For the seventh volume in the series. We begin with discovering Prince Ajatasattu has been in the tower for four years and he’s turned seventeen, but looks much older due to the vengeance he’s harbored all those years. Devadatta still visited the Prince to keep him abreast of all the news of the city around him and of Buddha’s efforts. Devadatta then informs the Prince he could be let go sooner than his father’s sentence due to the King showing withdrawal symptoms and no one knowing anything, but he was poisoned, the kingdom would need someone of sound mind to rule the country giving the Prince the perfect opportunity to take over. The Prince knows Devadatta has done this for a reason and asks him what it was, it being for the Prince’s support to Devadatta to take over control in Venuvana. The Prince is so desperate to get out of the tower he’s willing to help Devadatta in his endeavor and so awaits the good news of his release to come. We next see the effect of Devadatta’s plan and he soon arrives in Venuvana after the disciples hear of the news about Prince Ajatasattu.
Devadatta brings the highest ranking monks together to blast them with the news of his take over of their group as well, showing the proclamation. Sariputta found a way around the proclamation due to how it was written and in the end let the monks decide whether they’d like to follow Devadatta or not; only a few, including Tatta decide to go with him. Tatta’s reason being Devadatta promised him his revenge. Meanwhile Ajatasattu has locked his father up in the tower and his mother pleads with him to be reasonable, confiding in him of Devadatta’s part in his father’s poisoning, but the Prince strips her of her title and has her removed. Devadatta arrives to inform the Prince of his success, but the Prince isn’t impressed with the number of Samanna he’s convinced to follow him. Devadatta requests needing a little more time and the Prince gives him some gold to fund his ability to show he has the biggest sect in India, but Devadatta declines being able to use the money in such a way, opting to give it to charity in the King’s name, Ajatasattu acquiescing.
Then we see Migaila is still trying to figure out why Tatta has decided to betray Buddha like he has. Tatta plans on going to Kapilavastu for Buddha’s permission and Migaila has misgivings, confessing to him she feels like she won’t ever see him again, but he’s set on going and thinks she’s got nothing to fear, believing he won’t be gone long at all, but we’re to learn Migaila’s feeling had merit. Then Sariputta and Moggallana are seen heading to the mountains where Devadatta’s monks are to bring them back in a not so honest way, as Sariputta puts it. When they arrive Sariputta share with the monks how a divine being has told him they need to reunite and come back, even showing it’s form with the fog has developed over the night, which does its job in convincing them to return. When Devadatta returns to the mountain to discover everyone gone, he’s vowed to do anything in his power to win what they’ve “stolen” from him, even if he has to kill Buddha to do it.
Meanwhile Buddha, Ananda and Visakha were heading back to Kosala with Rahula, Bhaddiya, Aurudha and Kimbila when Bhaddiya mentions to Buddha of Naradatta who was not quite on the way, but well-known for being an ascetic since Siddhartha was a baby. Buddha decides to make the side-trip, soon they see prints only one who was walking on all fours could make. They locate a cave, which Ananda offers to enter first to make sure there weren’t any dangerous animals inside, but Buddha senses there wasn’t and decides to go in first, noticing Naradatta lying on a palette, hot with fever. Upon trying to give him medicine to help, Naradatta shows his refusal and Buddha accepts this, instead staying and watching over him, until late speaking with Naradatta. He learns something of Buddha before dying and Buddha goes back out to his group informing them of how moved he was by spending Naradatta’s last moments with him. He realized then how he wanted to die when the time came and we are told Buddha, from then on thought often of the way he would go.
We then see a merchant trying to get Prince Jeta to sell his park to him for monks to reside in, but the Prince refuses. As he’s returning to the castle, he discovers his father has returned from Kapilavastu, believing once Buddha comes to visit and speaks with the King his mind will change as well, the young Prince laughs at the thought and wonders how his father’s mind would ever be changed. The King, meanwhile doesn’t take the news of Prince Crystal’s withdrawal of their troops very well at all. The King threatens Prince Crystal by taking his successorship if he doesn’t go back and kill the Shakya, so he obeys begrudgingly. Meanwhile the merchant, Sudatta is trying to fulfill the young Prince’s requirements in order to buy the park, stemming from his time when he’d met Buddha and wanting to fulfill this dream of his, then we get a flashback of his meeting with Buddha. Buddha explains to Sudatta what he needs to know to lose his fear of death and continues they will meet again, since Sudatta wanted him to share more.
After their meeting Sudatta had figured out his life’s work will be to make a temple for Buddha and so puts all of his finances into it, but upon seeing how much of the park was covered by all of his money and still needing more, he begins losing heart when the young Prince comes to see how well he’s held up his end of the bargain. Soon Sudatta’s staff is beginning to believe he’s truly lost his mind and try to call a doctor, but in their haste almost cut off his breathing themselves, then Prince Jeta is informed and told by his mother he should leave the man alone, but the Prince believes it shouldn’t matter since they are royalty and bullying the lower castes should be acceptable. The Prince believes Sudatta will come begging for his forgiveness soon enough, then we see Sudatta has sold his house and hasn’t made much larger of a dent on covering the land, soon being flitted upon by birds and getting an idea after, wondering why they’d be so happy. Then Prince Jeta ascertains where Sudatta has started living and senses he’s quite happy and content, but not believing the truth in his words, he tests him by flipping a gold coin to him and follows him to see what he’ll do with it, which was to set it in the park with the others, so the Prince gives in and donates the park to him instead.
Next we catch Prince Crystal making his way back with troops to Kapilavastu and when his soldiers detect some Shakya, the Prince maintains they must kill them, but they resist once they realize Buddha’s among them. When the Prince perceives this out he goes to Buddha and gets more advice on how one should respect their parents, if it feels right to do so. We then see the Prince confronting his father once he’s returned, expressing to him he’s decided against obeying his orders. His father, in return calls his favorite wrestler in as a threat, revealing to his son he’ll give him succession. Prince Crystal in return, gets his soldiers to come in and physically extricate him off the throne to get him to a doctor for fear of being mad. The doctor, after seeing the King, gives his diagnosis and the Prince gets it in writing so as to have a reason to take over the throne.
Then we get the viewpoint of a local ascetic who also fears having Buddha dismantle his group, so one of his disciples makes known he can stop Buddha with powder to stop him from using “black magic”, but Pokkarasati has his own plan, bringing in a woman named Sundari, one of his other disciples to use as bait for Buddha. Then we see Prince Crystal greeting Buddha to his kingdom and Buddha has doubts to his reception being taken well by the people due to his background. Then Prince Jeta brings Sudatta forward and describes what had gone on and what he plans on doing with the park. The monastery was built and Buddha stays there to preach to the people of Kosala. This is when Pokkarasati and Sundari come in and try to lure Buddha with her wiles. After Buddha finishes a sermon he decides to rest for awhile, wondering if he’s truly giving the Kosalan people enlightenment. Then he hears a lady’s voice calling his name and upon investigating who and where it’s coming from, we recognize it’s the “harlot” trying to woo him with wine, which he declines. She gives away her bit of the plan, which doesn’t resonate with Buddha, but she’s killed and the murderer runs off spreading the rumor Buddha has killed a woman. Buddha takes the turning of people’s loyalty in stride and waits it out. Upon the fifth day of harrassment, King Crystal steps in and informs Buddha he has the police looking into the matter, since he doesn’t believe the rumors and suspects local Brahmin as the source.
When Buddha asks after the King’s father, he’s reticent with his answers and his father’s death, requesting Buddha to take care of himself. Buddha is then led to where the former King is supposedly being held. When he approaches and introduces himself to the man inside, he begins to remember who Siddhartha is and isn’t happy about his presence. Buddha confides what his son had said about him and the former King gets agitated to being helped to escape his prison, instead Buddha inquires to how he was put there in the first place. He’s adamant in declining and tries to bribe Buddha, which is when King Crystal shows up. When Buddha tries to get him to release his father, he reminds him of why he’d taken it into his own hands to stop his father’s charade of a threat to making his favorite wrestler his successor. He then escorts Buddha back to Jetavana, commanding him not to return there and warning his father if he tried to escape he’d stick him in the dungeon. The King’s father then notices a message written in the dirt for him, leading him to a plant, which now he tries to figure how it will be useful in his escape. Then we see what Tatta is up to, which consists of him trying to figure out where Buddha’s gone to. After getting steamed up about how much he hates the Kosalans, a man approaches him to let him know he isn’t the only one and introduces him to others like himself. After accepting their invitation to go to war with them, Yashodara shows up, asking if Tatta is serious about making war. Then she tries to show Tatta must be reasonable and think of the consequences which involves all the Shakya people, but Tatta is set on his resolve to join his compatriots and points Yashodara to speak with their General, Bharanda.
King Crystal comes to Buddha with the culprits of the young woman’s murder, which shocks Buddha. The King then confesses he won’t have long to wait before they capture the guilty party, then we see the soldiers who think they’ve found the murderer, which is Tatta who’s not taking kindly to anyone who’s Kosalan. He has a waking dream, which involves his horse becoming Buddha, trying to make him see what he’s doing is wrong, amusingly, but not in time before more Kosalan troops come to stop him. When a soldier comes back to King Crystal to share what had happened to their band, he is enraged to learn a Shakya, not relating to whom they were searching for, has gone and killed those he’d sent out for the killer, instead he sends out a battalion to stop Tatta, who seems ready for them. Bharanda then sends out his men to help Tatta. Meanwhile, those who didn’t want to be part of the war, left Kapilavastu for Kosala including Siddhartha’s mother and father, whom he meets at the entrance, trying to turn them away, but Yashodara explains why they left. Buddha holds firm to his belief they should have confronted the uprising head on, trying to get them to return and deal with the problem. Then Buddha senses Tatta is involved, not believing what he heard, then King Crystal makes sure Buddha isn’t going to try to stop him from taking out the Shakyan people which he doesn’t, resigning to their fate. King Crystal leaves to wage war and Tatta still faces it head on, soon facing King Crystal who recognizes him as a disciple and gives him the chance to retreat. Tatta refuses, making King Crystal kill him and then he orders everyone’s death. When King Crystal gets back Buddha is under the tree he’d left him and explains what happened, upon questioning. Once the King had gone back to his castle, Buddha walks to the war-zone, noticing Tatta among the dead, now making him think his teachings were pointless.
Buddha’s family is saddened by the terrible news of their country and people as well, but Buddha seemed to feel the worst about it to the point of calling out to Brahmin for guidance for what he should do next for not getting anyone to truly understand his teachings. Then Ananda sees Buddha at his worst moment and is plagued by the evil presence he’s been fighting against, speaking in his ear about Buddha’s failure and weakness, but Ananda goes to Buddha’s aid and reminds him of all the people he has helped. Ananda then begins wondering why Tatta was searching for Buddha, thinking something may be starting in Venuvana. We see Prince Crystal going back to the cage he’s left his father in, being told it’s been a year since he’s been there last. He confesses to his father of what he’d done and agrees to let him out if he agrees to retirement and not to exert any authority over King Crystal, which surprises his father for some reason. Then King Crystal believes his father is too mentally ill to be released and leaves him there since he seems too obsessed with giving up the throne, curses trailing after him. The former King comes up with a revenge-based plan to get him back on the throne, then hearkens back to the note Buddha had left him. We then skip forward a year and see Dhepa has come to deliver a message to Buddha. He then is heard by Buddha himself about the fates of Ajatasattu and his father. He goes on to describe of the fall of Devadatta’s claim to leadership and then the rise again, more monks deciding to join him after Sariputta had convinced them to leave. When Dhepa asks for Buddha to help them by returning, he agrees and requests Dhepa to go ahead, giving a speech to the people before he departs. King Crystal offers his assistance in any way to Buddha’s journey and he asks him only to release his father, which he delivers the orders for to one of his guards. We then see the former King speaking to a hallucination which stemmed from the weed he’d been fostering to survive. Then he realizes the door had been opened and he leaves the place at once, heading for Magadha. When he gets there he asks for King Bimbisara and is told there’s a new king. He waits there, lying in the mud overnight and dies at the door, not seeing Buddha again.
Buddha arrives to visit King Ajatasattu to ascertain what happened and Ajatasattu begins laying down the law, forbidding him to go to Rajgriha indefinitely. Then Devadatta appears to show off how he’s become leader of Buddha’s sect, angering Ananda, but when Buddha replies for him to stay calm, he confesses to Devadatta what he thinks of his abilities, making him feel inadequate, so then he puts Buddha to the test to prove he’s actually chosen. After Buddha chooses and his plan goes awry, he determines his accomplices had chickened out, due to to the possibility of poisoning a great man like Buddha. Then Devadatta decides they should let the disciples decide and lead the way to Venuvana. On the way there it seems Devadatta had a back up plan involving a boulder, which failed again. Ananda figures out Devadatta’s plan and warns Buddha to watch out for anything suspicious, they then run into another trap, but Buddha helps the creature involved before it endangers itself or him. They then finally reach Venuvana where the disciples are pleased to see him, hoping life will go back to peacefulness. Buddha then sees the conditions of Sariputta and Moggallana brought on by the King, Migaila enquiring after about how Tatta had died and Buddha expressing of his single-mindedness to do what he thought was right. Devadatta then comes up with his new plan on killing Buddha, set to go down in the evening as Buddha slept, but his plan turns on him when he falls like a klutz, he still set on taking Buddha down with him. Buddha perceives Devadatta as he’s about to be taken out and shares how he was his own worst enemy, even though he hated Buddha for not being able to emulate him.
We start the next chapter with the Duchess requesting to see her husband, who is up in the tower. She eventually gets what she wants and we hear through the guards how it seems Ajatasattu is trying to starve his father to death. King Ajatasattu then learns about Devadatta’s death and grieves privately for the man was like a brother to him. After two weeks of solitude, the staff becomes worried and breaks in to see what’s going on with the King and they view him in an interesting condition: his forehead developing a lump. The King believes it’s Devadatta’s doing somehow, but the doctor believes it to be a tumor and knows how to cure him, but Ajatasattu doesn’t believe him, he soon falls into a state of pain though and pleads for help. The King still threatens the doctor, even though he’s certain he knows how to cure him. Then we see Buddha arrive and requesting to visit Bimbisara, but the guards let him know they can’t give him access, which is when the Duchess steps in, letting him accompany her on her visit.
We soon realize this day is when Bimbisara is supposed to die, when a guard rushes out saying Bimbisara isn’t breathing, they all run to his cell and observe him to be conscious and speaking to his wife of how he doesn’t blame Ajatasattu for doing what he did, then sees Buddha and is glad to have him there, asking him to take Ajatasattu as his disciple and mentioning his regret of how he treated his son, hoping Buddha would be able to save him as his final request. Buddha then goes to see Ajatasattu and sees how far the tumor has grown, which the doctor explains was done by Devadatta who prepared the drink for the King, so once Devadatta had died, the King started experiencing withdrawal and now they contemplated how they could possibly concoct the same potion for the King, but since they don’t know the ingredients necessary, Buddha figures out a more simple method to trying to heal Ajatasattu. The doctor is skeptical, but sees the effects as soon as he touches Ajatasattu and continues this method for three years. Then after reducing the King’s swelling a bit, he comes to another realization about man and God, deciding he will tell every Human of his discovery. We see Buddha stay on Eagle Peak to preach and meditate, then seeing him sharing a story about a man who was too weak to go on, the animals in the area helping him to survive. The rabbit in particular sacrifices himself so the man could go on, Buddha then describing the person who sacrificed himself to some wolves in the same manner. After this sermon, which Ajatasattu hears, he honors his father and requests to become Buddha’s disciple.
We then see Buddha receiving terrible news about Moggallana and Sariputta, who didn’t survive their travels. Buddha is so shocked he believes it to be a lie, but then he is shown a letter written to Buddha by Moggallana. Buddha is stricken by his heirs deaths and develops physical stomach pain during the night, then thinks he’s hearing Mara asking him to accept death. Buddha then confides in Dhepa, once daylight comes, he’s planning on making one last trip, due to Moggallana’s prophecy. Buddha then mentions to Dhepa he wants him to give sermons in his absence. Buddha begins his journey with Ananda by his side, Migaila also bids farewell before they depart. We are then given the route Buddha and 500 of his disciples took so he could teach the people of all castes.
Three months before Buddha’s fated death, he gives Ananda some wisdom on the subject of death. Buddha stops at a poor man’s house and they serve him mushrooms, due to having nothing else, but of course Buddha is grateful and is even given directions before moving on. After walking for some time, Buddha began feeling ill, and soon showed signs of sickness, his disciples cared for him and upon sunset, he felt good enough to rest. At night, Buddha is again visited by Brahman and told when they will be making their journey together, which is also around the same time a monk appears to visit Buddha, but gets turned away by his followers due to his feeling ill, Buddha though decides to let him come and ask him what he would, giving him advice on the three facts he needs to follow in order to awaken his soul. After giving Suhbadda his answer, he falls back, seeing it’s time for his end. When Brahman arrives to accompany him on his journey, Buddha asks what will become of his teachings, being led by Brahman to show him the answer. We are then given the closing as to where Buddhism had spread to throughout the years. This was one epic comic and I’m glad I read it, eye-opening and enlightening indeed.