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Chapter 11: The World Beyond the Wall: Trip IV

Some time passed, and Prince Siddhartha was out riding once again outside the estate with his friend and driver Chandaka. Chandaka was feeling fairly comfortable, for the day was beautiful and the trip was going well. Most importantly the prince, who was so often morose, seemed to be in a cheerful mood for a change.

Suddenly they caught a glimpse of an ascetic wearing a yellow robe. Siddhartha was filled with his usual curiosity, and he asked Chandaka what this meant.

“Not again!” thought Chandaka, for he could already foresee what was surely about to happen. Still, he had been asked a question, and he felt he had to answer it.

“He is a person who has left his family to practice religious austerities. He hopes to discover the way to triumph over suffering.”

Siddhartha was fascinated, just as Chandaka was afraid he would be. When they returned, he sat in his room thinking about the idea of leaving one’s family to study the way to overcome suffering. If that was possible, then somewhere somebody must have figured out how to do it. Perhaps he could find that person and learn that method, and then bring the news back to save the people who hadn’t learned of it yet.

picture by Chris Cunningham
He kept repeating over and over to himself, "The obstacles are tightening around me."
Drawing by Chris Cunningham, Sixth College (UCSD), Class of 2009, by permission

As he sat thinking, someone came and told him his wife, Lady Yashodhara, had given birth to a cute little boy. Siddhartha had little immediate reaction. The courier asked what the child should be named. But Siddhartha paid little attention. He kept repeating over and over to himself, “The obstacles are tightening around me.”

Of course, he was expressing frustration at his situation. But the courier thought “obstacle” was supposed to be the child’s name. So the boy was called Prince Rahula (Rāhula), meaning “eclipse” or “obstacle,” because of what Siddhartha said.

Some people say that Princess Yashodhara carried Rahula in her womb for six years, and that she didn’t bear him until Siddhartha became a buddha. Some also say that he received the name “circle” because he was born during an eclipse. And some people say that he is reborn as the son of every buddha. But these things are hard to know.

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