father, you are sad, what has happened?”
“It is a painful subject; I would rather not speak of it.”
“Explain yourself, father. It is always well to be explicit.”
The king finally decided to relate the interview he had had with Dandapani. When he had finished, the prince began to laugh.
“My lord,” said he, “you are needlessly disturbed. Do you believe there is anyone in Kapilavastu who is my superior in strength or in intellect? Summon all who are famous for their attainments in any field whatsoever; command them to measure their skill with mine, and I shall show you what I can do.”
The king recovered his serenity. He had it proclaimed throughout the city:
“That on the seventh day from this day, Prince Siddhartha will compete with all who excel in any field whatsoever.”
On the day designated, all those who claimed to be skillful in the arts or in the sciences appeared at the palate. Dandapani was present, and he promised his daughter to the one, whether of
noble or of humble birth, who would be victorious in the contests which were to take place.
First, a young man, who knew the rules of writing, sought to challenge the prince, but the learned Visvamitra stepped before the assembly and said:
“Young man, such a contest would be futile. You are already defeated. The prince was still a child when he was placed in my care; I was to teach him the art of writing. But he already knew sixty-four varieties of script! He knew certain varieties that were unknown to me even by name!”
Visvamitra’s testimony was enough to give the prince a victory in the art of writing.
Then they sought to test his knowledge of numbers. It was decided that a certain Sakya named Arjuna, who had time and again solved intricate problems, would act as judge in the contest.
One young man claimed to be an excellent mathematician, and to him Siddhartha addressed a question, but the young man was unable to reply.
“And yet it was an easy question,” said the prince. “But here is one that is still easier; who will answer it?”
No one answered this second question.
“It is now your turn to examine me,” said the prince.
They asked him questions that were considered
difficult, but he gave the answers even before they had finished stating the problem.
“Let Arjuna himself examine the prince!” came the cry from all sides.
Arjuna gave him the most intricate problems, and never once was Siddhartha at a loss for the correct solution.
They all marvelled at his knowledge of mathematics and were convinced that his intelligence had probed to the bottom of all the sciences. They then decided to challenge his athletic skill, but at jumping and at running he won with little effort, and at wrestling he had only to lay a finger upon his adversary, and he would fall to the ground.
Then they brought out the bows, and skillful archers placed their arrows in targets that were barely visible. But when it came the prince’s turn to shoot, so great was his natural strength that he broke each bow as he drew it. Finally, the king sent guards to fetch a very ancient, very precious bow that was kept in the temple. No one within the memory of man had ever been able to draw or lift it. Siddhartha took the bow in his left hand, and with one finger of his right hand he drew it to him. Then he took as target a tree so distant that he alone could see it. The arrow pierced the tree, and, burying itself in the ground, disappeared. And there, where the arrow had entered the ground, a well
formed, which was called the Well of the Arrow.
Everything seemed to be over, and they led toward the victor a huge white elephant on which, in triumph, he was to ride through Kapilavastu. But a young Sakya, Devadatta, who was very proud of his strength, seized the animal by the trunk and, in fun, struck it with his fist. The elephant fell to the ground.
The prince looked reprovingly at the young man and said:
“You have done an evil thing, Devadatta.”
He touched the elephant with his foot, and it stood up and paid him homage.
Then they all acclaimed his glory, and the air rang with their cheers. Suddhodana was happy, and Dandapani, weeping with joy, exclaimed:
“Gopa, my daughter Gopa, be proud to be the wife of such a man.”