The Marriage Contest

As the Prince grew older, his kindness made him well-loved by everyone who knew him. But his father was worried. "Siddhartha is too gentle and sensitive," He thought. "I want him to grow up to be a great kind and kings must, be strong and powerful. But the Prince is more interested in sitting by himself in the garden than he is in learning how to be the ruler of a kingdom. I am afraid that my son will soon want to leave the palace and follow the lonely life of holy men like Asita. If he does this he will never become a great king."

These thought bothered the King very much. He sent for his most trusted ministers and asked them what he could do. Finally one of them suggested, "O King your son sits and dreams of other worlds only because he is not yet attached to anything in his world. Find him a wife, let him get married and have children, and soon he will stop dreaming and become interesting in learning how to rule the kingdom."

The King thought this was an excellent idea. So he arranged for a large banquet at the palace. All the young women from noble families were invited. At the end of the evening the Prince was asked to give presents to each of the guests, while several ministers watched him closely to see which of the young women the Prince seemed to like.

The women, who were scarcely more than young girls, were all very embarrassed to appear before the Prince. He looked so handsome but so distant as he stood in front of the table bearing all the expensive gifts. One by one they shyly went up to him, timidly looking downwards as they approached. They silently accepted the jewel or bracelet or other gift, and quickly returned to their places.

Finally, only one young woman was left. She was Yasodhara, the daughter of a neighbouring King. Unlike the others, she approached the Prince without any shyness. For the first time that evening, the young Prince looked directly at the woman before him. She was very beautiful and the Prince was immediately attracted to her.

They stood in silence for a while, looking into each other's eyes. Then Yasodhara spoke, " O Prince, where is the gift for me?" The Prince was startled as if awakening from a dream. He looked down at the table and saw it was empty. All the gifts had already been given out to the other guests. "Here , take this," said the Prince, taking his own ring from his finger. "This is for you." Yasodhara graciously accepted the ring and walked slowly back to her place.

The ministers saw all that happened and excitedly ran to the King. "Sire!" they reported happily, "we have found the perfect bride for the Prince. She is Princess Yasodhara, daughter of your neighbor, King Suprabuddha. Let us immediately go to this King and arrange for the marriage of his daughter and your son.

King suddhodana agreed and somm afterwards visited Ysodhara's father. The other King greeted him warmly and said, "I am sure that your son is a fine young man, but I can not give my daughter away to just anyone. Many other princes want to marry her, and they all excellent young men. They are skilled in riding, archery and other royal sports. Therefore, if your son wants to marry my daughter, he will have to compete in a contest with the other suitors, as is out custom."

And so it was arranged for a great contest to be held, with beautiful Yasodhara as the prize. King Shuddhodana was worried. He thought, "My son has never showed the slightest interest in warrior games. How can be ever win this contest?" But the Prince understood his father's fears and said to him, "Do Not be worried. I am prepared to do whatever is necessary to win Yasodhara for my bride."

The first event was archery. The other men placed their targets a long distance away, yet each was able to hit the bull's eye. And when it was Devadatta's turn for Siddhartha's cousin was also one of the suitors-he not only hit the bull's eye, but sent his arrow right through the target until it stuck out the other side. The crowd cheered, but Yasodhara covered her eyes in fright. "How can my beloved Siddhartha ever beat that shot?" She thought. "How dreadful if I had to marry Devadatta!"

But the Prince was confident. When it was his turn he had his target placed so far away that most of the people could hardly even see it. Then he took an arrow from his quieter and pulled back on his bow. The Prince was so strong, however, that the bow burst in half; he had drawn it back so far!

"Please fetch me another bow," the Prince asked "but a much stronger one this time that will not break like the other one." Then a ministers called out, "O Prince, there is a very old bow in the palace. IT belonged to one of the greatest warriors of the past. But since he died many years ago no one has been strong enough to string it , much less shoot it."

"I shall use that one," said the Prince, and everyone was amazed. When he was handed the bow he carefully bent it and strung it easily. Then he notched an arrow on the string, drew it back so far that the ends of the bow almost touched, aimed, and let the arrow fly. Twang! The bow made such a loud sound that people in far away villages heard it. The arrow shot away so fast that when it hit the distant target right in the central of the bull's-eye-it did not even slow down, but continued to fly until it was out of sight.

The crowd roared in delight! "The Prince has won! The Prince has won!" But archery was only the first event of the day; the next contest was in swords man ship.

Each young man selected a tree and showed his strength by slashing through it with his sword. One suitor cut through a tree six inches thick, another nine inches, and a third cut through a tree a foot thick with a single stroke of his sword!

Then it was the Prince's turn. He selected a tree that had two trunks growing side by side. He swung his sword so quickly that it cut through the tree faster than anyone could see. His sword was so sharp and his cut so even that the tree did not even fall over. Instead it remained standing, perfectly balanced. When they saw the tree still standing upright, the crowd and especially Yasodhara moaned, "He has failed. The Prince's sword did not even cut into the first trunk."

But just then a breeze stirred up and blew over the neatly severed tree trunks. The crowd's moans turned into cheers, and again they shouted, " The Prince has won!" The final contest was in horsemanship. A wild horse, while had never been ridden before was held down by several strong men while each young suitor tried to mount it. But the horse bucked and kicked so furiously that none of them could stay on its back for more than a few seconds. Finally on young man managed to hold on and the attendants let go of the horse. But it jumped and lunged about with such fury and anger that the rider was thrown to the ground. And he would have been trampled if the men had not rushed out and pulled him to safety.

The crowd began screaming loudly, "Stop the contest! Don't let the Prince near that horse! It is too dangerous; the horse will kill him! But Siddhartha had no fear. "Gentleness can be more powerful than brute strength, " he thought, and slowly reached out and took hold of a small tuft of hair that grew from the horse's forehead. Speaking in a low and pleasant voice, and gently stroking the wild horse's head and sides, he calmed its anger, rage and fear.

Soon the horse was so gentle that it began licking Siddhartha's hand. Then, still whispering sweetly to the horse, the Prince climbed onto its back. While the crowd roared happily, he paraded the steed in front of the kings and ministers, and bowed low to his fair prize, the lovely Yasodhara. The contest was over; young Siddhartha had won! And he had done so not only by the power of his great strength, but of his gentleness and kindness as well.