THE LIFE OF SAKYAMUNI BUDDHA
15. The Golden Bowl
Now at the time, in a nearby village called Senani, there lived a young, very beautiful and rich girl called Sujata, who wanted a husband of equal rank and a son. She had waited for many years and she was not successful. The people told her that she must go to certain banyan tree near the Neranjara river and pray to the tree-god to give her a husband and son. She did as the people told her and later on she got married to a young man and they had a lovely son. She was extremely happy and decided to fulfil her vow to the tree-god for giving her all that she had asked for.
Sujata had a thousand cows, and she fed them with sweet creepers called valmee so that the cow’s milk was sweet. She milked these thousand cows and fed that milk to five hundred cows, and then fed their milk to two hundred and fifty cows and so on until she fed only eight cows. She did this to get the sweetest and most nourishing milk, to make delicious milk-rice as an offering to the tree-god.
As she was doing this she was surprised to see her servant running back from cleaning and preparing the area at the foot of the banyan tree. Very happy and excited, the servant said, “My lady Sujata! The banyan god is meditating at the foot of the tree. How lucky you must be to have the god in person to accept your food.”
Sujata too was happy and excited and danced with joy with the servant. They then took even more pains to prepare the milk-rice, pouring it into a golden bowl.
Taking the delicious milk-rice both of them went to the banyan tree and Sujata saw what she perceived to be a holy man. He was handsome and golden looking and sat serenely in meditation. She did not know that he was in fact Ascetic Gotama. She bowed with respect and said, “Lord, accept my donation of milk-rice. May you be successful in obtaining your wishes as I have been.”
Ascetic Gotama ate the sweet thick milk-rice and then bathed in the river Neranjara. This was the last food and bath he would have for seven weeks. When he finished he took the golden bowl and threw it in the river, saying, “If I am to succeed in becoming a Buddha today, let this bowl go upstream, but if not, let it go downstream.” The golden bowl went upstream, all the while keeping in the middle of the river.
EXERCISE 15. The Golden Bowl
1. What is the name of the lady who gave food to Ascetic Gotama?
2. What did she want from the tree god?
3. How did she prepare the milk-rice?
4. What did her servant see under the banyan tree?
5. What did the Ascetic Gotama do after eating the milk-rice?