THE LIFE OF SAKYAMUNI BUDDHA
3. King Bimbisara, Royal Patron
King Bimbisara had once offered half his kingdom to the ascetic Gautama, who had turned down the bargain because he wanted to search for Enlightenment. Later, King Bimbisara had asked Gautama to promise to return to Rajagaha to enlighten him, should the ascetic find what he was looking for.
When Gotama became the Buddha, the Enlightened One, he did not forget his promise to come back. He decided to revisit Rajagaha with a large number of his disciples. His fame as a religious teacher was spreading in the city and it eventually reached the ears of King Bimbisara.
On hearing that the Buddha had arrived at his city’s gateway, the king went out with a large number of his subjects to welcome the Buddha and his disciples. He approached the Buddha and paid his respects, but some of his subjects did not know to whom they should pay their respects — the Buddha, or Venerable Kassapa. They wondered whether the Buddha was leading a holy life under Venerable Kassapa or the reverse, as both were highly respected religious teachers.
The Buddha read their thoughts and asked Venerable Kassapa why he had given up his fire sacrifice. Understanding the motive behind the question Venerable Kassapa explained that he preferred the peaceful state of nirvana to useless sensual pleasures. After this he fell at the feet of the Buddha and said, “My teacher, Lord, is the Exalted One: I am the disciple.”
The devout people were very glad to hear of the conversion. The Buddha then preached the Dharma, and King Bimbisara attained the first stage of sainthood (sotapanna). After realising the doctrine, King Bimbisara addressed the Buddha. “Formerly, O Reverend Sir, when I was a prince, I had five wishes. They are now fulfilled. My first wish was to become king. My second wish was that a Fully Enlightened One should visit my country. My third wish was that I should associate with such an Enlightened One. My fourth wish was that he should preach to me the doctrine. My fifth wish was that I should understand that doctrine. Now all these five wishes are fulfilled.”
Out of gratitude for this spiritual gift from the Buddha, King Bimbisara gave a park with a quiet bamboo grove for the use of the Buddha and his disciples. This park was named the Bamboo Grove. The Buddha spent three successive rainy seasons there and three other rainy seasons later.
After listening to the Dharma, the king became a good and pious ruler but, due to his past bad karma, he had to face an untimely and miserable death caused by his son’s wickedness.
EXERCISE 3. King Bimbisara, Royal Patron
1. What was the promise of the ascetic Gotama to King Bimbisara?
2. Why were people confused about paying respects to the Buddha and Ven. Kassapa?
3. How did the Buddha make known to the people that he was the teacher?
4. What were the five wishes of King Bimbisara?