The return

One day Buddha said to his followers, "it is time that I returned to Kapilavastu, the city of my father." And so they all began the long walk to Buddha's childhood home. News of Buddha's approach quickly reached the city and everyone became very excited and happy. "At long last our beloved Prince is returning !" they cried. "Now he is a great teacher with hundreds and hundreds of followers. How good it will be to see him again !"

King Shuddhodana was overjoyed to hear of his son's return. When he learned that the Buddha had many followers he became proud and thought, "My son has become a great leader after all. He has brought great honor to my name."

He could not wait for Buddha's arrival, but sent a servant ahead by horse to see what his son was like after so many years. By the next morning the servant had arrived where Buddha and his followers were staying. They were all carrying wooden bowls. They went from door to door in the village begging for their food. Then they returned to where they were staying and ate their simple meal together in silence.

The servant returned to Kapilavastu and reported all of this to the King. The King was furious. He shouted, "my son, a royal prince, has become a beggar ! I am disgraced. I must put a stop to this at once !"

Immediately he rode out of the palace and went to where his son was staying. When he saw his Siddhartha, now a radiant Buddha surrounded by hundreds of disciples, he was very impressed. They greeted each other lovingly. Then the King asked, "Is it true what I hear, that you beg for your food each morning ?"

"Yes," was the answer, "this is true. It is our custom to beg." At this the King became angrier than he was before. "Our custom ?" he shouted. "You come from a long line of Kings who never had to beg for anything in their lives. Our custom is to eat from silver and gold plates, not our of simple wooden bowls. What are you talking about, our custom ?"

The gentle answer came, "Father, you come from a long line of royal kings. This is true. But I come from a long line of teachers, the Buddhas of the past. These teachers have always been very humble. They received their food from the people they met. When I say it is our custom to beg, I mean it is the custom of Buddhas."

Then he took hold of his father's hand and walked alone with him for a long while. He taught him the Nobel Truths and the path leading to the end of all suffering. After listening to him for a long time the King said, "It is true, you are far more than just my son. As the holy man Asita predicted when you were just a baby, you have to become a great teacher. I bow before you, O Buddha. Please accept me, who once wanted you to be a king, as one of your disciples."

Soon afterwards Buddha's wife Yasodhara, his son Rahula, the ant who brought him up and many others from the palace also asked to become his followers. "We were so unhappy when you rode away from us so many years ago," they told him. "But now you have brought us so much happiness and peace of mind with your teachings of the truth. We are glad that you left us and have returned as a Buddha."