Following the tradition, as soon as Queen Maha Maya sensed that the time was approaching for her son to be born, she returned to her parents home for the birth. Nevertheless, when they arrived at the beautiful flower garden of Lumbini Park, which was situated half way from her parents home, Queen Maya was so delighted by the beauty of the park that she stepped down from her palanquin for a walk. While walking she felt the baby was coming. She called the servants to assist her and gave birth standing while holding onto a sal branch. It was a almost painless birth.
As soon as he was born, the baby began to walk seven steps forward and, at each step, a lotus flower appeared on the ground. At the seventh stride, he stopped and, with a noble voice, said: “I was born for enlightenment. This is my last life in this world of consciousness.”
After the birth of her baby son, Queen Maha Maya immediately returned to Kapilavatthu. When the King learnt of this he was very happy, and the news of the birth of the long-awaited heir spread around the kingdom there was rejoicing all over the country.
Hearing about this fabulous news, Asita, a well-known sage who lived in the jungle and also a former teacher of King Suddhodana, went immediately to see the king and queen and their newborn son. The king was very happy to see his wise old teacher again.The king brought the prince before him and said, “Teacher, my son was born only yesterday. Here he is. Please see if his future will be good.”
Taking the child in his arms to exam more closely, Asita says: “Your little prince has charismatic characteristics which I have never seen in my life. After seeing the special characteristics of the little prince, I can foresee two paths that the prince Siddharta can take when growing up. If he chooses the worldly life, he will be the Wheel-Turning Sagely King. If, in the other hand, he renounces the world and leads a spiritual life, he will become the Great Teacher, the teacher of all, unequal teacher. He will become a Buddha.
Concerned by this foreseen, the king replies: “My son is the Crown Prince. I will not allow my son to follow the ascetic path. I want him to stay on the throne and become the greatest king the world has ever seen, the ruler of all the four continents, which is the greatest honor of all kings. What would ever inspire my son, the great prince, to choose such a path and renounce the world?
Asita replies calmly: “If the Prince sees the four signs, namely, an old man, a sick man, a dead man and a monk, this will remind him of his votes. After seeing these four signs, the Prince will leave the royal treasure and renounce the world. He will instead dedicate his life to finding the way to overcome the suffering in the world.”
The King insists: “No saving the world from suffering. I want my son to rule my kingdom… and the whole world, if possible. (Addressing to his ministers) From this time forth, if ever the Prince leaves the palace gates, let no such sign be allowed to come near him. Remove them from the streets. No old people, no sick person, no corpse and no monks are allowed in his path. Siddharta will be a great king and no one will stop that.
But King Suddhodana failed to notice the expression at the Queen’s face. An expression full of sadness. The moment she heard Asita saying he wouldn’t live long enough to see her son become a Buddha, a shiver of fear passed through her, followed but the deepest sadness she ever felt. She had that strange feeling that she wouldn’t live long enough to see her son grow up either. In fact, she sensed her end was very close.
On the fifth day of his son’s life, the king invited five wise men to witness the naming ceremony and to suggest a good name for the prince. The wise men examined the birthmarks of the prince and concluded, “The prince will be King of Kings if he wants to rule. If he chooses a religious life then he will become the Wisest — the Buddha.”
The youngest of the five wise men, Ajnata Kaundinya, then said, “This prince will be the Buddha and nothing else.”
Then the wise men gave him the name Siddhartha meaning “wish-fulfilled” or “one who has accomplished his goal”.
Concerned about Prince Siddharta, Queen Maha Maya called her younger sister, Maha Pajapati, and made her promisse she would take her place as the mother of Siddharta and to take care of her son in case something happens to her. Maha Pajapati didn’t understand at the beginning and tried to convince her sister she was overreacting. But Queen Maha Maya insisted, she wouldn’t give up. Seeing her sister’s despair, Maha Pajapati gave her word she would raise Prince Siddharta as if he would be his own son.
Later, King Suddhodana married Maha Pajapati, making her his new Queen and they had two other children: a boy named Nanda and a girl named Sundari Nanda, both Siddharta half sieblings. But although Maha Pajapati loved them very much, she gave her own children to nurses and nursed Prince Siddharta herself.
(to be continued…)