Here, then, is the story of The Marriage Contest.
As the Prince grew older, his kindness made him well-loved by everyone who knew him. But his father worried that the young prince was too gentle and sensitive. In order to be a great king, his King Shuddhodana reasoned, he needed to be strong and powerful.
The Prince Siddhartha, it seemed, preferred sitting along in the garden to learning how to rule a kingdom. His father fretted that his son would leave the palace to follow a life like that of the holy man Asita. And if he did that, he would never be a great king.
So, once again, King Shuddhodana sent for his trusted advisers, asking them what to do. One pointed out that the Prince sat and dreamed of other worlds because he was not attached to anything in this world. The solution, said the adviser, would be for the Prince to find a wife and have children. This would quickly cure him of his dreaming, and he would be forced to learn how to rule the kingdom.
The King was intrigued by this idea. He arranged a sumptuous banquet and invited the young women from all the noble families. At the end of the evening, the Prince would give gifts to each of the guests while the advisers watched closely, hoping to see which of the young women Siddhartha favored.
The women, who were really still girls, were embarrassed. Each grew even shyer when it was her turn to accept the Prince's gift. Finally only one girl was left ~ Yasodhara, the daughter of a neighboring King. Yasodhara was not shy, and when she approached, for the first time, Siddhartha looked into her eyes. Yasodhara was very beautiful and the Prince was attracted to her. When Yasodhara asked where her gift was, the Prince realized he had given away all the gifts on the table. Instead, he took the ring from his own finger and gave it to her.
This was all the advisers needs for encouragement. They ran to the King and announced that Yasodhara was the prefect bride for his son. But when her father met with the King, though he acknowledged that Prince Siddhartha was a fine young man, he was not willing to give his daughter up so easily. Other young Princes wished to marry her, as well: young men skilled in riding and archery and other sports. Yasodhara's father sad that, if Siddhartha wished to marry Yasodhara, he would have to compete against the others.
And so a contest was arranged, with Yasodhara as the prize. King Shuddhodana was worried. The Prince, after all, had never shown an interest in any games. How could he ever win a competition? But the prince assured his father that he would do whatever was necessary to win Yasodhara as his bride. The first event was archery, and all the others did well. Devadatra, Siddhartha's cousin, was one of the suitors, and his arrow not only hit the bull's eye; it went clear through the target. As the crowd cheered, even Yasodhara worried. How could Siddhartha beat that shot? Would she be forced to marry Devadatra?
Siddhartha, however, was confident. He set the target at the greatest distance. When he pulled the arrow back on his bow, he was so strong that the bow snapped in half and he had to request a stronger bow. The advisers conferred, finally offering an old bow in the palace that belonged to one of the greatest warriors. Since his death, no one had been strong enough to string it, much less shoot it.
Siddhartha immediately agreed to use the historic bow. He bent it and strung it easily, to everyone's amazement. When he shot the arrow, it made a sound so loud it was heard in faraway villages, and the arrow hit the target so hard and fast that it didn't even slow down but, instead, continued until it was out of sight.
The crowd went wild. But other contests remained. Next was a contest of swordsmanship. Each of the suitors chose a tree, and then slashed through it with his sword. Each chose a bigger tree. Each succeeded. Finally it was Siddhartha's turn and he chose a tree with two trunks growing side-by-side. When he cut through, he was so strong and his sword was so sharp, the tree didn't even fall. It remained standing. At first Yasodhara worried that Siddhartha had failed. But a breeze swept through and blew over the trunks. Again the crowd went wild, insisting that Siddhartha had won. But a final contest remained: horsemanship.
There was a horse so wild it had never been ridden before. Each suitor tried to mount the horse but none could remain on the horse's back for more than a few seconds. One, in fact, was nearly trampled by the horse after he was thrown. The crowd began to shout, urging the King to stop the contest before someone was killed. But Siddhartha was not afraid. for he believed that gentleness was more powerful than brute strength. Slowly he reached out and touched a tuft of hair on the horse's forehead. Then speaking in a quiet voice, he calmed the horse, who began to lick Siddhartha's hand. Still whispering, Siddhartha climbed on the horse's back, paraded before the cheering crowd, and bowed to Yasodhara.
Siddhartha won the contest, not only through power and strength, but through gentleness and kindness. And in winning the contest, he won the hand of Princess Yasodhara.
Buddha jewelry here.
The Buddha story in greater depth here.
To be continued...