16. The Buddha Leaves Kapilavastu
ONE day, gentle Gopa stood looking at her son Rahula.
“How beautiful you are, my child!” she exclaimed. “How your eyes sparkle! Your father owes you a pious heritage; you must go and claim it.
Mother and child ascended to the terrace of the palace. The Blessed One was passing in the street below. Gopa said to Rahula:
“Rahula, do you see that monk?”
“Yes, mother,” replied the child. “His body is covered with gold.”
“He is as beautiful as the Gods of the sky! It is the light of holiness that makes his skin shine like gold. Love him, my son, love him dearly, for he is your father. He once possessed great treasures; he had gold and silver and glittering jewels; now, he goes from house to house, begging his food. But he has acquired a marvellous treasure: he has attained supreme knowledge. Go to him, my son; tell him who You are, and demand your heritage.”
Rahula obeyed his mother. He was presently standing before the Buddha. He felt strangely happy.
“Monk,” said he, “it is nice to stand here, in your shadow.”
The Master looked at him. It was a kindly glance, and Rahula, taking heart, began walking beside him. Remembering his mother’s words, he said:
“I am your son, my Lord. I know that you possess the greatest of treasures. Father, give me my heritage.”
The Master smiled. He made no reply. He continued to beg. But Rahula remained at his side; he followed him about and kept repeating:
“Father, give me my heritage.”
At last the Master spoke:
“Child, you know nothing about this treasure that you have heard men praise. When you claim your heritage, you think you are claiming material things of a perishable nature. The only treasures known to you are those dear to human vanity, treasures that greedy death wrests from the false rich. But why should you be kept in ignorance? You are right to claim your heritage, Rahula. You shall have your share of the jewels that are mine. You shall see the seven jewels; you shall know the seven virtues, and you shall learn the true value of faith and purity, modesty and reserve, obedience, abnegation and wisdom. Come, I shall give you in charge of holy Sariputra; he will teach you.”
Rahula went with his father, and Gopa rejoiced. King Suddhodana, alone, was sad: his family was deserting him! He could not help speaking his mind to the Master.
“Do not grieve,” replied the Master, “for great is the treasure they will share who hearken to my words and follow me! Bear your grief in silence; be like the elephant wounded in battle by the arrows of the enemy: no one hears him complain. Kings ride into battle on elephants that are under perfect control; in the world, the great man is the man who has learned to control himself, the man who bears his grief in silence. He who is truly humble, he who curbs his passions as one curbs wild horses, is envied by the Gods. He does no evil. Neither in the mountain-caves nor in the caverns of the sea can you escape the consequences of an evil deed; they follow you about; they sear you; they drive you mad, for they give you no peace! But if you do good, when you leave the earth your good deeds greet you, like friends upon your return from a voyage. We live in perfect happiness, we who are without hatred in a world full of hatred. We live in perfect happiness, we who are without sickness in a world full of sickness. We live in perfect happiness, we who are without weariness in a world full of weariness. We live in perfect happiness, we who possess nothing. Joy is our food, and we are like radiant Gods. The monk who lives in solitude preserves a soul that is full of peace; he contemplates the truth with a clear, steady gaze, and enjoys a felicity unknown to ordinary mortals.”
Having consoled King Suddhodana with these words, the Blessed One left Kapilavastu and returned to Rajagriha.