(623 B.C. – 543 B.C.)
On one of his journeys to the village of Rajagaha, the Buddha saw a herd of deer. A lame fawn was amongst them. The Buddha picked it up and asked the shepherd where he was taking them. “These deer belong to King Bimbisara. They are going to be sacrified in a sacred fire.” The Buddha, carrying the fawn, walked with the shepherd to the King. “O King, killing innocent animals is a cruel deed. It is not the way to happiness.” He explained that life is sacred. The King and his people accepted the teaching and took refuge in the Buddha.
When King Suddhodana heard that his son was now at Rajagaha, he sent a messenger to the Buddha that he was getting old and wished to see his son before he died. So the Buddha and his disciples arrived at Kapilavastu and the people flocked to see their Prince.
It was seven years since he had left home. At the palace, he was greeted by his father and other members of the royal family. When Yasodhara saw the Buddha, she fell at his feet and wept. He spoke words of comfort. He preached the Dharma to them and they were all convinced of the Truth, but not the King. Yasodhara dressed her seven years old son, Rahula, in fine clothes and took him to where the Buddha was.
“That Sage with the golden complexion is your father,” she said. “Once, he had great wealth. Go to him and ask him for your inheritance for it should be yours now.” Rahula did as he was told. The Buddha asked his chief disciple, Sariputta, to ordain Rahula as a monk who then became the first young monk in the Buddhist teaching. The Buddha explained the Truth he had discovered so simply and persuasively that his father consequently accepted his Teaching and many members of the royal family became monks.
One of them was Devadatta, his cousin and childhood playmate. He became jealous of the Buddha and tried many ways to kill him, so that he could lead the Sangha, the community of monks. One day when the Buddha was seated preaching, Devadatta rolled down a big, heavy stone from a great height. But the rock split in two and fell on either side of the Buddha.
Another time, he set the drunken elephant, Nalagiri, to attack the Buddha. The raging elephant rushed towards the Buddha in a mad fury. The Buddha used his strong mental powers to calm the elephant which then knelt down at his feet. Towards the end of Devadatta’s life, he repented and went to the Buddha to bring peace to his troubled mind. He fell on his knees before the Buddha and begged for forgiveness and took refuge in the Buddha.
The Buddha’s fame as a teacher was widespread and his followers came from all classes of people. Kings and Brahmins as well as the outcastes and the poor took refuge in him. Many came to him for advice and comfort. One such was the woman, Kisagotami. When her first-born child died, she was stricken with grief. She carried her child’s body and roamed the streets asking for a medicine to bring back her child to life. People thought she had gone mad. A kind and wise man took her to the Buddha.
The Buddha knew how unhappy she was and told her to fetch some mustard seeds from houses where nobody had died. The mustard seeds were commonly used in medicines and were readily available. Kisagotami was relieved. She went through the entire city without finding a single house where there had been no death. She returned to the Buddha having realized what the great teacher had wanted her to find out for herself….. that death is common to all. “Everything that ever has come into existence, or ever will come into existence, inevitably, must, and will again pass out of existence. In the whole world, there is only one law, that nothing lasts forever,” the Buddha said.