At one time the World Honoured One was invited by the King Suddhodana to attend an offering at the palace where his former wife Yasodhara was staying. After eating the Buddha stood up and took leave. Yasodhara ran up to the second floor to have a better look at the World Honoured One from afar. As her feeling was all mixed up, she jumped down from the balcony. With the strength of the Buddha’s great kindness, Yasodhara was not hurt as the earth suddenly became soft and tender. The bhikshus who witnessed this asked the Buddha,
‘World Honoured One, for what reason the Princess is willing to sacrifice her life for you?’
The Buddha answered, ‘Not only in this life that she renounces her life. In the past, she also chose to die for me. Long ago in the city of Sarnath, there was a king by the name Brahmandana. One day he went hunting in the jungle. Suddenly his horse became uncontrollable and ran wildly into a deep forest. The king was shocked and tired. He took a rest and suddenly he heard someone singing from afar. He saw a pair of non-human couple who were playing the lute and singing happily together. He was envious of their joy. On top of that he gave rise to greed when he saw the wife who looked so sweet and beautiful. The king took out a poisonous arrow and shot at her husband who died instantly. The king wished to take the wife back to his palace but she said, ‘I will not leave my husband alone here. I will leave when he is properly cremated.’
So the king built a fire to burn the corpse. When the fire was burning fiercely the non-human wife jumped into the fire and sacrificed her life for the love of her beloved husband.
The King Brahmandana witnessed the sacrifice of a virtuous woman and he said the following gatha:
‘For the sake of getting other’s wife,
I killed her husband.
The wife is willing to die for her husband,
Now the woman is dead, what do I get?
My sins are most heavy
The sufferings awaiting me are acute,
I have taken the lives of a loving couple.’
And in this life, Prince Siddharta also married the Princess Yasodhara after winning the six skills set by her father, the King Wholesome View. The six skills are 1. Languages and Arts 2. Mathematics 3. Jumping and throwing 4. Archery 5. Swords Martial Art 6. Horse Riding
The Prince Siddhartha was well educated in these various fields. He knew many types of languages and was good in art. His mathematics was the highest as he could even count every drop of water in the four great oceans. He was a good horse rider and skilful in sword fighting, jumping and throwing. In the event of Archery he had to fight against Devadatta who was also skilful in bows and arrows. For the prince the bows and arrow they used were only child play. Even the heavy bows and arrows used by the King Wholesome View were still too childish. He demanded the best bows and arrows and finally they took down the bows and arrows which were handed down by the King High Marks Lion Cheeks. The Bows and Arrows were so heavy that no one in the Sakya Clan was able to use them. As such they were treated as the sacred objects which were well kept in the Ancestors Hall. When Prince Siddhartha stretched out the bow and released the arrow it flew up high into the empty space and could not be found anymore. The King Wholesome View at first enjoyed the company of the Prince and now this feeling had been transformed into total respect and admiration. So he decided to let his daughter Yasodhara marry Prince Siddhartha. After the marriage, the Prince Siddhartha composed the following poems:
‘The disasters of love and desires are too many,
Sufferings and afflictions arise because of them.
The palace is full of happiness and bliss,
But I stay there just as though facing the army of great enemy.
I will go alone into the deep forest,
I could then dwell in deep Samadhi.’
Many people misunderstood the Prince for taking Princess Yasodhara as the wife just because of her beauty. He did see her inner beauty. When the Prince left her to cultivate ascetics in the forest, Princess Yasodhara also brought forth the following vows,
‘From today onwards,
Until the day I see the Prince
I will not sleep on that high and lofty bed.
I will not bathe in scented water,
I will not put on any decoration on my body,
Nor will I polish it.
I will not put on any cosmetics.
I will not wear jewels and beautiful clothes,
No diamonds will be put on me.
I will not wear perfume, fragrant powder
I will not decorate myself with scented flowers and necklaces.
My tongue will not taste delicious food,
I will not eat any tasty food nor drink the wine.
My hair will not be decorated.
Even though I stay in the palace
I will lead an ascetic life just like living in the forest.’
The Prince stayed in the forests for six years doing the ascetics practices and his wife Princess Yasodhara also practises six years of ascetics in the palace.
It was just as she had vowed, ‘Together we will shave our hair, together we will cultivate diligently.’
Even though she stayed in the palace, her faith for the Great Sage’s is unmovable. Her practices were in accord with the practices of the Great Sage. Princess Yasodhara really lives up to the requirements to become the Retinues of a Bodhisattva:
- She is young, adorned and she is not proud of her beauty. She is always kind and treats all living beings just like her only son.
- She often gives generously.
- Even in the dreams she does not harbour evil thoughts.
- She is not proud of her wisdom thinking she is better than others.
- She is very humble.
- She is not attached to tasty food.
- She adorns herself with a remorseful and repentant mind, not harbouring any jealousy.
- She will not harm others, not speaking falsely or fawningly.
- She will not take refuge in the deviant teachers and their teachings.
- Her mind is in accord with the Genuine Truth.
- She is pure in body, mouth and mind.
- She stays away from over sleeping or drowsiness.
- All the things she does are good things.
- She will not follow and act in accord with her own thinking mind.
- She will always act in accord with good conduct.
- She treats her father and mother – law like her parents.
- She loves those around her like loving herself.
- She sleeps after the husband has gone to sleep.
- She wakes up before her husband.
- She deeply penetrates all kinds of meanings and principles.
notes: non human men is one type of the eight fold division of heavenly dragon. They are also known as kinnara, kijnara, celestial musician and suspicious spirits. They look like human beings but with a horn on their heads.