Young Prince Siddhartha

Bruce Alderman


Now the grounds of the Palace of Shudhodana were vast without measure, so that a day’s ride by horse would not carry one from the East Wall to the West, nor could the Southern Wall be spied from the highest tower window in the North. Over the walls grew flowers of all kinds, of sweetest fragrance and hue, amidst which perched peacocks that fluttered and called in the scented breeze from the East, high above even the mango groves and tamarind trees. From wall to wall in a winding maze wound brooks, amber-colored, full of brilliant fish. Swift deer leapt the streams, and drank from lotus pools, and sported in the grass.

And it is said that every year the King pushed the wall back by another kosh, so that Siddhartha should never feel confined in his palace life, nor grow bored, nor wonder over much about the world beyond. And in the early years of his life young Siddhartha never wandered far enough to reach the outer walls, nor grew bored, nor wondered over much about the world beyond the fragrant, singing waters of his garden. For when he wearied of the palace games and performances, he would of an evening idle by the streams, feeding fish from his hands, following the white tufts of deer leaping in the deepening shadows under the mangos, and feel contented, wandering far till gongs and bells called him back to the palace for dinner.

It was on such an evening that the devas, watching from the heavens, saw that the time had grown ripe – young Siddhartha’s mind having grown still in his wandering, clear and concentrated – and they tumbled from the heavens as parrots, brilliant, five-colored, self-pure. Once they circled his head, twice, three times they tumbled in a wheel around him, calling out, then flying north toward the palace. Delighted, young Siddhartha followed them, thinking, “See how ungainly they are, these parrots! Scarcely can they hold in formation before they tumble apart again!” Laughing, he ran after them, the bright parrots, five-colored, self-pure.

At length he came to a shaded stream near the northern entrance to the palace, where the birds had settled, near a door he had passed through daily and never paused. The parrots had settled among the mango branches and were scarcely visible. Siddhartha sat down by the stream, thinking, “Strange I never stopped here, so near my home. Namaste, stately mangos. Namaste, ant kingdom, laboring in the grass. Namaste, little squirrels…” And he let his clear gaze fall on the busy workings of this corner of the world under the eave of the door to his home.

And in the amber-colored stream there turned eddies and little whirlpools, turning awhile then gone, and the young prince rested his gaze upon them, grown calm, concentrated, self-clear. “See how, turning, they remain,” he said to the parrots and mangos above him, and he sprinkled grass on the water. “See how they don the grass body, and how they shed it again.” And he gazed clear and calm on the still space where they turned, entering the first absorption, then the second…

And the sky above him pealed like a great bell, the guardians rejoicing, and all their retinue. And the four corners of the world, from Jambudvipa to Uttarakuru, and from Aparagodana to Purvavideha, all curled up, as a great camp is broken, and silken tents billow and flutter when the stakes are pulled; just so, the 10,000 world systems, uprooted, began to flutter and turn. And the young prince, unperturbed, unmoved, serene, heard not the singing of the devas, nor heeded the storm of the world as it spun and collapsed under his gaze. And as dreaming Vishnu himself curled up before him and collapsed in the single sphere, the young prince was as one in a deep sleep, unshakable.

And around him the devas rejoiced, and they sang his praises:

The young prince, self-clear, recollected, still
Does not yet see fully, but in this life,
This life he will…

And the bells pealed around him, and young Siddhartha roused himself and returned to the Palace, not for hunger’s sake – never again – but for the sake of his mother, who missed him still.

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Well done Bruce.  Is this the beginning of a longer story you're working on?

Thank you.  This is something I wrote back when I was a college student, as an assignment in a Buddhist literature class.  I actually just posted it here, now, because I wanted to have it someplace so I could share a link with a friend (who had just blogged a short story on Siddhartha as well). 

For the college assignment, I tried to write a story in the style of (translations of) certain Mahayana Buddhist tales.

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