An Offering

In a small village at the edge of the forest lived a herdsman and his wife Sujata. She just given birth to her first child and was very happy. She took the finest milk from her husband's cows and prepared a delicious meal from it. Now she was taking this food into the forest as an offering to the spirits she thought lived there. She had often prayed to these spirits and wanted to thank them for helping her have such a healthy baby.

As she entered the forest she saw Siddhartha sitting there. His body was thin and weak, but his face was radiant and handsome. Sujata gazed at him in surprise. "I have never seen anyone like that before," she thought to herself. "Perhaps it is the king of the tree spirits himself !" And so she took the specially prepared food and placed it before him.

Siddhartha slowly opened his eyes and saw the bowl in front of him. Smiling silently to Sujata he lifted it to his lips and began to drink. To her amazement, his body grew more and more radiant as he drank. When he was finished he placed the bowl down and thanked her saying, "you thought I was a spirit, but I am only a man in search of the truth. Your offering has made me strong again. Now, I am sure that I shall find the truth. Much good will come from-what you have done today. Thank you."

The five men who were living in the forest with Siddhartha saw him accept this special food from Sujata. They were very disappointed and said to themselves, "Siddhartha has given up his search. He is no longer following the holy life. Look, he bathes himself and takes rich food again. How can we stay with such a man any longer? come. Let us leave this forest and travel to Benares. We can continue our practices in Deer Park near there."

And so they left, thinking that Siddhartha was longer interested in discovering the truth. But Siddhartha, strengthened by his meal and prepared to meditate, was now ready to find what he had been looking for all these many years. He stood up, waded across the river and headed towards what would be known in later years as the Tree of Enlightenment.