While all of this was going on, rumors of the Buddha’s activities reached his father, King Shuddhodana. Nine times the king sent emissaries to his son in hopes that he would come back home, but each time the emissaries listened to the Buddha’s teaching, became monks, attained arhatship, and then lost interest in worldly things and neglected to pass on the king’s wish that his son return home. Finally, King Shuddhodana sent Kalodayin, the son of one of his ministers and a playmate of Siddhartha when they were growing up. Like the other emissaries, Kalodayin also became a monk and attained arhatship. Unlike the others, he did remember to relay King Shuddhodana’s request that his son return home. This occurred at the end of the first winter after the Buddha’s enlightenment.

Upon arriving at Kapilavastu the Buddha and the Sangha spent the night at the Nyagrodha Park where King Shuddhodana and his court came out to meet them. The Shakyas were a proud warrior clan and the Buddha and his ragged band did not impress them. They still thought of the Buddha as merely a wayward kinsman. King Shuddhodana himself was not pleased to see that his son had become a wandering mendicant, even though he was esteemed as a great spiritual teacher. In order to put things in perspective, the Buddha performed a series of miracles including the “twin miracle” of levitating into the air and shooting forth jets of fire and water from his body. Seeing this, the king and his court realized that Shakyamuni Buddha was no mere ascetic and they all paid homage to him. However, the king still had trouble realizing that the Buddha was no longer his son and heir Siddhartha. The very next day, the Buddha went on his begging rounds in Kapilavastu. Upset that his son was begging door to door, the king rushed to stop what he saw as a disgrace to the family. The Buddha, however, explained that he was in fact following the highest customs of his family, but his family was now the lineage of buddhas. Finally the king realized that his son was indeed the Buddha and he took the Buddha’s bowl and invited him and his monks to eat at the palace. At that time, King Shuddhodana became a stream-enterer. He soon become a once-returner, the second of the four stages leading to the complete liberation of the arhat, after hearing more of the Buddha’s teachings following the first meal at the palace. At that time, his stepmother and aunt, Mahaprajapati, was present and she attained stream-entry while listening to the Buddha’s teaching.

Princess Yashodhara, however, was not present at the meal. She stayed in her own quarters and insisted that her former husband, now the Buddha, should come to her. The Buddha did not blame her and agreed to go see her so that she could pay her respects to him. He went to her escorted by King Shuddhodhana, Shariputra, and Maudgalyayana. On seeing the Buddha, Yashodhara performed a full prostration at his feet while the king explained that she had done everything she could to emulate Siddhartha’s strivings for buddhahood while remaining within the palace. She too wore yellow robes as he did, ate one meal a day, and refused to wear adornments or use luxurious beds or couches. The Buddha, in turn, commended her devotion and explained that in past lives she had also shown such devotion.

The next day, the Buddha returned to the palace just before the consecration as heir apparent and wedding ceremony of his half-brother Nanda, who was the 16-year-old son of Mahaprajapati and King Shuddhodhana. The Buddha gave Nanda his begging bowl and then proceeded to return to the Nyagrodha Park with Nanda in tow. Nanda was following him with the bowl in order to return it to the Buddha, but when they arrived at the park the Buddha asked him if he wished to be received into the Sangha as a monk. Overawed by the Buddha, Nanda could not but say yes. Several years later, Nanda began to regret leaving his bride-to-be, a beautiful girl named Janapadakalyani. Her last words to him the day he had trailed after the Buddha were, “Come back soon, prince.” Realizing that Nanda was discontent as a monk, the Buddha used his supernatural powers to take him to a jungle to see an ugly little monkey. The Buddha asked Nanda, “Who is more beautiful, the monkey or Janapadakalyani?“ Nanda naturally replied that there was no comparison between the two and that Janapadakalyani, reputed to be the most beautiful girl in the land, was by far the more desirable. The Buddha then used his supernatural powers to take Nanda to the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods to see the apsaras, celestial nymphs, at play. The Buddha asked Nanda what he thought of their beauty. Nanda was amazed and realized that the apsaras made Janapadakalyani look like the ugly monkey in comparison. The Buddha then told Nanda that if he maintained a steady practice and remained a monk his reward would be rebirth among these heavenly maidens. The maidens were in fact preparing a heavenly mansion for his future arrival. After that, Nanda dedicated himself to his practice and no longer concerned himself with returning to Janapadakalyani. The other monks, however, made fun of him because of the selfish, shallow, and lustful nature of his aspirations. Nanda was mortified and at that time the Buddha came to take Nanda on another spiritual journey. This time they traveled into the depths of hell where Nanda was shown the most hideous and terrifying demons preparing an iron cauldron in which to boil a future hell-dweller. When asked whom they were preparing for, the demons replied that they were preparing for Nanda, since that would be his destination after his time in heaven had exhausted all his merits. Frightened and ashamed, Nanda finally realized the shallow and deluded nature of his previous aspirations and finally attained enlightenment thereby becoming an arhat. Some may find this story amusing, others may find it disturbing, and some may even find that it is both. I will reserve comment on it until the rest of the Buddha’s visit to Kapilavastu has been told.

The next incident occurred on the seventh day of the Buddha’s stay in Kapilavastu. Yashodhara pointed out the Buddha to the now seven-year-old Rahula and told him that this was his father and that he should go and ask for his inheritance.  Rahula went up to his father, the Buddha, and said, “Your shadow is pleasant, monk.” He then followed the Buddha repeating, “Give me my inheritance, monk.” Hearing this, the Buddha had Shariputra ordain Rahula as a novice. 13 year later when Rahula reached the age of 20 he received full admission as a monk and soon after became an arhat. Despite being the son of the Buddha, he would come to be known as foremost in inconspicuous practice.

When King Shuddhodhana heard that even his grandson Rahula had joined the Sangha he was quite upset. Now both of his heirs had become monks, and the other Shakya clan members were getting worried that the Buddha would begin taking away their children as well. King Shuddhodana then made the following request of the Buddha:

Lord, I suffered no little pain when the Blessed One went forth. Then there was Nanda. Rahula is too much. Love for our children, Lord, cuts into the outer skin; having cut into the outer skin, it cuts into the inner skin; having cut into the inner skin, it cuts into the flesh; having cut into the flesh, it cuts into the sinews; having cut into the sinews, it cuts into the bones; having cut into the bones, it reaches the marrow and stays there. Lord, it would be good if the venerable ones did not give the going forth without the parents’ consent. (The Life of the Buddha, p. 78)

The Buddha respected King Shuddhodana’s wish and from that time on children required their parents’ permission before being ordained as novices. In addition, one had to be at least seven years old as Rahula was. The minimum age was later changed to 15. On reaching the age of twenty the novices became eligible to receive ordination as full-fledged monks.

The stories of the recruitment of Nanda and Rahula into the Sangha probably strike the modern reader as problematic. To begin with the Buddha seems to have tricked Nanda against his will into joining the Sangha. There also seems to be a heavy streak of misogyny involved in the story as well (though the part about the comparing Janapadakalyani with a monkey and the visit to hell were later embellishments to the original story). Finally, even though the point of the story is that Nanda needed to raise his aspirations, the carrot and stick approach of keeping Nanda from quitting the Sangha with visions of heavenly rewards and hellish torments do not seem as high minded and edifying as the Buddha’s other discourses. Finally, aside from Nanda’s wishes, the Buddha also deprived his former kingdom of its heir and a bride of her groom. In the case of Rahula, the Buddha brought him into the Sangha at an age when Rahula could hardly have been aware of what he would be giving up or what he should be striving for, and furthermore the Buddha had once again deprived the kingdom of another heir. This hardly seems fair on the part of the Buddha. One could argue that the Buddha knew better than Nanda and Rahula what would be good for them, but this seems more condescending than compassionate. Furthermore, it shows no respect for the ability of others to make their own decisions in life, especially regarding something as important as leaving the household life to become a monk (or novice in the case of Rahula). One could argue that both Nanda and Rahula were free to leave, but were they really? In the context of the times and in the midst of the Buddha’s scrutiny and peer pressure from the Sangha itself, leaving it would have become nearly unthinkable. In many ways, these stories are even more difficult than the story of Siddhartha leaving his wife and child in the first place to become a Buddha, because now he is taking others away from their families without really giving them a chance to decide for themselves. Perhaps all that can be said is that the culture in which these events happened (or which created these stories) was one in which the path to liberation was looked upon as the supreme priority and even as a rare gift. The Buddha was not seen as a recruiter so much as one who was giving Nanda, Rahula, and others the opportunity of countless lifetimes – the chance to be free of birth and death. A final consideration is that the Buddha was able to see the course of cause and effect for individuals and groups of people. It could be argued that the Buddha was aware that the future King Virudhaka of Koshala would decimate the Shakya clan within his lifetime (according to some sources). By bringing Nanda, Rahula, and so many other Shakya clansman into the Sangha he was in effect saving their lives and also giving them the chance to liberate themselves from all suffering.

Some undetermined time after the conversion of Rahula, the Buddha left Kapilavastu but was still traveling in the region of northern Koshala (which encompassed the territory of the Shakya clan). It is said that at least one child from each family of the Shakya clan had joined the monastic Sangha by this time except in the family of the Buddha’s cousin Aniruddha. Aniruddha’s older brother Mahanama suggested that one of them should join the Sangha so that their family would be represented. Aniruddha was reluctant to leave his pampered life, but Mahanama convinced him that nothing but hard work lay ahead of him once he came of age and that it would be better to leave the household life under the Buddha. Curiously, it does not appear as though Mahanama was convinced by his own arguments because he did not join the Sangha. One wonders if talking his younger brother into leaving home and becoming a monk were some kind of stratagem in an ongoing sibling rivalry. In any case, Aniruddha asked his mother if he could join the Sangha. At first she refused to let him go, but then seemingly relented and told him that he could join the Sangha if his cousin Bhaddiya accompanied him. His mother had not really relented however. Prince Bhaddiya had just recently taken over from King Shuddhodhana as the leader of the Shakyas. She was counting on Bhaddiya’s refusal to leave the throne. However, Bhaddiya wore the crown reluctantly and only because Devadatta would take it if he didn’t. No one wanted the cruel and arrogant Devadatta as king. Aniruddha pleaded with Bhaddiya to come with him. He did refuse at first, but then he consented to go after seven years. Aniruddha pleaded that this was too long and in that time anything could happen to them.  In the end, Bhaddiya agreed to go after only a week on condition that the kingship pass on to his children and brothers and that Devadatta also come with them.

Ultimately, six Shakya nobles left together to join the Sangha: Aniruddha, Bhaddiya, Ananda, Bhagu, Kimbila, and Devadatta. Their barber Upali accompanied them. Originally, Upali was supposed to take the adornments of the six Shakyas back to the clan after their renunciation, but Upali realized that the Shakyas might be so angry over the defection of six more Shakya nobles to the Sangha that they might even put him to death for his part in it. Unable to return home and in fear of his life, Upali also became a monk. Graciously, the six nobles allowed Upali to receive admission first so that their former servant would now be senior to them in the Sangha, and thus they would learn humility. Each of these converts would eventually become arhats, with the exception of Devadatta. Four out of the seven would become especially well known: Upali, Aniruddha, Ananda, and Devadatta.

Many years later, when the Buddha began to set forth the precepts for the monastic Sangha as circumstances demanded, Upali would come to be known as the foremost in observing the precepts. After the Buddha’s parinirvana, it would be Upali who would recite all the precepts and the background of each at the first council. This recital would become that part of the Buddhist canon known as the Vinaya.

Aniruddha would come to be known as the foremost in using the divine eye, a form of clairvoyance that could be used to see into spiritual realms and faraway lands and even to determine the circumstances of those who had died and been reborn.

Ananda would become the Buddha’s attendant in the 20th year of the Buddha’s teaching, but he would not become an arhat until after the parinirvana of the Buddha and just before the beginning of the first council. At that council he would be called upon to recite all the teachings of the Buddha that he had heard personally and which had been reported to him from before the time he became the Buddha’s attendant. Because he memorized all the discourses, he was known as the foremost in hearing the sutras.

Devadatta developed the five types of supernatural powers that can be developed through meditation soon after joining the Sangha. These five were: supernatural mastery of the body, the divine ear (clairaudience), mind reading, past life recall, and the divine eye (clairvoyance). Unfortunately, Devadatta never gained any insight, and his supernatural powers only increased his arrogance. Eventually his jealousy of the Buddha and ruthless ambition would lead him to instigate or perpetrate the most heinous of acts. This story will be told later.