Brief notes on Buddhist thought and practice
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The Royal Plowing Festival

In ancient times, people felt that the king was responsible for the fertility of the land. In India, there was a ritual to celebrate this relationship. The king and his noblemen would go to a field and use gold and silver plows pulled by oxen. The peasants also plowed, with ordinary plows.

King Shuddhodana did this every spring. One year, when Prince Siddhartha was a boy, he went along and watched the Festival.

During the feast after the plowing, the Prince's attendants left him alone. He sat under a tree, and thought about what he had seen. He realized that the men had seemed happy, but the oxen had not. They had worked hard, and sometimes the men had whipped them.

While he was thinking about the animals' welfare, a wondrous thing happened. Some ants nearby were busy working, bothering no one. A lizard began eating them. Next, a snake came and ate the lizard. Then a hawk came down and carried the snake away.

This, the young Prince realized, is "the way of the world." He saw that life is difficult, and even on the way home, he was still thinking very quietly. This made King Shuddhodana worry about what the sages had predicted. Clearly, the Prince was already thinking about serious matters.


  1. Why do you think the king was responsible for fertility of the land? How would the "Royal Plowing Festival" help? Why was it important for the people to join in?
  2. The Prince saw one animal after another being eaten by something bigger. Could this "vision" have been natural?
  3. Do you think the king should be worried about his son's behavior? Why?

Next time: Three Beautiful Palaces

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