Love Stories of the Buddha
Buddhism is as enlightening as it is fascinating. The most fascinating aspect of Buddhism is the many past life stories of the Buddha that are documented throughout the compendium of sutras. In the Theravada teachings, many of the past live stories are documented in the Pali Canon as Jataka Tales. Even in the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha revealed many of his past life stories.
The Buddha’s past life stories are not only the anecdotes of his bodhisattvas practice, they also reflect his friendships with those who are often reborn together with him. Most of the time, the Buddha shares his past life stories as a skillful means to teach a certain value or to drive home a key teaching. In February, the month of love, let us find out more about the past love stories of the Buddha.
Before the Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree, he was born as Prince Siddhartha to King Suddhodana and Queen Maya. At the age of 16, Prince Siddhartha married his exquisitely beautiful cousin called Princess Yashodhara, who was the daughter of King Suppabuddha and Queen Pamita. An interesting thing to note: Princess Yashodhara was born on the same day as Prince Siddhartha.
Marriage of Prince Siddhartha and Princess Yashodhara
When Prince Siddhartha was sixteen, his parents decided that the time had come for him to tie the marital knot. As was the custom at that time, a great celebration was held and princesses from all over the country were brought in procession for Prince Siddhartha to choose from.
However, none of them attracted his attention. Thus, the Prince treated them with gifts but refused them all. The procession was almost finished when Princess Yashodhara came rushing in to inquire if there were any gifts left for her. At that moment, Prince Siddhartha then arose from his throne and taking the pearl necklace gently placed it around her neck. Prince Siddhartha chose his cousin, Princess Yashodhara, to be his bride.
At first, King Suppabuddha was against the marriage. He knew that the wise men had foretold that Prince Siddhartha would leave the palace to become a Buddha. He thought that the gentle and compassionate
Prince might not be skilled in warfare, and as such, might not be suitable for his daughter. The princess, however, insisted that she wanted to marry no one else but Prince Siddhartha.
Wishing to test Prince Siddhartha, King Suppabuddha arranged a tournament for him to display his skills in archery, riding, and swordsmanship. Sportsmen from all over the country gathered to challenge the Prince. Prince Siddhartha, however, was an excellent sportsman. He excelled in all the events and ousted the best men in the country. King Suppabuddha therefore, relented and gave his daughter in marriage to Prince Siddhartha.
Past Lives Love Story #1:
Love Blossomed at the time of Dipankara Buddha
The relationship between Princess Yashodhara and Prince Siddhartha was long and deep-rooted. It had started many, many years ago at the time of the Dipankara Buddha. The Collective Sutra of the Buddha’s Past Acts (佛本行集經) documents the past life story between Siddhartha and Yashodhara at the time of Dipankara Buddha.
At that time, the Prince (Bodhisatta) was born as an ascetic by the name of Sumedha. After an exceedingly long period of practicing the ten virtues, the Bodhisatta Sumedha had finally completed the eight requirements to receive the definite proclamation of Buddhahood from the Dipankara Buddha.
Yashodhara, at that time, was born as a noble lady by the name of Sumitta. While waiting in the city of Paduma for Dipankara Buddha, Sumedha tried to buy flowers as an offering but soon realized that the king had already bought all the flowers for his own offerings. As Dipankara Buddha was approaching, he spotted Sumitta holding eight lotuses in her hands. He spoke to her with the intention of buying one of her flowers, but she recognized at once his potential and offered him five of the lotuses if he would promise that they would become husband and wife in all their next existences.
When she heard the prophecy that Sumedha would become a Buddha by the name of Gautama, of the Sakyan caste, in the distant future, she immediately cut off her hair and made a vow of aspiration to become his consort so as to support him in his quest for Buddhahood.
This strong aspiration and the meritorious deeds that she performed over a long period of time resulted in her being reborn as the bodhisattva’s consort throughout many births.
Past Lives Love Story #2:
Past Love Story in Candakinnara Jataka
When the Buddha visited the palace in Kapilavatthu for the first time, all but Princess Yashodhara came to pay homage to him. She held back, thinking, “Certainly if there is any virtue in me, the Noble Lord himself will come to my presence.”
After the meal, the Buddha, accompanied by his two male chief disciples, entered her chamber and sat down on the seat prepared for him. He then said, “Let the king’s daughter revere me as she likes.” On seeing the Buddha, Yashodhara came forward quickly, and clasping his ankles, placed her head on his feet and paid reverence to him as she wished.
King Shuddhodana heralded Yashodhara devotion to the Buddha. He informed the Buddha of her devotion by saying: “When my daughter heard that you had taken to wearing simple yellow robes, she too gave up her jewels and wore yellow robes. When she heard that you had only one meal a day, she too had only one meal a day. When she heard that you slept on low, hard beds, she too gave up the luxurious palace couches and beds. And when she heard that you had given up garlands and perfume, she too gave up garlands and perfume. When her relatives sent messages of young men who wanted to support her she did not even look at a single one.”
The Buddha acknowledged this devotion by saying that it was not only in this birth that she had been devoted to him. He then dispensed the Candakinnara Jataka, a past life love story between Siddhartha and Yashodhara.
According to Candakinnara Jataka, Siddhartha was once born as a kinnara named Canda. He lived with his mate Candaa (past life of Yashodhara) in the Canda mountain of the Himavanta forest.
One day, while the kinnaras were enjoying themselves near a little stream, the king of Benares, seeing Candaa, fell in love with her. The king shot Canda with an arrow, and when Candaa lamented aloud for her dead husband, the king revealed himself and offered her his love and his kingdom. Candaa scorned the offer and protested to the gods they shouldn’t have allowed harm to befall her husband. Sakka’s throne was heated by her great loyalty and coming in the guise of a brahmin, he restored Canda to life.
Kinnaras – The Kinnaras are the musicians of Vaisravana, also known as Kuvera (God of Wealth), with men’s bodies & horses’ heads. They are the same as the Kentauros (Centaurs) of Greek mythology – in fact, the words Kinnaras and Kentauros have the same Indo-European origin. They are called the ‘doubtful (mythical) spirits’ and ‘human but not human’. The males have horns & play on lutes, and the females
sing & dance. They rank below Gandharvas – the music of the Kinnaras is like popular (‘pop’) music compared to the classical, heavenly music of the Gandharvas. The Kinnaras are first of all entertainers.