The Cowherds Test the Buddha’s Omniscience
Bimbisara, king of the state of Magadha, invited the Buddha and five hundred disciples to stay for three months. Because the King required fresh milk and yogurt with which to make offerings to the Buddha and the Bhikshu Sangha, he told the cowherds to come and dwell at a place close by. Every day they delivered fresh milk and yogurt. At the end of the three month period, the King, out of kindness for the cowherds, told them, "You may go to see the Buddha and then afterwards you may come back and look after the cows." All of the cowherds then set out to pay a visit to the Buddha. While on the road they had a discussion among themselves, saying, "We have heard people say that the Buddha is omniscient. We are all lesser fellows of inferior station. How would we be able to determine that an omniscient man actually exists?"
Because all of the Brahmans are fond of yogurt, they were always coming and going at the cowherds' place and thus came to be quite friendly with them. On account of this the cowherds had come to hear the names of all of the various Brahmanical scriptures.
They continued, "As for all the difficult questions about the teachings in the four Vedas on techniques of healing, fighting, astrology, sacrifices to the gods, singing, dancing, debating, and all of the other sixty-four kinds of worldly arts like these: because this son of the Pure Rice King has studied broadly and is very learned, if he were to know about all of these matters, it would not qualify as remarkably difficult. But he has never been a cowherd. We'll ask him about the secret methods involved in raising cows. If he is able to understand them, then he actually is an omniscient man." After they had finished their discussion, they entered the bamboo gardens from the front and saw the light of the Buddha illuminating the forest. They moved forward, peeked at the Buddha, and saw him sitting beneath a tree, his shape like a mountain of gold. It was as when butter is thrown on the fire and its flames are intensely bright. It was as if molten gold had been showered all over the bamboo grove. They gazed insatiably upon his form radiating purple golden light. Their minds were greatly delighted and they said to themselves:
Now this lion of the Shakyan clan,
As to whether or not he possesses omniscience,
On seeing him no one fails to be delighted.
This matter alone would be sufficient as proof.
His light is the foremost illumination.
His countenance is extremely rare and precious.
The physical characteristics abound in awesome virtue.
They all measure up to the name of "Buddha."
Every characteristic is distinctly clear.
In awesome spirituality he is utterly replete.
He is cloaked in meritorious qualities.
Of those who see him, none fail to adore him.
His body dwells amidst an orb of light.
Whoever looks upon him can never see enough.
If there is someone who possesses omniscience,
Certainly he would possess these meritorious qualities.
All of the paintings portrayed in various hues
And the images embellished with jeweled adornments
Might try to compare with this exquisite figure,
But could never succeed if even only by simile.
He is able to satisfy all who gaze upon him,
Causing them to develop the most supreme bliss.
Whoever looks upon him gains pure faith.
Certainly he is a man who's omniscient.
To be continued