Most of us are probably familiar with the Buddha's biography from his birth to the first turning at Sarnath - The Buddha is born, miraculously or not, and as a gifted boy he was groomed to become the king of the Sakya kingdom. Dissatisfied with home life, he left on a spiritual quest that culminated in his awakening under a pipal tree near Gaya. He then embarked on a public career, first teaching the path to his awakening at Sarnath and continued teaching until his death at Kusinara at 80.
In a discussion in the Nichiren sub-forum, the stories of the Buddha's enlightenment came up. One of my favorite past times is to seek out and listen to different tellings of the story. It is fascinating for me to hear different takes on the story - some storytellers emphasize one scene or theme, while others take a different tack and open some aspect of the story that wasn't there before. I compare the various renditions of the story to the performance of a standard, a simple song, usually a traditional piece that everyone knows, by different jazz musicians who each play the song according to their own tendencies and preferences. (One well known example - Coltrane performing My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music http://youtu.be/0I6xkVRWzCY)
Jikan suggested this subject be turned into its own thread, and I thought that was a great suggestion, opening it up to the whole community here.
So, share your favorite version of the Buddha's story from birth to Sarnath. If you can link to it that would be great. If you can compose your own version and share it with us that would be even better!
I'll start with the renunciation story from the Pitakas, which Bhikku Nanamoli suggests is the oldest. He collated passages from the Pitaka which I'll quote here in part:
"Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, being myself subject to birth, ageing, ailment, death, sorrow and defilement, I sought after what was also subject to these things. Then I thought, "Why, being myself subject to birth ageing, ailment, death sorrow and defilement, do I seek after what is also subject to these things? Suppose, being myself subject to these things, seeing danger in them, I sought after the unborn, unageing, unailing, deathless, sorrowless, undefiled supreme surcease of bondage, Nibanna?"
"Before my enlightenment, while I was still only an unenlightened Bodhisatta, I thought: 'House life is crowded and dusty; life gone forth is wide open. It is not easy, living in a household, to lead a holy life as utterly perfect and pure as a polished shell. Suppose I shaved off my hair and beard, put on a yellow robe, and went forth from the house life into homelessness?"
"Later, while still young, a black-haired boy blessed with youth, in the first phase of life, I shaved off my hair and beard - though my mother and father wished otherwise and grieved with tearful faces - I put on the yellow robe and went forth from the house life into homelessness."
M.26, 26, 85, 100
-The Life of Buddha, Bhikku Nanamoli, p. 10.
Over the centuries, that simple story has been teased out into some elaborate tales. So, whaddaya got?