Śuddhodana and his court
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Suddhodana (Nepali: सुद्धोदन, Sanskrit: Śuddhodana; Japanese: 浄飯王 Jōbon-ō; Lao: ສຸດໂທທະນະ "Soutthothana") was the father of Gautama Buddha. He was a leader of the Shakya people, who lived in Kapilavastu and was a righteous chief.
Śuddhodana’s father was Sihahanu while his mother was Kaccanā. Śuddhodana's son, Siddhartha Gautama (who became known as Shakyamuni, the "Sage of the Shakyans," or the Buddha), married his cousin Yasodharā, daughter of Suppabuddha and his father’s sister, at the age of 16.
Birth of Buddha
Lord Gautama Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) was born in Kapilavastu in the Lumbini Zone of present day Nepal. The sage Asita, who was also Gautama's uncle, visited Siddhartha and was surprised when the infant placed his feet on top of the sage’s head. After Asita examined his feet, he kneeled and paid homage to the infant. Śuddhodana copied his action.
At Siddartha's naming ceremony eight brahmins made predictions about his future destiny based on physical signs. One of these brahmins, Kaundinya, became the leader of the Group of Five, consisting of five forest ascetics, Kaundinya, Mahaanaama, Baspa, Asvajita, and Bharika, who later became the Buddha's companions during his ascetic practices and his first five followers after his enlightenment.
Seven brahmins predicted that Siddhartha would either become a great chakravartin (or "universal monarch") or a great sage. Kaundinya disagreed with the other Brahmins and predicted that Siddhartha would become a Buddha regardless. After hearing this, Suddhodana tried to shield Siddhartha from the outside world so that he would never see signs of suffering and thus become dissatisfied with the world, and become a powerful ruler instead. However, as he was approaching the age of 29 he saw what are called the "four signs"—an old man, a sick man, a cadaver and a monk. Thus Suddhodana's plan did not succeed and Siddhartha became a sage, leaving behind a wife, an infant, and a luxurious life for a humble journey in the search for enlightenment.
Śuddhodana lamented his son’s departure and spent considerable effort attempting to locate him. Seven years later, after word of Siddhartha’s enlightenment reached Śuddhodana, he sent nine emissaries to invite Siddhartha back to the Shakya land. The Buddha proceeded to preach to the emissaries and their entourage, who in turn joined the Sangha.
Śuddhodana then sent a close friend of Siddhartha, Kaludayi, to invite him to return. Kaludayi also chose to become a monk, but kept his word to invite the Buddha back to his home. The Buddha accepted his father's invitation and returned to visit his home. During this visit, he preached the Dharma to Suddhodana.
Four years later, when the Buddha heard of Śuddhodana's impending death, he once again returned to his home and preached further to Śuddhodana at his deathbed.
- In the Pāli Canon, there are only two discourses that explicitly reference Suddhodana: DN 14, Mahāpadāna Sutta, and in the versified prologue of Sn 3.11, Nālaka Sutta. In each of these discourses, Suddhodana is represented simply as the Buddha's father and as a Sakyan ruler. For a translation of the latter discourse, see Thanissaro, 1998.
- Dictionary of Buddhism, Keown, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-860560-9
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- Immediate family of Shuddhodana
- Why was the Sakyan Republic Destroyed? by S. N. Goenka[dead link] (The following is a translation and adaptation of a Nepali article by S. N. Goenka published by the Vipassana Research Institute in December 2003.)