Sunday, June 17, 2018

What happened to the Buddha's FATHER?

Compiled by G. P. Malalasekera, Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (Pali Text Society, London) edited by Dhr. Seven, Crystal Quintero, CC Liu, Pat Macpherson, Wisdom Quarterly
King Suddhodana was the Buddha's father. Before Prince Siddhartha became the Buddha, the "Awakened One," he was the "Buddha-to-be" or Bodhisattva.

The king was a Sākyian/Scythian rājā (king, royal) from Shakya Land likely in present-day Afghanistan, Central Asia/Northwest India (not Nepal) before there was an "India." Shakya Land had three seasonal capitals. The one most mentioned is Kapilavatthu [Kapil, Kabil, Kabul] as if it were the name of the whole Shakyan/Scythian country or "foothold of the clan" (janapada).
Bimba Devi giving birth as a sal tree dryad
The father of Gotama/Gautama (who became the historical Buddha) was the son of Sihahanu and Kaccānā. Suddhodana's sisters were Amitā and Pamitā, and his brothers were Dhotodana, Sakkodana, Sukkodana, and Amitodana.

Māyā Devi, the Buddha's biological mother, was his chief consort. After her death -- seven days after giving birth to the Buddha-to-be Prince Siddhartha -- her sister, Pajāpatī Gotami, was raised to the position of chief consort (Mhv.ii.15f.; Dpv.iii.45; J.i.15, etc.)
Conversion of Nanda, the Buddha's brother, who was set to marry Janapada Kalyani
When royal soothsayers read the amazing marks on his body, they foretold that King Suddodana's newborn son had two possible destinies [these destinies being result of his previous karma] awaiting him in this life. He would either become a universal monarch (a chakravartin king) or a fully enlightened teacher.

Siddhartha marries his cousin Bimba.
The king, considering these two destinies, longed for his son to be king over all the world (loka, one of four on this flat plane of concentric worlds around a great central mountain, Mt. Sumeru) called "Roseapple Land" (jambudvipa, often described as a continent or "island" but in fact referring to this round world next to three or seven other worlds, the latter being the older Vedic description).

Clever, brilliant Bimba = "Yasodhara"
The king exerted his utmost power to provide Prince Siddhartha with every kind of luxury at his disposal -- multi-tiered palaces, harems, female dancers, female musicians, cooks, Brahmin teachers, a white pony named Kanthaka, fine jewelry, royal garments, archery sets, toys, parties, feasts, a personal charioteer, lotus pools... -- in order to hold him to householder life rather than the left-home life of a wandering ascetic on a spiritual quest.

This included arranging a marriage for him between the young prince, 16, to his gorgeous cousin Bimba (Yasodhara), 16.

It is said (e.g., J.i.54) that when Asita, who was his father's chaplain and his own teacher, visited King Suddhodana to see the newborn prince, he paid homage to the infant by allowing his feet to rest on his head. King Suddhodana was filled with wonder and himself worshipped the child in this way. 

And later when the prince was 7 years old, at the annual plowing festival, King Suddhodana saw how the roseapple (jambu) tree under which the prince had been placed kept its shadow unmoving in order to protect the child with its shade, and that the child was seated cross-legged in deep absorption and levitating slightly, he again worshipped him (J.i.57f).
The Buddha delivers his first sutra
Later still, when, in spite of all of King Suddhodana's efforts, the prince renounced the palace and abandoned the household life and had taken up spiritual austerities, news was brought to Suddhodana that his son had died owing to the severity of his "penances" (tapas). But Suddhodana refused to believe it, saying that his son would never die without achieving his goal (J.i.67).

When this was afterwards related to the Buddha, he taught the Mahādhammapāla Jātaka showing how in the past, too, Suddhodana had refused to believe that his son could have died even when he was shown the heap of his bones.
When news reached King Suddhodana that his son had reached supreme enlightenment, he sent a messenger to Bamboo Grove monastery in Rajgir [Veluvana in Rājagaha] with 10,000 others to invite the Buddha to visit his hometown of Kapilavatthu.

But when the messenger and his companions heard the Buddha teach, they renounced the world, took robes entering the Buddha's new Monastic Order, and forgot all about their mission.

This happened nine times. On the tenth occasion, King Suddhodana sent Kāludāyī with permission for him to enter the Monastic Order on the express condition that he give the king's invitation to the Buddha.

The Buddha back home ordained many
Kāludāyī kept his promise, and the Buddha -- seven years after his enlightenment -- visited Kapilavatthu, staying in the Nigrodhārāma. There, in reference to a  sudden shower of rain that fell, he preached the Vessantara Jātaka.

The next day, when Suddhodana remonstrated with the Buddha because he was seen going on alms round (which to the king looked like the prince "begging" in his own kingdom) up and down the streets of Kapilavatthu as wandering ascetics do to support themselves by the longstanding custom of reciprocal generosity known as dana, the Buddha told him that he was wandering for alms.

The king's enlightenment
Maitreya the Future Buddha portrayed as a Central Asian king in the Indian Himalayas
When asked why when there was fine food and requisites aplenty in the royal palace, his home in this kingdom, the Buddha explained that going on alms was the custom of all buddhas.

Hearing this so struck Suddhodana that he became a stream winner (sotapanna, the first stage of enlightenment), which is accompanied by complete confidence in the Buddha's enlightenment and enlightening-Dharma and his enlightened-followers (the noble ones), the three of which are known as the Triple Gem, Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

Suddhodana in gratitude invited the Buddha to his palace, where he entertained him. At the end of the meal offering, Suddhodana's mind/heart having been readied, the Buddha gave his father the king a gradual discourse. Suddhodana thereby reached the second stage of enlightenment and became a "once-returner" (sakadāgāmī, J.i.90; cf. DhA.iii.164f).

He became a "non-returner" (anāgāmī, the third stage) after hearing the past life story called the Mahādhammapāla Jātaka (DhA.i.99; J.iv.55). And when he was about to die, the Buddha came back to Shakya Land from Vesāli to visit his father and teach him further.

Prince Siddhartha looks in on Bimba, Rahula.
This was when King Suddhodana became an arhat, fully enlightened, and passed away as a lay arhat (ThigA.141) without ever having joined the Sangha like many of his Shakyian/Scythian subjects.

Indeed, many male and female relatives -- including his wife (Queen Pajapati), his step-daughter-in-law Princess Yasodhara (Bimba Devi), the baby prince (the Buddha's son, Rāhula) and others:

King Suddhodana had another son, Nanda, and a daughter, Sundarī Nandā, with the Buddha's aunt/stepmother, Queen Mahā Pajāpati Gotami, who as mentioned was his biological mother's sister elevated to chief consort after her passing. The Buddha saw to it that they reached enlightenment as well by encouraging them to renounce the world and meditate.
  • [NOTE: Not included in this account of Suddhodana's life is the destruction of the Shakyians by a related neighboring Scythian tribe led by an infuriated relative, the product of a tryst by a Shakyian royal and a lowly servant. He was profoundly disrespected and therefore rounded up an army to exact his revenge. How this affected the king is unclear.]
Many more needed the Buddha than family
When the Buddha earlier ordained Prince Rahula, age 7, and Nanda on the eve of his wedding to the greatest "beauty of the land," Janapada Kalyani, King Suddhodana was greatly distressed that other parents in the future might be similarly afflicted by their children becoming celibate Buddhist monks and nuns without parental permission, he persuaded the Buddha to establish a rule that no one should be ordained without the permission of his parents (Vin.i.82f).

His past lives
Suddhodana was the Bodhisatta's father in numerous previous births, but he is specially mentioned as such by name in only a few Rebirth Tales (jātakas), for example:

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