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Chapter 21: Going Home

When King Jìngfàn heard the news that his son had already found Perfect Awareness (jèngjué 正觉) and had become a buddha, and that he was even dwelling in the town of Wángshè, he ordered a young official of his court named Jiāliú-tuóyí 迦留陀夷, who had been a playmate of Xīdá-duō's childhood (or some say one of his favorite teachers), to go and ask the Buddha to return to the town of Jiāpí-luó, so that he could see his son the Buddha.

The Buddha agreed to go. Then, with his followers he headed to Jiāpí-luó, the realm of King Jìngfàn.

When they got to Jiāpí-luó, they found that the kindly king had prepared a hermitage in a park called the Níjū-shù Yuán 尼拘树园 park, for the use of the Buddha and the bǐqiū, and so they settled in the hermitage.

The next morning, as customary, the Buddha took his bowl and went into the streets to beg. When they saw their former prince begging, the people of Jiāpí-luó immediately reported it to the King.

King Jìngfàn, who was surprised and annoyed. He ordered his chariot and rode out to see this thing with his own eyes. Sure enough, there was his son, the prince, begging in his own land, in the land where he could have become king and had anything he wanted. The sight of his son with the begging bowl in his hand, already half full, surrounded by an adoring crowd, was more than King Jìngfàn could handle. He reproached his son in harsh tones for dishonoring his family, his ancestors, and his country.

"But father," said the Buddha, "I am doing as my ancestors did."

"They never did any such thing!" said his father.

"I mean my buddha-ancestors, the buddhas who came before me. All of them begged and gave people a chance to gain merit by providing for them." And he explained to his father what he had discovered about escaping from suffering. His father's anger left him, and he invited the Buddha and all of his followers to come to the palace itself to beg.

And when they had eaten, then the Buddha spoke to the king and the men of his family and all the other men of the palace about his awakening (juéwù 觉悟) and the way to avoid suffering. And all who heard him were persuaded and became his followers.

Then the Buddha and two of his followers went to the quarters of Lady Yéshū-tuóluó, who had been the Buddha's wife before he left the family. And he preached to her, and to his little son, Prince Luó-hóuluó, already seven years old.

Later, when the boy attained better understanding, the Buddha told him how to avoid suffering, and he left the family to follow the Buddha and became the first shāmí 沙弥 disciple in the new Buddhist movement, a category of follower slightly below a bǐqiū.

Besides saving his son Luó-hóuluó, the Buddha also saved his younger second cousin (zōngdì 宗弟) Nántuó 难陀 and other princes of the Shìjiā clan, who left their families to go with the Buddha. When he left Jiāpí-luó, six more young princes hurried to him at Ēnuò-píyé 阿诺毘耶 village and asked to leave their families and join him. They were Bátí 跋提, Ēnuó-lǜ 阿那律, Pósuō 婆娑, and Jiā-bǐlā 迦比拉, as well as Ēnán 阿难 and Típó-dáduō 提婆达多, who were cousins of the Buddha.

Ēnán was destined to become the Buddha's closest friend and most important disciple. Típó-dáduō was destined to become his most committed enemy.

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