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Previous The Birth of the Buddha

The Birth of the Buddha

8. Return to Kapilavastu

Seven years after he left his native city the Buddha decided to return to Kapilavastu. King Shuddhodhana had not yet forgiven his son for the "Great Departure," which had caused the cruel disappointment of his dynastic expectations. Shuddhodhana even reproached his son for degrading himself as a beggar in his hometown in front of everybody. The Buddha's former wife Yasodhara, who had lived for eight years as a "monk's widow," had never given up hope of winning back her husband.

When the Buddha paid a visit to his father's house, as the bas-relief from Amaravati (Figure 11) portrays, Yashodhara adorned with all her jewels pushed the fruit of their union, Rahula, now aged eight, to him, saying: "Rahula, that is your father. Go and ask him for your inheritance!" Yashodhara had in mind the kingdom. Little Rahula did as he was told. He greeted the Buddha politely, and waited until his father had left the house without giving any direct answer. Then Rahula followed him with these words: "Shramana, give me my inheritance!" The Buddha's reaction was as dignified as it was effective. He instructed his chief disciple Shariputra to ordain the boy as a novice, saying: "This is your inheritance." Yashodhara was again left with her vain hopes and her jewels, much to the grandfather's sorrow.