ผมได้นำ กามนิต - วาสิฏฐี ฉบับเต็มภาคภาษาอังกฤษมาลงไว้ข้างล่างนี้ มีทั้งหมด 45 บท 369 หน้า
[ศึกษาเพิ่มเติม: อ่านและฟัง “กามนิต” ไทยและอังกฤษ ฉบับสมบูรณ์ ]
The Pilgrim KAMANITA
ภาคบนดิน บทที่ 1 - 21
1. THE BUDDHA REVISITS THE CITY OF THE FIVE HILLS: p 1
2. THE MEETING: p 9
3. TO THE BANKS OF THE GANGĀ: p 13
4. THE MAIDEN BALL‐PLAYER: p 21
5. THE MAGIC PORTRAIT: p 29
6. ON THE TERRACE OF THE SORROWLESS: p 37
7. IN THE RAVINE: p 49
8. THE PARADISE BUD: p 55
9. UNDER THE CONSTELLATION OF THE ROBBERS: p 63
10. ESOTERIC DOCTRINE: p 73
11. THE ELEPHANT'S TRUNK: p 81
12. THE GRAVE OF THE HOLY VĀJASHRAVAS: p 89
13. THE COMPANION OF SUCCESS: p 99
14. THE FAMILY MAN: p 109
15. THE SHAVEN‐HEADED MONK: p 117
16. READY FOR ACTION: p 125
17. TO HOMELESSNESS: p 135
18. IN THE HALL OF THE POTTER: p 145
19. THE MASTER: p 153
20. THE UNREASONABLE CHILD: p 159
21. IN MID‐CAREER: p 171
ภาคสวรรค์ บทที่ 22 - 45
22. IN THE PARADISE OF THE WEST: p 181
23. THE ROUNDELAY OF THE BLESSED: p 187
24. THE CORAL TREE: p 193
25. THE BUD OF THE LOTUS OPENS: p 199
26. THE CHAIN WITH THE TIGER‐EYE: p 205
27. THE RITE OF TRUTH: p 213
28. ON THE SHORES OF THE HEAVENLY GANGĀ: p 219
29. AMID THE SWEETNESS OF THE CORAL BLOSSOMS: p 225
30. "TO BE BORN IS TO DIE": p 231
31. THE APPARITION ON THE TERRACE: p 237
32. SĀTĀGIRA: p 247
33. ANGULIMĀLA: p 255
34. THE HELL OF SPEARS: p 261
35. A PURE OFFERING: p 273
36. THE BUDDHA AND KRISHNA: p 283
37. THE BLOSSOMS OF PARADISE WITHER: p 297
38. IN THE KINGDOM OF THE HUNDRED‐THOUSANDFOLD
39. THE DUSK OF THE WORLDS: p 309
40. IN THE GROVE OF KRISHNA: p 315
41. THE SIMPLE CONTEMPLATION: p 325
42. THE SICK NUN: p 333
43. THE PASSING OF THE TATHĀGATA: p 341
44. VĀSITTHĪ'S BEQUEST: p 355
45. NIGHT AND MORNING IN THE SPHERES: p 363
~ 1 ~
THE BUDDHA REVISITS THE CITY OF
THE FIVE HILLS
THUS HAVE I HEARD. The time came when the
lifespan of the Lord Buddha was drawing to an end and,
journeying from place to place in the land of Magadha,
he came to Rājagaha."
Thus it is written in the Buddhist Sūtras of ancient
As the Master drew near to the City of the Five
Hills, day was almost over. The benevolent rays of the
evening sun lay along the green rice‐fields and meadows
of the far‐reaching plain as if they were emanations from a
divine hand extended in blessing. Here and there billowing
clouds — of purest gold‐dust it seemed — rolled and
crept along the ground, showing that farm‐workers and
oxen were plodding wearily homeward from their labour
in the fields; and the lengthening shadows cast by isolated
groups of trees were bordered by a halo, radiant with all
the colours of the rainbow.
Framed in a wreath of blossoming gardens, the
embattled gateways, terraces, cupolas and towers of the
capital shone forth delicately clear as in some ethereal
vision; and a long line of rocky out‐crops, rivalling in
colour the topaz, the amethyst and the opal, were patterned
into an enamel of incomparable beauty.
Moved by the beauty of the landscape, the Buddha
stayed his steps. A quiet joy welled up within him as his
heart greeted those familiar forms, bound up with so many
memories: the Grey Horn, the Broad Vale, the Seer's Crag,
the Vultures' Peak — "whose noble summit towers, rooflike,
over all the rest." And then there was Vebhāra, the
mountain of the hot springs, under whose shadow, in the
cave beneath the Satapanni tree, the young homeless
wanderer had found his first retreat, his first resting‐place
on the final journey from Samsāra to Nirvāna.
For when, in that now remote time — "while still
young, a black‐haired young man in the flower of his
youth, in the prime of life, though his mother and father
wished otherwise and grieved with tearful faces, he
shaved off his hair and beard, put on the ochre robe and
went forth from the home life into homelessness" — he
had left his royal father's house in the northern country of
the Sākyas and had turned his steps toward the valley of
the Gangā. And there, under the shadow of lofty Vebhāra,
he had allowed himself his first lengthy stay, going every
morning into Rājagaha for alms‐food.
It was at that time also, and in that very cave, that
the young Bimbisāra, King of Magadha, had visited him
seeking to persuade him to return to the home of his
fathers and to the life of the world — although his efforts
had been in vain. At length the royal visitor, strangely
moved by the words of the young ascetic, had felt the first
tremblings of a new faith that later made him a follower of
Fifty years had passed since that day, and in the
interval he had changed not only the course of his own
life but also that of the world. How vast the difference
between that past, when he dwelt in that humble cave
and sat beneath the Satapanni tree, and the present. Then
he was simply a seeker — one struggling for liberation.
Terrible spiritual contests lay before him — six long years
of self‐inflicted mortification, inhuman agonies that were
as sickening as they were fruitless, just the description of
which made the flesh of even the stoutest‐hearted listeners
Eventually, having risen above all such self‐torturing
asceticism, through profound meditation, he had reached
the Light, the realisation of Nirvāna, had left the conflict
behind him and was dedicated to the enlightenment of all
living beings. Filled with a divine compassion, he became
a supreme and perfect Buddha.
Those had been the years in which his life had
resembled a changeful morning in the rainy season —
dazzling sunshine alternating with deepest gloom, as the
monsoon piles cloud above cloud in towering masses and
the death‐laden thunder‐storm comes growling nearer. But
now his life was filled with the same calm sunny peace
that lay upon the evening landscape, a peace that seemed
to grow ever deeper and clearer as the sun's disc dipped
towards the horizon.
For him too sunset, the close of life's long day, was
at hand. He had finished his work. The dispensation of the
Dharma had been established on sure foundations and
the liberating teaching had been proclaimed to all human‐
kind; many monks and nuns of blameless life and
transcendent knowledge — and both women and men lay
followers were now fully capable of sustaining this Realm
of Truth, and upholding and spreading its teachings.
And, even as he stands there, there abides in his
heart, as a result of the reflections of this day spent in
solitary travelling, the inalienable knowledge:— For you
the time is coming, and soon, when you shall depart from
here and leave this world which you, and many who have
followed you, have transcended, and there will be the
peace of Final Nirvāna.
And looking over the land spread out before him
— with a joyful recollection within which there lay a note
of deep poignancy — he bade this belovèd land farewell.
"What beauty you possess, Rājagaha, City of the
Five Hills. How lovely your landscapes, how richly blessed
your fields, how gladdening your wooded glades gleaming
with waters, how stately your clustering hills of rock.
For the last time I now look down upon your graceful
borders from this, the fairest of all places from which your
children love to gaze upon your face. Only once more —
on the day when the Tathāgata goes forth from here and
looks back from the crest of that far mountain ridge —
shall he see you again, belovèd valley of Rājagaha; after
that, never more."
And still the Master stood, until finally only two
structures of all in the city before him towered in the
golden sunlight: one, the highest pinnacle of the palace
from which King Bimbisāra had first espied him when, as
a young and unknown ascetic, he had passed that way
and, by his noble bearing, called himself to the notice of
the King of Magadha; the other, the dome‐like super‐
structure of the great temple in which, in the years before
his teaching had delivered the people from bloody super‐
stition, thousands upon thousands of innocent animals
had been annually slaughtered in honour of some deity.
Finally even the pinnacles of the towers slipped
down into the rising sea of shadow and were lost to view,
and only the cone of golden parasols still glowed. Rising
one above another, they crowned the dome of the temple,
suspended as if in mid‐air, flashing and sparkling as the
red glow deepened against the dense cobalt blue back‐
ground of the tall tree‐tops.
At this point the Master caught sight of the still
somewhat distant goal of his journey. For the tree‐tops he
saw were those of the Mango Grove on the farther side of
the town, the gift of his disciple Jīvaka, the king's physician,
in which a well‐appointed monastery provided the
monastic community with a residence that was both
peaceful and simple.
To this home of the Order, the Sangha, the Buddha
had sent on the monks who had accompanied him —
about two hundred in number — under the leadership of
his cousin and faithful attendant Ānanda; since he had
been inclined towards tasting the delight of a day's solitary
wandering. He was also aware that a band of young
monks from the west, led by his great disciple the wise
Sāriputra, would arrive in the Mango Grove at sunset.
In his mind's eye, capable of picturing the unfolding
of events in all their details, he went over the scenes
that would be enacted. He saw those arriving exchange
friendly greetings with the monks already there, saw them
conducted to resting places and huts in the forest, their
robes and alms‐bowls being taken from them; and he
heard all this take place in a racket of noise and loud
conversation, like the crowds of fisher‐folk down at the
landings quarrelling over their spoils. He knew this to be
no exaggeration; and to one who loved silence and
serenity, and disliked clamour as does the solitary lion in
the jungle, the thought was doubly uninviting of being
involved in such bustle after the delight of travelling alone
and the blessèd peace of the evening landscape.
So he determined, as he went on his way, that he
would not go through the city to the Mango Grove but
would rest for the night in any house in the nearest suburb
in which he could find shelter.
Meanwhile the flaming gold of the western
heavens had died down in burning orange tints, and these
in turn had melted into a blaze of the fieriest scarlet.
Round about him the green fields deepened and grew
more luminous, as though the earth were an emerald lit
up from within. But already a dreamy violet haze
enveloped the horizon, while a mysterious purple flood
— whether light or shadow no‐one could say — rolled in
from every side, rising and sinking, filling all space, dis‐
solving fixed outlines and combining fragments, sweeping
near objects away and bringing closer those that were
distant — causing everything to undulate and waver in
Startled by the footsteps of the solitary wanderer, a
fruit‐bat unhooked itself from the branch of a black Sāla
tree and, spreading its leathery wings, swept with a shrill
cry away through the dusk to pay a visit to the orchards of
Thus by the time that the Master had reached the
outskirts of Rājagaha, the day was far spent and shadowy
night was at hand.
~ 2 ~
IT WAS THE INTENTION of the Master to stop at the
first house he came to — in this instance a
building whose blue walls shone out from between the
trees of the surrounding garden. As he was about to
approach the door, however, he noticed a net hung upon
a branch. Without a moment's hesitation he walked past,
repelled by the house of the bird‐catcher. Here at the
extreme outskirts of town the houses were scattered, in
addition to which a great fire had recently swept the area
so that some time elapsed before he came to another
human habitation. It was the farmhouse of a well‐to‐do
brahmin. The Master had hardly stepped within the gate,
when he heard the loud voices of the brahmin and his two
wives as they scolded and wrangled, hurling invectives at
one another. The Blessèd One turned himself around,
went out through the gateway and moved on.
The pleasure garden of the rich brahmin extended
for a considerable distance along the road. The Master was
already conscious of fatigue and his right foot, injured by a
sharp stone, pained him as he walked. In this condition he
approached the next dwelling place, which was visible
from a great distance owing to a broad path of vivid light
that streamed across the road from the latticework of
shutters and from the open door. Even had a blind man
come that way he could not have failed to notice this
house, for lusty laughter, the clang of silver drinking cups,
the clapping of hands, the beat of dancing feet and the
rhythmic notes of the seven‐stringed vīnā rose clearly
upon the air. Leaning against the door‐post was a beautiful
girl robed in rich silks and hung with jasmine garlands.
Laughing, she flashed her teeth, red from chewing betel nut,
and invited the wayfarer to stay: "Enter here, stranger.
This is the House of Delight." But the Blessèd One went
on his way, and as he did so he recalled his own words:
"For one who is enraptured with the Truth, the smile of
smiling eyes is all‐sufficing."
The neighbouring house was not far distant but the
noise of the drinking, singing and vīnā‐players penetrated
there, so the Buddha went on to the next. Beside it two
butcher's assistants were hard at work by the last glimmer
of daylight, cutting up with sharp knives a cow they had
just slaughtered. And the Master moved on past the house
of the butcher.
In front of the one following stood many dishes
and bowls freshly formed from clay, the fruit of a diligent
day's labour. The potter's wheel stood under a tamarind
tree, and the potter at that moment removed a dish from
the wheel and bore it to where the others lay.
The Master approached the potter, greeted him
courteously, and said: "If it is not inconvenient to you,
respected friend, I would like to spend this night in your
"It is not inconvenient to me, sir. But at this moment
another seeker like yourself, a wanderer who arrived
tired from a long journey, has already moved in there for
the night. If it is agreeable to him, you are welcome to
stay, sir; it's up to you."
The Master reflected: "Solitude, it is true, is the best
of all companions, but this good pilgrim has arrived here
late, just like myself, tired from his wanderings. And he has
also passed by the houses where people follow unwhole‐
some and bloody livelihoods, past the house of wrangling
and strife, the house of clamour and unholy pleasure, and
he has not rested until he entered the house of the potter.
In the company of such a man it is possible to spend the
So the Buddha entered the outer hall and there he
perceived a young man of noble bearing sitting in a
corner on a mat.
"If it is not disagreeable to you, friend," said the
Master, "I would like to spend the night in this place."
"The hall of the potter is spacious, brother; please
stay here if you wish."
The Master thus spread out his mat close to one of
the walls and sat down with his legs crossed, his body
perfectly upright, focusing his mind in deep meditation.
The Blessèd One remained sitting in this way during the
first part of the night.
The young man also remained sitting thus during
the first part of the night. Seeing this, the Buddha thought
to himself: "I wonder whether this noble youth is happy in
his search after Truth. How would it be if I asked him?"
So he turned to the young seeker and enquired,
his voice both deep and golden: "What were the reasons,
young friend, what were the causes that encouraged you
to choose the life of homelessness?"
The young man answered: "The night is yet young,
venerable sir, if you are happy to lend an ear I shall gladly
tell you why I have chosen the life of the spiritual seeker."
The Blessèd One gave assent by a friendly move‐
ment of his head, and the young man began to tell his tale.
~ 3 ~
TO THE BANKS OF THE GANGĀ Y NAME IS KĀMANĪTA.
I was born in
Ujjenī, a town lying among the mountains
far to the south, in the land of Avanti. My father was a
merchant and rich, though our family could lay claim to
no special rank. He gave me a good education and, when
of age to assume the Sacrificial Cord, I already possessed
most of the accomplishments which befit a young man of
position, so that people generally believed I must have
been educated in Taxilā, at the great university.
I could wrestle and fence with the best. My voice
was melodious and well‐trained, and I was able to play
the vīnā with considerable artistic skill. I could repeat all
the verses of the Mahābharata by heart and many others
also. I was most intimately acquainted with the mysteries
of poetic construction, and was myself able to write verses
full of feeling and ingenious thought. I could draw and
paint so that few surpassed me, and my originality in the
art of arranging flowers was universally lauded.
I attained an unusual mastery in the knowledge of
the colouration of crystals and, furthermore, could tell at
sight from what place any jewel came. My parrots and
minah‐birds I trained so that none spoke so well as they.
And to all these accomplishments I added a thorough
command of the game of chess, the wand game, archery,
ball games of every description, riddles and of flower
games. So that it became, my friend, a proverbial saying in
Ujjenī: "Talented as the young Kāmanīta."
When I was twenty years old, my father sent for me
one day and said:
"My son, your education is now complete; it is time
for you to see something of the world and begin your
career as a merchant. A suitable opportunity has just offered
itself. Within the next few days our king will send an
embassy to King Udena in Kosambī, which lies far to the
north. There I have a friend named Panāda. He and I have
visited and stayed with each other at various times. He has
frequently told me that in Kosambī there is good business
to be done in the products of our land, particularly in rock
crystals and sandalwood powder, and also in artistic
wicker‐work and woven goods. I have always, however,
shunned such business journeys, holding them to be too
hazardous an undertaking on account of the many dangers
of the road; but for anyone going there and back
along with the embassy there can be no danger whatso‐
ever. So now, my son, we had better go to the warehouse
and inspect the twelve wagons with their teams of oxen
and the goods which I have decided on for your journey.
In exchange for these items you are to bring back muslin
from Benares and carefully selected rice; and that will be
the beginning, and I trust a splendid one, of your business
career. Then you will have an opportunity of seeing
foreign countries with trees and gardens, landscapes and
architecture other than your own, and other customs; and
you will have daily contact with courtiers who are men of
the highest station and of most refined aristocratic manners.
All of this I consider will be a great gain, for a merchant
must be a man of the world."
I thanked my father with tears of joy, and a few
days later said farewell to my friends and my home.
What a joyful anticipation my heart beat with as, at
the head of my wagons, I passed out of the city gates, a
member of this magnificent procession, and the wide
world lay open before me! Each day of the journey was to
me like a festival, and when the camp‐fires blazed up in
the evenings to scare the panthers and tigers away, and I
sat in the circle by the side of the ambassador with men of
years and rank, it seemed to me that I was in some kind of
Through the magnificent forest regions of Vedisa
and over the gently swelling heights of the Vindhaya
mountains we reached the vast northern plain, and there
an entirely new world opened itself out before me for I
had never imagined that the earth could be so flat and so
It was about a month after our setting out that, one
glorious evening, from a palm‐covered hill‐top, we saw
two golden bands which, disengaging themselves from
the mists on the horizon, threaded through the immeasur‐
able acres of green beneath, and gradually approached
each other until they became united in one broad zone.
A hand touched my shoulder.
It was the ambassador who had approached me
"Those, Kāmanīta, are the sacred river Yamunā and
the divine Gangā whose waters unite before our eyes."
Involuntarily I raised my hands, palms together, in
"You do well to greet them in this way," my patron
went on. "For if the Gangā comes from the home of the
gods amid the snow‐clad mountains of the north and
flows from the Abode of the Eternal; the Yamunā, on the
other hand, takes its rise in lands known to far‐distant
heroic days, and its floods have reflected the ruins of
Hastinapura, The City of Elephants, and it washed the
plain where the Pāndavas and the Kaurāvas struggled for
mastery; where Karna raged in his tent, where Krishna
himself guided the steeds of Arjuna — but of all that I do
not need remind you, I know that you are well‐versed in
the ancient heroic songs.
"Often I have stood on that projecting tongue of
land where the blue waves of the Yamunā roll onward
side by side with the yellow waters of the Gangā, and blue
and yellow have never mingled. Blue and yellow, warrior
and brahmin in the great river‐bed of Caste, passing
onward to eternity, approaching — uniting — for ever
side by side — for ever two. Then it seemed to me that,
blended with the rushing of these blue floods, I heard
warlike sounds — the clash of weapons and the blowing
of horns, the neighing of horses and the trumpeting of war
elephants — and my heart beat faster, for my ancestors
also had been there. And the sands of Kurukshetra drank
their heroic blood."
Full of admiration, I looked up to this man from
the warrior caste in whose family such memories lived.
But he took me by the hand and said: "Come, son,
look at the goal of your first journey." He led me a few
steps around some dense shrubbery that had, up until
then, hidden the view to the east.
As it flashed upon my vision I gasped in admiration
for there, at a bend of the broad Gangā, lay the city of
Kosambī great and splendid in its beauty. With its walls
and towers, its piled‐up masses of houses, its terraces,
quays and bathing‐ghats lit up by the setting sun, it really
looked like a city of red gold — a city such as Benares had
been until the unwholesome lives of its inhabitants
changed it to stone and mortar — while the cupolas that
were of real gold shone like so many suns. Columns of
smoke, dark red‐brown from the temple courts above,
light blue from the funeral pyres on the banks below, rose
straight into the air. Carried aloft on these, as if it were a
canopy, there hung over the whole a veil woven of the
tenderest tints of mother‐of‐pearl, while in the background,
flung forth in the wildest profusion, there flashed
and burned every hue of heaven. On the sacred stream,
which mirrored all this glory and multiplied it a thousand‐
fold in the shimmer of its waters, countless boats were
rocking, gay with many‐coloured sails and streamers. And,
distant though we were, we could see the broad stairs of
the ghats swarming with people and numerous bathers
splashing in the sparkling waves beneath. A sound of
joyous movement, floating out upon the air like the busy
hum of innumerable bees, was borne up to us from time
As you can imagine, I felt as if I was looking upon
a city of the Tavatimsa heaven, the abode of the Thirty‐three
Gods, rather than one of human beings; indeed, the
whole valley of the Gangā and the Yamunā with its luxuriant
richness looked to us men of the hills like Paradise. And, in
truth, this very place of all others on earth was indeed to
become Paradise for me.
That same night I slept under the hospitable roof of
Panāda, my father's old friend.
Early on the following day I hurried to the nearest
ghat and descended, with feelings which I cannot attempt
to describe, into the sacred waters which should not only
cleanse me from the dust of my journey but also from my
unwholesome karma as well. This was, owing to my
youth, of no great gravity as yet; however I filled a large
bottle from the river to take home to my father. Unfortu‐
nately, it never came into his possession, as you will soon
learn from my tale.
The good Panāda, a grey‐haired old gentleman of
venerable appearance, now conducted me to the markets
of the city and, with his friendly assistance, in the course
of the next few days I was able to sell my wares at a good
profit — and to purchase an abundance of those products
of the northern plains which are so highly prized among
My business was thus brought to a happy conclusion
long before the embassy had begun to think of getting
ready to start on its return journey; and I was in no way
sorry, for I had now full liberty to see the town and to
partake of its pleasures, which I did to the full, in the
company of Somadatta, the son of my host.
~ 4 ~
THE MAIDEN BALL‐PLAYER
ONE DELIGHTFUL AFTERNOON we took
ourselves to a public garden outside the town — a
really magnificent park it was, lying close to the high
banks of the Gangā with shady groups of trees, large lotus
ponds, marble summer‐houses and jasmine arbours in
which, at this hour of the day, life and bustle reigned
supreme. Here we were gently rocked on a golden swingseat
by the attendants, while with ravished hearts we
listened to the lovesick notes of the Kokila bird and the
sweet chatter of the green parrots. All at once there rose
on the air the merry tinkling of anklets, and instantly my
friend sprang out of the swing and called to me:
"Look, Kāmanīta! The fairest maidens in Kosambī
are just approaching, virgins specially chosen from the
richest and most noble houses, come to do honour to the
Goddess who dwells on the Vindhaya mountains by
engaging in ball games. Count yourself fortunate, my
friend, for at this game we may see them without restraint.
Come, we must not miss our chance."
Naturally I waited for no second bidding but made
haste to follow.
On a spacious stage decorated with precious
stones the maidens appeared, ready for the game. And, if
it must be acknowledged that it was a rare sight to behold
this galaxy of fair young creatures in all their glory of
shimmering silk, airy muslin veils, pearls, sparkling jewels
and golden bangles, what must be said of the game itself
that gave to all these gracious figures such varied opportu‐
nities of displaying their wealth of subtle beauty in the
most charming of positions and movements? And yet that
was, as it were, but a prologue. For when these gazelle‐
eyed worshippers had entertained us for a considerable
time with games of many kinds, they all stepped back
except for one, who remained alone in the centre of the
jewelled stage: in the centre of the stage... and in the
centre of my heart.
Ah, my friend, what shall I say? To talk of her
beauty would be an audacity! I should need to be a poet
like Bharata himself to conjure up to your imagination
even a faint reflection of it. Let it suffice that this maiden,
with the gentle radiance of the moon in her face, was of
such faultless form and glowed in every feature with the
freshness of youth, that I felt her to be the incarnate
Goddess of Fortune and Beauty. Every hair on my body
quivered with delight as I beheld her.
In honour of the Goddess whom she so perfectly
represented, she soon began a performance worthy of a
great artist. Dropping the ball easily on the stage, as it
slowly rose she gave it, with flower‐like hand, thumb
slightly bent and tender fingers outstretched, a sharp
downward blow, then struck it, as it rebounded, with the
back of her hand and caught it again in mid‐air as it fell.
She tossed it in slow, in medium and in quick time, now
inciting it to rapid motion, then gently quieting it.
Then, striking it alternately with the right hand and
with the left, she drove it towards every point of the
compass and caught it as it returned. If you are acquainted
with the mysteries of ball‐play — as it seems to me from
the intelligence of your expression that you are — I need
only tell you that you have probably never seen the
Curnapāda and the Gītamarga so perfectly mastered.
Then she did something that I had never seen and
of which I had not even heard. She took two golden balls
and, while her feet moved in a dance to the tinkling of the
jewels she wore, she made the balls spring so rapidly in
lightning‐like lines, that it was as if one saw the golden
bars of a cage in which a wondrous bird hopped daintily
to and fro.
It was at this point that our eyes suddenly met.
To this day, O stranger, I do not understand how it
was that I did not instantly drop dead, to be reborn in a
heaven of bliss. It may well be, however, that the fruits of
deeds done in a former life were not yet exhausted.
Indeed, this karma from my wanderings in the past has, it
seems, carried me safely through various mortal dangers
down to the present day, and I trust it will do so for a long
time to come.
But to return. At this instant one of the balls, which
had hitherto been so obedient to her, escaped and flew in
a mighty curve down from the stage. Many young men
rushed to seize it. I reached it at the same moment as
another richly‐dressed youth and we flew at one another,
because neither was willing to yield it. Owing to my
absolute familiarity with the tricks of the wrestler, I suc‐
ceeded in tripping him up; but he, in order to hold me
back, caught at the crystal chain which I wore round my
neck, and to which an amulet was attached. The chain
snapped, he went crashing to the earth and I secured the
ball. In a fury, he sprang up and hurled the chain at my
feet. The amulet was a tiger‐eye, not a specially precious
stone, yet it was an infallible safeguard against the evil
eye; and now, just as his enraged glare landed upon me, I
was without it. But what did that matter to me? Did I not
hold in my hand the ball which, a moment before, her lily
‐hand had touched? At once, as any highly‐skilled player
should, I succeeded in pitching it with such an accurate
aim that it came down just in front of one corner of the
stage and, rising again with a gentle movement, it landed
as if tamed within reach of the fair player, who had not for
a moment ceased to keep the other in motion, and who
now wove herself again into her golden cage — amid the
wild jubilation of the crowd of spectators. With that the
ball‐play in honour of the Goddess Lakshmī came to an
end, the maidens disappeared from the stage and we
turned our steps homeward.
On the way, my friend remarked that it was fortu‐
nate that I had no business to conduct at court; for the
young man from whom I had captured the ball was no
less a personage than the son of the Minister of State, and
everyone had noticed from his looks that he had sworn
undying hatred to me. That did not move me in the slight‐
est; how much rather would I have learned who my
Goddess was. I fought shy of asking, however; in fact,
when Somadatta wanted to tease me about the fair one, I
even affected perfect indifference, praised with the lan‐
guage of a connoisseur the finish of her play but added, at
the same time, that we had in my native town girl‐players
at least as skilful — while in my heart of hearts I begged
the incomparable one to pardon my falsehood.
I need hardly say that that night brought no sleep
to my eyes, which I only closed in order to be possessed
anew by the blissful vision I had seen. The following day
was spent by me in a corner of my host's garden, far
removed from all the noise of the day, where the sandy
soil under a mango‐tree ministered a cooling balm to my
love‐tortured body — my only companion being the
seven‐stringed vīnā to which I confided my longing. As
soon as the lessening heat permitted my going out, how‐
ever, I persuaded Somadatta to drive with me to the public
gardens, although he would have greatly preferred to go
to a quail fight. As it was, I wandered through the whole
park in vain. Many maidens were there and all engaged in
games, as though bent on luring me with false hopes from
one spot to another, but that unsurpassed one — Sri
Lakshmī's very image — was not among them.
Bitterly disappointed, I now pretended that I was
possessed by an irresistible longing to enjoy the strangely
fascinating life of the Gangā. We visited all the ghats and
finally got into a boat, in order to become one of the
joyous flotilla which every evening rocked to and fro on
the waves of the sacred stream. I lingered until the play of
light and the golden glow of evening were extinguished,
and the blaze of torches and the glimmer of lanterns
danced and whirled on its glassy surface.
Then at last I was obliged to give up my silent but
nonetheless passionate hope, and I bid my boatman steer
for the nearest ghat.
After another sleepless night I remained in my
room and, in order to occupy and relieve my mind which
was still utterly possessed by her image, I sought with the
aid of brush and colour to transfer to the wooden panel
on my wall her fair lineaments as I had last beheld them,
when dancing she had struck the golden ball. I was
unable to eat a morsel; for even as the Cakora with its
exquisitely tender song lives only upon the rays of the
moon, so did I live solely upon the rays that emanated
from her whose face was as the moon in its fairness,
although these came to me only through the mists of
memory; yet I confidently hoped that this evening in the
pleasure gardens they would refresh and vivify me with all
their glow and radiance. Alas! I was again doomed to
Afterwards Somadatta wished to take me to the
gaming tables, for he was as passionately addicted to the
dice as was Nāla after the fierce Goddess Kālī had entered
into him. I feigned tiredness.
Instead of going home however, I took myself
again to the ghats and out onto the river, but, to my
unspeakable grief, with no better result than on the pre‐
ceding evening: She was not there.
~ 5 ~
THE MAGIC PORTRAITS
I KNEW THAT
for me sleep was not to be
thought of, I did not undress at all that evening,
but sat down at the head of my bed on the grass
mat intended for meditation and devotional prayers. I
spent the night there in what I took to be a suitably spiri‐
tual fashion: filled with fervent thoughts of love and
absorbed in contemplation of the lotus‐bearing Lakshmī,
her celestial prototype. The early morning sun, however,
found me again at work with brush and colour.
Several hours had already flown away as if on
wings while I was thus occupied, when Somadatta entered
the room. When I heard him coming, I only just had time
to thrust the panel and painting materials under the bed. I
did this quite involuntarily.
Somadatta took a low chair, sat down beside me
and looked at me with a smile on his face.
"In truth I perceive," he said, "that our house is to
have the honour of being the spiritual birthplace of a holy
man. You fast as only the most strenuous of ascetics do
and refrain from using the luxurious bed. For neither on
your pillows nor on your mattress is there to be seen the
faintest impression of your body, and the white sheet is
without a crease. Nevertheless, although as the result of
your fasting you have already grown quite slim, your body
is not yet entirely devoid of weight, as the observant may
see from this grass mat on which you have obviously
spent the night in prayer and meditation. But I find that,
for so holy a tenant, this room looks somewhat too
worldly: here on your dressing‐table, the jar of skin cream
— untouched, it is true; the box of sandal‐wood powder;
the carafe of scented water and the dish with bark of the
lemon tree and betel‐nut. There on the wall, the wreath of
yellow amaranths, and the vīnā, but... where is the panel
which usually hangs on that hook?"
In my embarrassment I was unable to frame any
answer to this question and he meanwhile discovered the
missing board, and drew it forth from under the bed.
"Why! Why! What wicked and crafty wizard," he
cried, "has caused the fascinating picture of a maiden
playing ball to appear by magic on the board which I
myself hung quite empty on that hook? Plainly, they have
done this with evil intent, to assail the embryo ascetic and
tempt him at the very beginning of his career, and thus to
confuse both sense and thought in him. Or could it be that
this is the work of a god? For we know it is a fact that the
gods fear the omnipotence of great ascetics; and, begin‐
ning as you have done, the Vindhaya Mountains might
well begin to belch smoke at the fervency of your austeri‐
ties; indeed, owing to your accumulation of blessings, the
kingdom of heavenly beings might almost begin to totter.
And now I also know which deity it is! Certainly it is he
whom we name the Invisible, the God with the Flower
Darts who bears a fish on his banner — Kāma, the god of
love, from whom you get your name, as I now remember.
And, heavens, what do I see? But this is Vāsitthī, the
daughter of the rich goldsmith!"
As I thus, for the first time, heard the name of my
belovèd, my heart began to beat violently and my face
grew pale from agitation.
"I see, my dear friend," this incorrigible jester went
on, "that the idea of the magic of Kāma has given you a
great fright and, truly, we shall be obliged to do something
in order to avert his anger. In such a case, however, I feel
that a woman's counsel is not to be despised. I shall show
this picture to my belovèd Medinī, who was also one of
those at the dance and who is, furthermore, the foster‐sister
of the fair Vāsitthī."
With that, he was about to go away, taking the
panel with him. Perceiving, however, what the rogue had
in mind I bade him wait, as the picture still lacked an
inscription. I mixed some beautiful red of a brilliant hue
and in a few minutes had written, in the daintiest of script,
a verse of four lines which related in simple language the
incident of the golden ball. The verse, when read back‐
wards, stated that the ball with which she had played was
my heart, which I myself sent back to her even at the risk
of her rejecting it. It was possible, however, to read the
verse perpendicularly through the lines and when so read,
from top to bottom, it voiced in saddest words the despair
into which my separation from her had plunged me; if one
read it in the opposite direction then the reader learned
that nevertheless I dared to hope.
But of all that I had conveyed to her in such a
surreptitious fashion I said nothing, so that Somadatta was
by no means enchanted with this specimen of my poetic
skill. It seemed to him much too simple, and he informed
me that I ought certainly to mention how the god Kāma,
alarmed at my asceticism, had by his magic skill created
this picture with which to tempt me and that by it I had
been wholly vanquished — Somadatta, like so many
others, being highly impressed by his own wit.
After he had carried off the picture I felt myself in a
particularly exalted and energetic mood, for a step had
now been taken which, in its consequences, might lead to
the longed‐for goal of all my happiness. I was now able to
eat and drink and, after a light meal, I took down the vīnā
from the wall and drew from its strings melodies that were
sometimes no more than tuneful sighs but now and then
grew exulting and joyous, while I repeated the heavenly
name of Vāsitthī in a thousand endearing accents.
Somadatta found me thus when, a few hours later,
he came in with the picture in his hand. "The ball‐playing
destroyer of your peace has also been moved to verse,"
said he, "but I cannot say that I am able to find much of
consequence in what she has written, although the hand‐
writing is unusually pretty."
And it was indeed pretty. I saw before me — with
inexpressible joy — a second verse of four lines written in
characters like sprays of tender blossoms swayed by sum‐
mer zephyrs, and looking as if they had been breathed
upon the picture. Somadatta had, of course, been unable
to find any meaning in them, for they referred solely to
that which he had not perceived, and showed me that my
fair one had correctly read my composition in every
direction — backwards, upwards and downwards. It gave
me a good idea of her exalted education and knowledge,
no less than it did the revelation of her rare spirit in the
graciously humorous turn she gave to my fiery declara‐
tion, which she chose to accept as a piece of gallantry or
an effusion to which too much importance need not be
I now attempted, I confess, to read her verse in the
criss‐cross fashion which had been possible with mine, in
the hope that I might find in it a covert confession or other
secret message, perhaps even the invitation to a rendez‐
vous, but in vain. And I told myself at once that this was in
truth but a convincing proof of the highest and most
refined feminine virtue: my darling showed me that she
was perfectly capable of understanding the subtlety and
daring ways of the masculine mind but could not be
induced to imitate them.
Besides which I found immediate comfort for my
disappointed expectations in Somadatta's next words.
"But this fair one with the beautiful brows, even if
she is no great poetess, really has a good heart. She knows
that for a long time I have not seen her foster‐sister, my
belovèd Medinī, except at large social gatherings where
only the eyes may speak and even these solely by stealth.
And so she has arranged a meeting for tomorrow night, on
the terrace of her father's palace. Tonight it is, I regret to
say, not possible as her father gives a banquet; so until
tomorrow we must have patience. Perhaps you would like
to accompany me on this adventure?"
As he said this, he laughed with much slyness and I
laughed with him, assuring him that he would have my
company. In the best of spirits, we took the chessboard
which was leaning against the wall and were about to pass
the time by engaging in this game when a man‐servant
came in and announced that a stranger wished to speak
In the entrance hall I found the ambassador's
attendant, who informed me that I must prepare for
departure at once and come to the courtyard of the palace
that very night, bringing my wagons in order to be able to
start with the first glimmer of daylight on the morrow.
My despair knew no bounds and I imagined that I
must have offended one of the deities in some mysterious
way. As soon as I was able to collect my thoughts I dashed
away to the ambassador and filled his ears with lies about
some business that I had not yet arranged, and that it
could not possibly be brought to a satisfactory conclusion
in so short a time. With hot tears I begged him to put off
the journey for but a single day.
"But you said eight days ago that you were ready,"
I assured him that afterwards, and quite unexpect‐
edly, the opportunity of gaining a valuable prize had
presented itself. And that was indeed no falsehood, for
what gain could mean more to me than winning the heart
of this incomparable maiden? So I finally succeeded in
willing this one day from him.
The hours of the next day wore quickly away,
filled as they were with the preparations necessary for our
journey, so that in spite of my longing the time did not
drag. When evening came our carts stood loaded in the
courtyard. Everything was prepared for yoking in the oxen
so that, as soon as I should appear — that is, before
daybreak — we might be able to start.
~ 6 ~
ON THE TERRACE OF THE SORROWLESS
NOW THAT NIGHT AND darkness had come,
Somadatta and I took ourselves — clad in
shadow‐coloured clothing which we gathered well up
about us, our waists firmly belted and with swords in our
hands — to the western side of the palatial house of the
goldsmith, where the terrace that we sought was perched,
crowning the steep and rocky side of a deep ravine. With
the help of a bamboo pole that we had brought with us,
and by the dexterous use of a few existing projections, we
climbed the face of the rock at a spot veiled in deep
darkness. We swung over the wall with ease and found
ourselves on a spacious terrace decorated with palms,
Asoka trees and magnificent flowering plants of every
description, all now bathed in the silver light of the moon.
Not far away, beside a young girl on a garden
bench and looking like a visitant from the heavenly
spheres in her wonderful likeness to Lakshmī, sat the
great‐eyed maiden who had played ball with my heart. At
the sight I began to tremble so violently that I was obliged
to lean against the parapet, the touch of whose marble
cooled and quieted my fevered and failing senses.
Meanwhile Somadatta hastened to his belovèd,
who had sprung up with a low cry. Seeing this, I also
pulled myself together so far as to be able to approach the
incomparable one. She, to all appearances surprised at the
arrival of a stranger, had risen and seemed undecided as
whether she should go or stay; her eyes meanwhile, like
those of a startled young gazelle, shot sidelong glances at
me, and her body quivered like a tendril swaying in a
gentle breeze. As for me, I stood in steadily increasing
confusion, with disordered hair and tell‐tale eyes, and was
barely able to stammer a few words in which I told her
how much I appreciated the unhoped‐for happiness of
meeting her here. But she, when she noticed my great
shyness, seemed herself to become calmer. She sat down
on the bench again, and invited me with a gentle
movement of her lotus‐hand to take a seat beside her; and
then, in a voice full of tremulous sweetness, assured me
that she was very glad to be able to thank me for having
flung the ball back to her with such skill that the game
suffered no interruption; for, had that happened, the
whole merit of her performance would have been lost and
the Goddess so clumsily honoured would have visited her
anger upon her, or would at least have sent her no
happiness. To which I replied that she owed me no thanks
as I had, at the very most, only made good my own
mistake and, as she did not seem to understand what I
had meant by that, I ventured to remind her of the
meeting of our eyes and of the ensuing confusion which
caused her to fail in her stroke so that the ball flew away.
But she reddened violently and absolutely refused to
acknowledge such a thing:— What should have confused
her in that?
"I imagine," I answered, "that from my eyes, which
must have rivalled flowers in full bloom then, such a sweet
odour of admiration streamed forth that for a moment you
were stupefied and so your hand went beside the ball."
"Oh! What talk is this of yours about admiration?"
she retorted, "you are accustomed to seeing much more
skilful players in your home‐town!"
From this remark I gathered with satisfaction that I
had been talked of and that the words I had used to
Somadatta had been accurately repeated. But I grew hot
and then cold at the thought that I had spoken almost
slightingly and I hastened to assure her that there was not
one word of truth in my statement, and that I had only
spoken thus in order not to betray my precious secret to
my friend. But she wouldn't believe it, or made as if she
didn't and, in speaking of it, I happily forgot my bashful‐
ness, grew passionately eager to convince her, and told
her how, at the sight of her, the Love God had rained his
flower darts upon me:— I was convinced, I said, that in a
former existence she had been my heart's companion —
otherwise how could such a sudden and irresistible love
have arisen? But if that were so, then she must equally
have recognised in me her former belovèd, and a similar
love must have sprung up in her breast also.
With such audacious words did I besiege her, until
at length she had her burning and tearful cheek on my
breast and acknowledged in words that were scarcely
audible, that it had been with her as it had been with me,
and that she would surely have died had not her foster‐
sister brought her the picture.
Then we kissed and caressed one another countless
times and felt as if we should expire for joy, until
suddenly the thought of my impending departure fell like
a dark shadow over my happiness and forced a deep sigh
from within me.
Dismayed, Vāsitthī asked why I sighed, but when I
told her of the cause she sank back fainting on the bench
and broke into a perfect tempest of tears and heart‐rending
sobs. Vain were all my attempts to comfort my heart's
belovèd one. In vain did I assure her that as soon as the
rainy season was over I would return and never again
leave her, even if I had to take service as a manual
labourer in Kosambī. Spoken to the winds were all my
assurances that my despair at the separation was not less
than her own, and that only stern, inexorable necessity
tore me away from her so soon. Between her sobs, she
was scarcely able to utter the few words needed to ask
why it was so imperative to go away as early as tomorrow,
just when we had found one another. And when I then
explained it all to her very exactly, with every detail, she
seemed neither to hear nor to comprehend two syllables
together:— Oh, she saw perfectly that I was longing to get
back to my native town where there were many maidens
more beautiful than she, who were also far more skilful
ball‐players, as I myself had acknowledged.
I might affirm, protest, and swear whatever I chose
— she nevertheless adhered to her assertion, and ever
more copiously flowed her tears. Can anyone wonder that
I soon found myself lying at her feet, covering the hand
that hung limply down with kisses and tears, and that I
promised not to leave her? And who could then have been
more blissful than I when Vāsitthī flung her soft arms
around me, kissing me again and again, laughing and
crying for joy?
It is true she now instantly said: "There, you see, it was
not at all so necessary for you to travel away, for then
you would unquestionably have had to go." But when I set
myself once more to explain everything clearly to her,
she closed my mouth with a kiss and said that she knew I
loved her and that she did not really mean what she had said
of the girls in my native town.
Filled with tender caresses and sweet confidences,
the hours flew by as in a dream, and there would have
been no end to all our bliss had not Somadatta and Medinī
suddenly appeared to tell us that it was high time to think
of returning home.
In the courtyard at Somadatta's we found every‐
thing ready for my setting out. I called the overseer of the
ox‐wagons to me and — bidding him use the utmost haste
— sent him to the ambassador with the information that
my business was, I was sorry to say, not yet entirely settled
and that I must, as a consequence, relinquish the idea of
making the journey under the escort of the embassy. My
one request was that he would be so good as give my love
to my parents and with that I closed my message.
Scarcely had I stretched myself on my bed, in order
— if possible — to enjoy a few hours' sleep, when the
ambassador himself entered. Thoroughly dismayed, I
bowed deeply before him while he, in imperious voice,
asked what this unheard‐of behaviour meant:— I was to
come with him at once!
In reply, I was about to speak of my still unfinished
business, but he stopped me in mid‐stream.
"What nonsense! Business! Enough of such lies. Do
you suppose I would not know what kind of business is
on hand when a young puppy suddenly declares himself
unable to leave a town, even if I had not seen that your
wagons already stand fully loaded, harnessed up with the
oxen, in the courtyard?"
Of course I now stood scarlet with shame and
trembling, completely revealed in my lie. But when he
ordered me to come with him at once, as already too
many of the precious, cool morning hours had been lost,
he encountered an opposition for which he was plainly
not prepared. From a tone of command he passed to a
threatening one, and finally was reduced to pleading. He
reminded me that my parents had only decided to send
me on such a distant journey because they knew I would
perform it in his company and under his protection.
But he could have put forward no argument less
suited to his purpose. For I at once realised that then I
should have to wait until another embassy went to
Kosambī before I could return to my Vāsitthī. No, I would
show my father that I was well able to conduct a caravan
alone through all the hardships and dangers of the road.
It is true that the ambassador now painted all of
these dangers in vividly gloomy colours, but all that he
said was spoken to the winds. Finally, in a great rage, he
left me:— He was not to blame, he barked, and I must
smart for my own folly.
To me it seemed as if I were relieved from an
insufferable burden; I had now surrendered myself com‐
pletely to my love. In this sweet realisation I fell asleep
and did not wake until it was time for us to take ourselves
to the terrace where our loved ones awaited us.
Night after night we came together there, and on
each occasion Vāsitthī and I discovered new treasures in
our mutual affection and bore away with us an increased
longing for our next meeting. The moonlight seemed to
me to be more silvery, the marble cooler, the scent of the
double‐jasmines more intoxicating, the call of the Kokila
bird more languishing, the rustling of the palms more
dreamy, and the restless whispering of the Asokas more
full of mysterious promise than they could possibly have
been anywhere else in the world.
Oh! How distinctly can I still recall the splendid
Asoka trees which stood along the whole length of the
terrace and underneath which we so often wandered,
holding each other in close embrace. 'The Terrace of the
Sorrowless' it was called, from those trees which the poets
name The Sorrowless Tree, and sometimes Heartsease. I
have never seen such magnificent specimens anywhere
else. The spear‐shaped sleepless leaves gleamed in the
rays of the moon and whispered in the gentle night‐wind,
and in‐between them glowed the golden, orange and
scarlet flowers, although we were as yet only at the begin‐
ning of the Vasanta season. But then, brother, how should
these trees not have stood in all their glory, seeing that the
Asoka opens its blossoms at once if its roots are touched
by the foot of a beautiful maiden.
One wonderful night, when the moon was at its
full, I stood beneath them with the belovèd cause of their
early bloom, my sweet Vāsitthī. Beyond the deep shadow
of the ravine we gazed far out into the land. We saw the
two rivers before us wind like silver ribbons away over the
vast plain and unite at that most sacred spot, which people
call the Triple Union, because they believe that the Heav‐
enly Gangā joins them there as a third river — for by this
beautiful name they call the wonderful heavenly glow
which we in the South know as the Milky Way — and
Vāsitthī, raising her hand, pointed to where it shone far
above the tree‐tops.
Then we spoke of the mighty Himalayas in the
north, whence the blessèd Gangā flows down; the
Himalayas, whose snow‐covered peaks are the dwelling
places of the gods and whose immense forests and deep
chasms have given shelter to the great ascetics. But it was
with even greater pleasure that I followed the course of
the Yamunā to where it takes its rise.
"Oh," I called out, "if I only had a fairy ship of
mother‐of‐pearl, with my wishes for sails and steered by
my will — it would carry us on the swell of that silver
stream upwards to its source. Then Hastinapura would rise
again from its ruins and the towering palaces would ring
with the banqueting of the revellers and the strife of the
dice‐players. Then the sands of Kurukshetra would yield
up their dead. There the great Bhīshma in his silver
armour, over which would float his long white braided
locks, would tower above the field on his lofty chariot and
rain his polished arrows upon the foe; the valiant Phaga‐
datta would come dashing, mounted on his battle‐drunk
bull elephant; the agile Krishna would sweep with the
four white warrior‐steeds of Arjuna into the fiercest tumult
of the fight.
"Oh! How I envied the ambassador his belonging
to the warrior caste, when he told me that his ancestors
also had taken part in that never‐to‐be‐forgotten encounter.
But that was foolish. For not only by descent do we
possess ancestors; we are our own ancestors. Where had I
been then? Probably also there among the combatants. For
although I am a merchant's son, the practice of arms has
always been my greatest delight; and it is not too much to
say that, sword in hand, I am a match for any man."
Vāsitthī embraced me rapturously and said:— I
must certainly have been one of the heroes who still live
on in song; which one of them of course we could not
know, as the perfume of the Coral Tree could scarcely
penetrate to us through the sweet aroma of the Asoka
I asked her to tell me something of the nature of
that perfume of which, to tell the truth, I had never heard,
for indeed I found that fantasy, like all other things,
blossomed far more luxuriously here in the valley of the
Gangā than it did with us more arid folk up amongst the
So she related to me how once, on his journeying
through Indra's world, Krishna had, at the martial games,
won the celestial Coral Tree and had planted it in his
garden, a tree whose deep red blossoms spread their
fragrance far around. And she said that one who inhaled
this perfume would remember in her heart the long, long
past times of former lives long since vanished.
"But only saints and holy ones are able to inhale
this perfume here on earth," she said, and added almost
roguishly, "and we two shall, I fear, hardly become such.
But what does that matter? Even if we were not Nāla and
Damayantī, I am sure we loved each other quite as much
— whatever our names may have been. And perhaps,
after all, Love and Faith are the only realities, merely
changing their names and forms. They are the melodies
and we the instruments upon which they are played. The
vīnā is shattered and another is strung, but the melody
remains the same. It can sound, it is true, fuller and nobler
on one instrument than on another, just as my new vīnā
sounds far more beautiful than my old one. However,
whatever is the case with us two, we are both splendid
instruments for the gods to play upon — from which to
draw the sweetest of all music."
I pressed her silently to my breast — deeply
moved as well as astonished at these thoughts, profound
But she added — and smiled gently, probably
guessing what was in my mind: "Oh! I know, I really
ought not to have such thoughts; our old family brahmin
became quite angry on one occasion when I hinted at
something of the kind:— I was to pray to Krishna and
leave the thinking to the brahmins! So, since I am not to
think but am only allowed to believe, I will believe that
we were, really and truly, Nāla and Damayantī."
And, raising her hands in prayer to the Asoka
before us, in all its glory of shimmering blossom and
flimmering leaf, she spoke to it in the words which Dama‐
yantī, wandering heart‐broken in the woods, used to the
Asoka. But on her lips the flexible verses of the poet
seemed to grow without effort and to blossom ever more
richly, like a young shoot transplanted into hallowed soil:
"Oh Sorrowless One,
Of this heart‐stricken girl, hear the anguished cry!
You, so well‐named 'Heartsease',
Bring the peace of your peace to me.
Your blossoms, all‐seeing, are the eyes of gods;
Your whispering leaves their lips,
Tell me! Oh tell me, where my heart's belovèd
Where is it my cherished Nāla waits?"
Then she looked on me with love‐filled eyes, in
whose tears the moonlight was clearly mirrored, and she
spoke with lips that were drawn and quivering: "When
you are far away, and you recall this scene of our bliss,
imagine to yourself that I stand here and speak thus to this
noble tree. Only then I shall not say Nāla but Kāmanīta."
I locked her in my arms, and our lips met in a kiss
full of unutterable feeling.
Suddenly there was a rustling in the summit of the
tree above us. A large, luminous red flower floated down‐
ward and settled on our tear‐bedewed cheeks. Vāsitthī took
it in her hand, smiled, blessed it with a kiss, and gave it to
me. I hid it in my breast.
Several flowers had fallen to the ground in the
avenue of trees. Medinī, who sat beside Somadatta on a
bench not far from us, sprang to her feet and, holding up
several yellow Asoka blossoms, came towards us calling
out: "Look, sister! The flowers are beginning to fall already.
Soon there will be enough of them for your bath."
"You don't mean those yellow things!" exclaimed
my mischievous friend. "Vāsitthī may not, on any account,
put them into her bath‐water, that is, if her flower‐like
body is to blossom in harmony with her love; I assure you,
only such scarlet flowers as that one which Kāmanīta has
just concealed at his heart should be used. For it is written
in the Golden Book of Love: 'It is called Saffron, Yellow
Affection, when it attracts attention but then later fades
away; it is called Scarlet however, when it does not fade
but later becomes only too apparent.'"
At the same time he and Medinī laughed in their
merry, confidential way.
Vāsitthī, however, answered gravely, though with
her sweet smile, and gently but firmly pressed my hand:
"You are mistaken, Somadatta! My love has the colour of
no flower. For I have heard it said that the colour of the
truest love is not red but black — blue‐black as Shiva's
throat became when the god swallowed the poison which
would otherwise have destroyed all living beings. And so
it must always be. True love must be able to withstand the
poison of life, and must be willing to taste the bitterest, in
order that the loved one may be spared. And from that
bitterest it will assuredly prefer to choose its colour, rather
than from any pleasures, however dazzling."
In such profound fashion spoke my belovèd Vāsitthī,
that night under the Sorrowless trees.
~ 7 ~
IN THE RAVINE
DEEPLY MOVED BY THESE vivid memories, the
young seeker became silent for a short time.
Then he sighed, drew his hand over his forehead and
went on with his narrative.
In short, O brother, I went about during this whole
time as if intoxicated with bliss and my feet scarcely
seemed to touch the earth. On one occasion I felt obliged
to laugh aloud because I had heard that there were people
who called this world a vale of tears, a place of dissatisfac‐
tion, and who directed their thoughts and aspirations to
not being born again in the human realm. "What misguided
fools, Somadatta," I cried, "as if there could be a more
perfect abode of bliss than the Terrace of the Sorrowless!"
But beneath the Terrace was the Abyss.
Down into this we had just scrambled, as I had called
out those foolish words and, as if I were to be shown that
even the greatest of earthly pleasures has its bitterness, we
were at that very instant attacked by several armed men.
How many there were of them it was not possible for us to
distinguish in the darkness. Fortunately, we were able to
cover our backs by placing them against the wall of rock;
and, with the calming awareness that we were now only
threatened from the front, we began to fight for life and
love. We bit our teeth together and were silent as the night
as we parried and thrust as coolly as possible; but our
opponents howled like devils in order to urge one another
on and we believed we could distinguish eight or ten of
them. Even if they now found a couple of better swords‐
men before them than they had expected, our situation
was still grave. Two of them, however, soon measured
their length on the ground and their bodies hindered the
fighting of the others, who feared to stumble over them
and so be delivered up to the tender mercies of our
sword‐points. We guessed that they then withdrew a few
steps for we no longer felt their hot breath in our faces.
I whispered a few words to Somadatta and we
moved a couple of paces sideways, in the hope that our
assailants, imagining us in the old spot, would make a
sudden leap forward and, in so doing, would run against
the wall of rock and break the points of their swords,
while ours would find a firm lodging‐place between their
ribs. Although we were as cautious as could be some faint
sound must have awakened their suspicion, for the blind
attack we had hoped for did not come. But presently I saw
a narrow streak of light strike the wall, and also became
aware that this ray was emitted from a lamp‐wick, evidently
fixed in a carefully opened holder, beside which a
warty nose and a cunning half‐closed eye were to be seen.
As the bamboo pole by the help of which we had scaled
the terrace‐front was still in my left hand, I made a hearty
thrust with it. There was a loud shriek — and the disap‐
pearance of the ray, no less than the crash of the small
lamp as it fell to the earth, bore witness to the efficacy of
my strike. This brief respite we made use of to get away as
rapidly as possible in the direction from which we had
come. We knew that here the gorge became gradually
narrower and the ascent somewhat steep, and that finally
one could scramble up to the top without any great exertion.
It was nevertheless a piece of great good fortune that
our would‐be murderers very soon gave up the pursuit in
the darkness — at the final ascent, my strength threatened
to give way and I felt that I was bleeding copiously from
several wounds. My friend was also wounded, though less
On the level once more, we cut up my shirt and
temporarily bound up our wounds, and then, leaning on
Somadatta's arm, I fortunately succeeded in reaching
home, where I was obliged to pass several weeks on a
bed of pain.
There I now lay, tortured by threefold troubles: my
wounds and a fever together consumed my body; a burn‐
ing longing for my belovèd devoured my heart; but to
these two was soon added apprehension for her precious
life. For the delicate, flower‐like being had not been able
to endure the news of the mortal danger in which I had
been, and perhaps still was, and had fallen victim to a
severe illness. Her faithful foster‐sister Medinī, however,
went daily from one sick‐bed to another and so we still
enjoyed constant communication and loving exchanges.
Flowers passed to and fro between us and, as we had
both been initiated into the mystery of their secret lan‐
guage, we conveyed many things to one another by the
help of these sweet messengers. Later, as our strength
came back, many a dainty verse found its way from hand
to hand. Our condition would soon have become really
quite endurable (our recovery occurred at the same pace
for both of us, just as if we were too truly united to allow
any precedence whatsoever between us) if the future had
not approached and filled us with grave concern.
I should say here that the nature of the enigmatic
and sudden attack had not remained a mystery to us.
None other than the son of the Minister of State (Sātāgira
was his hated name) with whom I had wrestled on that
unforgettable afternoon in the park for Vāsitthī's ball —
none other than he had set the hired murderers upon me.
Beyond a doubt he had noticed that I had remained
behind in town after the departure of the embassy and, his
suspicions having been thereby awakened, he had very
soon spied out my nightly visits to the Terrace.
Oh my friend, that Terrace of the Sorrowless was,
to our love, like a sunken island now. True, I would have
joyfully flung my life into the breach over and over again
to be able to embrace my belovèd. But even if Vāsitthī had
had the heart to expose me every night to deadly danger
any such temptation was spared us. Sātāgira, in his low
cruelty, must have informed the parents of my sweetheart
of our secret meetings, for it was soon apparent that
Vāsitthī was carefully and jealously watched; besides
which, staying out on the Terrace after sundown was
forbidden to her — ostensibly on account of the danger to
Thus, then, was our love homeless. That which
most of all feels itself at home in secret, might only be so
now where the whole world looked on. In that public
garden where I first met the sight of her divine form, and
had searched for her several times in vain, we met once or
twice as if by chance. But what meetings they were! How
fleeting the stolen minutes! How hesitating and few the
hasty words! How forced the movements which felt
themselves exposed to curious or even spying glances!
Vāsitthī begged me to immediately leave this town in
which I was so threatened with deadly danger because of
her presence. She reproached herself bitterly for having
prevailed upon me to stay, and thereby having all but
driven me into the jaws of death. Perhaps even at this very
moment in which she was speaking a fresh band of
assassins was being hired to slay me. If I did not depart at
once, and so place myself beyond the reach of this peril, I
would make her the murderess of her belovèd. Suppres‐
sed sobs choked her voice, and I was obliged to stand
there without being able to enfold her in my arms or kiss
away the tears which rolled, heavy as the first drops of a
thunder‐shower, over the strained contours of her dusky
cheeks. Such a farewell I could not abide, and I told her it
was not possible to leave without first meeting her alone,
in whatsoever way this might have to be accomplished.
Just at that moment we were obliged to part owing
to the approach of several people; Vāsitthī's face held a
despairing and beseeching look but it could not shake my
determination. Spurred on by longing for me and fear for
my life — and counselled moreover by her clever and, in
all love matters, experienced foster‐sister Medinī — I
trusted that the ingenuity of my belovèd would be certain
to find some way out of the difficulty. And I was not
deceived; for that very night Somadatta informed me of a
wonderfully promising plan of hers.
~ 8 ~
THE PARADISE BUD
LITTLE BEHIND THE eastern wall of Kosambī
lies a beautiful Simsapā wood which is, strictly speaking,
a sacred grove.
In an open glade the temple sanctuary still stood,
though in a sadly dilapidated condition. It had been a long
time since any sacrificial rite had taken place in this
ancient clearing because Krishna, to whom it was dedi‐
cated, had had a magnificent and much larger temple built
to him inside the town itself. In the ruin, however, there
dwelt, along with a pair of owls, a holy woman who
enjoyed the reputation of communing with spirits, by
whose help she was able to look into the future — and
such insight the good soul did not withhold from those
who brought her votive offerings.
Such people made pilgrimages to her in large
numbers; among them, and particularly after sunset, were
young couples who were in love. And there were not a
few malicious tongues that asserted that the old woman
should have been called a fortuneteller‐cum‐matchmaker
rather than a saint. However that may have been, this
saintliness was just what we needed and her little temple
was chosen as the place for our meeting.
Next day I started with my ox‐wagons and took
care that it should be at the hour when people were on
their way to the bazaar or to the law‐courts. In doing so I
intentionally chose the most frequented streets so that my
departure could not possibly remain hidden from my
enemy Sātāgira. After only a few hours' travel, however, I
halted in a large village and had my caravan go into night‐
quarters there, to the great delight of my people. Shortly
before sunset I mounted a fresh horse and, wrapped in
the coarse cloak of one of my servants, rode back to
Kosambī over the road we had just travelled.
Night had fallen and it was quite dark by the time I
reached the Simsapā wood. As I carefully guided my horse
between the tree‐trunks, I was welcomed by the intoxic‐
ating fragrance of the blossoms of the night‐lotus, which
rose to greet me from the ancient Krishna pond.
Very soon the crumbling roof of the temple, with
its swarming images of gods and its jagged and tangled
outlines, began to show against the starlit heavens. I was
at the appointed place. Scarcely had I swung myself out of
the saddle when my friends were at my side. With a cry of
rapture, Vāsitthī and I rushed into one another's arms, half
beside ourselves with the joy of meeting again. All my
recollections now are of caresses, stammered words of
endearment and assurances of love and fidelity, which
absorbed us utterly.
I was rudely startled by the unexpected feeling of a
wing that softly fanned my cheek as it brushed lightly past.
This, together with the hoot of an owl which immediately
followed the jarring clang of a cracked bronze bell,
had the effect of completely rousing me from my
love‐trance. Medinī had pulled the old prayer‐bell and this
had scared the owl from the recess in which she dwelt.
The good‐hearted girl had done it not so much to summon
the saintly woman, as because she saw that that
formidable person was already coming out of the sanctu‐
ary, plainly indignant that she should hear voices within
the sacred precincts although no‐one had either rung or
Medinī informed the ancient woman that her great
reputation for holiness and the report of her marvellous
knowledge had brought herself and this young man —
pointing to Somadatta — to seek her, in order to receive
information about what was as yet concealed in the lap of
time. The holy woman raised her glance searchingly to‐
wards the heavens and gave it as her opinion that, as the
Pleiades occupied a particularly favourable position with
regard to the Pole Star, she had good reason to hope that
the spirits would not refuse their help; upon which she
invited Somadatta and Medinī to enter the House of
Krishna, the Sixteen‐thousand‐one‐hundredfold Bride‐
groom, who delighted in granting to a pair of lovers the
inmost wishes of their hearts.
Vāsitthī and I, however, as the supposed atten‐
dants, remained outside. How we now assured one an‐
other, with the most solemn oaths, that only the All‐
destroyer, Death, should be able to part us. Avidly we
spoke of my speedy return as soon as the rainy season
was over, and discussed ways and means by which her
extremely rich parents should be brought to consent to
How all of this was intermingled with innumerable
kisses, tears and embraces, I could not now describe to
you with even an attempt at truth, for it abides with me
only as the remembrance of a vague dream.
Still less can I, if you yourself have not lived
through a similar experience, give you any idea of the way
in which, in every embrace, sweetest rapture and heart‐
rending despair clasped each other close. For each embrace
reminded us that the last for this time would soon
come, and who could give us the assurance that it would
not then be the very last for all time?
All too soon, Somadatta and Medinī came forth
from the temple. The saintly woman wished to reveal the
future to us now also, but Vāsitthī shrank from the
"How could I bear it," she exclaimed, "if a future
that portended disaster were to be unveiled!?"
"But why just portending disaster?" said the well‐
meaning old woman, whose life experiences, presumably
as the result of her sanctity, had probably been happy
ones. "Perhaps for the servant also, happiness waits," she
added, with a look brimming with promise.
But Vāsitthī was not to be allured; sobbing, she
clung around my neck. "Oh my love!" she cried, "I feel the
future's inexorable face glaring down upon us. I feel it — I
shall never see you again."
Although these words caused an icy chill to creep
over me, I tried to reason her out of this groundless fear;
but simply because it was groundless my most eloquent
words availed little or nothing. The tears rolled in an
unbroken stream over her cheeks, and with a look of
divine love she caught my hand and pressed it to her
"Even if we should never again see each other in
this world, we shall still remain faithful; and when this
short and painful life on earth is ended, we shall find one
another in Paradise and, united there, enjoy the bliss of
heaven forever... O Kāmanīta, promise me that. How
much more will that raise me up and strengthen me than
any words of comfort! For these are as powerless against
the inevitable stream of karma already surging towards us,
as reeds before the waters of a flooding torrent. But
sacred, deep‐seated resolution is all‐powerful, and capable
of bringing forth new life."
"If it only depends upon that, belovèd Vāsitthī,
how could I fail to find you anywhere?" I said, "but let us
hope that it will be in this world."
"Here everything is uncertain and even the moment
in which we now speak is not ours, but it will be
otherwise in Paradise."
"Vāsitthī," I sighed, "is there a Paradise? Where
does it lie?"
"Where the sun sets," she replied with complete
conviction, "lies the Paradise of Infinite Light; and, for all
who have the courage to renounce the worldly, and to fix
their thoughts upon that place of bliss, there waits a pure
birth from the heart of a lotus flower. The first longing for
that Paradise causes a bud to appear in the holy waters of
the crystal pools; every pure thought, every good deed,
causes it to grow and develop; while all unwholesome‐
ness committed in thought, word and deed gnaws like a
worm within it and brings it nearer to withering away."
Her eyes shone like temple lights as she spoke
thus in a voice which sounded like sweetest music. Then
she raised her hand and pointed over the dark tops of the
Simsapā trees to where the Milky Way, with a soft radiance
upon it as of glowing alabaster, lay along the dark purple
star‐sown field of heaven.
"Look there, Kāmanīta," she whispered, "the
Heavenly Gangā! Let us swear by its silver waters, which
feed the lotus‐pools of the Fields of the Blessèd, to fix our
hearts wholly upon the preparing of an eternal home for
our love there."
Strangely moved, completely carried out of myself
and agitated to the very depths of my being, I raised my
hand to hers and our hearts thrilled as one at the divine
thought that, at that instant in the endless immensities of
space, high above the storm of this earthly existence, a
double bud of the life of eternal love had come into being.
Vāsitthī sank into my arms as though, with the
effort, all her strength was exhausted. Then, having
pressed yet another lingering farewell kiss upon my lips,
she rested on my breast to all appearance lifeless.
I put her softly onto Medinī's arms, mounted my
horse and rode away without once looking back.
~ 9 ~
UNDER THE CONSTELLATION OF THE ROBBERS
WHEN I AGAIN REACHED the village in which
my followers had taken up their quarters for the night,
I did not hesitate to waken them; and at least a couple
of hours before sunrise the caravan was on its way.
On the twelfth day, about the hour of noon, we
reached a charming valley in the wooded region of the
Vedisas. A small river, clear as crystal, wound slowly
through the green meadows; the gentle slopes were tim‐
bered with blossoming underwood which spread a lovely
fragrance all around. Somewhere about the middle of the
extended valley bottom and not far from the little river,
there stood a Nigrodha banyan tree, whose impenetrable
leafy dome cast a black shadow on the emerald grasses
beneath, and which, supported by its thousand secondary
trunks, formed a grove wherein ten caravans like mine
could easily have found shelter.
I remembered the spot perfectly from our journey out
and had already decided on it as a camping‐place, so a
halt was made. The tired oxen waded out into the stream
and drank greedily of the cooling waters, enabling them to
enjoy the tender grasses on the banks all the better. The
men refreshed themselves with a bath and, collecting
some withered branches, proceeded to light a fire on
which to cook their rice; meanwhile I, also reanimated by
a bath, flung myself down full length where the shadows
lay deepest, with a root of the chief trunk as head‐rest, in
order to think of Vāsitthī and soon, as it turned out, to
dream of her. Led by the hand of my belovèd, I floated
away through the fields of Paradise.
A great outcry brought me abruptly back to rude
reality. As though an evil magician had caused them to
grow up out of the soil, armed men swarmed about us,
and the neighbouring thickets added constantly to their
numbers. They were already at the wagons, which I had
ordered to be drawn up into a circle round the tree, and
had begun to fight with my people, who were practised in
the handling of arms and defended themselves bravely. I
was soon in the thick of the fight.
Several robbers fell by my hand. Suddenly I saw
before me a tall, bearded man of terrifying appearance:
the upper part of his body was naked and about his neck
he wore a triple garland of human fingers. Like a flash the
knowledge came to me: "This is Angulimāla, the cruel,
bloodthirsty bandit‐chief, who turns villages into heaps of
blackened timbers, reduces towns to smoking ruins and
devastates the wide lands, leaving them as desert wastes;
this is the one who does away with innocent people and
hangs their fingers about his neck." And I believed my last
hour had come. As a matter of fact this ogre‐like being at
once struck my sword out of my hand — a feat which I
would have credited no creature of flesh and blood with
the ability to perform.
Soon I lay on the ground, fettered hand and foot.
Round about me all my people were killed except one, an
old servant of my father's who was overpowered and, like
myself, had been made prisoner without a wound. Gath‐
ered in groups round about us, under the shady roof of
the gigantic tree, the robbers indulged themselves to their
hearts' content. The crystal chain with the tiger‐eye, which
was torn apart in the struggle with Sātāgira (it was a chain
which my good mother had hung round my neck as an
amulet at parting) was rent from me by Angulimāla's
murderous hand. But much more distressing was the loss
of the Asoka flower, which I had constantly carried over
my heart since that night on the Terrace. I believed I could
see it not far from me, a little red flame in the trampled
grass on the very spot where the youngest robbers ran
hither and thither, carrying to the revellers the streaming
flesh of oxen which had been hastily slaughtered and
roasted and, which was even more agreeable to the thirsty
passions of that coarse throng, calabashes filled with
It was to me as though they trampled on my heart
every time I saw my poor Asoka flower disappear under
their foul feet, to reappear a moment later less luminous
than before, until at length I could see it no longer. I
wondered whether Vāsitthī now stood beneath the
Sorrowless tree pleading for news. How good, if she were,
that it could not tell her where I then was, for she would
certainly have yielded up her tender spirit and died had
she seen me in such a condition. Not more than a dozen
paces away the formidable Angulimāla himself caroused
with several of his cronies. The bottle circulated freely and
the faces of the robbers — with the exception of one of
whom I will speak later — became more and more
flushed while they carried on conversations full of noisy
animation and excitement, and now and again broke into
At that time, unfortunately, an understanding of the
language of the robbers had not been added to my many
accomplishments — from which one may see how little
human beings can discern what acquisitions are likely to
be of most service to them. How more than glad would I
have been to be able to comprehend the gist of their
raucous talk, for I did not doubt that it concerned me and
my fate. Their faces and gestures showed me as much
with gruesome plainness; and the tongues of flame, which
from time to time flashed over to me from beneath the
dark bushy brows of the robber captain, brought home
with much bitterness the loss of my amulet against the evil
eye, which I could now see gleaming amongst the severed
fingers on the shaggy breast of the demon‐king himself.
My feeling was not at fault for, as I later learned, I had cut
down a favourite of Angulimāla's before his very eyes —
one who was, moreover, the best swordsman in the whole
band. The captain had only refrained from killing me on
the spot for the reason that he wanted to slake his thirst for
vengeance by seeing me slowly tortured to death. But the
others were not inclined to see such a rich prize, which
belonged by right to the whole band, uselessly squandered
in any such way. A bald‐headed, smooth‐shaven
robber, who looked as though he might be a priest, struck
me as the man who chiefly differed in view from Anguli‐
māla, and the only one who understood how to curb the
savage. He was also the only one whose face retained its
composure during the drinking. After a long dispute, in
the course of which Angulimāla sprang up a couple of
times and reached for his sword, victory fell — fortunately
for me — to the professional aspect of the case.
It should be mentioned that Angulimāla's band
belonged to the clan of robbers known as The Senders,
so‐called because it was one of their rules that, of two
prisoners, one should be sent to raise the money required
for the ransom they demanded for the other. If they took a
father and son prisoner, they bade the father go and bring
the ransom for the son; of two brothers, they sent the
elder; if a teacher with his disciple had fallen into their
hands, then the disciple was sent; had a master and his
servant been caught, then the servant was obliged to go
— for this reason they were known as The Senders. To
this end they had, as was usual with them, spared my
father's old servant when they butchered all the rest of my
people; for, although somewhat advanced in years, he
was still very active, and looked intelligent and experi‐
enced — which indeed he had proved himself to be,
seeing that he had already successfully conducted several
He was now freed from his fetters and sent away
that same evening, after I had given him a confidential
message to my parents from which they would be able to
see that there was no deception about the matter. But
before he set out, Angulimāla scratched some marks on a
palm‐leaf and handed it to him. It was a kind of pass of
safe‐conduct, in case he should fall into the hands of other
robbers on the way back with the money. For Anguli‐
māla's name was so feared that robbers who dared to steal
royal presents from the King's highway would never have
had the audacity even to touch anything that was his.
My chains were also soon taken off, as they knew
well that I would not be so foolish as to attempt to escape.
The first use I put my freedom to was to fling myself down
on the spot where I had seen the Asoka flower disappear.
Alas! I could not even discover a remnant of it. The deli‐
cate fragment of flaming flower seemed to have been
trampled to dust under the coarse feet of the robbers. Was
it a symbol of our life‐happiness?
Comparatively free, I now lived with and moved
about among those dangerous characters, awaiting the
arrival of the ransom which had to come within two
As we were at that time in the dark half of the
month, thefts and robberies followed upon one another in
rapid succession. This season, which stands under the
auspices of the terrible Goddess Kālī, was devoted almost
exclusively to regular business, so that no night passed
without a surprise attack being carried out, or a house
being broken into. Several times whole villages were
On the fifteenth night of the waning moon, Mother
Kālī's festival was celebrated with ghastly solemnity. Not
only were bulls and countless black goats slaughtered
before her image but several unhappy prisoners as well,
the victim being placed before the altar and having an
artery so opened that the blood spouted directly into the
mouth of the terrifying figure hung round with Her neck‐
laces and pendants of human skulls. Thereafter followed a
frantic orgy, in the course of which the robbers swilled
intoxicating drink with complete abandon until quite
senseless. During the course of this bacchanalian the band
amused themselves with some of the sacred dancers,
known as bhajaderes who, with unparalleled audacity,
had been carried off from a great temple nearby.
Angulimāla, who in his cups became magnani‐
mous, wanted to make me happy also with a young and
beautiful bhajadere. But when I, with my heart full of
Vāsitthī, spurned the maiden, and she, overwhelmed by
the slight put upon her, burst into tears, Angulimāla flew
into a frightful rage, seized and would have strangled me
then and there, had not the bald, smooth‐faced robber
come to my help. A few words from him sufficed to make
the iron grip of the chief relax, and sent him away grow‐
ling like a scarcely tamed animal.
This remarkable man — who thus for the second
time had become my rescuer, although his hands were still
bloody from the hideous Kālī sacrifice he had just con‐
ducted — was the son of a brahmin. But because he had
been born under the Constellation of the Robbers he had
taken to that same trade. At first he had belonged to the
Thugs, but went over for spiritual reasons to the Senders.
From his father's family he had inherited, so he told me, a
leaning towards religious practices. So, on the one hand,
he conducted the sacrificial services as a priest — and
people ascribed the unusual luck of the band nearly as
much to his priestly knowledge as to Angulimāla's able
leadership — and, on the other hand, he lectured on the
metaphysics of the robber‐nature, in systematic form. And
not only on the technical side of it but on its ethical side
also; for I observed, to my amazement, that the robbers
did have a morality of their own and by no means consid‐
ered themselves worse than other men.
These lectures were delivered chiefly at night,
during the bright half of the month, at which time — apart
from chance occurrences — business was quiet. In a forest
clearing the hearers arranged themselves in several semi‐
circular rows about the praiseworthy Vājashravas, who sat
with his legs crossed under him. His powerful head,
barren of all hair, shone in the moonlight and his whole
appearance was not unlike that of a Vedic teacher who, in
the quiet of a starlit night, imparts the Esoteric or Secret
Doctrine to the inmates of a forest hermitage. But, on the
other hand, many an unholy and bestial face, and in truth
that of many a gallows‐bird, was to be seen there in that
circle. It seems to me, brother, as though I see them still at
this moment — as though I hear again the seething of the
sounds in that gigantic forest, now swelling to the long
rumblings of the far‐off storm, now sinking to the gentle
sigh of the night wind as it goes to rest amid the lonely
tree‐tops — at intervals, the distant growl of a tiger or the
hoarser bellow of a panther — and above it all, clear,
penetrating, marvellously quiet, the voice of Vājashravas
— a deep, full‐toned bass, the priceless inheritance of
countless generations of udgātars, the sacrificial singers of
To these lectures I was admitted because Vājashra‐
vas had conceived a liking for me. He even went so far as
to assert that I, like himself, had been born under the
Robbers' star and that I would one day join myself to the
servants of Mother Kālī.
It was also for this reason that he claimed it would
be of value for me to listen to his discourses, as they
would unquestionably waken to active life the instincts
slumbering within me. On such occasions I thus heard
truly remarkable lectures from him on the different Sects
of Kālī — usually called thieves and robbers — and on the
activities which distinguish them from each other.
No less instructive than entertaining were his other
descriptive remarks on themes like — "The value of
courtesans in hoodwinking the police," or — "Character‐
istics of officials of the upper and lower ranks open to
bribery, with reliable notes as to each man's price." Irre‐
proachable testimony was borne to his particularly keen
observation of human nature, as well as to his severe
logicality in drawing conclusions, by his treatment of the
question — "How and why rascals recognise one another
at first glance, while honest men do not, and what advan‐
tages accrue to the former from this circumstance"; not to
speak of his brilliant remarks on — "The stupidity of
night‐watchmen in general, a stimulating reflection for
beginners." The sleeping forest would ring again and
again to such choruses of laughter that the robbers flocked
together from all sides of the camp in order to hear what
was going on.
The master also understood how to handle dry
technical questions in an interesting fashion, and I recol‐
lect really fascinating dissertations on — "How to make a
breach in a wall without noise," or — "How to excavate a
subterranean passage with technical accuracy." The
proper construction of different kinds of crowbar, partic‐
ularly of the so‐called 'snake‐jaw' and the 'crab‐leg hook,'
was most graphically described; the use of soft‐stringed
instruments to discover whether people were awake, and
of the wooden head of a man thrust in at the door or
window to ascertain whether the supposed burglar will be
observed — all such things were thoroughly discussed.
His development of the theory that a man, when
carrying out a theft, must unquestionably take the life of
everyone who might bear witness against him, as also his
general consideration of the statement that a thief should
not be afflicted with moral talk and conversation but, on
the contrary, should be coarse and violent, occasionally
abandoning himself to drunkenness and immorality, I
count among the most learned and witty lectures I have
In order, however, to give you a better idea of the
profound mind of this truly original man, I must repeat to
you the most famous passage from his "Commentary on
the Ancient Kālī‐Sūtras, the Esoteric Doctrine of the
Thieves" — a discourse of all but canonical importance.
~ 10 ~
THUS THE SŪTRA READS: "The Divine also, do
you think? ... No! ... Non‐responsibility ... On
account of Space, of Scripture, of Tradition."
The worshipful Vājashravas comments upon this as
"'The Divine also...,' that is punishment.
"For, in the preceding Sūtra, such punishments
were spoken of as the king or the authorities might
decree upon the robber; these are as follows: the mutilation
of hand, foot and nose; the seething cauldron; the
pitch garland; the 'dragon's mouth'; running the gauntlet;
the rack; besprinkling with boiling oil; decapitation;
rending by dogs; impalement of the living body — these
being more than sufficient reason why the robber should,
if possible, not let himself be caught but, if he should
indeed have been caught, why he should in every possible
way seek to escape.
"Now some people say, 'Divine punishment also
threatens the robber.' 'No!' says our Sūtra. Why? Because
'Non‐responsibility ' comes into play. Which may be made
clear in three ways: by the aid of reason, from the Veda,
and from the heroic songs handed down to us.
"'On account of Space...' by which the following
consideration, founded on reason, is meant. If I cut off
the head of a human being or an animal, my sword goes
through between the indivisible particles — the atoms; for
it cannot cut through these particles on account of their
very indivisibility. What it cuts through then, is the empty
space which separates these particles. But, on account of
its very emptiness, one cannot do any harm to this space.
For to harm a nothing is just the same as not to harm
anything. As a consequence one cannot, by this cutting
through of space, incur any responsibility, and a divine
punishment cannot therefore be meted out for it. And if
this be true of killing, how much more so then of deeds
which are punished less severely by human law?
"Thus far, reason; now comes 'Scripture.'
"The sacred Veda teaches us that that which alone
has any true existence is the Highest Godhead, the Brah‐
man. If this is true, then all killing is an empty deception.
This the Veda also says in so many words, in the passage
where Yama, the God of Death, tells the young Nashiketas
of this Brahman, and among other things, says:
"'Who, when slaying, believes he kills,
Who, when slain, believes he dies,
Deceived are both this and that one too —
He dies not, neither does he kill.'
"Even more convincingly is this awful truth revealed
to us in The Heroic Song of Krishna and Arjuna —
the Bhagavad Gītā. For Krishna himself — having known
no beginning, destined to know no end, the eternal,
almighty, inconceivable Being, the Highest God, who for
the salvation of all living beings caused himself to be born
as a man — in the last days of his earthly pilgrimage Krishna
helped the king of the Pāndavas, the high‐minded Arjuna,
in the war against the Kaurāvas because the latter had
done him and his brothers grievous wrong. Now when
both armies were drawn up in battle array, their bristling
ranks opposed to one another, Arjuna espied among the
hostile forces many a former friend, many a cousin and
comrade of past days — for the Pāndavas and the
Kaurāvas were the sons of two brothers. Arjuna was
moved to the depths of his heart, and he hesitated to give
the signal for battle for he was loath to kill those who had
once been his own people. So he stood there looking
down from his war chariot, his chin sunk on his breast, a
prey to torturesome hesitancy, undecided as to what he
should do; and beside him stood the golden god Krishna,
who was his charioteer. And Krishna guessed at the
thoughts of the noble Pāndava king.
"Smiling, he pointed to the rival armies, and
showed Arjuna how all those beings came into existence
and will pass — yet only apparently do so — because in
all of them only that One lives whose past has known no
dawn, whose future shall know no sunset, untouched
alike by birth and death:
"'Whosoever holds someone to be a killer,
Or describes as 'murdered' one who's lying here,
They do not understand the truth of either case.
Come Arjuna! Now begin the fight!'
"Taught in this way, the Pāndava king gave the
signal for beginning the terrible battle, and won. So that
Krishna, the human‐born Highest God, by the revelation
of this great esoteric doctrine, changed Arjuna from a
shallow and weak‐hearted man to a deeply thoughtful,
iron‐hearted sage and hero.
"In truth then, the following also holds good —
'Whosoever commits a crime or causes it to be committed,
whosoever destroys or causes to be destroyed, whosoever
strikes or causes to be struck, whosoever robs the living of
life or takes that which has not been given to them, breaks
into houses or robs others of their property — whatsoever
it be that they do, they burden themselves with no guilt on
that account; and if someone were to slaughter every
living thing on this earth with a sharply ground axe and
reduce them to a single boneless mass, to one mass of
pulp, they would be in no way guilty on that account —
they would do no wrong. And if someone were to make
their way along the southern bank of the Gangā laying
waste and murdering, they would, on that account, acquire
no bad karma; and if someone were to make their
way along the northern bank of the Gangā distributing
alms and making offerings, on that account they would
acquire no merit. By means of generosity, gentleness and
self‐renunciation, one acquires nothing meritorious,
And there now follows the astounding, indeed
Which, in its striking brevity, runs: "Rather... on
account of The Eater..."
The meaning of these few words, wrapped as they
are in deepest mystery, the worshipful Vājashravas dis‐
closes to us as follows: "Far removed from any such idea
as that of divine punishment threatening the robber and
murderer, 'Rather' is the opposite the case; namely, that
such a one grows to be like God Himself; which becomes
clear from those passages in the Veda where the Highest
God is glorified as 'The Eater,' such as:
'Both the warrior and the brahmin, He eats for bread,
When with death's garnishing He sprinkles them.'
"As the world has its beginning in Brahman, so
also it has its passing away there — Brahman causing it
constantly to come forth anew and constantly destroying
it. So that God is not only the creator but also the devourer
of all living beings, of whom here only warriors and
brahmins are mentioned as the highest in rank but who
therefore represent all the others.
"So also it reads in another passage: 'I eat them all,
but me they do not eat.'
"These were the very words, as you should know,
of the Highest God Himself when, in the shape of a ram,
he carried the boy Medhātithi to the heavenly world. For,
indignant at his forcible abduction, the latter demanded to
know who his abductor was — 'Tell me who you are or I,
a brahmin, will strike you with my wrath;' and He, in the
semblance of a ram, revealed Himself as that Highest
Brahman, as the All in All, in the words:
"'Who is it that kills and also prisoner takes?
Who is the ram that leads you far from here?
It is I, who in this form appear,
It is I, and I appear in every form.
'If one feels fear — it be of whatsoever —
That fear is Mine, who also causes fear;
But in the holy greatness lies the difference —
I eat them all but Me they do not eat.
'Who can know Me?
Who can call Me by My true name?
I strike down all My enemies, yet no one can strike Me.'
"By this time, it must be plain to the dimmest eye
that the likeness to the Brahman cannot lie in being des‐
troyed and eaten — as would be the case were gentleness
and self‐renunciation to be regarded as virtues — but on
the contrary, it lies in destroying and eating all others. In
other words, it lies in using others to the utmost and in
crushing them — while oneself suffering no harm. There
cannot therefore be the slightest doubt that the doctrine of
the punishment of hell for one who commits deeds of
violence is an invention of the weak to protect themselves
from the might of the strong, by intimidating them.
"And if in the Veda several passages contain this
doctrine of punishment, they must have been treacher‐
ously interpolated by the weak as they are quite out of
harmony with the chief tenets of the faith. When the Rig
Veda says that, although the whole world is the Brahman,
it is a fact that God recognises humankind to be the most
fully penetrated by that Brahman. By virtue of the same
argument it must also be recognised that, among people,
the real and true robber is the one above and beyond all
others who is most fully penetrated by the Brahman, and
that the robber is therefore the Crown of Creation.
"But with regard to the thief who does not rise to
the level of robberhood: seeing that scripture frequently
declares the idea of 'That belongs to me' to be a delusion
and a hindrance to the highest purpose for which human‐
ity was created, it is, without further waste of words, clear
that thieves represent the highest Truth, as they have
made it their life‐work to combat that delusion by their
daily actions. Nevertheless robbers, on account of their
violence, stand higher.
"So then, the position of the robber as Lord of
Creation has been plainly made manifest, both by logical
reasoning, from scripture and from tradition, and is there‐
fore to be regarded as incontrovertible."
~ 11 ~
THE ELEPHANT'S TRUNK
AFTER THE FOREGOING specimen of the curious
beliefs of this extraordinary man — on whom one
could at least not lay the charge, unlike the case of so
many other noted thinkers, that he didn't put his theories
into practice — I resume the thread of my narrative.
In the presence of these many adventures and new
mental occupations (I naturally didn't neglect the oppor‐
tunity of making the robbers' vernacular my own) it was
impossible that the time should not pass quickly. But the
nearer it approached its end, the more my confidence was
shaken by oppressive fears. Would the ransom come at
all? Although the safe‐conduct given him could protect the
old servant against robbers, a tiger might have rent him in
pieces at some point on his journey, or a swollen river
swept him away, or any one of the countless unforeseen
chances of travel might have detained him until too late.
Angulimāla's flaming glances shot so often and so evilly at
me that I felt as if he were hoping for something of the
kind, and then perspiration born of pure fear broke forth
from every pore.
However wonderfully and systematically intro‐
duced, and with whatever keen logic Vājashravas' rea‐
soned statement might be established (that in every case
in which the ransom was not forthcoming within the
proper time, the prisoner in question had to be sawn
through the middle with a cross‐cut saw and both parts
tossed on to the high‐road with the head towards the
rising moon) I must honestly confess that my admiration
for this, scientifically regarded, assuredly astounding
performance of my learned friend, was somewhat spoiled
by a peculiar sensation in my more than slightly interested
peritoneum, particularly as the double‐toothed cross‐cut
saw used on such occasions was fetched and, to illustrate
what he said, was set in motion by two horrible‐looking
fellows, its victim for the moment being a wooden log
representing a human being.
Vājashravas, who noticed that I began to feel sick,
patted me encouragingly on the shoulder and said that the
thing should not in any way concern me. From this, I
naturally believed that, in case of necessity, he would
come to my rescue for the third time. But when I, in most
grateful words, hinted at something of the kind, he drew a
very long face and said:
"If your karma should really bear you such a
grudge as to cause your ransom to come late, even if only
by so much as half a day, then assuredly neither god nor
devil could help, for the laws of Mother Kālī are inviolable.
But comfort yourself, my son, you are destined for
other things. Rather do I fear for you that one day, after a
notable robber career, you will be beheaded or impaled in
some public place. But that is a long way off yet."
I could not say this comfort uplifted me greatly,
and so I was very relieved when, a full week before the
expiry of the allotted time, our faithful old servant arrived
with the sum demanded. I bade farewell to my horrible
host — who, remembering his slain friend, put on a
gloomy expression as though he would much rather have
had me sawn asunder — and affectionately pressed the
hand of the brahmin, who banished a tear of emotion by
the confident assurance that we should certainly meet
again on the nightly paths of Kālī. Then we left accompa‐
nied by four robbers, who had to answer with their lives
for our safe arrival in Ujjenī, for Angulimāla, who was very
jealous of his robber honour, promised them, as he sent us
away, that if I were not handed over safe and sound in my
native town, he would flay them alive and hang their skins
up at the four corners of a cross‐roads — and the men
knew that he kept his word.
Fortunately however it did not, in this instance,
become necessary and the four rogues, who behaved
admirably on the way, may still be in the service of the
Goddess‐dancer with her swaying necklace of skulls.
We reached Ujjenī without further adventure and,
to be quite truthful, I had had enough with what I had
already gone through. The joy of my parents at seeing me
was indescribable. But all the more was it impossible to
wring from them the permission to undertake another
journey to Kosambī very soon. My father had lost, as you
know, all the goods and all the people in my caravan in
addition to my ransom, and he was not in a position to fit
out a new one at once. Yet that was a small hindrance in
comparison to the terror which overcame my parents at
the thought of the dangers of the road. In addition we did
not fail to hear from time to time of Angulimāla's further
terrible deeds; and I cannot deny that I had no great desire
to fall into his hands a second time. Nor was there just
then the slightest possibility of getting a message through
to Kosambī — the roads were so dangerous that no
courier could be paid enough to make the journey — so I
was obliged to content myself with memories and, confi‐
dently relying upon the fidelity of my adored Vāsitthī, to
comfort myself with the hope of better times.
And at last these came. One day a rumour flew like
wild‐fire through the town that the frightful Angulimāla
had been utterly defeated by Sātāgira, the son of the
Minister in Kosambī, his band had been cut down or
dispersed and he himself with many of his most notorious
followers had been taken prisoner and executed.
My parents were now no longer able to resist my
passionate entreaties. People had very good reason to
believe that, for a long time to come, the roads would be
free, and my father was not disinclined to try his luck
again. But at this juncture I became ill, and when I rose
from my bed the rainy season was so near that it was
necessary to wait until it should be past.
Then, at last, nothing further stood in my way.
With many admonitions to be prudent, my parents bade
me farewell and I was once more on the road — at the
head of a well‐stocked caravan of thirty ox‐wagons, with a
heart full of joy and courage, and urged forward by con‐
Everything ran as smoothly on the present journey
as on my first one, and one beautiful morning I entered
Kosambī, half‐crazed with joy. I was soon aware, however,
of a huge throng of people in the streets, and my
progress became ever slower until at length, at a spot
where we had to cross the chief thoroughfare of the town,
our train of wagons was brought to a complete standstill.
It was literally impossible to force our way through the
crowd, and I now noticed that this main street was mag‐
nificently decorated with flags, carpets draped from the
windows and balconies, and festoons hung from side to
side over the road, as if for some pageant. Cursing with
impatience, I asked those who stood in front of me what
was taking place.
"Why!" they cried out, "don't you know? Today
Sātāgira, the son of the Minister of State, is celebrating his
marriage. Consider yourself blessèd to have arrived just at
this moment: the procession is now on its way from the
temple of Krishna and will pass right by here. Assuredly
you will never have beheld such magnificence before!"
That Sātāgira should be celebrating his marriage
was important and welcome news to me, because his
seeking the hand of my Vāsitthī in marriage would have
been, along with the ill‐favour of her parents, one of the
greatest hindrances to our union. So the waiting did not
displease me, especially in the realisation that it could not
last long for already we were able to see the lances of a
cavalry division which moved slowly past amid the deaf‐
ening cheers of the crowd. The people told me that these
horsemen now enjoyed great popularity in Kosambī,
because it was chiefly they who had destroyed Anguli‐
Almost directly behind them came the elephant
carrying the bride — beyond all question a stupendous
sight — the crusted, knoll‐like forehead of the gigantic
animal (which reminded one of Meru, the mountain of the
gods) was covered with a veil of many‐coloured jewels.
And just as early in the year, when a fiery bull elephant
moves along, the drops of perspiration rolling down his
temples and cheeks attract swarms of bees allured by the
sweet odour, so here his temples and cheeks shimmered
with the most wonderful pearls, above which dangled
limpid garlands of black diamonds — an effect beautiful
enough to make one cry out.
The powerful tusks were mounted with the purest
gold; and from the breastplate, which was made of the
same precious metal and set with large rubies, the airiest
of Benares muslin hung down and softly wound itself
around the powerful legs of the animal, like morning mists
around the stems of regal forest trees.
But it was the trunk of the state elephant that, more
than all other sights, enchained my glance. I had seen
processions in Ujjenī, and gorgeously decorated eleph‐
ants' trunks, but never one displaying such taste as this.
With us, the trunk was usually divided into fields which
formed one exquisite pattern and were completely cov‐
ered with colour. But here the skin was left free as the
ground‐tone, and over this branch‐like foundation was
twined a loose spray of lancet‐shaped Asoka leaves, from
the midst of which yellow, orange and scarlet flowers
shone forth — the whole, in treatment and finish, the
perfection of exquisite ornamental stylisation.
While I now studied this marvellous piece of work
with the eye of a connoisseur, there began to creep over
me a home‐sick feeling, and I seemed to inhale again all
the love‐odour of those blissful nights upon the Terrace.
My heart began to beat violently as I was involuntarily
drawn on to think of my own marriage; for what happier
adornment than just this could be invented for the animal
which should one day carry Vāsitthī, seeing that the
Terrace of the Sorrowless was famed throughout Kosambī
for its wonderful Asoka blossoms?
In this dreamy condition, I heard, near me, one
woman say to another: "But the bride — she doesn't look
at all happy!"
Hardly conscious of what I did, I glanced upward,
and a strangely uneasy feeling stole over my heart as I
caught sight of the figure sitting there under the purple
baldachin. Figure, I say because I couldn't see the face —
the head was sunk upon the breast — but even of a figure
one saw little, and it seemed as if in that mass of rainbow‐
coloured muslins, although a body did exist, it was not
one gifted with life or any power of action. The way in
which she swayed hither and thither at every movement
of the animal, whose powerful strides caused the cur‐
tained structure on his back to rock rhythmically to and
fro, had something unutterably sad, something to make
one shudder in it. There was real cause to fear that she
might at any moment plunge headlong downward. Some
such idea may have occurred to the maiden standing
behind her, for she laid her hand on the shoulder of the
bride and bent forward, possibly to whisper a word of
encouragement in her ear.
An icy fear all but crippled me as, in the supposed
servant, I recognised... Medinī. And before this suddenly
awakened foreboding had time to grow clear within me,
Sātāgira's bride raised her head.
It was my Vāsitthī.
~ 12 ~
AT THE GRAVE OF THE HOLY
YES, IT WAS SHE. No possibility of mistaking
those features, and yet they in no way resembled
hers, they were indeed like nothing that I had
ever seen — in such nameless, superhuman misery did
they seem to be petrified.
When I came to my senses again the end of the
procession was just passing us. My fainting so suddenly
was ascribed to the heat and to the crush of people.
Utterly without power of volition, I allowed myself to be
taken to the next caravanserai. There I lay down in the
darkest corner, with my face to the wall, and remained in
the same position for many days, bathed in tears and
refusing all food. To our old servant and caravan leader,
the same that had accompanied me on my first journey, I
gave directions to sell all our wares as quickly as possible
— if necessary, even on the most unfavourable terms —
as I was too ill to attend to any business. In truth, I was
able to do nothing but brood upon my inconceivable loss;
in addition to which I did not wish to show myself in the
town, lest I should be recognised by someone. Before all
things, I desired to keep Vasitthi from learning anything
of my presence in Kosambi.
Her picture as I last saw her floated unceasingly
before my vision. True, I was indignant at her fickleness,
or rather at her weakness, for I could not fail to realise that
only the latter came into question, and that she had not
been able to withstand the pressure brought to bear upon
her by her parents. That she had not turned her heart to
the triumphant son of the Minister was made evident
plainly enough by her attitude and appearance. But when
I remembered her as she had sworn eternal fidelity to me,
standing in the Krishna grove with her whole face trans‐
figured, I did not understand how it was possible for her to
yield so soon; and I cursed to myself, sighing bitterly in
my despair:— On women's oaths no reliance was to be
Yet always that face full of deepest misery rose
before me — and in a moment all resentment was dis‐
pelled and only tenderest compassion went surging forth
to meet it. So I firmly made up my mind not to add to her
troubles by allowing any news of my presence in Kosambi
to come to her ears. Never again should she learn any‐
thing of me; she would then, beyond all question, believe
that I was dead and would gradually resign herself to her
fate, which was, after all, not lacking in outward
Fortunately circumstances rendered it possible for
my old servant, in an unexpectedly short time, to ex‐
change or sell our wares to great advantage so that, after
only a few days, I was able to leave Kosambī with my
caravan very early one morning.
When I passed the western gate on my way out, I
turned to take a last look at the city — within whose walls I
had lived through so much joy and sorrow that the place
could never be forgotten. A few days before, as I had
entered the town, I had been filled to such a degree with
restless anticipation that I had eyes for nothing round
about me. Impossible as it may seem, I had thus remained
blind to the fact that not only the battlements of the gate,
but also the coping of the walls to either side, were hid‐
eously decorated with impaled human heads.
There was no room for doubt — these were the
heads of the executed robbers from Angulimāla's band.
For the first time since I had seen Vāsitthī's face
under the baldachin, another feeling than that of grief
possessed me, and I gazed with unspeakable horror upon
those heads, of which the vultures had long since left
nothing but the bones with, at the very most, the pigtails
and here and there a beard, whose wild tangle had pro‐
tected the place on which it grew. All of them would thus
have been unrecognisable had not the savage red beard
of one betrayed him and another by the pigtail wound
around on the top of his head in the manner of the
ascetic plait‐wearers. These two, and without doubt many
of the others, had often nodded to me in comrade‐like
fashion from the camp‐circle at night; and I remembered with
ghastly distinctness how that russet beard, flaring in the
moonlight, had wagged with merriment on the occasion
of the lecture upon "The Stupidity of Night‐watchmen."
Yes, so realistic was it all that I could almost imagine I still
heard the raucous laughter from that lipless mouth.
But in the middle of the battlements over the gate,
and somewhat raised above the rest, a powerful skull
shone forth in the rays of the rising sun and imperiously
drew all my attention to itself. How could I have not
recognized those lines again? It was he who that day
forced us all to laugh, without himself moving a muscle of
his brahmin face. Vājashravas' head dominated here,
while, without a doubt, Angulimāla's had been put up
over the eastern gate. And a curious sensation stole over
me as I thought of the profundity with which that man had
in those past days expounded the mysteries of the various
modes of capital punishment — quartering, rending by
dogs, impalement, decapitation — and with what great
care he thereupon sought to prove that the robber should
not let himself be caught; but if unfortunately caught, how
he must seek by all possible means to escape. Of what
help had his science been to him? So little may we avoid
our karma, which is as we know, the fruit of all our deeds
— perhaps in this or perhaps in some former life.
To me it seemed as though he stared with great
earnestness from the hollows of his empty eyes, and his
half‐open mouth called to me: "Kāmanīta! Kāmanīta! Look
closely upon me, consider well what you see. For you
also, my son, were born under a Robber Star, you also will
tread the nightly paths of Kālī and, just as I have ended
here, so too you will also end one day."
Yet, strangely enough, this fantasy filled me neither
with fear nor horror, even though it was as vivid as any
sense perception. My appointed career as a robber, (ac‐
cording to this supposition) to which I had up to this time
never given any serious thought, suddenly stood before
me — and not merely in pleasant but even in seductive
Robber chief! What could be more alluring to me in
my misery? For I did not doubt for a moment that, with my
many talents and accomplishments, and particularly with
those that I owed to the teaching of Vājashravas, I should
at once take the position of leader. And what position
could mean as much to me as that of robber chief? Why,
even that of a king would be of little count beside. For
could it give me vengeance on Sātāgira? Could it bring
Vāsitthī to my arms? I saw myself fighting Sātāgira in the
midst of a forest, splitting his skull with a powerful stroke
of my sword; and again I saw myself as I bore the fainting
Vāsitthī out of a burning palace, which rang with the
voices of my robber band.
For the first time since that sorrowful sight of my
lost Vāsitthī had met my eyes, my heart beat with courage
and hope, and I began to think of the future; for the first
time I wished for myself not death, but life.
Full of such pictures, I had scarcely gone 1,000
paces when I saw before me a caravan which, evidently
coming from the opposite direction, had halted while its
leader offered up a sacrifice beside a little hillock close to
I went up to him with a polite greeting and asked
what deity he was worshipping here.
"In this grave," he replied, "rests the holy Vāja‐
shravas, to whose protection I owe it that, passing though
a dangerous neighbourhood, I am still able to reach home
safely and without damage to life or property. And I
advise you earnestly not to neglect to offer up a suitable
sacrifice here. For if, when you enter the wooded region,
you were to hire a hundred forest guardians, their help
would be as nothing to you compared with the protection
of this holy man."
"My dear friend," I replied, "this mound seems to
be only a few months old, and if a Vājashravas lies buried
beneath it, it certainly will not be any saint but the robber
of that name."
The merchant quietly nodded assent.
"The same certainly I saw him impaled at this
spot. And his head is still up over the city gate. But since
he has suffered the punishment imposed by the King he
has, purged thereby from his sins, entered heaven without
spot or stain and his spirit now protects the traveller from
robbers. Over and above this, however, people say that
even during his robber life‐time he was an exceedingly
learned and almost saintly man; for he knew even secret
parts of the Veda by heart — at least that is what is said."
"And it is perfectly true, " I replied, "for I knew
him well, and may even call myself his friend."
As the merchant looked somewhat appalled when
I said this, I continued: "I was once made prisoner by this
band, and at that time Vājashravas twice saved my life."
The merchant's look passed from fright to envious
"Then indeed you can truly count yourself happy!
If I had so stood in his favour, I should in a very few years
be the richest man in Kosambī. And now, a prosperous
journey to you, O enviable one!" Saying which, he gave
the signal for his caravan to proceed on its way.
I naturally did not neglect to lay an offering for the
dead on the grave of my famous and esteemed friend; but
my prayer, in contrast to all of the others offered up here,
had for its substance the wish that he would lead me
straight into the arms of the nearest robber band, to which,
with his help, I would then join myself. And the leadership
of which, as I have already said, I did not doubt would
soon pass into my hands.
I was presently to see, however, that my learned
and, by popular pronouncement now sainted friend, had
been mistaken when he averred that a robber constellation
had shone upon me at my birth. For on no part of the
way to Ujjenī did we see even a trace of robbers, and yet
scarcely a week later a caravan we met, after we had gone
through a large forest close to the borders of Avanti, was
fallen upon by bandits at that very spot.
It has been the source of many a thoughtful reflection
to me that the purest chance should to all appearances have
led to my remaining in civil life, instead of adopting, as my
heart so ardently desired, the life of the robber. Not that it
is impossible for one of the nightly paths of Mother Kālī to
lead directly to the path of the spiritual seeker; just as, of
the hundred‐and‐one veins filled with quinque‐coloured
fluid, only a single one leads to the head and it is that one
by which, at death, the spirit leaves the body, so it is also
quite possible that, even if I had become a robber, I might
nevertheless have become a seeker now — and on the
spiritual path, with enlightenment as my goal. Besides,
when one has attained enlightenment, all one's works
disappear, whether good or bad: burnt to ashes, as it
were, in the fervour of illumined knowledge.
Moreover the interval between that time and this,
had it been given over to the life of the robber rather than
to civil life, might not have turned out as differently as you
might expect, brother, insofar as its moral fruits are con‐
cerned. For, during the time that I dwelt among the robbers,
I came to know that there are among them many different
types, of which some possess most excellent qualities, and
that, certain external features apart, the difference between
robbers and honest folks is not quite so vast as the
latter would have us believe. And furthermore, in the ripe
period of life on which I now entered, I could not help
noticing that the 'honest' folks dabbled in the handiwork
of the thieves and robbers: a number of them as oppor‐
tunity offered and, as it were, improvising; others regularly
and with great as well as highly profitable skill. Thus by
mutually lessening the dividing distance, considerable
contact took place between the two groups.
For this reason I am really unable to say whether or
not I have actually gained so very much from the help of the
protective spirit which held me back from the nightly paths
of the Dark Goddess‐dancer with her swaying necklace of
After this profound reflection, Kāmanīta became
silent and turned his eyes, lost in thought, on the full
moon, which rose large and glowing into the heavens
directly over the distant forest — the haunt of the robbers
— and flooded the open hall of the potter with a stream of
light, where it seemed to transform the ochre mantle of
the Master into pure gold, like the raiment of some god‐like
The Lord Buddha — on whom the seeker involun‐
tarily turned his gaze, attracted by the splendour but
without having the smallest inkling of the identity of him
whom he beheld — expressed his sympathy with a gentle
inclination of his head, and said: "Still, friend, I only see
you turning your steps towards the household life rather
than to homelessness, although the path to the latter had
in truth opened itself to you."
"Even so, brother! My dim eyes failed to see the
path to freedom and I took my way, as you say, to the
The young seeker sighed deeply and, in a fresh
clear voice, shortly resumed the record of his experiences.
~ 13 ~
THE COMPANION OF SUCCESS
THE END OF THE MATTER was that I continued
to reside in the house of my parents in Ujjenī.
As all the world knows, stranger, this my native
town is famed throughout Jambudvīpa as much for its
revels and unstinted enjoyment of life, as for its shining
palaces and magnificent temples. Its broad streets resound
by day with the neighing of horses and the trumpeting of
elephants, and by night with the music of lovers' lutes and
the songs of care‐free carousers.
But of all the glories of Ujjenī, none enjoy a repu‐
tation so extraordinary as do its courtesans. From the great
ladies who live in palaces — building temples to the gods,
laying out public parks for the people, and in whose
reception‐rooms one meets poets, artists and actors,
distinguished strangers and occasionally even princes —
down to the common wenches, all are beauties with softly
swelling limbs and indescribable grace. At all the great
festivals, in processions and exhibitions, they form the
chief adornment of the beflagged and flower‐strewn
streets. In crimson saris with fragrant wreaths in their
hands, the air about them heavy with delicious perfumes,
their dresses sparkling with diamonds:— Do you see
them, brother? Sitting on their magnificent grandstands or
moving along the streets with glances full of love, seduc‐
tive gestures and playfully laughing words, everywhere
fanning the heated senses of the pleasure‐seekers to liv‐
Honoured by the King, worshipped by the people,
sung of by the poets, they are aptly named "The many‐
coloured floral crown of the rock‐enthroned Ujjenī," and
they draw down upon us the envy of the less favoured
neighbouring towns. Not infrequently the choicest of our
beauties go to these places as guests, and now and again it
happens that one or another of them has to be recalled by
Desiring to drown the grief that was eating away
my life, the golden cup of pleasure, filled to the brim with
its intoxicating Lethe draughts of forgetfulness, was freely
— nay, prodigally — raised to my lips by the fair hands of
this joyous sisterhood. Owing to my many talents and
wide knowledge of the fine arts, and not less of all social
games, I became a favoured guest of the great courtesans.
In fact there was even one, whose favour could scarcely
be measured by gold, who fell so passionately in love
with me that she quarrelled with a prince on my account.
On the other hand, owing to my complete mastery of the
robbers' dialect, I was soon on confidential terms with the
girls of the low streets, whose company on the path of a
coarser and more robust type of pleasure I by no means
despised, and of whom several were heart and soul de‐
voted to me.
Thus madly did I dive deep down into the rushing
whirl of the pleasures of my native city, and it became, O
stranger, a proverbial saying in Ujjenī: "As fast as young
It was about this time that an event occurred which
goes to show that evil habits, and sometimes even vice,
may be the source of good fortune to such an extent that
the man of worldly mind cannot easily decide whether he
mostly owes his prosperity to his good or to his bad
I refer particularly to that familiarity with the
women of the lower classes to which allusion has already
been made, and which became of the greatest service to
me. My father's house was broken into and jewels, which
had been for the most part entrusted to him for valuation,
were stolen; and to an amount which it was practically
impossible to make good. I was beside myself for absolute
ruin stared us in the face. In vain did I make use of all the
knowledge I had gained in the forest. From the fashion in
which the subterranean passage was constructed I could
easily tell to what class of thief the deed was to be ascribed.
But even this most useful hint proved of no value
to the police, who in Ujjenī, to be sure, were not held in
the same high regard as was the institution of the court‐
esans — even though there was considerable evidence of
some inner relationship between the two bodies. On one
occasion, in a very learned lecture on the love affairs of
the various classes, I heard with my own ears the follow‐
ing sentence: "The gallantries of the police officer have to
take place during his nightly round of inspection, and with
the courtesans of the city. By order." Which, taken in
connection with Vājashravas' remarks upon — "The
service rendered by the city courtesans in hoodwinking
the police," gave me, in those days of anxious waiting,
much food for thought.
Now, however, in this strangest of all worlds of
ours, things seem to be so arranged that the left hand must
make good what the right has done amiss. And that is
what happened here. For those flourishing blossoms from
Ujjenī's flower‐garden actually yielded to me the fruit
which the thorny hedge of the police — perhaps stunted
solely on account of that very same flourishing condition
of the blossoms — had failed to produce.
These kind maidens, seeing me in despair because
of the ruin threatening me and mine, discovered the
culprits and forced them to hand over the plunder by
threatening the complete withdrawal of their favours, so
that we got off leniently with the loss of the little that had
already been spent, and with a fright which did not fail to
have its effect upon me.
It woke me up from the dissipated life in which I
was uselessly squandering the best of my years and
strength. For, quite apart from the waking up and the
reasons for it, my folly had now reached a point where it
was certain either to enslave and deprave me completely,
in the garb of habit or, on the contrary, to fill me with
gradually increasing disgust. This latter result was now
very much hastened by the experience I had just had. I
had seen poverty staring me in the face — the poverty to
which the life I had been leading would have handed me
over defenceless, after it had, with all its costly pleasures,
treacherously left me in the lurch. At this juncture I
thought of the words uttered by the merchant at the grave
of Vājashravas: "If I stood as high in Vājashravas' favour
as you do, in a very few years I would be the richest man
Thus I resolved to become the richest man in Ujjenī
and, to this end, to devote myself with all my strength to
the traffic of caravans of goods.
I carried out my resolutions; and whether my
friend and master Vājashravas, from his abode in the other
world, did or did not stand by me in person in all my
undertakings I cannot certainly say, although I have at
times believed it. This much is certain, that his words in
their after‐effects now did. For my having become familiar,
through his teaching, with all the customs and usages of
the various types of robbers, and my having even been
initiated into the mysteries of their secret rules, now
placed me in a position where I was able, without ridicu‐
lous foolhardiness, to carry to a successful conclusion
enterprises which another would never have dared to
venture upon. And so it was these that I now purposely
selected, no longer condescending to the ordinary routes.
As a result, when I conducted a large caravan to a
town to which, for months, no other merchant had been
able to proceed because powerful bands of robbers had
cut off the district from all contact with the outer world, I
found the inhabitants so desperately anxious to buy my
wares that I was at times able to dispose of these at ten
times the usual profit. But that was not all; for inestimable
was the advantage I drew from my old friend's instruction
with regard to — "The distinguishing marks of officials,
both of higher and lower rank, who are open to bribery —
with reliable notes as to each man's price," and what I
gained in the course of a few years by the skilful use of
these hints alone, represented a modest fortune.
So several years passed, during which the various
delights of my pleasure‐loving native city alternated
healthily with the hardships of business journeys, rich
indeed in dangers but nevertheless by no means barren of
pleasure, in spite of all perils. In strange cities I always
resided with a courtesan to whom I was as a rule recom‐
mended by some mutual friend — some one of the fair
ones of Ujjenī — and who not only played the part of
hostess but, as often happened, formed my business
connections for me very shrewdly as well.
Such was the tenor of my life when, one morning,
my father came to my room.
At that moment I was busy putting some lac on my
lips, only pausing from time to time to shout directions to
a servant who had led my horse out into the courtyard in
front of my window and was saddling him up. The special
care required on the present occasion was due to a unique
contrivance by which cushions were to be strapped on in
front of the saddle for a gazelle‐eyed beauty I was to hold
there. An outing had been arranged for the afternoon to a
public garden and I was going both with women and men
I welcomed my father and was about to call for
refreshments, but he stopped me; and when I offered him
some sweet‐scented cashews from my golden box he
declined these also, only taking some betel. I concluded at
once from this, and not without misgiving, that my respec‐
ted parent had something on his mind.
"I see that you are getting ready for a little excur‐
sion, son," he said, after he had taken the seat I offered
him, "and I cannot blame you, seeing that you have just
returned from a fatiguing business journey. Where are you
"It is my intention, father, to ride with some friends
to the Garden of the Hundred Lotus Ponds, where we will
amuse ourselves with various games."
"Excellent, most excellent, my son! Charming,
delightful is an afternoon in the Garden of the Hundred
Lotus Ponds — the deep shade of the trees and the cooling
breath of the waters invite the visitor to linger there.
And sophisticated and ingenious games are most praise‐
worthy, for they exercise body and mind without straining
them. I wonder whether the games are still in vogue that
we used to play in my youth? What do you suppose,
Kāmanīta, will be played there today?"
"It depends, father, on whose proposal proves to
be most acceptable. I know that Nimi wants to propose
spraying with water."
"I don't know it," said my father.
"No — Nimi learnt it in the South, where it is all
the fashion. The players fill bamboo canes with water and
spray one another, and whoever becomes wettest has lost.
It is very amusing. But Koliyā thinks of suggesting
My father shook his head: "I don't know that
"Oh! that is much in favour at present. The players
first divide into two parties. These then attack one another,
and the branches of the Kadamba shrub, with its great
golden blossoms, serve as magnificent weapons. The
wounds are recognisable from the dust of the blossoms, so
that the umpires are able to decide without difficulty
which party has won. The game is bracing, and has some‐
thing dainty about it. I myself, however, intend to propose
the wedding game."
"That is a good old game," said my father, with a
decided smirk, "and I am greatly delighted that you are
minded to propose it, as it is an evidence of your senti‐
ments. From play to the real thing..." he paused, "the step
is not an excessively long one."
As he said this he again smirked, with such evident
satisfaction that it made my very flesh creep.
"Yes, son," he went on, "talking of that leads me
straight to what brought me to you today. You have, on
your many business journeys, by your capacity and good
fortune multiplied our possessions many times over, so
that the prosperity of our business has become proverbial
in Ujjenī. On the other hand, however, you have also
quaffed the delights of youth's freedom in unstinted
draughts. As a result of the former, you are well able to
provide for a household of your own. And from the latter,
it follows that it is also time for you to do so, and to think
of spinning the thread of our race farther. In order to make
things very easy for you, dear son, I have sought out a
bride for you in advance. She is Sītā, the eldest daughter of
our neighbour Sañjaya, the great merchant, and has just
recently reached marriageable age. As you can perceive,
she comes from a family of like standing with our own,
respected and very rich, and she has a large number of
relatives both on her father's and mother's side. Her body
is faultless; her hair, of the blackness of the bee; her face,
like the moon in its beauty; eyes, like a young gazelle's; a
nose like a blossom of the sesame; teeth like pearls; and
Bimba lips, from which there comes the voice of the
Kokila, so rarely sweet is it. And her limbs delight the
heart as does the stem of the young Pisang, while her full
hips lend to her carriage the easy majesty of the royal
elephant. It is not possible, therefore, that you could have
anything to object to in her."
I had indeed nothing to find fault with, save per‐
haps that her many and so poetically extolled charms left
me utterly cold. And I admit that among the details of the
wedding ceremony, in the prescribed three nights of
renunciation — during which I had to eat no seasoned
food, sleep on the floor and keep the hearth‐fire alight —
preserving the strictest celibacy in the company of my
young wife was, amongst all the others, the least irksome
An unloved wife, brother, does not make one's
home dear, nor its four walls attractive, so I took myself
on journeys almost more willingly than before and in the
intervals concerned myself solely with business matters.
And as I — to give the truth its due — did not deal too
scrupulously in these, but without much hesitation took
what was to my own advantage on every occasion, my
riches increased to such an extent that, after a few years, I
found myself near to the goal of my ambition and was one
of the richest citizens of my native town.
With that happy state of things, as master of a
house and father of a family (Sītā had in the meantime
borne us two beautiful daughters: Ambā and Tambā) there
came the desire to taste the sweets of my riches abundantly
and especially to make a display of them before my fellow‐
citizens. To that end I purchased a large tract of land in the
suburbs and laid out a magnificent pleasure‐garden, in the
midst of which I built a spacious mansion with halls whose
ceilings were borne aloft on marble pillars. This property
was reckoned among the marvels of Ujjenī and even the
King came to see it.
Within these fair domains I now gave fabulous
garden parties and the most luxurious of banquets, for I
had now begun to devote myself more and more to the
pleasures of the table. The most luscious morsels which
were to be had for money were always served, even at
ordinary meals. At that time I was not as you see me now,
lean and weathered by lone wanderings, by life in the
woods and ascetic practices; rather I was of a full endowment
of body — indeed, even inclined to be somewhat portly.
And it became, O stranger, a proverbial saying in
Ujjenī: "His table is like the merchant Kāmanīta's."
~ 14 ~
THE FAMILY MAN
ONE MORNING I WAS walking back and forth in
the grounds with my head gardener, considering
where improvements could be best introduced,
when my father rode into the courtyard on his old donkey.
I hastened forward and, after helping him to
dismount, was about to go into the garden with him as I
believed he had come to enjoy the beauty of our flowers.
But he preferred to enter the nearest reception room and
when I ordered my man to bring some refreshments he
declined:— He wished to speak to me without being
Overcome by a feeling of uneasiness and scenting
danger ahead, I sat down on a low seat beside him.
"My son," he began, in a tone of deepest earnest‐
ness, "your wife has, so far, only borne you two daughters
and my brahmins tell me that there is no prospect that she
will present you with a son. Now, it is said, and with much
truth, that the man dies miserably for whom there is no
son to offer the sacrifices proper to the dead.
"I don't blame you, son," he added hastily, perhaps
observing that I had become somewhat agitated; and,
although I was not aware how in this matter I could have
deserved blame, I thanked him with suitable humility for
his clemency and kissed his hand.
"No, I must blame myself, because in choosing
your wife, I allowed myself to be dazzled in too great a
degree by worldly considerations, having reference to
family and possessions, and did not observe the character‐
istic marks sufficiently. The girl whom I now have in mind
for you comes, it is true, from a family which is by no
means distinguished, and far from rich; nor can one praise
her for her possession of what the superficial observer
might call beauty. But, by way of recompense, she has a
navel which sits deep and is turned to the right; both
hands and feet bear lotus, urn and wheel marks; her hair is
quite smooth, except for on her neck where she has two
whorls curling to the right. And of a maiden who pos‐
sesses such marks, the wise say that she will bear five
I declared myself perfectly satisfied with the pros‐
pect, thanked my father for the kindness with which he
looked out for me and said I was ready to lead the maiden
home at once. For I thought to myself: "Well — if it has
"At once?!" cried out my father, in accents of horror.
"My son, moderate your impatience! We are at present
in the southern course of the sun. When this deity enters
his northern course and we have reached the half of the
month in which the moon waxes, then we will choose a
favourable day for the joining of hands — but not before
— not before, my son! Otherwise what good would all the
bride's qualities do for us?"
I begged my father to have no anxiety:— I would
have patience for the time mentioned and would in all
things be guided by his wisdom. On which note he
praised my dutifulness, gave me his blessing and allowed
me to order refreshments.
At last the day approached — in truth I did not
ardently long for it but it was the one on which all the
propitious signs were found to be united. The ceremonies
this time were much more tedious. I needed a full four‐
teen days of instruction beforehand in order to master all
the necessary sentences.
The agony of fear I endured during the joining of
hands in the house of my father‐in‐law it is hardly possible
to put into words. I trembled without intermission — filled
with a horrible dread lest I should not recite some verse
correctly, or in keeping with the action to which it belonged;
for my father would assuredly never have forgiven
me for it. And yet, in my anxiety, I had almost forgotten
the chief thing, for instead of taking my bride Savitrī's
thumb, I reached out to seize her four fingers, as though I
wished her to bear me daughters — but luckily she had
presence of mind enough to push her thumb into my hand
I was literally bathed in perspiration by the time I
was finally able to yoke in the bulls for our departure.
Meanwhile my bride inserted into each of the collar‐holes
the branch of a fruit‐bearing tree, and I spoke the required
couplet with a feeling that the worst was now past. The
dangers, however, did not by any means lie behind us yet.
It is true that we reached the house without encoun‐
tering any of the numerous little mishaps which, on such
occasions, seem to lie in wait for their unfortunate
victims. And at the door Savitrī was lifted from the wagon
by three brahmin women of blameless life who had all
given birth to boys, and whose husbands yet lived. So far,
all had gone well. But now, brother, imagine the shock I
received when, on entering the house, my wife's foot all
but touched the threshold. To this day, I cannot conceive
whence I drew the resolution to lift her high up in my
arms, and thereby hinder such contact from possibly
taking place. Nevertheless, even this was an irregularity
and, when entering the house, was of itself bad enough;
but to add to it I, for my own part, forgot to enter with the
right foot first. Fortunately the wedding guests, and espe‐
cially my father, were so nearly beside themselves at the
threatened contact with the threshold, that my false step
was all but entirely disregarded.
In the middle of the house I took my station to the
left of my wife, on a red bull's hide that lay with the neck
towards the east, and with the hairy side uppermost. Now
my father had, after a long search, and with endless
trouble, come upon a male child that had only brothers
and no sisters — not even dead ones — and was the son
of a father who had been the same, having had brothers
only. Moreover, this was also actually true of his grand‐
father and, to the accuracy of the statements in each case,
legal testimony was forthcoming. This little boy was to be
placed on my bride's knee. Already there stood at her side
the copper dish containing lotus flowers from the swamps,
which she was to lay in the folded hands of the child; and
everything was prepared, when... the hapless little urchin
was nowhere to be found! Not until afterwards, when it
was too late, did a manservant discover that the child had
found the sacrificial bed between the fires all too enticing
and had rolled himself in the soft grass until he was practi‐
cally buried in it. Now, of course, the sacrificial bed had to
be made up anew and fresh Kusa grass cut — which was
in itself reversing the due order of things as the grass
should have been cut at the rising of the sun.
We were finally obliged, as I have indicated, to do
without this crown of the whole function, and to content
ourselves with the hastily procured son of a mother who
had borne only sons. But my father was in such a state of
excitement at the failure of this precaution, on which he
had built his highest hopes, that I feared a fit of apoplexy
would suddenly put an end to his precious life. True, he
would under no circumstances have committed the indis‐
cretion of dying at that moment, in order not to interrupt
the ceremonies in the worst of all possible ways, but this
comforting reflection did not occur to me at the time.
Martyred by the most horrible fears, and in order that no
interval might ensue, I was obliged to pass the time of
waiting for the substitute by reciting some appropriate
mantras without pause.
That hour I solemnly promised myself that, come
what may, I would never marry again.
Finally, after everything was ended, I was obliged
to spend twelve nights with my new wife — who, by the
way, was anything but the monster of ugliness my father's
description had led me to expect — in absolute chastity,
fasting rigorously and sleeping on the floor. This time it
was twelve nights because my father thought it was better
to be on the safe side and do too much rather than too
little. But the doing was distinctly painful to me; particu‐
larly because I had to deprive myself, during the whole
time, of my favourite dishes — high seasonings and all.
However, this period of probation I also managed
to survive, and life ran on again on the old lines, though
soon with a very substantial difference. Before long I was
to see how thoroughly warranted was my aversion to my
father's new marriage proposal. True, I had instantly
comforted myself with the idea that, if a man had one
wife, he might just as well have two. But alas, how sadly
had I deceived myself!
My first wife, Sītā, was a sweet person and had
always seemed to possess a gentle demeanour, she cer‐
tainly leaned to the side of mellowness rather than to that
of irritable passion; and Savitrī was also quite loveable and
had always been praised for her genuine warmth and her
true womanly softness. In the same way, brother, that
water and fire both have truly beneficial qualities, when
they meet on the hearth, one must be prepared for noise
and steam. And from that unhappy day onward there was
indeed the sound of hissing in my home. It was misery —
and I also chided myself for having brought this situation
about, where two good women were set up in competition
with each other, and thus caused to bring out the very
worst in themselves.
But imagine to yourself, if you can, what became
of the situation when Savitrī did indeed bear me the first of
those five heroic sons. Now Sītā accused me of not having
wanted sons by her, and of having refrained from offering
the fitting sacrifices in order that I might thus have an
excuse for marrying another; while Savitrī, when she was
irritated by Sīta, performed a very devil's dance of trium‐
phant scorn. Then, between the two, there was a constant
wrangle as to precedence; my first wife laying claim to the
first position as having actually been the first, while the
second made the same demand as the mother of my son.
But worse was yet to come.
One day Savitrī dashed in to me, trembling from
head to foot in frenzied agitation, and demanded that
I should send Sītā away as she wished to poison my
belovèd son: the boy - whom everybody knew by the
nickname of 'Krishna,' on account of his unusually
dark coloration and mishevious nature - had merely
had an attack of colic from eating too many sweets,
a habit in which he also imitated his divine namesake.
I rebuked her severely, but had scarcely freed myself
from her presence when Sītā stood before me, clamouring
that our two lambs, Ambā and Tambā, were not sure of
their lives so long as that vile woman remained in the
house:— Her rival wished to get both of my dear little
daughters out of the way in order that their dowries should
not diminish the heritage of her son.
So, under my roof, peace was no longer to be found.
If you, brother, chanced to delay your steps at the
farmhouse of the rich brahmin who lives but a short way
off, and heard how his two wives railed at one another —
disputing in high, shrill tones and shaking the air with
their coarse language — then you have, so to speak,
passed my house on the way.
And it also became, I am sorry to confess, a prover‐
bial saying in Ujjenī at that time: "The two agree: like
~ 15 ~
THE SHAVEN‐HEADED MONK
SUCH WAS THE STATE of affairs in my home
when, one morning, I sat in a large room which
lay on the shady side of the house and which was set apart
for the transaction of all business matters. For that reason it
over‐looked the courtyard, an arrangement which enabled
me to keep under my own eye everything relating to the
administration of my affairs.
Before me stood a trusted servant who had, for a
number of years, accompanied me on all my journeys and
to whom I was giving exact instructions with regard to the
taking of a caravan to a somewhat distant spot. Along with
these directions I was, of course, describing to him the best
mode of disposing of his wares when he got there, the
produce he had to bring back with him, the business
connections he was to form and other similar matters, for it
was my intention to give him full charge of the expedition.
To be sure, my house was less home‐like than
ever, and one might suppose that I myself would have
been glad to embrace every opportunity of roaming about
in distant lands. But I was beginning to be somewhat self‐
indulgent and dainty, and I shunned very distant journeys
— not only because of the fatigues to be faced on the way
but, above all, on account of the sparing diet to be put up
with when actually on the road. Yet even supposing the
journey's end reached, with the possibility of making up
for lost time and of having the best of everything, there
were numerous disappointments to be reckoned with and
I, at least, was never able to dine abroad as well as I did at
home. As a result, I had begun to send out my caravans
under trusty leaders while I remained behind in Ujjenī.
Well, as I was saying, I was in the midst of giving
my caravan leader very minute and well‐considered
instructions, when from the courtyard we heard the voices
of my two wives, both much louder than usual and with a
flow of language which sounded as though it would never
end. Irritated by this tiresome interruption, I finally sprang
up and, after having vainly looked out of the window,
I stepped into the courtyard.
There I saw both of my wives standing at the outer
gate. But far from finding them wrangling with one an‐
other as I had expected, I came upon them for the first
time of one mind: they had discovered and pounced upon
a common enemy and on him they now poured out the
vials of their united wrath. This luckless victim was a
wandering ascetic, who stood there next to one of the
pillars of the gate quietly letting this stream of abuse flow
The actual reason for their attack upon him I have
never discovered; I imagine, however, that the mother
instinct, which was very highly developed in both of them,
scented in this self‐denier a traitor to the sacred cause of
human propagation and a foe to their sex, and that they
had just as instinctively fallen upon him as two mongooses
upon a cobra.
"Out with you, you bald‐pated priest, you shame‐
less ruffian! Just look how you stand there, with your bent
shoulders and hang‐dog look, breathing piety and con‐
templation — you oily hypocrite! You smooth‐faced
windbag! It is the kitchen pot that you peer and gaze for,
that you sniff and snuffle at — just like any old donkey
who, unyoked from his cart, runs to the rubbish‐heap in
the courtyard and peers and gazes and sniffs and
snuffles... Out with you, you lazy, brazen‐faced thief, you
shameless beggar, shaveling monk!"
The object of these and similar expressions of
maternal contempt, a wanderer belonging to some ascetic
school and a man of strikingly lofty stature, stood still
beside the gate‐post in an attitude of easy repose. His
robe, of the amber colour of the Kanikāra flower and not
unlike your own, fell in picturesque folds over his left
shoulder to his feet, and gave the impression of covering a
powerfully built body. The right arm, which hung limply
down, was uncovered and I could not help admiring the
huge coil of muscles, which rather seemed to be the well‐
earned possession of a warrior than the idle inheritance of
an ascetic; and even the clay alms‐bowl appeared to be as
strange and incongruous in his hand as an iron bludgeon
in that same hand would have seemed to be in its proper
place. His head was bent, his gaze fixed on the ground,
his mouth absolutely without expression, and he stood
motionless there as though some masterly artist had hewn
the statue of a wandering monk in stone, had painted and
clothed it, and that I had thereupon caused it to be set up
at my gate — as if it were a symbol of my liberality.
This tranquillity of his, which I held to be meekness
but which my two wives regarded as contempt,
naturally goaded the latter to ever greater efforts; and they
would probably have graduated to actual violence, had I
not come between, rebuked them for their disrespect‐
fulness and driven them into the house. Then I went up to
the wanderer, bowed respectfully before him and said:
"I trust, Most Venerable One, that you will not take
to heart what these two women may have said: I know it
has been both uncalled for and unfitting. I am afraid they
were overwrought and not entirely in control of their
faculties. I trust that you will not, on this account, strike
this house with your ascetic anger. I will fill your alms‐
bowl myself with the best this house has to offer,
Honoured Sir. How fortunate that the bowl is as yet
empty! I will fill it so that it cannot contain another morsel
and no neighbour shall, this day, earn merit by feeding
you. You have indeed not come to the wrong door,
Venerable One; and I believe the food will be to your
taste, for it is a proverbial saying in Ujjenī: "His table is like
the merchant Kāmanīta's," and I am he. I trust, therefore,
Venerable One, that you will not be angry at what has
taken place, and will not curse my house."
Whereupon he answered, and with no appearance
"How could I be angry at such abuse, O head of
this house, seeing as how it is my duty to be grateful for
even far coarser treatment? Once, in the past, I took myself
with robe and alms‐bowl into a town to receive food from
the charitable, as is our custom. But in that town, Māra, the
Evil One, had just then stirred up the brahmins and the
householders against the Order of the Buddha — 'Away
with these so‐called virtuous, noble‐minded ascetics!
Abuse them, insult them, drive them away, pursue them.'
And so it happened, as I passed along the street a stone
flew at my head; next a broken dish struck me in the face
and a stick which followed half crushed my arm. But
when, with head all cut and covered with blood, with
broken bowl and torn robe I returned to the Master, his
words were: 'Bear it, brahmin! Bear it! For you are experi‐
encing here and now the result of deeds because of which
you might have been tortured in hell for many years, for
many hundreds of years, for many thousands of years.'"
At the first sound of his voice, there quivered
through me from head to foot a flash of horror and, with
every additional word, an icy coldness penetrated deeper
into the very recesses of my being. For it was, brother, the
voice of Angulimāla, the robber — how could I doubt it?
And when my convulsive glance fixed itself on his face, I
recognised it also: although his beard formerly went up
almost to his eyes and his hair had grown down deep into
his forehead, and whereas he now stood completely
clean‐shaven before me. But only too well did I recognise
again the eyes under those bushy, coalescing eyebrows,
although instead of darting flashes of rage at me, as in
those former days, they now looked kindness itself; and
the sinewy fingers which encircled the alms‐bowl — they
were assuredly the same that had once clutched my throat
like devilish talons.
"How, indeed, could I grow angry at abuse?" my
gruesome guest went on, "Has not the Master said:
'Bhikkhus, even if robbers and murderers were to sever
you savagely limb by limb with a two‐handled saw, one
who gave rise to a mind of hatred on that account would
not be carrying out my teachings.'"
When I, brother, heard these words, with their
diabolically concealed yet to me so evident threat, my legs
shook under me and to such a degree that I had to hold
on to the wall in order not to fall down.
With the greatest difficulty I managed to pull myself
together so far as to indicate to the robber‐ascetic, more by
gesture than by my few stammered words, that he was to
have patience until I should procure him the food.
Then I hurried, as rapidly as my shaking legs
would carry me, straight across the courtyard into the large
kitchen, where just at that moment the midday meal for
the whole household was being prepared, and where from
every pot and pan there came the sounds of roasting and
Here I chose, with no less haste than care, the best
and most savoury morsels. Armed with a golden ladle and
followed by a whole troop of servants bearing dishes, I
dashed again into the courtyard in order to wait upon and,
if possible, conciliate my terrible guest.
But Angulimāla had disappeared.
~ 16 ~
READY FOR ACTION
HALF‐SWOONING, I SAT down upon a bench. My
brain, however, began to work again at once.
Angulimāla had been there, of that there could be no
doubt; and the reason for his coming was only too clear to
How many tales had I heard of his implacability
and greed for vengeance! Moreover, I had had the mis‐
fortune to slay his best friend and, from my time with the
robbers, I well knew that friendship among them does not
count for less than among highly respectable citizens —
indeed, if anything, for much more. At the time when I
was his prisoner, Angulimāla couldn't kill me without
contravening the laws of The Senders and at the same time
putting an indelible blot upon his robber honour; yet he
nevertheless all but did it twice over. Now, however, he
had at last been able to seek out this land, in spite of its
lying so far from the scene of his favoured activities, and
evidently he intended to make up for that past omission.
In the disguise of an ascetic he had succeeded in leisurely
surveying the places in the neighbourhood and, without
doubt, had resolved to act that same night. Even if he had
by any chance perceived that I recognised him, he dared
not delay, for this was the last night of the dark half of the
month and to carry out such an enterprise in the light half
would have been an offence against the sacred laws of the
robbers, and would have brought down upon him the
vengeance of the wrathful Goddess Kālī.
I at once ordered my best horse to be saddled and
rode into town to the palace of the King. I could easily
have obtained an audience but, to my disappointment, I
learned that he was just then residing at one of his distant
hunting lodges. I was therefore obliged to be content with
a visit to the Minister of State. As it happened this was the
very same man who had conducted the fateful embassy to
Kosambī, and in whose protection as you will remember, I
did not travel back. Now, from that day on which I had
refused to follow him, he had not been very friendly to
me, as I had noticed on several occasions when we had
chanced to meet; in addition to which, I knew he had
frequently criticised my mode of life. To have to bring this
matter before him was not exactly agreeable; its justifica‐
tion, however, was so apparent that here, it seemed, there
was no room left for personal likes or dislikes.
I related to him, therefore, as shortly and clearly as
possible, what had taken place in my courtyard, and
added the all but self‐evident petition that a division of
troops might be stationed for the night in my house and
garden, for the double purpose of defending my property
from the certain attack of the robbers, and of capturing as
many of these as possible.
The Minister heard me in silence and with an
inscrutable smile on his face. Then he said:
"My good Kāmanīta, I do not know whether you
have already indulged in an early and very heavy draught,
or are still suffering from the effects of one of your famous
nightly banquets which have become the talk of Ujjenī; or,
indeed, whether you may not have ruined your inner
organs to such an extent by your no less proverbial than
remarkable spiced dishes, as to now be subject to night‐
mares, and not only by night but also in broad daylight!
For as such I am compelled to designate this interesting
tale, particularly as we know that it is a long time since
Angulimāla ceased to sojourn amongst the living."
"But that was a false rumour, as we now see!" I
called out impatiently.
"I by no means see it," he replied sharply. "There
can be no question in this instance of a false rumour — a
short time after the affair, Sātāgira himself related to me in
Kosambī that Angulimāla had died in the underground
dungeons of the ministerial palace, under torture; and I
myself saw his head on one of the spikes over the eastern
"I do not know whose head you saw there," I cried,
"but this I do know, that one hour ago I saw the head of
Angulimāla safe and sound on his shoulders, and that, far
from meriting your mockery, I deserve that you, on the
contrary, should thank me for giving you the opportunity..."
"...of killing a dead man and making a fool of
myself?" the Minister interrupted me. "Much obliged!"
"Then I beg you at least to remember that this is
not a matter which concerns just any old place, but relates
to a mansion and grounds reckoned among the wonders
of Ujjenī, and inspected by our gracious King himself with
great admiration. He will not thank you if Angulimāla
reduces all these splendours of his capital to ashes."
"Oh! that troubles me very little," said the Minister,
laughing. "Take my advice: go home, calm yourself with a
short sleep, and don't let the matter disturb you further.
For the rest, the whole affair arises from this, that you
plunged yourself into a romantic adventure that year in
Kosambī and, in your headstrong folly, flung my words to
the winds rather than return with me. Had you listened
then, Angulimāla would never have made you prisoner
and you would not now have been tormented by an
empty and baseless fear. Moreover, your two‐month‐long
life in the company of that robber pack did not improve
your morals, as all of us here in Ujjenī have perceived."
At this point he launched into a few additional
moral platitudes and then he dismissed me.
Even before I reached home I was considering
what was to be done, seeing that I was now thrown onto
my own resources. Arriving there, I had all the movable
treasures — costly carpets, inlaid tables and similar items
— carried into the courtyard and loaded onto wagons, in
order to have them conveyed to a place of safety in the
inner town. At the same time I had weapons distributed
amongst all my people; both wagons and weapons being
forthcoming in abundance, owing to the fact that a cara‐
van had been in course of preparation. But I didn't let
things rest there. My first measure was to send several
trusted servants into the town in order, by the promise of a
handsome reward, to enlist for the night courageous and
capable fighting men.
For any other person this would have been a
hazardous procedure, for how easily might such fellows at
the critical moment make common cause with the assail‐
ants. But I relied upon certain female friends, who recom‐
mended to my servants only trustworthy rascals — that is,
fellows who were capable of anything, but to whom their
solemnly pledged word and fighting money, once accep‐
ted, were sacred. As I knew this riff‐raff and their curious
customs, I was well aware of what I was doing.
During these preparations, as I had no time myself
to go to my wives, I sent a servant to each of them with
instructions that they should hold themselves in readiness
— Sītā with her two daughters, Savitrī with her little son —
to move into town to my father's home. I didn't let them
know that it was only to be for one night because I had
considered that, once they were there, they might as well
stay a week or longer, and I should meanwhile enjoy a
little period of peace at home — supposing, of course, that
I succeeded in beating off the attack. Just as little did I let
them know the reason for this arrangement because, at
that time, I foolishly believed that one should never give
reasons to women.
Meantime the work went on and I was on the point
of making a stirring speech to my armed servants, an old
practice of mine when danger threatened on our caravan
journeys, and which had always been attended with
excellent results, when, with one accord and as if by pre‐
arrangement, my two wives dashed out of separate doors
into the courtyard, with an air of consternation on their
faces and shouting loudly. Everyone looked round at them
and I was forced to interrupt my speech before it was
Sītā brought out our two daughters, Savitrī our little
son, with her. No sooner had they reached me than they
pointed each at the other, and cried simultaneously:
"So at last this awful woman has succeeded in
turning your heart against me, so that you drive me forth
and lay upon me, your faithful wife, the disgrace of being
sent back to my father's house, with your innocent little
daughters!/with your poor little son!"
How long and bitterly, brother, have I regretted my
greed and folly to have married myself to two women at
the same time — to have drawn these two into a situation
fraught with such potential for friction — how painful and
joyless it was for all three of us, to speak nothing of the
children and the rest of the household who all had to
endure our constant wranglings. How rarely, I was to
discover, does such an arrangement bring anything but
grief — for thus it was between us once again.
The foaming rage that possessed them brought it to
pass that neither perceived how the other accused her of
the very same thing which she herself brought forward,
and complained of the same hard fate which she herself
bewailed as her own and that, without question, there
must have been a mistake somewhere.
Far from suspecting anything of the kind, they
screamed and howled, tearing their hair and striking their
breasts with their fists — berating me also for my faithless‐
ness and favouritism — until at last, as if by way of relax‐
ation, each began to pour out abuse upon her supposedly
victorious rival, which in its coarseness far surpassed
anything I had ever heard, even in the company of the
women of the streets.
Finally I succeeded in making myself heard, and
also in making clear to them that they had utterly misun‐
derstood my message: that neither of them was to be sent
to her own parents, but to my father's house, and by no
means as a punishment or as a sign of my displeasure, but
solely on account of their own and their children's safety.
When, however, I saw that they at last fully understood
this, I could no longer contain myself, but cried out:
"This is what you have created by your unbearable
rudeness; you both need to learn to behave yourselves in a
seemly fashion! This is what your 'shaveling monk' has
done for you! Who do you suppose that was? It was
Angulimāla: the robber, the horrible fiend, who slays
people and hangs their fingers around his neck. He it is
whom you have abused, he whom you have angered! It's a
miracle that he didn't beat you to death with his almsbowl.
But it is we others, if any of us should fall into his hands,
who will have to pay to the uttermost farthing; and who
knows whether you yourselves will be safe from him,
even at my father's house!"
When my wives fully comprehended the meaning
of my words, they began to cry as if they already felt the
knife at their throats, and wanted to rush out of the gate
with the children.
I stopped them, however, and then carefully
explained that for the present no danger was to be feared
because Angulimāla, as I well knew, would not attack us
before midnight. Then I bade them go back into our
dwelling and pack all the things together which they and
the children would be likely to need during the time that
the danger from robbers compelled them to remain in
town. This they then at once did.
At the same time I had quite overlooked the pos‐
sible effect of my words on my people. And that, as I soon
discovered, was anything but agreeable. For when they
learned that it was the terrible Angulimāla, long since
believed to be dead, that had spied out my house, and
would certainly attack it in the night, first one and then
another slunk quietly away, until finally they threw down
their arms by dozens and declared that they would have
nothing to do with such a devil — that no one could
possibly ask it of them. Those who had been enlisted in
the town, and of whom the first‐comers arrived just then,
when they heard how things stood, also said that this was
not what they had bargained for and withdrew.
Only about twenty of my own people, at their head
the brave steward of my house, professed that they would
not leave me but would defend the place to the last drop
of their blood; for they could all see that I was determined
not to sacrifice this splendid property in which my heart
was wrapped up but, if need be, to perish with it.
Several resolute fellows from the town, attracted
almost more by the prospect of a hot fight than by the
money, and who not only did not fear the name of
Angulimāla but talked themselves into the belief that, after
they had fought well and been taken prisoner, they would
be enrolled in the band — several such desperate charac‐
ters joined themselves to us, and so I finally had command
of about forty well‐armed and brave men.
Meanwhile, evening was almost upon us and the
wagon for my wives drove up. They came out, bringing
the children with them, and all were by this time quieted
down. But a fresh anxiety arose at once when they per‐
ceived that I was not going with them — that, on the
contrary, I had not the slightest intention of leaving the
house. They threw themselves on their knees, clutched at
my clothes and begged me as the tears streamed down, to
rescue myself with them: "Husband, don't forsake us, don't
cast yourself into the jaws of death!"
I explained to them that, if I abandoned my post,
our house would become a prey to flames and plundering
hands, and my son would lose the chief part of his inherit‐
ance, while, on the other hand, if we held out bravely,
there was still a possibility of rescuing it as no‐one could
say whether or not Angulimāla would attack in great force.
"Kāmanīta, Kāmanīta!" they cried, "please don't
leave us! The terrible Angulimāla will make away with you
and will wear your fingers on his gory necklace! He will
torture you to death in his fearful fury and the fault will be
ours. Because of our curses and bad language you, our
belovèd, must suffer and on that account we will be
punished in hell!"
I sought to comfort them as well as I might, and
when they saw that I was not to be moved from my resolu‐
tion, they were obliged to make the best of it and get into
the wagon. Scarcely, however, had they taken their places
when they began to hurl accusations at one another.
"It was you who began it!"
"No! You called my attention to him as he stood
there beside the gate‐post. Yes, that you did! You pointed
your finger at him right there."
"And you, you spat at him — red spittle — up to
that time I hadn't chewed any betel — I never do that in
"But you called him a tramp, a lazy beggar!"
"And you, a bald‐pated monk..."
And so it went on; but the creaking of the wheels,
as the oxen now began to pull, drowned out their voices.
~ 17 ~
WHAT A HITHERTO unknown stillness
enveloped me now, brother, as I again entered
the house after stationing my people, each man at
his post. That I didn't hear the voices of my wives — it
wasn't that alone; it was also that I had heard their voices
going out of the gate, away into the distance. It was that
there was no possibility of suddenly hearing out of any
corner those scolding tones growing gradually shriller and
shriller until they finally united or rather became disunited
in one cacophanous brawl‐duet — it was that which lent
to my house an air of unspeakable quiet, which as yet I
could hardly bring myself to believe in.
As I stood there my palace, surrounded by its
beautifully laid‐out parks, seemed to me more splendid
than ever before, and I trembled at the thought that all this
magnificence was to be utterly destroyed within a few
hours by the infamous band of robbers. Fear for my own
life troubled me far less than the cruel conviction that
these well‐cared for avenues of trees would be laid waste,
these artistically hewn marble pillars hurled down, and
that all this, the building up of which had cost me so much
thought and such tedious effort, whose completion had
filled me with so much joy, would be a heap of ruins when
the sun rose again. For only too well did I know the traces
left by Angulimāla.
There was, however, no more for me to do now
but wait, and it was still yet several hours before midnight.
I had for years been living in a ceaseless round of
business and pleasure — never a moment had I taken in
which to come to myself; and as I sat there with nothing to
do, alone in a room opening into the pillared hall on the
one side and into the garden on the other, in the midst of
all the deathlike stillness of the palace, I lived through the
first hours, in a sense, since my earliest youth, which
entirely belonged to me.
My suddenly unfettered thoughts began to focus
for the first time on myself. My whole life passed in review
before me; and looking upon it as a stranger might have
done, I could find no pleasure whatsoever in the sight.
These reflections I interrupted a couple of times to
make a round through the house, courtyard and garden,
and thus assure myself that my men were on the watch. As
I stepped out for the third or fourth time from between the
pillars, my eyes, trained on many a caravan journey, at
once told me from the position of the stars and constella‐
tions that it was but half an hour to midnight.
I hastily went the rounds again and exhorted my
people to be keenly on the alert. I myself felt the blood
hammering in every vein, and my throat seemed to con‐
tract from the anxiety and the strain. Going back to my
room, I sat down as before. But no thoughts would come;
I felt a heavy pressure on my breast and soon it seemed to
me as though I should suffocate. I sprang up and went out
between the pillars to inhale the cool night air. As I did so,
my cheek was softly fanned by what seemed to be a
passing wave of air, and immediately thereafter the hoot of
an owl sounded in the stillness. At the same moment a
strong odour of the blossoms of the night‐lotus was wafted
towards me from the garden ponds. I had raised my eyes
in order to calculate once more the hour from the stars,
when:— There it was! I beheld, across the deep blue
expanse of the heavens, between the black tree tops, the
softly glowing radiance of the Milky Way.
"The Heavenly Gangā," I murmured involuntarily,
and in a moment it was as if the pressure on my breast
were loosening, were rising in a warm wave within me, to
pour out in a stream of hot tears from my eyes. It is true I
had, a few hours earlier, when my whole life passed in
review before me, thought of Vāsitthī and the brief season
of my love — but then only as of something distant and
strange that seemed to be no more than a foolish dream.
Now, however, I no longer thought of it at all — I lived it
again: I was all at once the self of the past and the self of
the present, and with genuine horror did I become aware
of all the difference. At that time I possessed nothing
except myself and my love; and these — were they not
inseparable? Now — oh what did I not possess now!
Wives and children, elephants, horses, cattle, draught
oxen, servants and slaves, richly filled warehouses, gold
and jewels, a pleasure park and a palace the possession of
which my fellow citizens envied me — but — where was
I? As in some blighted fruit, the kernel had dried up —
disappeared — and everything had turned to empty
Like one awakening, I looked around me.
The extensive and beautifully timbered park lifting
its dark tree‐tops against the night sky, sown with myriads
of stars and threaded by the Milky Way, and the proud
hall where the alabaster lamps glowed between the pillars
— these suddenly appeared to me in quite a new light.
Hostile and threatening, they surrounded me like magnifi‐
cently glistening vampires which had already drained
almost the whole of my heart's blood and were now
gaping greedily for the enjoyment of the last drops, after
which there would remain nothing but the withered
corpse of an abortive human life.
A distant and undefinable noise — murmurs of
footsteps as it seemed to me — caused me to start up.
Unsheathing my sword, I sprang down a couple of steps
and then stood still to listen. The robbers! — but no...
everything was silent, everything remained silent. Far and
wide, nothing moved. It was only one of those unfathom‐
able sounds which belong to the stillness of the night, one
of those which so often by the watch‐fires of the caravans
had caused me to spring to my feet. Outside, there was
nothing. But what was that within me? This was no longer
terror which made the blood beat in my temples; nor yet
the courage of despair; no, it was exultant jubilation.
"Welcome, you robbers! Come, Angulimāla! Lay it
all to waste, reduce it to ashes! These are my deadliest
enemies whom you destroy — that which would crush
me, you take away. Here, here to me! Immerse your
swords in my blood! It is my bitterest enemy you pierce,
this body devoted to sensuality, given over to gluttony! It
is my saddest possession, this life which you deprive me
of. Welcome robbers! Good friends! Old comrades!"
It could not be long now; midnight was past, and
with what joy did I look forward to the combat! Anguli‐
māla would seek me; I wished to see whether he would be
able this time also to strike my sword out of my hand. Oh,
how sweet that would be, to die, after I had pierced him
to the heart — him, to whom alone all my misfortune
"It cannot be long now..." — how often I repeated
that comfort to myself, as hour passed hour, that night!
Now — at last! No, it was a rustling of the tree‐tops
which died away in the distance, to rise again as before —
it sounded as though a great shaggy animal had shaken
itself. Again and again it was repeated, and then there
sounded the shrill cry of some bird.
Were not these signs of approaching day?
* * *
Fear made me cold. Was it possible that I was to be
disappointed? Yes, I trembled now at the thought that,
after all, the robbers might not come. How closely within
my reach the end had appeared to be — a short, exciting
fight and then death, scarcely felt. Nothing seemed to me
so hopeless now as the wretched prospect of being found
here in the morning, in the old surroundings, my old self
again, and again bound to the old life. Was that really to
happen? Were they not coming, my deliverers? It must
assuredly be high time — but I didn't even dare to look.
Yet how was that possible? Was I, after all, the victim of
some illusion when I recognised Angulimāla in that wan‐
derer? Again and again I asked myself the question, but
that I could not believe. And yet if it were he, he would be
sure to come this night — he would certainly not have
appeared at my house in his very clever disguise without a
purpose, only to disappear again as though the earth had
swallowed him; for I had caused inquiries to be made and
I knew that he had begged for alms nowhere else.
The drowsy crowing of a young cock, in the court‐
yard nearby, woke me out of my brooding. The constella‐
tion that I sought, I was now scarcely able to find, several
of its stars having already sunk beneath the tree‐tops. All
the other groups, with the exception of those that stood
highest in the heavens, had lost their clear twinkling.
There was no longer room for doubt; the grey dawn was
already heralding its coming and an attack by Angulimāla
was absolutely out of the question.
But of all the strange things that I had experienced
this night, the strangest came now.
The recognition of my immunity was at first accom‐
panied by a feeling of disappointment, rather than any
feeling of relief because of the disappearance of all danger.
But a new thought had suddenly arisen and possessed me
"What do I really need those robbers for?"
I had longed for their torches and pitch garlands to
come and free me from the burden of this magnificent
property. There are people, however, who of their own
free will divest themselves of their possessions and lay
hold of the wandering seeker's staff. As a bird, whither‐
soever it flies, flies bearing only its wings and is content
with these, so also it is with the spiritual seeker — they are
content with a robe to cover the body and with alms‐food
to sustain health and life. And I have heard them say in
praise of that life: "The household life is crowded and
dusty; wide open, like the free air of heaven, is the life of
one gone forth."
I had called upon the swords of the robbers to kill
this body. But if this body crumbles into dust, a new one is
formed; and out from the old life goes forth a new one as
its fruit. What type of life would go forth from mine? It is
true that Vāsitthī and I solemnly swore by yonder Heav‐
enly Gangā, whose silver waves feed the lotus ponds of
the Western Paradise, that we would meet in those Fields
of the Blessèd. And with that vow there was formed, as
she said, for each of us there in the crystal waters of the
sacred sea, a life bud: a bud that would grow by every
pure thought, every good deed, but at which everything
low and unworthy in our lives would gnaw like a worm.
Ah! I felt mine must have been gnawed utterly away long
ago. I had looked back over my life; it had grown unwor‐
thy. Unworthiness would go forth from it. What would I
have gained by such an exchange?
But there are, as we know, people who before
they leave this life, destroy every possibility of rebirth on
earth and who win the steadfast certainty of eternal bliss.
And these are the very people who, forsaking everything,
adopt the wandering seeker's life.
What then could the burning torches of the robbers,
what could their swords do for me?
And I, who had at first trembled anxiously because
of the robbers, and had afterwards longed impatiently for
them as my one hope — now I neither feared them nor
hoped for anything from them. Freed alike from fear and
hope, I felt a great calm. In this peace I assuredly experi‐
enced a foretaste of the joy which is theirs who have
reached the spiritual seeker's Goal. For, as I stood in
relationship to the robbers, so those seekers surely stand
in relation to all the powers of this world: they neither fear
them nor do they hope for anything from them, they
simply abide with them in serene and perfect peace.
And I — who a mere twenty hours earlier had
feared to start out on a short journey on account of the
hardships and the meagre fare of the caravan life — I now
decided without fear or vacillation to journey shelterless
and on foot to the end of my days, content to take things
as they came.
Without once going back into the house I went
straight away to a shed lying between the garden and
courtyard, where all kinds of tools were kept. There I took
an ox‐goad and cut the point off it, in order to use it as a
staff; and I hung over my shoulder a gourd‐bottle, such as
the gardeners and field‐workers carried.
At the well in the courtyard I filled the gourd, upon
which the house‐steward approached me.
"Angulimāla and his robbers will not come now,
Master! Will they?"
"No, Kolita, they will not come now."
"But, Master — are you going out already?"
"Even so, Kolita, I go. And of this very matter I
desire to speak with you. For I go the way now that
people call the way of the noblest birds of passage. From
this way, however, Kolita there is no return for one who
perseveres in it — no return to this world after death, how
much less to this house during life. But the house I give
into your care, for you have been faithful unto death.
Administer the house and fortune until my son attains to
manhood. Give my love to my father, my wives, my little
girls and the boy, and — farewell!"
After I had thus spoken and freed my hand from
the good Kolita, who covered it with kisses and tears, I
walked towards the gate, and at the sight of the gate‐post
beside which the figure of the wanderer had stood, I
thought: "If its likeness to Angulimāla was but a vision,
then I certainly have read the vision right!"
Quickly, and without looking back, I went through
the suburb with its gardens. Before me the desolate, far‐
reaching country road lay stretched out in the first grey
shimmer of the dawn, as if it went on and ever on for all
Thus, Venerable One, did I adopt the life of
~ 18 ~
IN THE HALL OF THE POTTER
WITH THESE WORDS the pilgrim Kāmanīta
brought his narrative to a close, sat silently
and gazed meditatively out upon the landscape.
And the Lord Buddha also sat silently and gazed
meditatively out upon the landscape.
Lofty trees were to be seen, some near, some
farther off, some grouping themselves in shadowy masses,
others dissolving airily in cloud‐like formations and disap‐
pearing into the mists in the distance.
The moon now stood directly over the porch, and
its light shone into the outer part of the hall, where it lay
like three white sheets upon a bleaching‐green, while the
left side of the pillars gleamed as though mounted in silver.
In the deep silence of the night one could hear a
water‐buffalo somewhere in the neighbourhood, cropping
the grass with short measured jerks.
And the Master pondered within himself:
"Should I tell this seeker all I know of Vāsitthī?
How faithful she was to him; how, without fault of her
own, she was forced to marry Sātāgira by low fraud; how
it was her doing that Angulimāla appeared in Ujjenī; and
how, owing to that very visit, he himself, Kāmanīta, is now
treading the path of the spiritual seeker instead of sinking
in foul luxury. Should I reveal to him the path that Vāsitthī
is following now?"
But he decided that the time was not yet come and
that such knowledge would not be helpful to the seeker in
his efforts. The Master, therefore, spoke and said:
"'To be separated from what we love is suffering,
to be united to what we do not love is suffering.' When
this was said, it was said of such an experience as yours."
"Oh! how true!" called out Kāmanīta, in an agitated
voice, "how profoundly, deeply true! Who, stranger,
uttered those profound and wonderful words?"
"There is no need to be concerned about that,
friend. It is of no consequence who uttered them, as long
as you feel and recognise their truth."
"How could I not? They contain in a few words all
my life‐trouble. Had I not already chosen a Master, I would
seek none other than the admirable one with whom these
"Then you have a Master whose teaching you
acknowledge, friend, and in whose name you have gone
"In truth, brother, I went forth in the name of no
Master. On the contrary, my idea at that time was that I
should win my way to the Goal unaided. And when I
rested by day in the neighbourhood of a village, at the foot
of a tree or in the recesses of a forest, I gave myself up
with fervour to deepest thought. To such thoughts as these
— 'What is the Self? What is the universe? Is the Self
eternal and the universe temporal? Is the universe eternal
and the Self temporal?' Or — 'Why has the highest Brahmā
caused the world to come forth from Himself? And if the
highest Brahmā is pure and perfect happiness, how does it
happen that the universe He has created is imperfect and
is afflicted with suffering?'
"And when I gave myself up to such thoughts, I
reached no satisfactory solution. On the contrary, new
doubts constantly arose, and I did not seem to have neared
by so much as a single step, the Goal for the sake of which
the noble‐minded abandon home for ever and voluntarily
"Yes, friend," the Buddha replied, "it is as if one
were to pursue the horizon, thinking: 'Oh, if only I could
reach the line that bounds my vision!' In the same way
does the Goal escape those who give themselves to such
Kāmanīta nodded thoughtfully, and then went on:
"Then it happened one day, when the shadows of the
trees had already begun to lengthen, that I came upon a
hermitage in a forest glade, and there I saw young men in
white robes, several of whom milked cows, while others
split wood and yet others washed pails at the spring.
"On a mat in front of the hall sat an aged brahmin,
from whom these young people evidently learned the
sacred songs and sentences. He greeted me with friend‐
liness, and although it would take, as he said, scarcely an
hour to reach the next village, he begged me to share their
meal and to spend the night with them. I did so gratefully
enough, and before I had laid myself down to sleep I had
heard many a good and impressive utterance.
"On the following day, when I was about to go on
my way the brahmin addressed me with — 'Who is your
Master, young man, and in whose name have you gone
"And I answered him as I have answered you.
"Upon which the brahmin said — 'How will you,
friend, reach that highest Goal if you wander alone like the
rhinoceros, instead of in a herd and led by an experienced
leader as is the way of the wise elephant?'
"At the word 'herd,' he glanced benevolently
towards the young people standing round about; at the
word 'leader' he appeared to smile with much inward
"'For,' he went on, 'this is indeed too high and too
deep for one's own comprehension, and without a teacher
it must remain a closed book. On the other hand, the
Veda, in the teaching of Shvetaketu, says — "Just as, O
belovèd, a man who has been led blindfolded hither from
the land of Gandhāra, and then has been let loose in the
desert, will strike too far eastward, or it may be too far to
the north, or the south, because he has been led hither
with his eyes bound; but he will, after one has unbound
his eyes and said to him — 'There, in that direction live the
Gandhāra, go thither,' ask his way from village to village
and reach his home, richer in knowledge and wisdom; so
also is the man who has found a Master to direct him to
the land of the Spirit. Such a man can say — 'I shall have
part and lot in this world's turmoil until my liberation
comes, and then I shall go to my real Home.'"'
"I saw at once, of course, that the brahmin was
planning to secure me as a pupil. But this very desire of his
destroyed any confidence which might have been awakening
within me. On the other hand, I was well pleased with
the saying from the Veda and, as I went on my way,
repeated it over and over again to myself, in order to fix it
in my memory. In doing so, a sentence occurred to me
which I had once heard used regarding a particular Master
— "The Master does not crave disciples, but the disciples,
"What a very different man he must be, I thought to
myself, from this forest brahmin! And I longed, Venerable
One, for such a Master, who was above all such craving."
"Who is this Master whom you heard so praised?
What is his name?"
"He is, brother, the Samana Gotama, of the Sākya
clan, who renounced the throne of his fathers. This Master
Gotama is greeted everywhere with honour and the
joyous acclaim — 'He is the Blessèd One, the Holy One,
Impeccable in Conduct and Understanding, Knower of the
Worlds, Teacher of Gods and Humans, the Enlightened
One, the Buddha.' And I journey now in order to find that
Sublime One and to acknowledge myself as his disciple."
"But where, friend, does he now reside — this
Sublime, this Enlightened One?"
"Far to the north, brother, in the kingdom of Kosala,
lies the great city of Sāvatthi. Just beyond the town is
the richly wooded Jetavana park, filled with mighty trees in
whose deep shade, far removed from all noise, the wise
and faithful are able to sit and meditate. Its crystal pools
ever exhale coolness, and its emerald meadows are strewn
with myriads of vari‐coloured flowers. Years ago the rich
merchant Anāthapindika purchased the grove from Prince
Jeta and presented it to the Buddha — it cost so much
money that, if spread over the surface of the ground, it
would have concealed the whole property. There, then, in
this delightful Jetavana over whose meadows the feet of so
many of the wise have passed, the Master, the Fully Enlight‐
ened One, at present makes his abode. If I step out
bravely I hope in the course of about four weeks to have
accomplished the distance from here to Sāvatthi and to sit
at the feet of the Master."
"But have you ever seen him, brother — this
Blessèd One — and if you did see him would you recognise
"No, brother, I have not yet seen him, the Blessèd
One, and if I saw him I would not recognise him."
Then the Master reflected: "For my sake this young
seeker is now on the Way; he acknowledges himself as my
disciple; how would it be if I revealed the heart of the
Dharma to him?" And the Master turned to Kāmanīta and
said: "The moon has just risen over the porch, we are not
yet far into the night and too much sleep is not good for
the mind. If it is agreeable to you I can offer, in return for
your narrative, to unfold to you the Teaching of the
"That would make me very happy, brother, and I
beg you to do so if you are able."
"Listen well then, my friend, and reflect on what I
have to say to you."
~ 19 ~
AND THE LORD BUDDHA said: "The Tathāgata,
the Fully Enlightened One, set the wheel of
the Dharma rolling at Benares, beside the Rock of the
Prophet, in the Grove of the Gazelles. And it can neither
be stopped by monk nor brahmin, neither by god nor
demon, nor by anyone else in this world."
"That Teaching is the Unveiling, the Revelation of
the Four Noble Truths. What Four? The Noble Truth of
Suffering, the Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering, the
Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering, the Noble Truth
of the Path which leads to the Cessation of Suffering.
"But what, brother, is the Noble Truth of Suffering?
Birth is Suffering, ageing is Suffering, sickness is Suffering,
death is Suffering; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and
despair are all Suffering; to be separated from the loved is
Suffering; to be united with the unloved is Suffering; not to
obtain what we desire is Suffering; in short, all the various
forms of attachment involve Suffering. That is, brother, the
Noble Truth of Suffering.
"But what, brother, is the Noble Truth of the Origin
of Suffering? It is this: the craving that continually gives
rise to fresh birth, companioned by desire and passion,
ever seeking fresh delight, now here, now there. In other
words: craving for sensual pleasure, the craving for exist‐
ence or the craving for annihilation. That is, brother, the
Noble Truth of the Origin of Suffering.
"But what, brother, is the Noble Truth of the
Cessation of Suffering? It is the complete fading away and
cessation of that very craving; its abandonment and relin‐
quishment; the freedom from and discarding of it. That is,
brother, the Noble Truth of the Cessation of Suffering.
"But what, brother, is the Noble Truth of the Path
which leads to the Cessation of Suffering? It is the Noble
Eightfold Path consisting of Right View, Right Intention,
Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort,
Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration. That is, brother,
the Noble Truth of the Path which leads to the Cessation
After the Master had in this way set up the four
corner‐stones, he proceeded to raise the whole structure
of the Teaching in such a way as to make it a habitable
home for the thoughts and feelings of his pupil. He eluci‐
dated each separate sentence as a skilled mason hews and
polishes each individual stone, and just as one lays one
stone upon another so did he join sentence to sentence,
everywhere laying down the foundations carefully and
fitting each sentence into its own proper place, in its due
relation to every other. By the side of the pillar of the
Principle of Suffering he placed the pillar of the Principle
of the Transitoriness of All Things; and, as an entablature
joining the two, while supported by and overarching
them, he added the weighty Principle of the Selflessness
of Phenomena. Through this mighty portal he ascended,
leading his pupil circumspectly, step by step, several times
up and down the well‐built stair of the fundamental law of
conditionality — Dependent Origination — everywhere
establishing and perfecting.
And just as an able builder, when erecting some
magnificent structure, adds pieces of statuary at suitable
points and in such a way that they serve not only as
ornaments but also as bearers of supports, so too the
Master at times introduced an amusing or ingenious
analogy, conscious that by such method the veiled mean‐
ing of many a profound utterance can become clear.
Finally, however, he summed the whole up and at
the same time, as it were, covered the structure over by
placing upon it a resplendent, far‐seen dome in the words:
"By attachment to existence, friend, one comes into
existence; lacking such attachment one comes into exist‐
ence no more.
"And in the seeker who is nowhere held fast by
such attachments, there grows amid the unclouded cheer‐
fulness of inner peace this realisation — 'My deliverance is
unassailable, this is the last birth of all, now there will be
no more coming into any state of being.'
"The one who has come thus far awakens to the
highest wisdom. And this, friend, is the highest, holiest
wisdom:— To know that all suffering is ended. One who
has found this has found a freedom which stands true and
inviolable. For that which is deceptive and fleeting is false,
my friend; and that which has an undeceptive nature is the
Supreme Noble Truth — that is to say: Nirvāna.
"And one, who from the very beginning was
subject to birth, the changes of age and to death, marking
well the remorselessness of the Law of Nature, now wins
the safety that knows no birth, no ageing and no death.
One who was subject to sickness and corruption thus
reaches the assurance that knows no change, that is pure
and holy — such a one knows, with absolute certainty:
"'Birth is destroyed, the knowledge of freedom is
clear; the holy life has been fulfilled, what had to be done
has been done, there is no more of this to come — the
world has been utterly transcended.'
"Such ones, my friend, are called 'Finishers' because
they have finished and made an end of all suffering.
"Such ones, my friend, are called 'Obliterators'
because they have obliterated the delusion of 'I' and
"Such ones, my friend, are called 'Weeders' because
they have weeded out the plant of life by the roots
so that no new life can ever germinate again.
"So long as they are in the body, such ones are
seen by gods and humans; but when the body is dissolved
in death they are no longer seen by anyone at all — and
neither even does Mother Nature — the All‐seeing — espy
them any more. Such ones have also blinded the eye of
Māra, escaped from the Evil One, the Lord of Illusion and
the Sensory World. Crossing the stream of existence they
have reached the Island — the only one — that lies
beyond ageing and death: Nirvāna."
~ 20 ~
THE UNREASONABLE CHILD
AFTER THE BUDDHA HAD ended his discourse,
Kāmanīta remained sitting for a long time, silent and
motionless, a prey to conflicting and sceptical thoughts.
Finally he said: "You have told me much of how the
monk should make an end of suffering in his lifetime,
but nothing whatever of what becomes of him when his
body disintegrates in death and returns to its elements,
except that from that time on neither people nor gods, nor
even Nature Herself, sees him again. But of an eternal life
of supreme happiness and heavenly bliss — of that I have
heard nothing. Has the Master revealed nothing
"Even so, brother, thus it is: the Tathāgata has
revealed nothing concerning it."
"That is as much as to say that the Lord Buddha
knows no more of this most important of all questions
than I myself," replied Kāmanīta discontentedly.
"Do you think it to be so...? In that same Simsapā
wood in the neighbourhood of Kosambī, where you and
your Vāsitthī swore eternal fidelity and pledged yourselves
to meet again in the Paradise of the West, there the Tathā‐
gata at one time took up his abode. As he walked through
the wood he picked up a bundle of Simsapā leaves in his
hand and said to the monks with him — ''What do you
think, bhikkhus, which are more numerous, these Simsapā
leaves which I have in my hand, or all the other leaves in
the forest?' Immediately they answered — 'The leaves
which you have in your hand are very few, Venerable Sir,
whereas the leaves in the Simsapā forest are far more
"'In the same way, bhikkhus,' said the Tathāgata,
'that which I have discerned and yet not revealed to you is
far greater in sum than that which I have revealed to you.
And why have I not revealed everything? Because it is not
helpful spiritually, it is not in keeping with the path of
simplicity and renunciation, it does not lead to the turning
away from all worldly things, nor to the letting go of
passions, nor to the final disowning of all that is subject to
change, nor to perfect knowledge and enlightenment — it
does not aid the realisation of Nirvāna.'"
"If the Master spoke thus in the Simsapā grove at
Kosambī," answered Kāmanīta, "then the matter is pro‐
bably even more serious still. For in that case, he has
certainly been silent on the point in order not to discourage
or, as might well happen, even terrify his disciples; as
he certainly would, if he should reveal to them his version
of the Final Truth — namely, annihilation. This seems to
me to result as a necessary consequence from what you
have so plainly stated. For, after all the objects of the five
senses and of thought have been denied and rejected as
fleeting, as without any real existence and as full of suff‐
ering, there remain no powers by means of which we could
grasp anything whatsoever.
"So I understand, Venerable Sir, from the doctrine
you have just expounded to me, that those who have
freed themselves from all delusion fall victim to annihil‐
ation when the body dies, that they vanish and have no
existence beyond death."
"Did you not say to me," asked the Buddha, "that
within a month you would sit at the feet of the Master in
the Grove of Jetavana near Sāvatthi?"
"I assuredly hope to do so, Venerable Sir; why do
you ask me?"
"When you sit at the feet of the Tathāgata, what do
you think, my friend — is the physical form which you
will see then, which you will be able to touch with your
hand — along with the mind that then reveals itself, with
its sensations, perceptions and ideas — do you see that as
being the Tathāgata, the Perfect One, do you look upon it
"I do not, Venerable Sir."
"Perhaps then, you would see the Tathāgata as
being in the body and mind — do you look upon it like
"I do not, Venerable Sir."
"Then may it be, my friend, that you see the
Tathāgata as apart from the body and the mind?"
"I do not look upon it in that light, Venerable Sir."
"Do you think, then, that the Tathāgata is the
owner of that body and that mind? Is that your view, my
"That is not the way I see it, Venerable Sir."
"Do you see the Tathāgata then, as having no body
and no mind?"
"He is apart from them insofar as his being is not
fully comprehended within those elements."
"What elements or powers have you then, my
friend, apart from those of the body with all its qualities of
which we are aware through the senses, and apart from
those of the mind with all its sensations, perceptions and
ideas — what powers have you beyond these, by means
of which you can fully apprehend what you have not yet
apprehended in the being of the Tathāgata?"
"Such further powers, Venerable Sir, I must acknow‐
ledge I do not possess."
"Then even here, friend Kāmanīta, in the world of
senses, the Tathāgata is not in truth and in his very es‐
sence, apprehendible by you. Is it then right to say that
the Tathāgata — or any one of those who have freed
themselves from all delusion — is doomed to annihilation
when his life ends, that he does not exist beyond death,
solely because you are not in possession of any powers by
which you can, in truth, apprehend him in his very es‐
Questioned in such fashion, Kāmanīta sat speech‐
less for some time, his body bent, his head bowed.
"Even if I have no right to make that assertion," he
said finally, "it still seems to me to be implied plainly
enough in the silence of the Tathāgata. For he certainly
would not have maintained such a silence if he had had
anything joyous to communicate, which would of course
be the case if he knew that for the one who had conque‐
red suffering there remained after death not only not
annihilation, but eternal and blessèd life. It is certain that
such a communication could only serve as a spur to his
disciples and be a help to them in their spiritual efforts."
"Do you think so, my friend? How would it be if
the Tathāgata had not pointed to the end of all suffering as
the final Goal — even as he also began with suffering in
the beginning — but had extolled an eternal and blessèd
life out beyond it and beyond this life of ours. Many of his
disciples would assuredly have been delighted with the
idea, would have clung to it eagerly, would have longed
for its fulfilment but with the passionate longing which
disturbs all true cheerfulness and serenity. So would they
not also then have been involved unperceived in the
meshes of the powerful net of craving for existence? And
while clinging to a Beyond, for which by necessity they
had to borrow all the colouring from this life, would they
not have only clung even more to the present the more
they pursued that Beyond?
"Whatever kinds of existence there are, in any way,
anywhere, all are impermanent, pain‐haunted and subject
to change. So, one who sees this as it is abandons craving
for existence without relishing non‐existence. And how
does such a one see this Reality? They see whatever has
come into being as simply having come into being. By
seeing it thus they have entered upon the way to dispass‐
ion for it, to the fading and cessation of craving for it. That
is how one with vision sees.
"For, like a watch‐dog that, bound to a post and
trying to free itself, rushes in a circle around about it —
even so those worthy disciples who, even though they
dearly long to transcend this body and the world, they still
remain bound to it whether they love it or they hate it,
rushing in endless circles around it."
"Though I am certainly compelled to acknowledge
this danger," Kāmanīta answered, "I still hold that the
other danger, the uncertainty evoked by silence, is by far
the more dangerous, inasmuch as it cripples the energies
from the very beginning. For how can the disciple be
expected to exert himself with all his might to overcome
all suffering, with decision and courage, if he doesn't
know what is to follow: eternal bliss or non‐existence?"
"My friend, what would you think in such a case as
this? Let us say that a house is burning, and that the ser‐
vant runs to waken his master, saying — 'Get up, sir! Fly!
The house is on fire! Already the rafters are burning and
the roof is about to fall in.' Would the master be likely to
answer — 'Go, my good fellow, and see whether there is
rain and storm outside, or whether it is a fine moonlit
night. In the latter case we will take ourselves outside?'"
"How, Venerable Sir, could the master give such an
answer? For the servant had called to him in terror — 'Fly,
sir! The house is on fire! Already the rafters are burning
and the roof threatens to fall in.'"
"Indeed the servant had called to him thus. But if,
in spite of that, the master answered — 'Go, my good
fellow, and see whether there is rain and storm outside,'
would you not conclude from it that the master had not
heard correctly what his faithful servant had said — that
the mortal danger which hung over his head had by no
means become clear to him?"
"I would certainly be forced to that conclusion,
Venerable Sir, otherwise it would be unthinkable that the
man could give such a foolish answer."
"Even so, friend — you should therefore also act as
if your head were encompassed by flames, as if your
house were on fire. And what house? The world! And set
on fire by what flame? By the flame of desire, by the flame
of hate, by the flame of delusion. The whole world is
being consumed by flames, the whole world is enveloped
in smoke, the whole world rocks to its foundations!"
Addressed thus, Kāmanīta trembled as does a
young buffalo when it hears for the first time the roar of
the tiger in a neighbouring thicket. With bent body, head
sunk on his breast, his face suffused with burning colour,
he sat for some time without uttering a word.
Then in a gruff although somewhat tremulous
voice, he answered:
"It still does not please me that the Master has
revealed nothing concerning this matter. That is, if he was
able to give any information which would have been full
of promise — and even if he has been silent because what
he knew was comfortless and terrifying, or because he
knew absolutely nothing, I am still no better pleased. For
the thoughts and the efforts of human beings are directed
towards happiness and pleasure, a tendency which has its
foundation in Nature Herself and cannot be otherwise.
And in keeping with this is the following which I have
heard from the lips of brahmin priests.
"Let us imagine the case of a youth, capable, eager
for knowledge, the quickest, strongest, most powerful of
all youths, and that to him belonged the world with all its
treasures. That would be a human joy. But a hundred
human joys are but as one joy of the heavenly devatā; and
a hundred joys of the heavenly devatā are but as one joy
of the gods; and a hundred joys of the gods are but as one
joy of Indra; and a hundred joys of Indra are but as one
joy of Prajāpati; and a hundred joys of Prajāpati are but as
one joy of Brahmā. This is the supreme joy, this is the path
to the supreme joy."
"Yes, friend; but perhaps I can use another analogy
to illustrate the situation I am describing: imagine there
was an inexperienced child, incapable of sensible reasoning.
This child feels in his tooth a burning, boring, stabbing
pain, and runs to an eminent and learned physician
and pours out his troubles to him — 'I beg you, honoured
sir, to give me by your skill, a feeling of blissful rapture in
place of this pain at present in my tooth.' And the physician
answers — 'My dear child, the sole aim of my skill is
the removal of pain.' But the spoilt child begins to wail —
'Oh! I have endured a burning, stabbing, boring pain in
my tooth for so long; is it not reasonable that I should now
enjoy a feeling of rapture, of delicious pleasure instead?
There do exist, as I have heard, learned and experienced
physicians whose skill goes this far, and I believed that
you were one of those.'
"And then this foolish child runs to a quack, a
'miracle‐worker' from the land of Gandhāra, who causes
the following announcement to be made by a town‐crier
to the accompaniment of drums and conches — 'Health is
the greatest of all gifts, health is the goal of all people.
Blooming, luxuriant health, a comfortable and blissful
feeling in all one's members, in every vein and fibre of the
body, such as the gods enjoy, even the sickliest can obtain
by my help, at a very small cost.' To this 'miracle‐worker'
the child runs and pours out his troubles — 'I beg you,
honoured sir, by your skill, give me a feeling of comfort or
blissful rapture in place of this pain in my tooth.'
"And the magician answers — 'My dear child, in
doing just this very thing lies my skill.' After he has pock‐
eted the money offered by the child, he touches the tooth
with his finger and produces a magical effect, by means of
which a feeling of blissful pleasure drives out the pain.
And the foolish child runs home overjoyed and supreme‐
"After a short time, however, the feeling of pleasure
gradually subsides and the pain returns. And why?
Because the cause of the pain was not removed.
"Then, let us also suppose that another, reasonable
person feels a burning, stabbing, boring pain in her tooth.
And she goes to a learned and experienced physician and
tells him of her trouble, saying — 'Honoured sir, I beg you
by your skill to free me from this pain.' And the physician
answers — 'If you, madam, demand no more from me, I
may safely trust my skill that far.' 'How could I ask for
more,' replies the woman. And the physician examines the
tooth and finds the cause of the pain in an inflammation at
its root — 'Go home and have a leech put on this spot.
When the leech has sucked itself full and falls off, then lay
these herbs on the wound. By so doing, the pus and the
impure blood will be removed and the pain will cease.'
This reasonable person then goes home and does as the
physician bids her. And the pain goes and does not return.
And why not? Because the cause of the pain has been
Now when the Master ceased speaking, Kāmanīta
sat reduced to silence and sorely disturbed, his body bent,
his head sunk on his breast, his face suffused with colour
and without a word, while anguished sweat dropped from
his forehead and trickled down from his armpits. For did
he not feel himself compared by this venerable teacher to
a foolish child and made equal with one? And as he was
unable to find an answer, in spite of his utmost efforts, he
was near to weeping.
Finally, when able to command his voice, he asked
in a subdued tone: "Venerable Sir, have you heard all this
before, from the mouth of the Master, the perfect Buddha
Now, it occasionally happens that Buddhas smile,
and at this question a wry and gentle smile did indeed play
momentarily around the Master's lips.
"No, brother", he replied, "I cannot truly say that I
have," for some of what he said had come to him just then.
When the pilgrim Kāmanīta heard this answer, he
joyfully raised his bent body and, with glistening eye and
reanimated voice he burst forth:
"Wasn't I sure of it! Oh, I knew for certain that this
couldn't be the doctrine of the Master himself, but rather
your own tortuous interpretation of it — an interpretation
based altogether on misunderstanding. Is it not said that
the doctrine of the Buddha is bliss in the beginning, bliss
in the middle, and bliss in the end? So how could one say
that of a teaching which does not promise eternal and
blessèd life, full of the most supreme joy? In a few weeks,
if I step out bravely, I shall myself sit at the feet of the
Master and receive the teaching of Liberation from his
own lips, as a child draws sweet nourishment from its
mother's breast. And you also should make efforts to get
there too — and, once truly taught, maybe you will alter
your mistaken and destructive view of things! But look,
those strips of moonlight have now stretched themselves
out and have almost disappeared, it must be far into the
night — let us lay ourselves down to sleep."
"As you will, brother," answered the Master kindly.
And, drawing his robe more closely around him, he laid
himself down on his mat in the posture of the lion, supporting
himself on his right arm, his left foot resting on the
And having in mind the hour of awakening, he
instantly fell asleep.
~ 21 ~
WHEN THE MASTER awoke in the grey dawn
he saw Kāmanīta busy rolling up his mat, hanging his
gourd over his shoulder and looking round for his staff,
which he hadn't at once been able to see in the corner
in which he'd placed it, owing to its having fallen down.
While thus engaged, there was in his every movement
the appearance of a man in a great hurry.
The Master sat up and gave him a friendly greeting:
"Are you going already, brother?"
"Oh yes, yes!" called out Kāmanīta, full of excite‐
ment, "just think, it's hardly to be believed — absolutely
laughable and yet so marvellous — such rare good fortune!
A few minutes ago I awoke and felt my throat quite
parched after all the talk of yesterday. Without more ado, I
jumped up and went to the well just across the way,
beneath the tamarinds. A maiden was standing there
drawing water. And what do you suppose I learned from
her? The Master isn't in Sāvatthi at all. But can you imagine
where he is? Yesterday, accompanied by three hundred
monks, he arrived here in Rājagaha! And at this very
moment he is in the Mango Grove on the far side of town.
In an hour, maybe less, I shall have seen him — I, who
believed that I should have to journey for another four
weeks! What do I say — in an hour? It is only a good half‐
hour to there, the maiden said, if you don't go through the
main streets but run through the lanes and squares to the
west gate... I can scarcely believe it. The ground burns
beneath my feet — farewell, brother! You have meant well
by me, and I shall not fail to bring you also to the Master,
but now I really cannot delay a moment longer!"
And the pilgrim Kāmanīta dashed out of the hall
and ran away along the street as fast as his legs would
carry him. But when he reached the city gate of Rājagaha
it was not yet open and he was obliged to wait for a short
time — time which seemed to him an eternity and which
raised his impatience to the highest pitch.
He employed the minutes, however, in getting
from an old woman carrying a basket of vegetables to the
town, and who, like himself, was obliged to halt at the
gate, exact information with regard to the shortest way —
as to how he was to go through such and such a lane, past
a little temple to the right and to the left past a well, and
then not to lose sight of a certain tower so that he might
perhaps recover in the town the time he had lost standing
outside its walls.
As soon, then, as the gate was opened he dashed
recklessly away in the direction indicated. In his urgency
he knocked down a few children, then he brushed with
such violence past a woman who was rinsing dishes at the
kerbstone that one of these rolled rattling away from her
and broke, then he bumped into a water‐carrier. But the
abuse which followed him fell on deaf ears, so utterly was
he possessed by the one thought that soon, so wonderfully
soon, he should see the Buddha.
"What rare fortune!" he said to himself, "how many
generations pass and have no Buddha who sojourns on
the earth in their time; and of the generation that has a
Buddha for its contemporary, how few ever behold him.
But this happiness will certainly be mine now. I have
always feared that on the long and dangerous road wild
beasts or robbers might deprive me of this joy, but now it
cannot be taken from me."
Filled with such thoughts, he turned into a narrow
little lane. In his foolish onward rush he failed to observe
that from the other end of it a cow, mad with fear from
some cause or other, was dashing towards him, and he
failed also to notice that while several people in front of
him fled into a house, others concealed themselves behind
a projecting bit of wall — nor did he hear the shout with
which a woman standing on a balcony tried to warn him
— but he dashed on, with his eyes fixed on the pinnacled
tower, which was to prevent his taking some wrong
Only when it was too late to get out of the way did
he see with horror the steaming nostrils, the bloodshot
eyes and the polished horn which, the next instant, drove
deep into his side.
With a loud scream he fell down by the wall. The
cow dashed onward and then disappeared into another
People instantly hurried up, in part from curiosity,
in part to help. The woman who had warned him brought
water with which to cleanse the wound. They tore up his
robe to make a bandage and, if possible, to staunch the
blood which gushed forth as if from a fountain.
Kāmanīta had hardly lost consciousness for an
instant. It was clear to him at once that this meant death.
But neither that knowledge nor the agonies he was endu‐
ring were such torture to him as the fear that he might not
now see the Buddha. In a deeply agitated tone of voice he
begged the bystanders to carry him to the Mango Grove:—
To the Master.
"I have journeyed so far, friends, I was so near my
goal. Have pity upon me, don't delay to carry me there.
Don't think of the pain to me, have no fear that I shall sink
under it — I shall not die until you have laid me down at
the feet of the Blessèd One; then I shall die happy, and
happily rise again."
Some of them ran to fetch poles and a stretcher. A
woman brought a strengthening draught of which
Kāmanīta took a few mouthfuls. The men were divided as
to which way was the shortest to the hall of the Sangha in
the Mango Grove, for every step would make a difference.
It was clear to all that the seeker's life was ebbing fast.
"Here come some disciples of the Blessèd One,"
cried a bystander, pointing along the little lane, "they will
best be able to tell us."
And, in fact, several bhikkhus of the Order of the
Buddha were approaching, clad in ochre robes. Most of
them were young men but at their head walked two
venerable figures — a grey‐haired man whose earnest, if
somewhat severe face, with its piercing eye and powerful
chin, involuntarily attracted attention to itself, and a
middle‐aged man whose features were illumined by such
a heart‐winning gentleness that he almost had the appear‐
ance of a youth. Yet an experienced observer might, in his
bearing and somewhat animated movements, as also in his
flashing glances, have detected the inalienable character‐
istics of the warrior caste, while the deliberate calm of the
older man no less revealed the born brahmin. In loftiness
of stature and princely carriage they were, however, alike.
When these monks halted by the group which had
collected round the wounded man, many voluble tongues
at once related to them what had happened, and informed
them that they were just about to carry the wounded
pilgrim on a stretcher — which was then being fetched —
to the Mango Grove, to the Buddha, in order to fulfil the
man's overwhelming desire:— Could one of the younger
monks perhaps return with them to show them the shortest
way to the spot where the Master was at that moment
to be found?
"The Master," answered the old man with the
severe face, "is not in the Mango Grove, and we ourselves
don't know where he is."
At the answer a despairing groan burst forth from
Kāmanīta's wounded breast.
"But he certainly cannot be far from here," added
the younger. "The Master sent the company of monks on
ahead yesterday and pursued his journey alone. He
arrived late, I expect, and sought quarters somewhere,
probably in the suburbs. We are now on the way to look
"Oh, seek diligently — find him," cried Kāmanīta.
"Even if we knew where the Master was, it would
not be possible to carry this wounded man there," said the
stern monk. "For the shaking of the stretcher would soon
render his condition so much worse that, even if he
survived it, he would arrive on the point of death, with a
mind incapable of apprehending the Master's teaching. Let
him, however, take care of himself now, be treated by an
experienced surgeon and be carefully tended, and there is
always the hope that he may recover enough strength so
as to be able to listen to and comprehend the Master's
Kāmanīta, however, pointed impatiently to the
stretcher: "No time — dying — take me with you — see
him — touch — die happy — with you — hurry!"
Shrugging his shoulders the bhikkhu turned to the
"This poor man holds the Supremely Perfect One
to be some kind of image at whose touch one's imperfec‐
tions are dissolved."
"He has gained faith in the Tathāgata, Sāriputra,
even if he lacks the deeper understanding," said the other,
and he bent over the wounded man to ascertain what
strength he still had; "perhaps we might risk it after all. I
am sorry for the poor fellow and I believe we could do
nothing better for him than to make the attempt."
A grateful look from the pilgrim rewarded him for
"As you will, Ānanda," answered Sāriputra kindly.
At this moment there came striding past, from the
direction in which Kāmanīta had also come, a potter who
carried on his head a basket with all kinds of baked clay
wares. When he perceived Kāmanīta upon the stretcher —
where they had just laid him with great care though not
without causing him violent pain — he stopped, stricken
with horror, and so suddenly that the dishes and bowls,
piled one above another, came crashing down and were
broken into pieces.
"Holy Brahmā! What has happened here? That is
the young wanderer who honoured my hall by spending
the night there, in the company of a monk who wore a
robe like that of these reverend men."
"Was that monk an aged man and of lofty stature?"
"He was, Venerable Sir — and he seemed to me to
be not unlike yourself."
Then the monks knew that they did not need to
seek any longer — that the Master was in the house of the
potter. For 'The disciple who resembles the Master' was
the description by which Sāriputra was generally known.
"Is it possible?" said Ānanda, glancing up from the
wounded man, who, owing to the pain occasioned by his
being lifted, had become all but unconscious, and had not
noticed the arrival of the potter. "Is it possible that this
poor man should, the whole night through, have had the
happiness for which he so longs, without in the least
"That is the way of fools," said Sāriputra. "But let
us go. Now he can, of course, be brought along."
"One moment," called Ānanda, "he has been
overcome by the pain."
Indeed Kāmanīta's blank stare showed that he
scarcely noticed what was happening around him. It
began to grow dark before his eyes, but the long strip of
morning sky which showed between the high walls
nevertheless pierced his consciousness, and may well
have appeared to him like the Milky Way crossing the
midnight sky. His lips moved.
"The Gangā," he murmured.
"His mind wanders," said Ānanda.
Those standing next to Kāmanīta, who had heard
what he said, interpreted it differently.
"He now wishes to be taken to the Gangā in order
that the sacred waters may wash away his sins. But Mother
Gangā is far from here — who could possibly carry him
"First to the Buddha, then the Gangā," murmured
Sāriputra, with the wry pity a wise person bestows upon
the fool who, beyond the reach of help, falls out of one
superstition into another.
Suddenly, however, Kāmanīta's eyes become won‐
derfully animated, a happy smile transfigured his face; he
sought to raise himself. Ānanda supported him.
"The Heavenly Gangā," he whispered, with weak
but happy voice, and pointed with his right hand to the
strip of sky above his head. "The Heavenly Gangā! We
swore by its waves Vāsitthī"
His body quivered, blood gushed from his mouth,
and he passed away in Ānanda's arms.
Scarcely half an hour later Sāriputra and Ānanda,
accompanied by the monks, entered the potter's hall,
greeted the Master respectfully and sat down before him.
"Well, Sāriputra," asked the Master, after having
given them a friendly greeting, "did the company of young
monks under your leadership reach the end of their long
journey well and without accident? Did you have any lack
of food or medicine on the way? Are your disciples happy
"I am glad to be able to say, Master, that we lacked
for nothing and that the young monks, full of confidence
and zeal, have but one desire, namely, to see the Master
face to face. I have brought these noble youths, who
know the essentials and have faith in the Dharma, in order
to present them without delay to the Blessèd One."
And at these words three young monks arose and
greeted the Master with palms pressed together, in the
shape of a lotus bud:
"Greetings, Venerable Father."
"Welcome," said the Master, and with a gentle
glance and a small movement of his hand, invited them to
be seated again.
"And did you, Master, arrive after yesterday's
journey without too much fatigue or other ill‐effects? And
have you spent a passable night in this hall?"
"Even so, Sāriputra, I arrived at dusk without ill‐
effects from my journey and spent the night in the com‐
pany of a young stranger, a wandering seeker."
"That wanderer," began Sāriputra, "has been
robbed of his life in the streets of Rājagaha by a cow"
"and never dreaming with whom he had passed
the night here," added Ānanda. "His one desire was to be
brought to the feet of the Blessèd One."
"Soon afterwards, to be sure, he demanded that he
should be carried to the Gangā," remarked Sāriputra.
"Not so, Brother Sāriputra," Ānanda corrected him;
"for he spoke of the Heavenly Gangā. With radiant counte‐
nance he recalled a vow and, in doing so, uttered the
name of a woman — Vāsitthī, I believe — and so he died."
"With the name of some woman on his lips he
went hence," said Sāriputra. "I wonder where he has
entered again into existence?"
"Foolish as an unreasonable child was the pilgrim
Kāmanīta," said the Buddha. "This young seeker went
about in my name and wished to profess himself a follow‐
er of the of the Buddha‐Dharma, yet when I expounded
the Teaching to him, entering into every detail, he took
offence at it. The longings and aspirations of his heart
were centred on bliss and heavenly joys. The pilgrim
Kāmanīta, bhikkhus, has entered again into existence in
Sukhavatī — The Paradise of the West — there to enjoy
the pleasures of heaven for thousands upon thousands
บทที่ 1 - 21 คือภาคพื้นดิน
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บทที่ 22 - 45 คือภาคสวรรค์
~ 22 ~
IN THE PARADISE OF THE WEST
AT THE TIME WHEN the Master uttered these
words in the hall of the potter at Rājagaha, Kāmanīta
awoke in the Paradise of the West.
Wrapped in a red mantle, whose rich drapings
flowed down about him, delicate and glistening as the
petals of a flower, he found himself sitting with crossed
legs on a huge, similarly coloured lotus blossom which
floated in the middle of a large lake. On the wide expanse
of water such lotus flowers were to be seen everywhere,
red, blue and white; some as yet were mere buds, others,
although fairly developed, were still closed.
At the same time, however, countless numbers
were open like his own, and on almost every one a
human form was enthroned — their richly draped robes
seemed to grow up out of the petals of the flower.
On the sloping banks of the lake, in the greenest of
grass, there laughed such a wealth of flowers as made it
seem that all the jewels of earth had taken the form of
blossoms, and had been reborn there. Their luminous play
of colour they had retained, but the hard coat of mail they
had worn during their earthly existence they had exchang‐
ed for the soft and pliant, living vesture of plants. The
fragrance they exhaled, which was more powerful than
the most splendid essence ever enclosed in crystal, in
keeping with this change, still possessed the whole
heartsome freshness of the natural perfume of flowers.
From this enchanting bank his enraptured glance
swept away between masses of splendid trees, some
loftily piercing the sky, others with broader summits and
deeper shade, many clad in rich emerald foliage. Numbers
of them were resplendent with jewelled blossoms, stand‐
ing now singly, now in groups, some forming deep forest
glades. Far upward he gazed — onto where craggy
heights of the most alluring description displayed their
graces of crystal, marble, and alabaster, here naked, there
covered with dense shrubbery or veiled in an airy drapery
of florets. But at one spot the groves and rocks disap‐
peared entirely to make room for a beautiful river, which
poured its waters silently into the lake, like a stream of
Over the whole region the sky formed an arch, the
deep blue of which grew deeper as it neared the horizon,
and under this dome hung white, massy cloudlets on
which reclined lovely gandharvas, celestial musicians,
who drew from their instruments the magic strains of
rapturous melodies that filled the whole of space.
But in that sky there was no sun to be seen and,
indeed, there was no need for any sun. For from the
cloudlets and the gandharvas, from the rocks and flowers,
from the waters and from the lotus blossoms, from the
garments of the Blessèd and, in even greater degree, from
their faces, a marvellous light shone forth. And, just as this
light was of radiant clarity — without, however, dazzling
in the least — so the soft, perfume‐laden warmth was
freshened by the constant breath of the waters, and the
inhaling of this air alone was a pleasure which nothing on
earth could equal.
When Kāmanīta had grown accustomed to the
sight of all these splendours, so that they no longer over‐
powered him but began to seem like his natural surround‐
ings, he directed his attention to those other beings who,
like himself, sat round about on floating lotus thrones. He
soon perceived that those clad in red were male, those in
white were female, while of the figures wrapped in blue
robes some belonged to one, some to the other sex. But
all without exception were in the fullest bloom of youth,
and seemed to be of a most friendly disposition.
A neighbour in a blue cloak inspired him with
particular confidence, so that the desire to begin a conver‐
sation awoke within him.
"I wonder whether it is permissible to question this
radiant one?" he thought. "I would so much like to know
where I am."
To his great astonishment the reply came at once,
without a sound, and without even the faintest movement
of the blue‐clad figure's lips.
"You are in Sukhavatī, the abode of bliss."
Unconsciously Kāmanīta went on with his unspo‐
"You were here, sacred one, when I opened my
eyes, for my glance fell at once upon you. Did you awake
at the same time as I, or have you been here long?"
"I have been here from time immemorial," an‐
swered the neighbour in blue, "and I would believe that I
had been here for all eternity, if I hadn't so often seen a
lotus open and a new being appear — and also because
of the mysterious perfume of the Coral Tree."
"What is there special about that perfume?"
"That you will soon discover for yourself. The
Coral Tree is the greatest wonder of this Paradise."
The music of the heavenly gandharvas — which
seemed quite naturally to accompany this soundless
conversation, adapting itself with its melodies and strains
to every succeeding sentence as if to deepen its meaning
and to make clear what the words could not convey — at
these words wove a strangely mystical sound‐picture. And
it appeared to the listening Kāmanīta as if in his mind end‐
less depths revealed themselves, in whose shadows dim
memories stirred without being able to awaken.
"The greatest wonder?" said he, after a pause. "I
imagined that of all wonderful things here the most won‐
derful was that splendid stream which empties itself into
"The Heavenly Gangā," nodded the blue.
"The Heavenly Gangā," repeated Kāmanīta dream‐
ily and again there came over him, only in added degree,
that feeling of something which he ought to know and yet
was not able to know; which the mysterious music
seemed to seek, in the profoundest depths of his own
being, as if for the sources of that stream.
ITH A GASP OF astonishment Kāmanīta now
noticed that a white figure, throned not far from him
on her lotus flower, suddenly seemed to grow upward.
The mantle, with its piled‐up mass of folds and corners,
unrolled itself until it flowed down in straight lines
from her shoulders to the golden border. And even
this no longer touched the petals of the flower — the
figure swept away untrammelled over the pond, up the
bank and disappeared between the trees and shrubbery.
~ 23 ~
THE ROUNDELAY OF THE BLESSÈD
"How glorious that must be," thought Kāmanīta.
"But that is, I imagine, a very difficult accomplishment,
although it looks as if it were nothing. I wonder whether I
shall ever be able to learn it."
"You are able now; all you have to do is desire it,"
answered his neighbour in blue, to whom the last question
Instantly Kāmanīta had the feeling that something
was lifting his body upward. He was already floating away
across the pond towards the bank and soon he was in the
midst of the greenery. Whithersoever his glance was
directed, there his flight followed, as soon as the wish was
formed, and as quickly or slowly as he desired. He now
saw other lotus pools equally splendid as the one he had
just left. He wandered on through charming groves where
birds of bright colours sprang from branch to branch, their
melodious songs blending with the soft rustling of the
tree‐tops. He floated over flower‐strewn valleys where
graceful antelopes trotted and played without fearing him
in the least, and finally he let himself down on the gentle
slope of a hill. Between the trunks of trees and flowering
shrubs he saw the corner of a lake where the water
sparkled round large lotus blossoms, several of whose
flower‐thrones bore blissful figures, while several others,
even of the perfectly opened ones, were empty.
It was plainly a moment of communal festivity. As
on a warm summer evening fire‐flies circle hither and
thither under the trees and round about the shrubbery in
noiseless, luminous movement, so here these radiant
forms swayed singly and in pairs, in large groups of
chains, through the groves and around the rocks. At the
same time it was possible to see from their glances and
gestures that they were conversing animatedly with one
another, and one could easily divine the invisible threads
of the exchanges which were being carried on between
the noiseless passers‐by.
In a state of sweet and dreamy shyness Kāmanīta
enjoyed this charming spectacle, until gradually there
grew in him a desire to converse with these happy ones.
Immediately he was surrounded by a whole com‐
pany who greeted him kindly as the newly arrived, the
Kāmanīta wondered much, and inquired how it
was that the news of his coming had already been spread
abroad all over Sukhavatī.
"Oh! when a lotus opens itself all the other lotus
flowers in the lakes of Paradise are moved, and every
being is conscious that another has somewhere among us
awakened into bliss."
"But how could you know that I happened to be
The figures floating around him smiled charmingly.
"You are not yet fully awake. You look at us as
though you are seeing dream‐figures and are afraid that
we might suddenly disappear, and that rude reality will
once again surround you."
Kāmanīta shook his head.
"I don't quite understand. What are dream‐figures?"
"You forget," said one white‐robed figure, "that he
has not yet been to the Coral Tree."
"No, I have not yet been there. But I have already
heard of it. My neighbour on the lake mentioned it; the
tree is said to be such a wondrous one. What is there
But they all smiled mysteriously, looking at one
another and shaking their heads.
"I would like so much to go there at once. Will no
one show me the way?"
"You will find the way yourself when the time
Kāmanīta drew his hand over his forehead.
"There is yet another wonderful thing here of
which he spoke... yes, the Heavenly Gangā... by it our
lake is fed. Is that so with yours also?"
The white‐robed figure pointed to the clear little
river that wound round about the foot of the hill and so,
by easy turnings, onward to the pool.
"That is our Source. Countless such arteries inter‐
sect these fields, and that which you have seen is a similar
one, even if somewhat larger. But the Heavenly Gangā
itself surrounds the whole of Sukhavatī."
"Have you also seen it?"
The white‐robed one shook her head.
"Is it not possible to go there, then?"
"Oh, it is possible," they all answered, "but none of
us have been there. Besides, why should we go? It cannot
be more beautiful anywhere than here. Several of the
others, to be sure, have been there, but they have never
flown there again."
His white‐robed visitor pointed towards the pond:
"Do you see the red figure, almost at the other
bank? He was there once, though it is long, long ago. Shall
we ask him whether he has flown again since then to the
shores of the Gangā?"
"Never again," at once came the answer from him
of the red robe.
"And why not?"
"Fly there yourself and bring back the answer."
"Shall we? Together with you I might do it."
"I should like to go — but not now."
Forth from a neighbouring grove there floated a
train of happy figures. They wound a chain about the
meadow shrubbery and, while they extended the chain,
the figure at the end, a light blue one, seized the hand of
the white‐robe. She stretched out her other hand invitingly
He thanked her smilingly, but gently shook his
"I would prefer to be a spectator still."
"Yes, better rest and awaken. For the present,
farewell." And, gently led away by the light blue, she
floated thence in the airy roundelay.
The others also, with kind and cheerful greetings,
moved away so that he might have quietude in which to
~ 24 ~
THE CORAL TREE
KĀMANĪTA FOLLOWED THEM long with his eyes
and wondered. And then he wondered at his wonder.
"How does it happen that everything here seems so
strange to me? If I belong to this place, why doesn't every‐
thing appear perfectly natural? But every new thing I see is
a puzzle and fills me with astonishment. For example, this
fragrance that now floats past me so suddenly? How
absolutely different it is from all other flower scents here
— much fuller and more powerful, attracting and disquiet‐
ing at the same time. Where can it come from? But where
do I myself come from? It seems to me as though I was,
only a short time ago, a mere nothing. Or did I have an
existence? Only not here? If so, where? And how have I
While he revolved these questions in his mind, his
body had risen up from the meadow, without his perceiv‐
ing it, and he was already floating onward — though not
in a direction taken by any of the others. He made his way
upwards towards a depression in the crest of the hill. As
he passed over it he was greeted by a yet more powerful
breath of that new and strange perfume.
Kāmanīta flew onward. Beyond the hill the
neighbourhood lost something of its charm. The show of
flowers was scantier, the shrubbery darker, the groves
more dense, the rocks more forbidding and higher. Herds
of gazelles grazed there, but only in a few solitary instances
was one of the Blessèd to be seen.
The valley became narrower and ended in a cleft,
and here the perfume grew yet stronger. Ever more rapid
became his flight; ever more naked, steep and high did
the rocky walls close around him until an opening was no
longer to be seen.
Then the ravine made a couple of sharp turns and
Round about Kāmanīta extended a deep, pit‐like
valley shut in by towering, deep green malachite rocks
which seemed to reach the heavens. In the midst of the
valley stood the wonder‐tree. Trunk and branches were of
smooth, red coral; slightly more yellow was the red of the
crisp foliage amid which blossoms of a deep crimson
glowed and burned.
Over the pinnacles of the rocks and the summit of
the tree rose the deep blue sky in which not a single cloud
was to be seen. Nor did the music of the gandharvas
penetrate in any appreciable degree to this spot — what
still trembled in the air seemed to be but a memory of
melodies heard in the long past.
There were but three colours to be seen in the
valley: the cerulean blue of the heavens, the malachite
green of the rocks, the coral red of the tree. And only one
perfume — that mysterious fragrance, so unlike all others,
of the crimson flowers which had led Kāmanīta there.
Almost immediately the wonderful nature of that
perfume began to show itself.
As Kāmanīta inhaled it here, in the dense form in
which it filled the whole basin, his consciousness became
suddenly brightened. It overflowed and broke through the
barriers which had been raised about him from the time of
his awakening in the lake until the present.
His past life lay open before him.
He saw the hall of the potter where he had sat in
conversation with that foolish Buddhist monk; he saw the
little lane in Rājagaha through which he had hurried and
the cow tearing towards him — then the horrified faces
round about and the golden‐clad monks themselves. And
he saw the forests and the country roads of his spiritual
wanderings, his palace and his two wives, the courtesans
of Ujjenī, the robbers, the grove of Krishna and the Terrace
of the Sorrowless with Vāsitthī, his father's house, and
the children's room...
And behind that he saw another life, and yet
another, and still another, and ever others, as one sees a
line of trees on a country road until the trees become
points and the points blend into one strip of shadow.
At this, his brain began to reel.
At once he found himself in the cleft again, like a
leaf that is driven by the wind. For on the first time, no
one can bear the perfume of the Coral Tree for long, and
the instinct of self‐preservation bears everyone away from
there at the first sign of dizziness.
As he, by and by, moved more quietly through the
open valley, Kāmanīta pondered — "Now I understand
why the white‐robed one said she imagined I had not yet
been to the Coral Tree. For I certainly could not imagine
then what they had meant by 'dream‐pictures'; but now I
know, for in that other life I have seen such. And I also
know now why I am here. I wanted to visit the Buddha in
the Mango Grove near Rājagaha. Of course that intention
was frustrated by my sudden and violent death, but my
good intentions have been looked on favourably and so I
have reached this place of bliss as though I had indeed sat
at his feet and had died in his blessèd Teaching. So my
pilgrimage has not been in vain." At this realisation a great
glad sigh issued forth from his heart, and he flew on.
Very soon Kāmanīta reached the lake again, where
he let himself down upon his red lotus flower like a bird
that returns to its nest.
~ 25 ~
THE BUD OF THE LOTUS OPENS
IT SUDDENLY SEEMED TO Kāmanīta as though some‐
thing living were moving in the depths of the lake. In
the crystal deeps he became dimly aware of a rising
shadow. The waters bubbled and seethed, and a large
lotus bud, red‐tipped, shot like a fish above the surface
on which it then lay swimming and rocking. The waters
themselves rose and sank in ever‐extending rings and,
for a long time afterwards, trembled and glittered into
fragments and radiating light, as if the lake were filled with
liquid diamonds; the reflection of the watery coruscations
flickered up like miniature flames over the lotus leaves,
the robes and the faces and forms of the Blessèd.
Kāmanīta's own being trembled and radiated all its
hidden colours, and over his heart also there seemed to
dance, as if in happy play, a reflection of joyous emotion.
"What was that?" his glance asked of his blue
"Deep down, among far‐distant worlds on the
gloomy earth, a human being has this instant centred their
heart's desire upon entering again into existence here in
Sukhavatī. Now let us also see whether the bud will
develop well and finally blossom. For many fix their desire
on this pure abode of bliss and yet are not able to live up
to its fulfilment but, on the contrary, they entangle them‐
selves again in a maze of unholy passions, succumb to the
cravings of sensuality and remain bound to the coarseness
of life on earth. Then the bud withers away and at last
disappears entirely. This time, as you see, it is a male.
Such a one, in the chequered life of earth, fails more easily
on the path to Paradise; and for this reason you will also
notice that, even if the red and white are about equal in
number, amongst the blue the females are by far the more
At this communication the heart of Kāmanīta
quivered strangely, as if all at once joy blended with pain
and sorrow, bearing a promise of future happiness, had
set it vibrating; and his gaze rested upon a closed lotus
flower nearby, as though seeking the solution to some
riddle. It was as white as the breast of a swan and rocked
gracefully quite near to him in the still gently moving
"Can you remember seeing the bud of my lotus
rise from the depths?" He asked of his experienced
"Surely, for it came up together with that white
flower you are now gazing upon. And I have always
watched the pair of you, at times with some anxiety. For
fairly soon after its birth your bud began perceptibly to
shrivel up, and it had almost sunk beneath the surface of
the water when all at once it raised itself again, became
fuller and brighter, and then developed magnificently until
it opened. The white one, however, grew slowly but
gradually and evenly towards the day when it should
open, when suddenly it was attacked as if by some sick‐
ness. It recovered, however, very quickly and became the
magnificent flower you now see before you."
At these words there arose in Kāmanīta such a
feeling of joy that it really seemed to him as if he had
hitherto been but a sad guest in a sad place — to such a
degree did everything now appear to glow, to smell
sweet, and to breathe music.
And as though his gaze, which had rested
unwaveringly on the white lotus, had been a magician's
wand for the raising of hidden treasures, the apex of the
flower began to move, the petals bent their edges outward
to droop gracefully down on every side, and lo! — in their
midst sat the fair Vāsitthī with widely‐open eyes, whose
sweetly smiling glance met his own.
Simultaneously Kāmanīta and Vāsitthī stretched out
their arms to one another, and hand in hand they floated
away over the pond towards the bank.
Kāmanīta observed, of course, that Vāsitthī had not
as yet recognised him, but had only turned to him uncon‐
sciously as the sunflower towards the sun. How could she
have recognised him — seeing that no‐one, immediately
on awakening, remembered anything of their previous life
— even if at the sight of him dim presentiments might
have stirred in the depths of her heart, as had happened in
his own case when his neighbour spoke of the Heavenly
He showed her the gleaming river, which emptied
itself noiselessly into the lake:
"In the same fashion the silver waters of the Heav‐
enly Gangā feed all the lakes in the fields of the Blessèd."
"The Heavenly Gangā...?" she repeated question‐
ingly, and drew her hand across her forehead.
"Come, let us go to the Coral Tree."
"But the groves and the shrubbery are so beautiful
over there, and the Blessèd are playing such delightful
games," said Vāsitthī, pointing in another direction.
"Later! First let us go to the Coral Tree; you will be
refreshed and revived by its wonderful perfume."
Vāsitthī followed him willingly — like a child that
one has comforted with the promise of a new toy because
of not having been allowed to take part in the joyous
games of her friends. As the perfume began to float towards
them her features grew more and more animated.
"Where are you leading me?" she asked, as they
turned into the narrow gorge among the rocks. "Never
before have I been so filled with expectation; and it seems
to me that in the past, I have often been filled with expectations,
although your smile reminds me that I have only
just awakened to consciousness. But surely you have
mistaken the way, we can go no farther in this direction."
"Oh we can go farther, much farther," smiled
Kāmanīta, "and perhaps you will now become aware that
that feeling of which you spoke has not deceived you,
Even as he spoke there opened before them the
basin of the valley amid the malachite rocks, with the red
Coral Tree and the deep blue sky. Then the perfume of all
perfumes enveloped her.
Vāsitthī laid her hands on her breast as if to check
her all too deep breathing. In an intense intermingling of
sympathy and expectation Kāmanīta discerned, in the
rapid play of light and shadow on her features, how the
storm of life‐memories was sweeping over her. Suddenly
she raised her arms and flung herself on his breast:
"Kāmanīta! My belovèd!"
And he bore her thence, speeding back through
the gorge with eager haste.
In the open valley with its dark shrubbery and
thick groves, where the gazelles were at play but no
human form disturbed the solitude, he descended with
her, finding shelter under a tree.
"Oh, my poor Kāmanīta," said Vāsitthī, "what you
must have suffered! And what must you have thought of
me when you learned that I had married Sātāgira!"
Then Kāmanīta told her how he had not learned
that from hearsay but had himself, in the main street of
Kosambī, seen the bridal procession, and how the speechless
misery graven on her face had directly convinced him
she had only yielded to the pressure of her parents.
"But no power on earth would have compelled
me, my only love, if I had not been forced to believe that I
was in possession of sure proof that you were no longer
And Vāsitthī began to tell him of the events of that
THE CHAIN WITH THE TIGER‐EYE
WHEN YOU, MY FRIEND, were gone from Kosambī,
I dragged myself miserably through the days and
nights, as a woman does who is devoured by a fever
of longing, and is at the same time a prey to a thousand
fears on behalf of her belovèd. I did not even know
whether you still breathed the air of this world with
me, for I had often heard of the dangers of such journeys.
And now I was forced to reproach myself most bitterly
because, with my foolish obstinacy, I was to blame for
your not having made the return journey in perfect safety
under the protection of the embassy. Yet, with all this, I
was not really able to repent of my thoughtlessness,
because I owed to it all those precious memories which
were now my whole treasure.
Even Medinī's cheering and comforting words
were seldom able to dissipate for any length of time the
cloud of melancholy which hung over me. My best and
truest friend was the Asoka under which we stood on that
glorious moonlit night, the tree that you, my sweetheart,
have assuredly not forgotten, and to which I addressed on
that occasion the words of Damayantī. Countless times did
I try to obtain, by listening to the rustling of its leaves, an
answer to my anxious questions, to see in the falling of a
leaf or the play of light and shadow on the ground an
omen of some kind. If it then happened that the sign
given by such a self‐invented oracle bore a favourable
interpretation, I was able to feel happy for a whole day or
even longer, and to look hopefully into the future. But just
for that very reason my longing increased, and with the
longing my fears returned as naturally as bad dreams
result from a fevered temperature.
In this condition it was almost a benefit that, after a
short time, my love was not permitted to live in solitary
inactivity dedicated to suffering alone, but that it was
forced into a combative attitude and obliged to gather up
all its strength — even if thereby it brought me to the
verge of complete estrangement from my own family.
It was in this way that it came about: Sātāgira, the
son of the Minister, pursued me ever more assiduously
now with tokens of his love, and I could no longer show
myself in a public pleasure‐garden with my companions
without his being there and making me the object of his
Unfortunately the fact that I didn't respond to these
had not the slightest deterrent effect upon him — even
though I showed him even more plainly than was polite
how hateful they were to me. Soon, however, my parents
began to plead his cause, first with all kinds of hints and
then with less and less reserve, and when he finally came
forward to press his suit openly, they demanded that I
should give him my hand. I assured them, with bitter
tears, that I could never love Sātāgira. That, however,
made little impression upon them. But I was similarly as
little affected by their representations, their prayers and
their reproaches, and remained insensible alike to both
the pleading of my mother and to the threats of my father.
Driven to bay, I finally told them straight out that I had
promised myself to you — of whom they had already
heard from Sātāgira — and that no power on earth could
either force me to break my word, which had been sac‐
redly given to you, or to belong to another. And I added
that, if the worst should come to the worst, I would kill
myself by persistently refusing all nourishment.
As my parents now saw that I was quite capable of
carrying out this threat they finally gave the matter up,
although much put out and very angry, and Sātāgira also
now seemed to yield to his fate and to be taking pains to
comfort himself for his defeat in the courts of love by
becoming the hero of victorious deeds on a sterner field
About this time people had many terrible tales to
tell of the robber Angulimāla who, with his band, had laid
waste whole districts, burnt villages and made the roads so
unsafe that eventually almost no‐one ventured to travel to
Kosambī. I became a prey, as a consequence, to horrible
fears for I naturally dreaded that you might at last be
coming to me and be unfortunate enough to fall into his
hands on the way.
Things stood thus when news arrived that Sātāgira
had received the supreme command of a large body of
troops with which to sweep the whole neighbourhood of
Kosambī and if possible to capture Angulimāla himself, as
well as the other members of the band. Sātāgira had, so
the story ran, sworn to accomplish this or to fall fighting in
Little as I was otherwise disposed to feel kindly
towards the son of the Minister, I could not on this occa‐
sion refrain from wishing him the best of success and,
when he moved out, my earnest wishes for his prosperity
followed his colours.
About a week later I was in the garden with
Medinī, when we heard loud cries from the street. Medinī
rushed there at once to learn what had happened, pres‐
ently she announced that Sātāgira was returning to the city
in triumph, having either cut down the robbers or taken
It seemed that Sātāgira had obtained information as
to the whereabouts of the secret hideout of the band by
capturing the belovèd of one of Angulimāla's cronies and,
through both threatening her life and promising rich
rewards for their complicity, he had forced the man to
betray his robber honour.
Sātāgira had thus been able to steal up on the gang
with his troops, after one of their festive orgies, and had
slaughtered most of them where they slept — Angulimāla
himself had fallen into his hands alive.
She invited me to go out with her and Somadatta
into the street, to witness the entry of the soldiers with the
captive robbers, but I did not wish Sātāgira to have the
satisfaction of seeing me among the spectators of his
triumph. So I stayed behind alone, more than happy at the
thought the roads were now again open to my belovèd —
for so little do mortals understand of the workings of
karma that they sometimes, as I did then, treat as a spe‐
cially fortunate day just that one on which the current of
their lives takes a turn for the worse.
On the following morning my father entered my
room. He handed me a crystal chain bearing a tiger‐eye
amulet, and asked me if I, by any possibility, recognised it.
I felt as though I should drop, but I summoned up
all my strength and answered that the chain resembled
one which you had always worn round your neck.
"It isn't like it," said my father with brutal calmness,
"it is it. When Angulimāla was made prisoner he was
wearing the chain and Sātāgira at once recognised it. For,
as he related to me, he had once wrestled with Kāmanīta
in the park for your ball and, in the course of the struggle,
had seized Kāmanīta's chain in order to hold him back.
The chain parted and remained in Sātāgira's hands so that
he was able to examine it very carefully. He was convinced
that he couldn't be deceived. And then Angulimāla, when
closely questioned, confessed that two years ago he had
attacked Kāmanīta's caravan on its return to Ujjenī, in the
region of the Vedisa, had cut down his people and had
taken Kāmanīta prisoner, along with a servant. The ser‐
vant he sent to Ujjenī for ransom. As this was not forthcoming
for some reason, he had put Kāmanīta to death,
according to the custom of the robbers."
At these frightful words I should certainly have lost
consciousness, had not a possibility presented itself to my
despairing mind of hoping against hope.
"Sātāgira is a low and crafty snake," I answered,
with apparent calm, "who would not hesitate to cheat us;
and he has set his heart, or rather his pride, upon gaining
me for his wife. If he, at the time you speak of, examined
the chain so attentively, what was to hinder him from
having one made like it? I imagine that this idea occurred
to him when he first heard of Angulimāla. If he had not
taken Angulimāla himself prisoner, he could always say
that the chain had been found in possession of the rob‐
bers, and that they had confessed to having killed
"That is hardly possible, my daughter," said my
father, shaking his head, "and for a reason which you, it is
true, cannot see, but which I, as a goldsmith, can fortu‐
nately reveal. If you will examine the small gold links
which connect the crystals with one another, you will
notice that the metal is redder than that of our jewellery
here, because we use in our alloys more silver than copper.
The workmanship also is of the somewhat coarser
type seen in the mountain districts."
On my lips there hung the reply:— So clever a
goldsmith as himself would, no doubt, succeed as perfectly
in the matter of the proper mixture of the gold as in
turning out the characteristic workmanship. For I saw
every one and everything conspiring against our love, and
did not trust even my nearest relatives. However, I ended
the matter by saying that I would not allow myself to be
convinced by this mere chain that my Kāmanīta was not
My father left me in great anger and then, in solitude,
I was able to give myself wholly up to my despair.
~ 27 ~
THE RITE OF TRUTH
AT THAT TIME I always spent the first hours of
the night on the Terrace of the Sorrowless, either
alone or with Medinī. On the evening of the day of
which I have just spoken, I was there by myself and,
considering the state of mind in which I then was, solitude
was my best companion. The full moon shone as on those
memorable nights of the past, and I stood before the great
Asoka with its wealth of blossoms, to beg from it, the
Heartsease, a comforting omen for my troubled heart.
After some time I said to myself — "If, between me and
the trunk, a saffron‐yellow flower should fall before I
have counted to a hundred, then my belovèd Kāmanīta is
When I had counted to fifty a flower fell, but an
orange‐coloured one. When I reached eighty I began to
count more and more slowly. Just then a creaking door
opened in the corner between the terrace and the wall of
the house, where a stair led down into the courtyard — a
flight of steps really intended only for workmen and
My father came forward, and behind him Sātāgira.
A couple of soldiers armed to the teeth followed, and after
them came a man who towered a full head above the
others. Finally, yet other soldiers brought up the rear of
this strange, not to say inexplicable, procession. Two of
the latter remained to guard the door, whilst all the others
came directly towards me. At the same time I noticed that
the giant in their midst walked with great difficulty, and
that at every step there resounded a dismal clanking and
That very instant a saffron‐yellow blossom floated
down and remained lying just at my feet. I had ceased
counting however, from sheer astonishment and, as a
consequence, could not be sure whether it had fallen
before or after the hundred had been reached.
The group now advanced from the shadow of the
wall into the moonlight and then I saw with horror that the
giant figure was loaded with chains. His hands were
fettered at his back, about his ankles clanked heavy iron
rings which were linked to either end of a huge rod and
were connected by double chains of iron with a similar
ring around his neck. To it, in turn, two other chains were
fastened and these were held by two of the soldiers. As is
usual in the case of a prisoner who is being conducted to
the scaffold, around his neck and on his hairy breast there
hung a wreath of the red Kanavera blossoms; and the
reddish‐yellow brick‐dust with which his head was pow‐
dered caused the hair hanging down over his forehead,
and the beard which reached almost to his eyes, to appear
yet more ferocious. From this mask his eyes flashed out at
me and then fell to the ground, wandering furtively hither
and thither on the floor like those of an evil beast.
As to who stood before me I should not have
needed to inquire, even if the Kanavera blossoms had
concealed the symbol of his terrible name — the necklace
of human fingers.
"Now, Angulimāla," Sātāgira broke the silence,
"repeat in the presence of this noble maiden what you
have confessed on the rack regarding the murder of the
young merchant Kāmanīta of Ujjenī."
"Kāmanīta was not murdered," answered the
robber gruffly, "but taken prisoner and made away with,
according to our customs."
And he now related to me in a few words what my
father had already told me of the matter.
I stood, meanwhile, with my back to the Asoka
tree, and supported myself by clutching the trunk with
both hands, burying my finger‐nails convulsively in the
bark in order to keep myself from falling.
When Angulimāla had finished speaking, every‐
thing seemed to be going round in a whirl. But even then
I did not give up.
"You are an infamous robber and murderer," I
said, "what value can your word have for me? Why should
you not say what is commanded to you by the one into
whose power your villainies have brought you?"
And, as if by an inspiration which astonished even
myself, and caused a glimmer of hope to flash up within
me, I added:
"You do not dare to look me in the eyes even once
— you, the terror of all human beings, and me, a weak
girl! You do not dare — because at the instigation of this
man you are telling a cowardly lie."
Angulimāla did not look up, but he laughed
harshly and answered in a voice that sounded like the
growling of a fettered beast of prey:
"What good end would be served by looking you
in the eyes? I leave that to young dandies. The eyes of an
infamous robber you would believe as little as his words.
And his oath would, I suppose, signify just as little."
He came a step nearer.
"Well then, maiden, be witness now to the Rite of
Once again the lightning of his glance struck me as
it swept upward and fixed itself upon the moon in such a
way that, in the midst of the tangle of his discoloured hair
and beard, only the whites of his eyes were still visible.
His breast heaved, so that the red flowers moved as in a
dance, and with a voice like that of thunder rolling among
the clouds, he called aloud:
"You who tame the tiger, snake‐crowned Goddess
of Night! You who dance by moonlight on the pinnacles of
the mountains, your necklace of skulls swaying and
crashing, gnashing your teeth, swinging your blood‐filled
skull‐cup! Mother Kālī! Mistress of the robbers! You who
have led me through a thousand dangers, hear me! Truly
as I have never withheld a sacrifice from you; truly as I
have ever loyally observed your laws; truly as I did deal
with this Kāmanīta according to our statute — the statute
which commands us Senders when the ransom does not
arrive by the appointed hour, to saw the prisoner through
the middle and cast his remains on the public road —
just as truly stand by me now in my direst need, rend my
chains, and free me from the hands of my enemies."
As he said this he made a mighty effort — the
chains rattled and shattered, arms and legs were free, the
two soldiers who held him lay prone on the earth, a third
he struck down with the iron links which hung at his wrists
and before any one of us clearly understood what was
happening, Angulimāla had swung himself over the
parapet. With a fierce shout Sātāgira gave chase.
That was the last I saw or heard.
Afterwards I learned that Angulimāla had fallen,
broken a foot and had been captured by the guard; that he
had later died in prison under torture, and that his head
had been placed over the east gate of the town where
Medinī and Somadatta had seen it.
With Angulimāla's Rite of Truth my last doubt and
my last hope left me. For I knew well that even the fear‐
some Goddess Kālī could not have worked a miracle to
rescue him if he had not had the strength which truth lent
to his side.
As to what should now become of me I troubled
myself little, for on this earth everything good was hence‐
forth lost. Only in the Paradise of the West could we two
meet again. You had gone before me and I would, as I
ardently hoped, soon follow. Only there could happiness
blossom — all else was a matter of indifference.
As Sātāgira now continued to press his suit, and my
mother, always wailing and weeping, kept on making
representations to me that she would die of a broken heart
if through me she should suffer the disgrace of having a
daughter remain unmarried in the house of her parents:—
She might just as well have given birth to the ugliest
maiden in Kosambī! Little by little my resistance weakened.
Over and above this, I no longer had so much
bitterness to bring against Sātāgira as before: I could not
avoid recognising the steadfastness and fidelity of his
attachment, and I also felt that I owed him gratitude for
having avenged the death of my belovèd.
Thus, after almost another year had passed, I sadly
became the bride of Sātāgira.
~ 28 ~
ON THE SHORES OF THE HEAVENLY GANGĀ
WHEN KĀMANĪTA PERCEIVED that even here
in the abode of bliss these memories overshadowed,
with dark and forbidding wings, the still delicate,
newly awakened spirit of his belovèd, he took her
by the hand and led her away — guiding their flight to
the soft green hill on whose slope he had recently lain
and watched the games of the floating dancers.
Here they sought a resting‐place. Already groves
and shrubberies, meadows and hill‐slopes were filled with
countless floating figures, red, blue and white. Group after
group surrounded them to greet the newly awakened one.
And the two mingled joyfully amongst the ranks of the
They had been gliding hither and thither for a long
time, wherever the chain of dancers led them — through
the groves, round about the rocks, over the meadows and
lotus pools — when they were suddenly met by the
white‐robed companion who had formerly called upon
Kāmanīta to take the journey to the Gangā with her.
As they held out their hands to one another in the
dance, she asked, with a sunny smile:
"Well, have you been to the shores of the Gangā yet?
You now have a companion, I see."
"Not yet," answered Kāmanīta.
"What is that?" asked Vāsitthī.
And Kāmanīta told her.
"Let us go there," said Vāsitthī. "Oh, how often
have I, down in the sad valleys of earth, looked up to the
distant reflection of the heavenly stream and thought of
the blessèd plains that are enfolded and watered by it, and
asked myself if we should really one day be united in this
place of bliss. Now I feel myself irresistibly drawn there, to
linger with you on its shores."
They withdrew from the chain of dancers and
turned their flight in a direction which led them far from
their own lake. After some time they saw no more lotus
pools, nor the resplendent flowers bearing happy beings.
The wealth of blossoms decreased perceptibly and more
and more rarely did they meet the figures of the Blessèd.
Herds of gazelles and antelopes here gave life to the
plains and swans glided along on the lakes, drawing trains
of glistening waves behind them over the dark waters. The
hills, which in the beginning had grown ever steeper and
more rocky, disappeared entirely.
They floated over a flat, desert‐like plain covered
with tiger‐grass and thorny shrubs, and before them lay
stretched the endless curves of a forest of palms.
They reached the forest. More and more deeply
did the shadows close in around them. The ringed trunks
gleamed like bronze. High above them the tree‐tops
resounded with a clang as of metal.
In front, glistening points and streaks of light
began to dance. And suddenly there streamed towards
them such a blaze of light that they were obliged to hold
their hands over their eyes. It seemed as though there
stood a gigantic colonnade of burnished silver pillars in
the forest, flashing back the light of the rising sun.
When they ventured again to remove their hands
from their faces, they were just floating out between the
last of the forest palms.
Before them lay the Heavenly Gangā, its silvery
expanse reaching out to the far horizon; at their feet wave‐
lets of liquid starlight lapped the pearl‐grey sand of the
shore, as if with tongues of flame both cool and argentine.
As a rule the sky begins to grow gradually clearer
down towards the horizon, but here the order was re‐
versed; the azure blue passed into indigo, and finally
deepened to an all but absolutely black border, which
rested heavily upon the silver waters.
Of the perfume of the blossoms of Paradise there
was nothing left. And, whereas in the malachite valley that
memory‐laden perfume of perfumes lay dense around the
Coral Tree, here there blew along the Stream of the Uni‐
verse, a cool and fresh breath which took for its perfume
the absence of all perfume — perfect purity. And Vāsitthī
seemed to quaff it greedily as a refreshing draught, while it
took Kāmanīta's breath away.
Here also, one did not catch the faintest note of the
music of the gandharvas. But from the stream itself there
seemed to rise up mighty sounds like the deep booming
"Listen," whispered Vāsitthī, and raised her hand.
"Strange," said Kāmanīta, "once on my journeyings
I had found lodgings in a hut which stood at the entrance
to a mountain ravine, and past the hut there flowed a little
rivulet with clear water in which I washed my feet after
my long day's walk. During the night a violent rain fell
and, as I lay awake in my hut, I heard the rivulet, which in
the evening had rippled softly by, rush and rage with
ever‐increasing vehemence. At the same time my attention
was caught by a banging, thundering sound which I could
not explain to myself at all. The next morning, however, I
saw that the clear brook had become a raging mountain
torrent, with waters brown and foaming in which huge
stones rolled and bounded as they dashed onward. And it
was these that had caused the uproar. Why do you sup‐
pose that just here, when listening to these sounds, this
memory out of the time of my pilgrimage should rise
"It comes from this," answered Vāsitthī, "the
sounds are analogous; though in that mountain stream you
were merely hearing the collision of stones, here in the
stream of the Heavenly Gangā, worlds are rolled and
propelled along. It is these from which the booming
sounds like thunder arise."
"Worlds!" exclaimed Kāmanīta, horrified.
Vāsitthī smiled, and floated onward as she did so;
but Kāmanīta, full of terror, caught her and held her back
by her robe.
"Take care of yourself, Vāsitthī! Who knows what
powers, what fearful forces hold sway over this Stream of
the Universe, forces into whose power you might fall by
forsaking the shore. I tremble already at the thought of
seeing you suddenly torn from me."
"Would you not dare to follow me, then?"
"Certainly, I would follow you. But who knows
whether I could reach you, whether we should not be torn
from one another? And even if we remained together,
what misery it would be to be borne away to the Illimit‐
able, far from this abode of bliss."
"To the Illimitable...!" repeated Vāsitthī dreamily,
and her glance swept over the surface of the Heavenly
Gangā, far out to where the silver flood touched the black
border of the sky, her gaze seeming to desire to penetrate
ever farther. "Is it possible, then," she asked, as if she
were lost in thought, "for eternal happiness to exist where
there is limitation?"
"Vāsitthī!" exclaimed Kāmanīta, becoming truly
alarmed. "I wish I had never led you here! Come, love,
And, even more anxiously than from the Coral
Tree, he drew her away from there.
She followed him willingly, but turned her head at
the first palms as she did so, casting a last glance back‐
ward at the heavenly stream.
And again they were throned on the lotus seats in
the crystal lake, again they floated between trees bearing
blossoms of jewels, again they mingled with the ranks of
the Blessèd, joined in the dances, and enjoyed the raptures
of heaven, happy in their unclouded love.
Once in the dance they met their friend of the
white robe, who greeted them with:
"So you now really have been to the shores of the
"How could you possible know that we have been
"I see it; for all who have been there wear a shadow
on their brows. For that reason I don't wish to go. And
you will also not go a second time, no‐one ever does."
~ 29 ~
AMID THE SWEETNESS OF THE
AS A MATTER OF FACT, they did not again visit
the inhospitable shores of the Heavenly Gangā. Often,
however, they turned their flight toward the valley
of the malachite rocks. Reposing under the mighty
crown of the Coral Tree, they breathed that perfume of
perfumes which streamed from the crimson blossoms and,
in the depths of their memory, there was opened up to
them the vista of their former lives — life preceding life in
some strangely appointed order, back into the far‐distant
And they saw themselves in other times, when
human beings were mightier than now, in those memorable
heroic days when he tore himself from her arms and
rode his war elephant to Hastinapura to aid his friends, the
Pāndava princes, in their quarrel with the Kaurāvas; when,
fighting at the side of Arjuna and Krishna, on the plain of
Kurukshetra, on the tenth day of the gigantic battle he
yielded up his spirit. And when she had received the news
of his death and his shrouded body had been returned to
her, she had ascended the funeral pyre in front of the
palace, followed by all of her women, and had ignited the
great blaze with her own hand.
And yet again they saw themselves in strange
regions, amid scenery of another kind.
It was no longer the valley of the Gangā and
Yamunā, with its magnificent palace‐filled cities where
warriors in shining armour, proud brahmins, rich mer‐
chants and diligent workers lent animation to the streets.
This theatre which had so often framed the stage of their
common life with its luxuriant tropical magnificence, as
though there were no other world, now disappeared
entirely to make room for a drearier and harsher land.
Here the sun of summer burns, it is true, just as hot
as by the Gangā, dries up the water‐courses and parches
the grass, but in winter the frost robs the woods of their
foliage and rime covers the fields. No towns rear their
towers in this region; only widely scattered villages with
large sheep‐folds lie in the midst of its rich pastures, and
the protecting elevation nearby is turned into a small
fortress by means of ramparts and rough wall. A warlike,
pastoral people have their home here. The woods are full
of wolves; and miles away the trembling wayfarer hears
the roar of the lion — "The beast that roams, frightful,
savage; whose lair is in the mountains" — as he describes
it; for he is a song‐maker.
After long wanderings, he approaches a village, an
unknown but welcome guest; for that he is everywhere.
Over his shoulder hangs his sole visible possession — a
small harp — but in his head he carries the whole precious
heritage of his fathers: ancient mystic hymns to Agni
and Indra, to Varuna and Mitra, yes, even to unknown
gods; songs of war and drinking choruses for men, love‐
songs for the maidens; fortune‐bringing magic sayings to
protect the cattle, the givers of milk. And he has power
and knowledge with which to increase this store from his
own resources. Where, indeed, would such a guest not be
It is the hour when the cattle are being driven
home. At the head of a herd there walks, with supreme
grace in every movement of her young body, a maiden of
lofty stature; by her side goes her pet cow, whose bell the
others follow, and from time to time the favourite licks her
mistress's hand. The young wanderer gives the maiden an
evening greeting; she replies with kindly words. Smiling,
they look at one another — and the look is the same as
that which was born in the pleasure park of Kosambī,
which flew back and forth between the ball‐player on the
stage and the handsome stranger.
But the Land of the Five Streams, after it has re‐
peatedly given them shelter and a home, disappears in its
turn as did the valley of the Gangā. Other regions come
into view, other peoples and customs surround them —
everything poorer, rougher, wilder.
The steppe over which the procession passes —
horsemen, wagons, and people on foot in endless lines —
is white with snow. The air is full of whirling flakes. Black
mountains look darkly down. From under the tent‐like
roof of a heavy ox‐wagon, a maiden leans forward with
such haste of movement that the sheepskin slips aside,
and her wealth of golden hair flows down over cheeks,
throat and breast. Anxiety burns in her eyes as she gazes
out in the direction in which all eyes are turned, where all
fingers point — to where, like a dark cloud whirled up by
the wind, a horde of mounted horsemen comes sweeping
towards them. But she smiles confidently, as her glance
meets that of the youth who rides on a black ox beside the
wagon; and it is the same look as before, even if out of
blue eyes. The glance sets the heart of the youth on fire —
he swings his battle‐axe, and with loud cry joins the other
warriors who rush to meet the foe — sets it on fire, and
still warms it when it is pierced by the cold iron of a
But they saw greater changes yet; led by the
fragrant odour of the Coral Tree, they undertook even
They found themselves as stag and hind in a vast
forest. Their love was wordless now, but not sightless.
And again it was the same look; deep in the darkest
depths of their great eyes, as if prescient, there lightened,
even if through dim blue mists, the same spark that had
later found its way so radiantly from human eye to human
They grazed together and waded side by side in
the clear, cool forest brook; body by body they rested in
the tall soft grass. They had their joys in common and
together they trembled for fear, when a branch suddenly
became alive and the jaws of the python opened wide or
when, in the stillness of the night, a scarcely audible
creeping movement was caught by their quick ears, while
flaring nostrils discerned the pungent odour of a beast of
prey, and they fled with mighty bounds, just as a rustling
crack made itself heard in the neighbouring thicket and
the angry roar of a tiger that had fallen short of its prey
rolled through the wood, which now suddenly wakened
to life all around.
Farther yet, and a pair of golden eagles were building
their eyrie high up in a savage mountain fastness,
hanging over the blue abysses of the Himalayas, circling
round its snowy pinnacles.
As two dolphins they ploughed the boundless
expanse of old Ocean's salty flood.
Yes, once they even grew as two palms on an
island in the midst of the seas, their roots intertwined in
the cool sand of the shore and their tops rustling together
in the cool sea‐breeze.
Thus did they two, companions in so many wan‐
derings, linger in the shade of the Coral Tree and, day by
day, enjoy the sweets of memory exhaled by its fragrant
For even as a royal couple have many tales related
to them by the court story‐teller in pursuit of amusement
and knowledge — now the life‐story of a king, now a
simple village tale; at one time a heroic poem, at another a
legend of ancient days; or maybe a fable of some animal,
or a fairy tale — and all the while they know that, how‐
ever often it pleases them to listen, there is no fear that
this prince of story‐tellers will ever be at a loss for words,
because the treasury of his knowledge and his own inven‐
tive ability are both inexhaustible — so these two were
able to say to themselves: "However often and however
long we may linger here, even if it were for an eternity,
there is no danger that these blossoms will ever be unable
to waken further memories; for the farther we go down
into the abysses of time, the farther does time recede
And they marvelled much.
"We are as old as the world," said Vāsitthī.
- 30 -
TO BE BORN IS TO DIE
ASSUREDLY: WE ARE as old as the world," said
Kāmanīta. "But up to this time we have wandered
on, never resting, and the Lord of Death when he has
come has always projected us into a new life. Now,
however, we have reached a place where there is no more
passing away, where eternal joy is our sweet possession."
At the time when he spoke thus, they were just
returning from the Coral Tree to their lake. He was about
to let himself down on his lotus flower when it suddenly
struck him that its red colour seemed to have lost something
of its freshness and gloss. Yes, as he now remained
floating over it in the air and looked attentively down, he
saw with dismay that the petals of the corona had become
brown at the edges, as if they had been burnt, and that
their tips were losing their vitality and curling up.
Vāsitthī's white lotus did not look any better; she
also had remained floating over hers, evidently arrested by
the same phenomenon.
He turned his eyes upon his blue neighbour whose
lotus showed just the same change, and Kāmanīta noticed
that his face did not beam as joyously as it had on that day
when he, Kāmanīta, first greeted him; his features were
not so animated as formerly, his bearing not so open. Yes,
even in his eyes Kāmanīta read the same dismay that had
moved himself and Vāsitthī.
And it was the same, as a matter of fact, every‐
where he looked. A change had come over all the flowers
and the Blessèd of Sukhavatī.
Again he directed a searching glance towards his
own lotus. One of the petals in the corona seemed to
come alive — slowly it bent itself forward, but then it fell
loose upon the surface of the water.
But it did not fall alone.
At the same instant a crown petal was loosened
from every lotus flower — the whole expanse of water
glittered and trembled and, as it rose and fell, it gently
rocked the dainty, coloured fleet upon its bosom. Through
the groves on the bank went a breath of frost; and a
shower of blossoms, like sparkling jewels, fell to the
A sigh was wrung from every breast, and a low but
cutting disharmony traversed the music of the heavenly
"Vāsitthī, my love!" exclaimed Kāmanīta, seizing
her hand in deep agitation. "Do you see? Do you hear?
What is this? What can it mean?"
Vāsitthī, however, looked at him, calmly smiling.
"This was in His mind, when He said:
"'To be born is to die;
All‐destroying, Oblivion's breath holds sway;
As in the gardens of Earth,
Flowers of Paradise fade, and pass away,'"
"Who is the author of that terrible, hope‐destroying
"Who but He, the Blessèd One, perfect in conduct
and understanding; who has made clear the Truth out of
compassion for all, for the enlightenment of us all, for the
happiness of all; who has revealed the nature of the world
with all its beings: the lowly and the noble, with its troops
of gods, humans and demons; the Guide who shows the
way out of this world of change; the Master, the Perfect
One, the Buddha."
"The Buddha is supposed to have said that? Oh no,
Vāsitthī, that I do not believe. How often are the words of
such great teachers misunderstood and inaccurately
repeated, as I myself best know! For once, in Rājagaha, I
spent the night in the hall of a potter in the company of a
foolish monk who insisted on expounding what he called
the Teaching of the Buddha to me. What he advanced,
however, was poor stuff — a self‐fabricated and stupid
doctrine — although I could, it is true, perceive that
genuine sayings of the Master lay at the root of it. They
were spoilt, however, in the attempt to correct them and
were misinterpreted by that contrary, nihilistic old man. I
am sure that similar fools have also reported this saying
falsely to you."
"Not so, my friend. For I heard it from the lips of
the Master himself."
"What, belovèd? You have yourself seen the Master,
face to face?"
"I certainly have. I have sat at his feet."
"Oh, happy Vāsitthī! For you are happy now in the
memory of it — that I can see. I suppose that I would also
be as happy and as confident as you, had not my dark
karma — the fruit of unwholesome deeds of the past
which had grown ripe at that sorrowful instant — robbed
me at that last moment of the joy of seeing the sublime
Buddha. For a violent death swept me away as I was
journeying to him, in the very place in which he was
residing too, in Rājagaha itself, on the morning after my
talk with that fool of an ascetic. Just think of it: my karma
overtook me only about a quarter of an hour's distance
from the mango grove where the Master had taken up his
abode. But now this is given to me for comfort instead —
that my Vāsitthī succeeded in obtaining what was denied
to me. Tell me everything about your coming to him, to
the Master! I am sure it will raise me up and strengthen
me. And perhaps that saying of his, that seemed so terrible
and so destructive of all hope, will grow clear and will
lose its sting, yes, perhaps even contain some hidden
ground for comfort."
"Gladly, my friend," replied Vāsitthī.
They let themselves down on their lotus flowers,
and Vāsitthī went on with the story of her life.
~ 31 ~
THE APPARITION ON THE TERRACE
WHEN SĀTĀGIRA HAD REACHED the goal he had
set himself — that is, possessing me as his wife — the
ardour of his love rapidly cooled; and all the more
quickly since it met with no response on my side. I had
promised to be a true wife to him, and he knew well that
I would keep my word, but more than that did not lie
within my power, even if I had wished it.
As I bore him only a daughter who died in her
second year, no‐one wondered — and I least of all — that
he took a second wife. She bore him the wished‐for son.
As a consequence she received the first place in the house
and was able, in clever fashion, to attach to herself the
love that I had so willingly resigned. Over and above this,
matters of business more and more claimed the attention
of my husband for, after the death of his father, he had
succeeded the latter as the Minister of State.
In this way, several years slipped quietly by and I
was left, for the most part, to myself, which was just what I
desired. I gave myself up to my griefs, both for the loss of
you and for my little girl; I almost felt that she, finding
herself in a loveless family and with a mother given to
such melancholy, had simply made up her infant mind to
depart. So I communed only with memories and lived in
the hope of a happy meeting here above — a hope in
which I have not been disappointed.
Sātāgira's palace lay close to the same ravine from
which you so often climbed up to the Terrace of the
Sorrowless but at a much steeper place, and it had a
terrace similar to the one at my father's house. Here I was
accustomed to spend all the fine evenings in the hot
season — often passing even the whole night there,
reposing on a couch. The rocky front of the ravine, which
was also surmounted by a high wall, was so steep and
slippery that I felt certain no human being could scale it.
Once, on a mild and glorious moonlit night, I lay
on my bed unable to sleep. I was thinking of you, and
particularly of that first evening together: the moment
when I sat with Medinī on the marble bench on the Terrace
awaiting your arrival, stood vividly before my mind's
eye. And I thought of how, even before we had hoped for
it, your form suddenly appeared over the top of the wall
— for in your passionate ardour you had easily outdis‐
Lost in these sweet dreams, I had unconsciously let
my gaze rest upon the parapet, when suddenly a figure
rose up above it.
I was so convinced that no human being could
ever scale this part of the wall, that I did not doubt in the
least that your spirit, conjured up by my longing, had
come to comfort me, and to bring me news of the blessèd
place where you now awaited me. For this reason I was in
no way frightened but got up and extended my arms to
embrace my visitor.
When, however, he stood on the Terrace and
approached me with rapid steps, I saw that his figure was
much taller than yours — indeed, even gigantic — and I
perceived that I had the spirit of Angulimāla before me.
But at that I became so greatly terrified that I was obliged
to cling to the head of my couch in order not to fall down.
"Whom did you expect?" asked the fearsome appari‐
tion, coming close to me.
"A spirit, but not yours," I answered.
"When you made your movement of welcome," he
went on, "I feared that you had a lover who visited you
here at nights. If that were so, you would not be able to
help me. And I need your help as much as, at present, you
At these strange words I ventured to look up, and
now it seemed to me that in truth I did not have a spirit
before me, but a being of flesh and blood. The moon,
however, was behind him and, dazzled by its beams as
well as confused by my terror, I only saw the outlines of a
figure which might well have belonged to a demon.
"I am not the spirit of Angulimāla," he said, guessing
my thoughts, "I am Angulimāla himself, a living human
being as you are."
I began to tremble violently, not from fear but
because I was standing face to face with the man who had
cruelly murdered my belovèd.
"Do not be afraid, gracious lady," he went on,
"you have nothing to fear from me; on the contrary, you
are the only person I myself have ever been afraid of, and
whom I dared not look in the eye, because, as you so truly
said, I was deceiving you."
"You deceived me!?" I exclaimed, and I scarcely
know even now whether joy rose up in my heart, awakened
by the hope that my loved one was still alive, or
whether yet greater despair seized me as I thought that I
had allowed myself to be deluded into separating myself
from my belovèd.
"I did," he said, "and for that reason we are thrown
upon one another. For we both have something to
avenge, and on the same man — Sātāgira!" He spat the
With the bearing of a prince, this robber made a
movement of his hand, bidding me be seated, as though
he had much to say to me. I had been holding myself erect
with difficulty and now sank down upon the bench with‐
out power of volition. I gazed at him, breathlessly eager to
hear his next words which should enlighten me as to the
fate of my belovèd.
"Kāmanīta with his caravan," he went on, "fell into
my hands in the wooded region of the Vedisas. He de‐
fended himself bravely but was captured unwounded and,
as the ransom arrived in good time, he was sent home
without molestation. He arrived safely in Ujjenī."
At this news a deep sigh escaped my breast. For
the moment I felt only joy in the knowledge that my
belovèd was yet amongst the living; foolish as the feeling
was, for living he was even further removed from me than
he would have been by death.
"When I fell into Sātāgira's power," Angulimāla
continued, "he at once recognised the crystal chain with
the tiger‐eye amulet on my neck as the same one that had
belonged to Kāmanīta. On the following evening he came
to my prison alone and promised, to my unbounded
astonishment, to give me my freedom if I would swear in
the presence of a maiden that I had killed Kāmanīta.
"'Your oath alone would not convince her, to be
sure,' Sātāgira had said, 'but she must believe in a Rite of
"He explained to me that I was, at the first hour of
the night, to be conducted to a terrace where the maiden
would be found. He would see that the fetters were filed
through so that I could without difficulty burst them, after
which it would be an easy matter for me to swing myself
over the breast‐work of the parapet, climb down into the
ravine and escape; since the gully finally ended in a
narrow watercourse through which a small brook ran
under the city wall and emptied itself into the Gangā. With
a solemn oath he swore that he would do nothing to
hinder my escape from Kosambī.
"It is true I did not trust him overmuch, but I saw
no other way of escape. To perform the Rite of Truth —
and in so doing to utter an absolute falsehood — nothing
whatsoever could have induced me to do that, I acknowl‐
edge, for I should thereby have called down upon myself
the most fearful judgement of the angry and insulted
Goddess. But I saw at once how I could so express my
oath as not to tell an untruth, yet at the same time, every
one hearing would believe I had killed Kāmanīta. And I
trusted that Mother Kālī, who finds pleasure in craftiness
of all kinds, would stand by me with all her power on
account of this masterpiece and would lead me safely
through the snares which the treachery of Sātāgira might
lay for me.
"As a matter of fact, everything now occurred in
the way that we had arranged, and you yourself saw how I
burst the iron chains asunder. But, to this day, I don't
know whether Sātāgira kept faith with me and had the
chains filed through, as he had promised, or whether the
Dark Mother helped me by a miracle. I am more inclined,
however, to believe the former, for scarcely had I swum a
few strokes out into the Gangā when I was fallen upon by
a boatload of armed men. So he had evidently relied upon
that ambush. Yet here could be seen what Kālī's help is
worth — for, although the pieces of chain hanging on my
wrists were my only weapons, I succeeded in killing every
man of them, and on the boat, which had capsized during
the fight, I fortunately reached the safety of the north
bank, though to be sure not without bearing away so
many and such deep wounds that a whole year passed
before I had recovered from them. During that time I often
swore that Sātāgira would pay for what he had done. And
now the time for that payment has come."
In my heart there raged a storm of indignation at
the shameful deception which had been practised upon
me. I couldn't blame the robber for saving his life as he
did and, as he hadn't soiled his hands with the blood of
my belovèd, I forgot for the moment how much other
innocent blood adhered to them, and I felt neither fear nor
disgust in the presence of this man who, whatever else he
might have done, had brought me the message that my
Kāmanīta yet dwelt in this world, even as I did. But a bitter
hatred rose up within me against him whose fault it was
that you and I were obliged to wander apart until the end
of our earth journey; and, when I heard Angulimāla threat‐
en his life, I experienced a deep and involuntary pleasure
which, I imagine, was to be read in the expression of my
face. For, in an excited and passionate tone of voice,
"I perceive, noble lady, that your lofty spirit thirsts
for revenge, and soon you shall have your desire. For it is
with that end in view that I have come here. For many
weeks I have lain in wait for Sātāgira, just outside of
Kosambī, and at last I have learned from a sure source
that, in the course of the next few days, he will leave the
town for the valleys lying to the east where a legal dis‐
pute, at present impending between two villages, has to
be settled. My original plan, formed before I knew of this,
was to force him to make a sally against me in order to
take me prisoner again; but this journey of his has greatly
simplified matters. To be sure I have made no secret of my
presence, in accordance with my original intention, but
have let my deeds speak for me — and the report of my
reappearance has for a long time been freely circulated.
"Although most people believe that some impostor
has arisen who gives himself out to be Angulimāla, still
fear has already seized on people to such an extent that
only large and well‐armed bands now venture out into the
wooded region to the east, where I have my headquarters.
To all appearance you have heard nothing of this, prob‐
ably for the reason that, as a woman despoiled of her life's
happiness, you dwell in solitude with your grief."
"I have certainly heard of a daring band of robbers,
but as yet without mention of your name; that was why at
first I believed I saw your ghost."
"But Sātāgira has heard me named," the robber
went on, "depend on that. And, as he has good reason to
believe that it is the true Angulimāla, and has yet better
reason to fear him, it may be taken for granted that he will
not only travel under a powerful escort but will also take
other precautions and make use of many devices with
intent to conceal his real plans. However, although the
band which I command is not very large, no kind of
precaution will help him, if I only know for certain at what
hour he moves out and what road he takes. And this it is
that I hope to learn from you."
Although I had up until now listened to what he
had to say — dumb with amazement and as if laid under a
spell, without thinking how much I was already compro‐
mising myself by doing so — at this suggestion, I rose up
indignantly and asked what gave him the right to believe
that I had sunk low enough to take a thief and robber as
"In the case of an ally," replied Angulimāla quietly,
"the chief thing is that they are to be depended upon, and
you feel — of that I am convinced — that I am absolutely
to be relied upon in this matter. On the other hand I need
your help, for only in that way can I learn with certainty
what I wish to know. True I have a source of information
which is usually reliable, and from which as a matter of
fact I know of Sātāgira's journey, yet if our man causes a
false report to be circulated, even this source can become
untrustworthy. But you need me, because in a case like
yours a proud and lofty being finds satisfaction only in the
death of the traitor. If you were a man, then you would
kill him yourself; as you are a woman, my arm is neces‐
sary to you."
I was about to dismiss him angrily, but with a
dignified movement of his hand he gave me to understand
that he had not said all that he had to say — so, against
my will, I paused and became silent.
"Thus far, noble lady, I have spoken of revenge.
But there is something other and weightier to come. For
you, to secure future happiness; for me, to atone for the
past. Justly, it is said of me that I am cruel, without com‐
passion for man or beast. Yes, I have done a thousand
deeds for each of which one must receive the conse‐
quences, as the priests teach, for a hundred or even a
thousand years in the lowest hell. It is true I had a wise
and learned friend, Vājashravas — whom the common
people now even revere as a saint, and on whose grave I
have offered rich sacrifices — and that he often demon‐
strated to us that there were no such hell‐punishments but
that, on the contrary, the robber was the most Brahman‐
filled of all living beings and the crown of creation. Yet he
was somehow never able to convince me of the truth of
"Be that as it may, however — whether there are
hell‐punishments or not — this much is certain, that of all
my deeds only one lies heavily upon my conscience, and
that is that with my deceitful Rite of Truth I cheated you.
Even then I did not dare to look you in the face — as you
rightly discerned — and the memory of that hour sits ever
like a thorn in my flesh. Well, the wrong I did you then I
would now like to make good, so far as that is still pos‐
sible, and so do away with the hurtful consequences of
my act. By my sly dealing you were separated from
Kāmanīta, whom you believed to be dead, and were
chained instead to this false Sātāgira. These fetters I now
wish to take from you so that you may be free to unite
yourself with your belovèd, and I will go to Ujjenī myself
and bring him to you safe and sound. Now do your part
— and I will do mine. It is not difficult for a beautiful
woman to draw a secret from her husband. Tomorrow, as
soon as it is dark, I shall come here again to get the neces‐
sary information from you."
He bowed deeply and, in my bewilderment and
dismay, before it was possible for me to utter a single
word, he vanished from the Terrace as suddenly as he had
~ 32 ~
THE WHOLE NIGHT THROUGH I remained on the
Terrace, the unresisting prey of passions hitherto un‐
known to me, but which were now unchained and
which made sport with my heart as the whirlwind
flurries the leaf.
My Kāmanīta was still alive! In his distant homeland
he must have heard of my marriage, for otherwise he
would have come long ago. How faithless — or how
pitilessly weak — I must appear in his eyes! And for this
degradation of mine Sātāgira was alone to blame. My
hatred for him grew more deadly with every passing
minute and deeply did I feel the truth of Angulimāla's
words that, if I had been a man, I would assuredly have
Then the prospect that Angulimāla had so unexpectedly
opened up to me presented itself: that, if I were
free, I could marry my belovèd. At the thought my whole
being became so wildly excited that I felt as if my blood
would rend my breast and burst my temples. Incapable of
holding myself upright I was not even able to totter to the
bench, but sank down upon the marble tiles and my
senses left me.
Eventually the coolness of the morning dew
brought me back to my unhappy existence, together with
its terrible questions:— Was it true that I wished to band
myself together with a robber and thousandfold murderer,
in order to get the man out of the way who had once led
me around the nuptial fire?
As yet, however, I had not the least knowledge of
when my husband was to leave. And how was I to ascer‐
tain the time of his departure, or the exact route he inten‐
ded to take, if he had made a secret of these?
"It is not difficult for a beautiful woman to draw a
secret from her husband" — these words of the robber still
rang in my ears and made plain to me the lowness of such
a course of action. Never would I be able to make up my
mind to inveigle myself into his confidence by tenderness,
in order then to betray him to his arch‐enemy. But just
because I felt this so clearly, so did it also become clear to
me that it was really only the idea of the treacherous and
hypocritical worming out of his secret that I deeply
loathed. Had I already been in possession of it — had I
known where to go in order to find a tablet on which it all
stood written — I should certainly have furnished
Angulimāla with the fatal information.
When this became plain to me I trembled with
horror, as though I were already guilty of Sātāgira's death.
I thanked fate that there was no possibility of getting this
information, for even if I had been able to learn at what
hour they were to start, still only Sātāgira himself and at
the most perhaps one confidant, would know what roads
and paths had been decided upon.
I saw the rising sun gild the towers and cupolas of
Kosambī, as I had seen this ravishing spectacle so many
times from the Terrace of the Sorrowless — but with what
quite different feelings than when I spent the blessèd night
hours there with you! Unhappy as never before, weary
and miserable as though I had in this one night aged by
decades, I took myself back to my quarters.
In order to reach my rooms I was obliged to go
through a long gallery, opening off which were several
chambers with latticed windows. As I passed one of these I
heard voices. One of them, that of my husband, was just
"Good! We start tonight — an hour after midnight."
I had stopped involuntarily. So I knew the hour!
But the road? A flush of shame suffused my face for having
played the eavesdropper. "Fly, fly!" a voice made itself
heard within me, "there is still time!" But I stood as if
rooted to the spot.
Sātāgira, however, said nothing further. He may
have heard my footsteps and their stopping at the door,
for the latter was suddenly torn open. My husband stood
"I heard your voice in passing," I said with quick
resolution, "and thought of asking whether I should bring
you some refreshments as you have business so early.
Then I feared to disturb you and was about to pass on."
Sātāgira looked at me without suspicion and even with
"Thank you," he said, "I need no refreshments, but
you in no way disturb me. On the contrary, I was about to
send for you and only feared that you had not yet risen.
You can, just at this moment, be of the greatest service to
He invited me to enter his room, which I did in a
state of great astonishment, very curious to know what the
service might be which he desired from me — just at this
moment, when a deadly purpose against him filled my
A man, whom I recognised as the master of
Sātāgira's horses and his most trusted follower, was sitting
on a low bench. He rose as I entered and bowed. Sātāgira
invited me to sit down beside himself, signed to the officer
to be seated again, and turned to me.
"The matter is this, dear Vāsitthī. I am obliged, as
soon as possible, to undertake a journey in order to settle
a village quarrel in the province to the east. Now, for
several weeks, robbers have been active in the wooded
region east of Kosambī and, as a matter of fact, very near
to the town. Indeed, a foolish tale has even arisen that
their leader is none other than Angulimāla — people
having the unheard‐of affrontery to assert that Angulimāla
had, on the last occasion, escaped from prison and that I
had, in place of his head, stuck up another very like it
over the gate. Of course we can afford to laugh at all such
fantastic stories. But, nevertheless, this robber does not
seem to stand much behind the famous Angulimāla in
point of audacity and, if he really gives himself out to be
the latter in order to gain a large following by the use of
his renowned name, his intention assuredly is to perform
some particularly brilliant and deadly feat. For that reason
a certain amount of prudence is, under all circumstances,
A small table, inlaid with precious stones, stood
beside him and on it a silk handkerchief.
He took the handkerchief up and mopped his
forehead, observing, as he did so, that the day was very
hot in spite of the early hour. I perceived, of course, that it
was fear of Angulimāla which had caused the perspiration
to flow from his every pore.
Instead of awakening my compassion, however,
the sight only filled me with contempt for him. I saw that
he was no hero — a fact that had now been made doubly
clear by his deception of me and the cowardly subterfuge
he had employed in taking Angulimāla prisoner.
"Now, however," my husband went on, "I cannot
well arrive in these villages with a whole army; indeed, I
should not like to take more than thirty mounted men with
me on this journey. So all the more are prudence and
diplomatic stratagem essential. I have just been discussing
this with my faithful Panduka and he has made a good
suggestion, of which I will also inform you, in order that
you need not be in too great a state of anxiety on my
account during these days."
I murmured something that was intended to signify
gratitude for this consideration.
"Panduka will, therefore," he went on, "make all
necessary preparations and, with a great deal of ostenta‐
tion, pretend as though I intended to make an expedition
early tomorrow to the east with a fairly large body of
troops to capture the robbers. If these, then, have their
accomplices here in town who keep them informed of
what goes on, they are certain to be deceived by it. In the
meantime I shall start with my thirty riders an hour after
midnight and, going out of the southern gate, shall take
my way in a wide sweep through the hilly land to the
south‐east. Yet, even so, I should like to avoid the main
roads until I have left Kosambī several miles behind. Now,
just in this neighbourhood lies your father's summer
residence, and there you know every road and path from
your childhood; you will be able then, I imagine, to help
me greatly in this matter."
I was at once ready to do so, and while I described
everything to him in detail, I had a drawing‐board brought
and drew upon it an exact map of the neighbourhood of
our country house, with crosses at the places which he
must especially note. But chiefly did I recommend to him a
certain path which led through a ravine. This ravine
narrowed gradually until, finally, for a short distance, even
two men could not ride through it abreast. On the other
hand, however, the path was so little known that, even if
the robbers should suspect him of making such a detour,
not one of them would ever think of looking for him
In this ravine, however, I had as an innocent child
played with my brothers, as well as with Medinī and our
Sātāgira noticed that the hand with which I drew
on the board trembled, and asked me if I were feverish. I
answered that it was only a little tiredness after a sleep‐
less night. But he took my hand and found to his appre‐
hension that it was cold and damp and, when I wished to
withdraw it with the remark that it signified nothing, he
continued to hold it in his own while he exhorted me to
be prudent and to take care of myself. In his look and
voice I observed, with unspeakable resentment and even
with horror, something of the admiring tenderness of
those days when he had sued for my hand in vain. I
hastened to say that I really did not feel very well, and
intended to take myself at once to bed.
But Sātāgira followed me out into the gallery and
there, where we were alone, he began to excuse him‐
self:— He had, it was true, neglected me for a long time
for the mother of his son, but after his return things would
be different; it would no longer be necessary for me to
spend the nights alone on the Terrace.
He showed a tenderness that seemed to have
arisen from the grave of a long‐forgotten youthful love —
a love which I was forced to recognise had, with a certain
stubborn fidelity, once existed only for me; but although
this could not fail to incline my heart somewhat in his
favour — so that for a moment I wavered in my purpose
— his parting words, which were uttered with a honeyed
smile and such a loathsome familiarity, were of such a
nature to destroy this inclination again for they reminded
me of rights of intimacy which had been filched from me
by his vile and cowardly treachery.
~ 33 ~
A FRIGHTFUL CALM NOW came over me as I re‐
turned to my room. There was nothing more to be consi‐
dered, no doubt to be combated, no more questions to
be answered. All was decided; his karma had ordained it
so. By his double treachery his life was plainly forfeit
to me and to Angulimāla.
So great was this calm that I fell asleep the instant I
laid myself down on my couch, as though my whole being
were anxiously endeavouring to bridge over the empty
hours of waiting.
When it became dark I went to the terrace; the
moon had not yet risen. I had not long to wait; Anguli‐
māla's powerful figure swung itself over the parapet and
came straight to the bench on which I sat half averted
from him. I did not move and, without raising my eyes
from the pattern of the coloured marble tiles, I spoke:
"What you wish to learn, I know. Everything. The
hour when he leaves, the strength of his escort, the direc‐
tion he takes and the roads and paths over which he goes.
Under the influence of his own bad karma he himself
forced his confidence upon me, otherwise I would have
known nothing of it, for I could never have drawn it from
him by feigned tenderness."
I had considered these words well, for so foolish
are we in our pride that even now, when I was making
myself the tool of a criminal, it was to me an unendurable
thought that I should appear lower in his eyes than I really
No less studied were my next words:
"Of all this, however, you will not hear one syllable
unless you first promise that you will only kill but in
no way torture him; and that you will kill only him and
not even one of his escort, unless it be necessary in self‐
defence. I will, however, indicate a spot to you where you
can deal him his death‐blow when he is absolutely alone
and so without any kind of fray. This, therefore, you must
promise me with a solemn oath. Otherwise you can kill
me, but not one word more shall you hear."
"Truly as I have been, to this day, a faithful servant
of Mother Kālī," replied Angulimāla, "so truly will I kill
none of his escort and so truly shall he suffer no torture."
"Good," I said, "I will trust you. Now then, listen,
and note every detail exactly. If you have accomplices in
the town you will have learnt already that preparations are
being made for advancing against the robbers tomorrow.
That is, however, all empty show to deceive you. In reality
Sātāgira, escorted by thirty horsemen, rides from the town
by the south gate an hour after midnight, leaves the
Simsapā wood lying to his left, and sweeps out in a more
southerly direction in order then to move eastward over
byways through the hill country."
And I now gave him an absolutely exact descrip‐
tion of the neighbourhood, including the narrow ravine
through which Sātāgira would have to pass, and where he
could easily and surely be killed.
An oppressive silence followed my words, during
which I heard nothing save my own hard breathing. I felt
that I had not yet strength to rise and leave the terrace as I
had planned to do.
Finally Angulimāla spoke, and the gentle, even sad
note in his voice surprised me to such a degree that I was
almost terrified and started involuntarily.
"And so it would have happened," said he. "And
you, the tender, gentle wife who has assuredly never
intentionally injured even the smallest of creatures, would
now have been in alliance with the vilest of human be‐
ings, a wretch whose hands drip blood. Yes, the murder of
your husband would have burdened your conscience and
would now be spinning its black karmic threads on the
downward path, on into the infernal world — that is, so it
would have been, if you had now been speaking to the
I didn't know whether I could believe my ears. To
whom else had I spoken then? It was certainly the voice of
Angulimāla, even if with that wonderful change of tone;
and as I turned abruptly round, now thoroughly dismayed
and confused, and looked intently at him, it was beyond
all doubt the robber‐chieftain who stood before me, even
if, in his whole bearing another character seemed to be
expressed than that which on the previous day had held
me in its fearful thrall.
"But have no fear, noble lady," he added, "all this
has not yet happened. Nothing has happened, not any
more than if you had addressed your speech to this tree."
These words were as puzzling to me as those that
had preceded them. But I did understand that, for some
reason, he had given up his plan of vengeance on
After I had worked myself up through frightful
inner struggles to such an unnatural pitch of crime, this
sudden incomprehensible melting away, this ghost‐like
loss of action, was a disappointment which I could not
bear. The unusual strain to which my whole nature had
been subjected found vent in a stream of abuse which I
hurled in Angulimāla's face.
I called him a dishonourable villain, a faithless
empty braggart, a cowardly cheat and much more — the
worst names I could think of — for I hoped that when
irritated in this way the man, notorious throughout Jam‐
budvīpa for his violent temper, would stretch me lifeless
on the ground with one blow of his iron fist.
But when I stopped, more because breath failed
me than words did, Angulimāla answered with a softness
of tone that quite put me to shame:
"All this and more have I deserved from you; yet
with it I do not believe that you would have been able to
so irritate even the old Angulimāla that he would have
killed you — for I can see that to accomplish this is your
intention. But even if another had now said this and
worse, I would not only have borne it quietly but would
indeed have been grateful to them for giving me the
opportunity of undergoing a useful test. Has not the
Master himself taught me — 'Like the Earth, you should
exercise evenness of temper. Even as one casts upon the
Earth both that which is clean and that which is unclean,
and the Earth is neither pleased nor horrified, humiliated
or disgusted at that — so also like the Earth, exercise
evenness of temper so that pleasant and unpleasant
experiences will not invade your mind and remain.' For
you speak, Vāsitthī, not with the robber, but with the
upāsaka, the disciple Angulimāla."
"What kind of disciple!? What Master?" I asked,
with contemptuous impatience, although the strange
speech of this incomprehensible man did not fail to exercise
a peculiar, almost fascinating effect upon me.
"He whom they call the Tathāgata, the Knower of
the Worlds, the Fully‐Enlightened One, the Buddha," he
answered. "He is the Master. Have you not heard of him
I shook my head.
"I count myself happy," he exclaimed, "in that I am
the first from whose lips you hear the name of the Blessèd
One. If Angulimāla once, as robber, did you much harm,
as a disciple he has now done you far more good."
"Who is this Buddha?" I asked again in the same
tone, without wishing to let it be seen how much my sympathy
had been awakened. "What has he to do with this
strange behaviour of yours, and what blessing is hearing
his name supposed to bring me!?"
"Even to hear the name of him whom they call The
Welcome One," said Angulimāla, "is like the first shimmer
of light to one who sits in darkness. But I will relate everything
to you — how he met me and how he changed the
current of my life — for it is certain that its happening on
this very day has principally been on account of his concern
for your welfare."
In spite of the fierceness which emanated from his
whole being, even on the first of these two evenings a
certain grace of bearing in him had surprised me; how
much more striking, however, was the unsought dignity
with which he now sat down beside me, like one who
feels himself among his equals.
~ 34 ~
THE HELL OF SPEARS
A FEW HOURS after sunrise today," he began, "I
stood at the edge of the forest, gazing out at
the towers of Kosambī, my mind full of vengeance on
Sātāgira and revolving the question as to whether you
would bring me the desired information. I then became
aware of a solitary traveller on the road which leads from
the eastern gate of the city to the forest; he walked with a
gentle and easy motion, and was clad in an ochre robe.
On both sides of the road, herdsmen and farm‐workers
were busy with their daily toil. And I observed how those
who were nearest the road shouted something to the lone
traveller, while those who were farther off also paused in
the middle of their work, looked after him, and pointed
with their fingers. The women and men who were near
appeared to warn him more eagerly the farther he advan‐
ced, yes, even to seek to stop him; while some ran after
him, seized his robe and then with hurried and horror‐
stricken gestures pointed to the wood. I almost believed I
could hear them calling to him: "No farther! Don't go into
the forest! That's where the fearful robber Angulimāla has
But the traveller came onward undisturbed, in the
direction of the wood. And now I saw from his robes and
his closely cropped hair that he was a monk, a wanderer,
one of those who belong to the order of the Son of the
Sākyans, and an old man of commanding stature.
I thought to myself: "This is truly strange! On this
road in the past, groups of ten, twenty, thirty or even forty
have set out in well‐armed companies, and they have one
and all fallen into my power; and this wanderer here
comes on alone — like a conqueror."
And it nettled me that he so openly defied my
power. I made up my mind to kill him, and especially
since I thought to myself that he might possibly have been
sent into the forest as a spy by Sātāgira. For these wander‐
ers — so I thought — are all hypocritical and corrupt, and
are ready to be used in all kinds of ways, feeding upon the
superstition of the people and the safety they enjoy as its
outcome; for thus had I been taught to regard them by my
learned friend Vājashravas.
Instantly making up my mind, I seized my spear,
hung my bow and quiver over my shoulder, made for the
road and, step for step, followed the monk who had by
now entered the forest.
Finally, when I had reached a favourable spot
where no trees separated us, I took down my bow from
my shoulder and shot an arrow so that it would pierce the
left side of his back and pass through his heart; but it flew
away, over his head.
"By some mistake a bad arrow must have got in
amongst the others," I said to myself as I took the quiver
in my hand and picked out a beautifully feathered and
faultless one, which I aimed so that it would transfix his
neck. But the arrow stuck into the trunk of a tree to his
left. The next flew past him to the right and the same thing
happened with all my arrows until my quiver was empty.
"Inconceivable! Amazing!" I thought to myself.
"Have I not often amused myself by placing a prisoner
with his back against a fence and shooting my arrows at
him in such a way that, after he had stepped aside, the
whole outline of his body was indicated exactly by the
arrows sticking in the fence — and that too, at a greater
distance? Am I not accustomed to bringing down from the
sky the eagle in full flight with my arrows? Whatever is the
matter with my hand today?"
Meanwhile the monk had walked a considerable
distance and I began to run after him in order to kill him
with my spear. But when I had come to within a distance
of about fifty paces from him I couldn't gain another step,
although I ran with all my might and he seemed to be
walking quite leisurely forward.
Then I said to myself: "In truth, this is the most
incredible thing of all. Have I not outrun frightened
elephants and fleeing deer? And now, running with all my
might, I cannot overtake this old monk who is just strolling
along. What is the matter with my feet today?"
And I stopped and called out to him: "Stop, monk!
But he paced quietly on and called back: "I have
stopped, Angulimāla. You should stop too."
At this I was again much astonished, and thought:
"Plainly this monk has baffled my archery and my running
by some Rite of Truth. But how can he then utter a mani‐
fest untruth and assert that he is standing still while he is
in fact walking, and demand that I should stand still
although he sees perfectly well that I am already standing
as stationary as this tree. So might the flying goose say to
the oak — 'I am standing still, oak. You should stand still
too.' Surely there must be something behind all this. Maybe
it would be of more value to understand the meaning of
these words than to take the life of such a holy man."
And I called to him: "Walking, you imagine yourself
to be standing still, monk; and me, whilst standing still, you
falsely claim to be walking. Explain what you mean by
this, great monk: how is it that you have stopped and I
And he answered me:
"Angulimāla, I have stopped forever: I abstain from
doing harm to living things; I am at rest and wander in
Samsāra no more. But you, you who still rage against all
living things, must wander ceaselessly from one place of
suffering to another."
I answered again:
"That we wander forever, I have of course heard
— but that about standing still, about wandering no more,
I do not understand. Venerable Sir, please explain to me
what you have just expressed in these few words. See, I
have put my spear from me and solemnly swear to grant
"For the second time, Angulimāla," he said, "you
have sworn falsely."
"For the second time?"
"The first time it happened was at that false Rite of
That he should have known of that secret matter
was not the smallest of these marvels to me; but, without
pausing over that, I made haste to defend my crafty deed.
"My words, Venerable Sir, were certainly somewhat
ambiguous on that occasion but I swore nothing
false — only the sense was misleading. That, however,
which I swear to you now is true literally and in fact."
"Not so," he answered, "for you can grant me no
peace. It would be good, however, for you if you allowed
yourself to experience peace instead."
As he spoke thus, he turned round and motioned
to me with a friendly gesture to approach.
"Willingly, Venerable Sir," I humbly said.
"Listen, then, and pay close attention."
He sat down in the shade of a large tree and bade
me seat myself before him. He began to teach me of
wholesome and unwholesome deeds, and of their conse‐
quences, all the time explaining everything as fully to me
as when one speaks to a child. I had not listened to words
so brimming with deep wisdom since I had sat in the
forest by night at the feet of Vājashravas, of whom I have
already spoken to you and whose name, I imagine, you
have also heard from others.
But when this holy man now revealed to me that
no arbitrary heavenly power but our own hearts alone,
with the thoughts and deeds emanating from them, cause
us to be born now here, now there, at one time on earth,
at another in heaven and then again in hell — I could not
help thinking about Vājashravas and of the way in which
he had proved to us by reasons of common sense, and by
reference to the sacred writings, that there could be no
such hell‐punishments. And that all the passages in the
sacred writings having reference to such, had been inter‐
polated by weak and cowardly people in order that by
such threats they might terrify the strong and courageous,
and protect themselves from the violence of the latter.
"Vājashravas was never quite able to convince
me," I thought, "I wonder whether this monk will be able
to do so — here stands opinion against opinion, scholar
against scholar. For even if this monk should be one of the
great disciples of the Son of the Sākyans, yet Vājashravas
was also highly thought of by his own followers and now,
after his death, is even worshipped by the common
people as a saint. Who, then, is to decide as to which of
these two is in the right?"
"You are no longer attending to what I say,
Angulimāla," said the monk, "you are thinking of
Vājashravas and his erroneous doctrines."
Much astonished, I acknowledged the truth of
what he said.
"So you, Venerable Sir, also knew my friend
"People showed me his grave outside the city gate,
and I saw foolish travellers offering up prayers there
under the delusion that he was a saint."
"So he is no saint, then?"
"Well, if he seems one to you, let us visit him and
see how it fares now with his sainthood."
He said this as though it were a matter of going
from one house to another.
Thoroughly taken aback, I stared at him. "Visit him?
Vājashravas? How is that possible?"
"Give me your hand," he said, "and I shall enter
into that state of meditative absorption by the aid of which
the path that leads to the gods and that which leads to the
demons becomes visible to a steadfast heart. Then we
shall follow in his track and what I see, you shall also see."
I gave him my hand. For some time he sat there
perfectly still, his eyes cast down, the vision directed
inward — I was conscious of nothing. Suddenly, however,
I felt as a swimmer would feel when the demon who
dwells in the waters seizes his arm and draws him down,
so that the blue heavens and the trees on the bank disap‐
pear and the waves meet over his head, and darkness that
grows ever deeper closes round him on every side.
From time to time, however, tongues of flame
flared up around me and a mighty roaring thundered in
my ears. Finally, I found myself in what seemed to be a
vast cave, where it was quite dark save for the fitful illumi‐
nation furnished by the fleeting gleam of countless light‐
ning flashes. When I had grown somewhat accustomed to
the darkness, I discovered that these flashes were the
reflections of steel spearheads, which darted hither and
thither as though lances were being wielded by invisible
arms — as if there was a battle between ghostly armies. I
heard screams also — not fierce and courageous, how‐
ever, as those of warriors drunk with the joy of the fray,
but screams of pain and groans of the wounded, whom,
however, I did not see. For these terrifying sounds came
from the background, where the quivering of the lance‐
heads formed one trembling and whirling mist. The fore‐
ground was empty.
In this empty space there now appeared three
figures, vomited, as it were, from the black mouth of a den
which opened upon it from the right. The man in the
middle was Vājashravas; his naked body trembled from
head to foot as though he froze terribly or was shaken by
fever. His companions both had human bodies which
were supported upon birds' legs armed with powerful
claws, and were surmounted, in the one case, by a fish's
head, in the other, by a dog's. In his hands, each bore a
long spear. The figure with the fish's head spoke first:
"This, Honoured Sir, is the Hell of Spears, where
you, according to the sentence of the Judge of Hell, have
to endure punishment for ten thousand years in being
ceaselessly pierced by these quivering spears. Afterwards
you shall be born again somewhere, according to the
dictates of your karma."
Then he with the dog's head spoke: "As often,
Honoured Sir, as two spears cross in your heart, you can
reckon that a thousand years of your hellish torture have
Scarcely had he said this when both of the infernal
watchmen swung their lances and skewered Vājashravas.
And, as if at a given signal, all the spears round about also
flashed towards him, their points entering from every side,
just as ravens hurl themselves upon an abandoned carcass
and bury their beaks in its flesh.
Overcome by the horror of the sight, and by the
pitiful screams that Vājashravas uttered in his agony, my
senses forsook me.
When I came to myself again, I lay in the wood
under the huge tree, prostrate at the feet of the Master.
"Have you seen, Angulimāla?"
"I have seen, Master."
And I did not dare even to add — "Help me!" For
how could I seek to be helped?
"If after the dissolution of your body, as a result of
your deeds, you come to the road that leads down to the
underworld, and if King Yama, the Judge of the Dead,
then passes the same sentence upon you, and the guards
of hell lead you into the Hell of Spears to the same pun‐
ishment, would it be more than you deserve?"
"No, Master, it would not be more than I deserve."
"But a course of life which you yourself realise
justly leads to these unspeakable tortures — is this truly,
Angulimāla, a course of life that is worth pursuing?"
"Master, this course of life I here and now re‐
nounce; I will forswear all my demonic practices for one
word of your Teaching."
"Once, long ages ago, Angulimāla, the Judge of the
Dead of that time pondered deeply, and this was the
outcome of his thoughts — 'Truly, one who has commit‐
ted offences in this world is punished with a vast ocean of
misery! Oh, that I might become human and that a
Tathāgata, a fully enlightened Buddha might appear in the
world, and that I might be able to be with him; and that
he, the Blessèd One, might expound the Dharma to me
and that I might understand it!'"
"Now, that which that Judge wished so ardently for
himself, that has come about, Angulimāla. You have
become a man. But even as in this land of Jambudvīpa,
Angulimāla, there are to be found only a few smiling
groves, few splendid forests, fair heights and charming
lotus pools; and in comparison with these the raging
rivers, untrodden jungles, desolate rocky mountains and
barren deserts are by far more numerous;
"Even so — only a few living beings arrive in the
human state, in comparison with the far greater number
that are born in different realms of existence;
"Even so — only a few generations are on the
earth at the same time as a Buddha, in comparison with
the far greater number in whose time no Buddha arises;
"Even so — only a few individuals of those few
generations are so fortunate as to see the Tathāgata, in
comparison with that far greater number who do not see
"But you, Angulimāla, you have become a man;
and this has happened at a time when a Buddha has
appeared in the world; and you have seen him and are
able to be with him, with the Tathāgata himself."
When I heard these words, I placed my palms
together and exclaimed:
"Blessèd One! So you yourself are the Fully Enlightened
"So you, the noblest of beings, have had compassion
for the worst! And will you allow me to stay with
"I will," answered the Master. "And hear this also:
Even as there are among the few who see the
Master only a few who hear his Teaching, so too there are
but few who comprehend it. You, however, will both hear
the Teaching and will comprehend it. Come, disciple!"
The Perfect One had entered the wood like an
elephant hunter who rides upon his tame elephant. He left
the wood again, as the elephant hunter leaves the wood,
followed by a wild elephant which his skill has tamed.
Thus I have now come to you Vāsitthī, not as the
robber Angulimāla, but as the disciple Angulimāla. See, I
have cast from me the spear and the club, the knife and
the whip. I have forsworn killing and torturing, and towards
all living beings I now extend only a heart of peace
~ 35 ~
A PURE OFFERING
DO NOT KNOW HOW LONG it was before I opened
my lips; but for a very long time, I believe, I sat there
without uttering a word, and let everything Angulimāla
had said rise, point by point, before me; and the
more I reflected the more did my wonder grow.
For although I had heard many legends of olden
times where miracles were wrought by the gods, and
particularly of the wonderful deeds of Krishna when he
sojourned on this earth, yet they all appeared trivial when
I compared them with what had befallen Angulimāla in
the forest this very day.
And I asked myself now whether that great man,
who had in a few hours transformed the most brutal of
murderers into the gentle being who had just spoken to
me — that Master who had so easily and surely tamed the
most savage being to be found in the whole realm of
nature — whether he might not also be able to quiet my
troubled and passion‐tossed heart. Would he be able to
banish, by the light of his words, the night‐cloud which
grief had caused to settle down upon me? Or was this
maybe more difficult — a problem the solution of which
went beyond the powers of even the holiest of sages?
I half feared that the latter might be the case but yet
I asked where that great monk whom he called his Master
was to be found, and whether I would be able to visit him.
"It is good that you should ask that question first,"
answered Angulimāla, "and really, what should you ask
but this? Indeed, I have come to you for just this very
reason. We who intended being associates in works of
darkness, let us now be associates in good. The Blessèd
One abides at present in the same Simsapā wood which
you yourself mentioned. Go there tomorrow but not until
evening. The monks and nuns will then have finished
their silent meditation and will have assembled before the
old Krishna temple, and the Master will speak to them
there and to any others who are present. At that hour
many women and men go there from the town in order to
see the Blessèd One and to listen to his illumined teach‐
ings; and with each evening the crowd grows greater.
Often these meetings last until late into the night.
"I already had exact information of all that be‐
cause, in the greed and derangement of my heart, I had
forged the monstrous plan of some day soon falling upon
the assembly with my followers. The gifts of foodstuffs
and cloth, brought by many of the visitors as offerings to
the Order, already formed a booty which, if not rich, was
yet by no means to be despised. But particularly it was my
intention to capture several citizens of distinction and to
force heavy ransoms from them; and I cherished, at the
same time, the hope that I should by such a daring deed,
done at the very gates of the town, to at last entice Sātāgira
outside the walls. For, when I formed the plan, his im‐
pending journey was still unknown to me.
"Do not neglect then, noble lady, to go tomorrow
towards sundown to the old Krishna temple; it will long
be a source of happiness to you. I want to get back there
now as quickly as possible. It is not certain, of course,
whether I shall be in time to hear anything. Still, on such
beautiful moonlit nights the monks stay together long,
deep in spiritual discussion, and willingly permit others to
He bowed himself low before me and quickly
went away. The next morning I sent a message to Medinī,
who was, with her husband Somadatta, just as ready to
bear me company to the Krishna grove now as she had
been in those days of the past, when the matter in hand
was the bringing about of a meeting between two lovers.
As a matter of fact she had already been begging
her husband to take her out there some evening, for she
didn't readily let anything escape her of which the people
talked. But Somadatta had been afraid of his house
brahmin's criticisms, and so she was more than delighted
to have the excuse of a summons from the wife of the
Minister to win one over against that religious tyrant.
We drove at once to the markets where Somadatta,
who was attending to his business there, helped us in
seeking out such stuffs as were suitable for the clothing of
the nuns and monks. I also purchased a large quantity of
medicines. Reaching home again we plundered the store‐
rooms. Vessels full of the finest ghee, boxes of honey and
sugar, jars with preserves of every kind were set aside for
our offerings. My own cupboards furnished the choicest of
all they contained in the way of perfumed water, sandal‐
wood‐powder and incense; and then we went to the
garden, whose wealth of flowers we did not spare in the
excitement of our new‐found devotion.
When the longed‐for hour came all these things
were loaded onto a wagon, to which our oxen were
already harnessed. We ourselves took our seats under the
awning of another carriage and, drawn by the two silver‐
white, full‐blooded Sindh horses which every morning ate
three‐year‐old rice from my hand, we drove out of the city
gate. The sun was already nearing the cupolas and towers
of the town behind us; and its rays gilded the dust which
was stirred up along the way by the feet of the multitude
that, like ourselves, had come out to see and hear the
We soon reached the entrance to the forest. Here
we stopped our carriage and we pursued our way on foot
like all the others, followed by our servants who bore the
collection of offerings we had brought with us.
Since that night when we two had taken leave of
one another there, I had not been into this wood. And
when I now entered its cool shade in the same company
as before, I was overcome by so piercing a breath of
memory that I froze in my tracks and remained standing
like one stupefied — it was a fragrance that seemed to
have been stored up for me there until, with the lapse of
years, its concentrated sweetness had become a poison.
It seemed to me as if my feelings of love had
placed themselves in my way — awakened to their full
strength and charging me with desertion and treachery.
For I had not come there, as I knew, to give them fresh
nourishment by inhaling the fragrance of memory but to
seek peace for my disappointed and tortured heart. And
could that not rightfully be called forgetting love, wilfully
renouncing it? Was that not the violation of my word and a
I stood there in fearful uncertainty — undecided
whether to go on or to turn back — to the great disap‐
pointment of Medinī, who verily danced with impatience
as others overtook us in great numbers.
The look of the interior of the forest, however —
softly illumined by the golden rays of the late afternoon
sun; the gentle admonitory rustle and whisper of the
leaves; the people who at once on entering grew silent
and looked around expectantly and almost timidly; here
and there at the foot of some great tree, a monk wrapped
in the folds of his golden robe, his legs crossed beneath
him, absorbed in meditation; at intervals, one or another
of these rising and without even a look round, moving
quietly away in the direction of the common though as yet
invisible goal — all this wore an air of quiet mystical
serenity and seemed to bear witness to the fact that here
events were taking place of so unusual and sacred a
character that no power on earth might dare place itself
in opposition to them, aye, that Love itself, if it should
raise a hostile voice, would through that lose its every
So I moved resolutely forward, and the words
addressed to Angulimāla by the Master — concerning the
many generations of people who live and pass away
without a Buddha's being in the world, and of the very
few even among the contemporaries of a Buddha to
whom it is given to hear and to see him — these words
sounded in my ears like the ringing of a temple bell, and I
felt myself like a favoured one who goes to meet an
experience for which many coming generations would
When we reached the glade in which the temple
stood a great many people were already assembled there,
lay‐people as well as nuns and monks. They stood
broken up into groups, most of them in the vicinity of the
ruin which rose just opposite to us. Near to the spot where
we entered the clearing in the forest I noticed a fairly large
group of monks; there was one amongst them whom it
was impossible not to notice, he was practically a giant
and he towered a full head above the tallest of those who
stood beside him.
Then, when we were looking about us to discover
where we should turn our steps, there came out of the
forest, between us and those monks, an aged and sagely
figure clad in the golden robes of the Order. His tall frame
had such a regal bearing, and such a cheerful peace
radiated from his noble features, that at once the thought
came to me: "I wonder whether this is the Sākyan prince
whom people call the Buddha."
In his hand he bore a few Simsapā leaves and,
turning to the monks of whom I have made mention, he
said: "What do you think, bhikkhus, which are more
numerous, these Simsapā leaves which I hold in my hand
or all the other leaves in the forest?"
And the monks answered: "The leaves which you
hold in your hand are very few, Lord, whereas the leaves
in the Simsapā wood are far more numerous."
"So too, bhikkhus," said he, who I now knew was
indeed the Buddha, "so too that which I have discerned
and yet not revealed to you is far greater in sum than that
which I have revealed to you. And why have I not re‐
vealed all things to you? Because it would in no way profit
you spiritually, because it would not assist you in the holy
life, it would not lead to your turning away from worldly
things, nor to the destruction of all craving, nor to the
change which is the end of all change; it would not lead
you to peace and to the realisation of Nirvāna."
"So that foolish old man was right after all!" ex‐
"What old man?" asked Vāsitthī.
"That monk with whom I spent the night, the last
night of my earthly life, in the hall of the potter in that
suburb of Rājagaha. He would insist on trying to expound
to me the Teaching of the Master and, as I readily per‐
ceived, did not especially succeed. But he manifestly
quoted many genuine sayings, including what you have
just told me — even to the very words. He even gave the
name of the place correctly and moved me deeply as he
did so. Had I imagined that you had been present there
too, I would have been much more profoundly affected."
"He was very probably among those who were
there," said Vāsitthī; "in any case, he seems to have given
you an accurate report."
And then the Master added further:
"And what, friends, have I declared to you? I have
declared to you what Suffering is, what the Origin of
Suffering is, what the End of all Suffering is, and what the
Path that leads to the End of all Suffering is — all this have
I declared to you. Therefore, what I have revealed, let that
remain revealed; and what I have left unrevealed, leave
As he uttered these words he opened his hand and
let the leaves fall. And when one of these fluttered down
near to me, describing gyrations in the air, I took courage,
stepped quickly forward and caught it before it had
touched the earth, in that way receiving it, as it were, from
the Master's hand. This priceless memorial I concealed
within my bosom: a symbol of the short but all‐sufficing
first message communicated to us by the Buddha from his
measureless wealth of understanding, a symbol from
which I was not to be parted until death.
This movement of mine drew the attention of the
Master to me. The gigantic monk to whom I have alluded
now bowed before him and made a whispered communi‐
cation, upon which the Master again looked at me and
then made a sign to him.
The latter now came towards us.
"Approach, noble lady," said the monk — and I
knew at once from the voice that it was Angulimāla's —
"the Master himself will receive your offerings."
Even though Angulimāla had by now shaved off
his hair and beard, and was clad in the robes of the
Buddha's disciples, it somehow came as no surprise to me
to find him thus transformed. His manner had changed so
completely that the robes of a monk seemed as natural to
him now as the garland of severed fingers had been to his
previous robber state.
We all went forward to within a few paces of the
Buddha and bowed low, greeting him reverently, our
hands with palms placed together. But I was unable to
utter a word.
"Your offerings are rich, noble lady," said the
Master, "and my disciples have few needs. They are heirs
of Truth, not heirs of material things. But all the Buddhas
of past ages have recommended the practice of giving and
have gladly accepted the offerings of devoted followers; in
this way the Sangha is provided with life's essentials and
opportunity is given to the faithful to cultivate generosity.
"For, if people knew the fruits of giving as I know
them then, if they had but a handful of rice left, they
would not eat of it without giving a portion to one poorer
than themselves, and the selfish thoughts which darken
their spirits would disappear from them. Let your offering,
then, be gratefully accepted by the Sangha — a pure offer‐
ing. For I call 'a pure offering' that with which the giver is
purified and the receiver also. And how does that take
place? It takes place, Vāsitthī, when the giver is pure in life
and noble in heart, and the receiver is pure in life and
noble in heart; and when that is the case the giver of the
offering is purified and the receiver also. That is, Vāsitthī,
the purity of the supremely pure offering — such as the
one that you have just now brought."
Then the Master turned to Angulimāla:
"Go, friend, and have these offerings placed with
the other stores. But first show our noble guests to seats in
front of the temple steps for I shall speak from there to
those who are present today."
Angulimāla bade the servants wait and called upon
us to follow him. First, however, we had all our flowers
and also several beautiful mats handed to us. Then, con‐
ducted by our stalwart guide, we made our way to the
temple through the rapidly growing crowd, who respect‐
fully parted and made way for us.
Here we spread the mats upon the steps and
twined garlands of flowers round about the old weather‐
worn and crumbling pillars. Then Medinī and I picked a
whole basketful of roses and strewed the petals upon the
felted mat at the top of the steps for the Master to seat
Meanwhile the assembled crowd had grouped
themselves in wide semicircles, with lay‐people to the left,
and the monks and nuns to the right of the temple — the
whole assembly either sitting on small grass mats or on the
carpet of Simsapā leaves that formed the forest floor. We
now took our places on an overturned pillar, only a few
paces from the steps.
There were probably about five hundred people
there yet an all but absolute silence reigned in the circle
— no sound was to be heard save the ringing of the
crickets, and the fitful rustling and low whispering of the
~ 36 ~
THE BUDDHA AND KRISHNA
THE SETTING SUN SHOT its sheaf of golden rays
through the spaces between the trunks, seeming to
consecrate the silent and expectant company assembled
in the depths of the forest with a heavenly benediction.
Between the tree‐tops roseate evening clouds looked
down in ever‐growing luminosity as though, floating
out from the blue ether, a second assembly were gath‐
ering, recruited now from the hosts of heaven.
The temple building, with its black and crumbling
walls, absorbed this farewell blaze of sunshine as a broken
down old man quaffs a rejuvenating draught. Beneath the
magic of the red‐gold lights and the purple shadows, its
masses became wonderfully animated. The jagged edges
of the fluted pillars sparkled, the cornices flashed, the
snails curled themselves up, the stone waves foamed with
froth of gold, the carven foliage grew. Along the stair‐like
projections of the lofty substructure, round about plinths
and capitals, on the beams and on the terraces of the
dome‐like roof — everywhere — a confused medley of
strange and mystical forms seemed to be in motion.
Gods came forth in haloes of glory: many‐headed
and many‐armed figures with all‐too‐luxuriant and often
greatly mutilated limbs, the one stretching out four head‐
less necks, the next waving eight stumps of arms. Breasts
and hips of the voluptuously limbed goddesses were
unveiled as these came swaying nearer, their round faces
tilted under the burden of towering, diamond‐bespangled
head‐gear, a sunny smile on their full, sensuous lips. The
snake‐like extremities of the demons writhed and twisted,
the wings of the griffins were spread for flight, grim masks
of monsters grinned horribly, showing their whetted teeth.
Human bodies swarmed and reeled together in a tangled
mass: in and through the mad throng, to and fro, now
over, now under elephants' trunks, the heads of horses
and the horns of bulls, stags' antlers, crocodiles' jaws,
monkeys' muzzles, and tigers' throats.
This was no longer an edifice decorated with
statuary. These were statues come to life which, breaking
through the spell laid upon them by some enchanter of
the building, had freed themselves from its solid mass and
would hardly tolerate it further, even as a support. A
whole world seemed to have wakened up out of its stony
sleep and, with its thousands of figures, seemed to be
pressing forward in order to listen — to listen to the man
who was seated at the top of the steps, surrounded and
overshadowed by the whole swarm of them, the long
hanging folds of his robe bathed in a golden glow. He, the
truly living — the one perfectly calm being amid this
restless and delusory life of the lifeless.
It now seemed as if the stillness of the assembly
grew deeper; yes, it even seemed to me that the very
leaves of the trees ceased to whisper.
And the Master began to speak.
He spoke of the temple on the steps of which he
sat, and where our ancestors had for hundreds of years
worshipped Lord Krishna, in order to be inspired to heroic
action and suffering here on earth by the example of his
heroic life; to be strengthened by his favour and finally to
pass through the gates of death to his paradise of pleasure,
and to enjoy the raptures of heaven there. But now we,
their descendants, had come together to hear from the lips
of a Tathāgata words of truth, in order to learn how to lead
a pure and perfect life and, finally, by a complete victory
over hatred, and desire for the fleeting and perishable, to
reach the end of all suffering, to reach Nirvāna. In this way
he, the Buddha, the Fully Awakened One, completed the
work of the Dreaming God; in this way we, grown up,
completed what our ancestors had begun with the noble
enthusiasm of childhood.
"There you see," he said, "how a gifted artist of
days long past has reproduced in stone Lord Krishnaʹs
combat with the elephant," and he pointed to a huge relief
which lay almost at my feet, one corner pressed into the
turf, the other supported by a half‐buried capital. The last
glow of the setting sun lingered caressingly on the moss‐
covered relic and, in its mild radiance, one could still
clearly recognise the group — that of a youth setting his
foot upon the head of a fallen elephant, one of whose
tusks he breaks off.
And the Master now related how the King of
Mathurā, the horrible tyrant Kamsa, after he had invited
Krishna to a contest at his court, secretly ordered his
mahout to drive his wildest war elephant out of the stables
upon the unsuspecting youth, and to do that too before
the contests in the arena were due to begin. And how
Krishna slew the monster and, to the terror of the King,
entered the arena bespattered with blood and with the
tusk he had broken off in his hand.
"Some who wished harm to the Tathāgata," he
added, continuing his discourse, "also once set loose a
savage elephant. And at the sight of the monster bearing
down upon me, compassion arose in my heart. For blood
streamed down the creatureʹs breast from the many
wounds ripped by the lances of his tormentors. And the
compassion deepened as it was seen that there before me
was not merely a wounded but also a confused creature,
who had become prey to a passion of blind rage. A crea‐
ture blessed by nature with courage, intelligence and
enormous strength but now roused to the condition of
madness by the cruelty of foolish men, who had incensed
it to the point where it was actually being brought to try
and destroy a Buddha: a wild, dazed being — and not
likely, except with great difficulty and after endlessly long
wanderings, to attain a propitious human existence and to
enter the path that leads to enlightenment.
"Being thus filled full of compassion, there was no
room for fear; and no thought of danger arose. For I
reasoned thus — 'If I should succeed in casting even the
faintest ray of light into this tempestuous darkness, such a
spark of light would gradually grow; and when this crea‐
ture, led by its glimmer, arrived at a human existence, then
it would more easily find on earth the Dharma of the
Tathāgata, the very one it had once tried to
kill, and this teaching would help it to liberation.'"
The Master then described how, fixing his mind
with this intention, he had halted in the middle of the
road, raised his hand with a claming gesture, looked
lovingly at the raging creature and uttered gentle words,
the sound of which reached its burning heart. The giant
being stopped his charge, rocked his mountain of a head
irresolutely back and forth and, instead of the thundering
peal heard from him a moment before, gave vent to one
or two timid trumpet calls.
At the same time he tossed his trunk into the air
and swung it in every direction, as if seeking something —
like a wounded elephant in the forest does when it has
lost the spoor of its hidden enemy and hopes to scent it
again — and, in very truth, he had been mistaken in his
Finally he came slowly to within a few paces of the
Master and, bending his knees, lowered himself to the
ground, as he was accustomed to do before his owner,
King Ajātasattu, when the latter wished to mount him.
Marvelling at the sight, the assembled populace came and
laid garlands, jewels and ornaments on the great being,
almost covering its body. The elephant then took the dust
from the Tathāgata's feet, sprinkled it on his own head
and retreated to the elephant stables; the Master had then
returned to the Bamboo Grove.
"In this way," so the Buddha ended his parallel,
"does the Tathāgata take up Krishna's battle with the
elephant, spiritualise, refine and complete it."
While I listened to this tale, how could I do other
than think of Angulimāla, the most savage of the savage,
who only yesterday had wished to destroy the Buddha,
and had not only been tamed but had also awakened to
the Dharma by the irresistible might of the Buddhaʹs virtue
and wisdom, so that I now saw him quietly sitting oppo‐
site me in the ranks of the monks — transformed, even in
his outward appearance, into another being. And so it
seemed that the words of the Master were most particu‐
larly addressed to me, as the only person — at all events,
outside the circle of the monks — who knew of this
matter and who could understand the significance of his
The Master now went on to speak of Krishna as
the Sixteen‐thousand‐one‐hundredfold Bridegroom, for as
such had our ancestors worshipped him here. And again I
had a feeling as though secret reference were being made
to me, for I remembered that on the night of our last
meeting the wizened prophetess had called the divine
hero by this name; so I did not hear it without a certain
fluttering in my heart.
Then, with the wry wit that later was to become so
familiar to me, the Master related how Krishna had taken
possession of all the treasures which he had carried off
from the castle of the demon king, Naraka:
"And on one auspicious day, it is said, he married
all the virgins from there, and all at the same moment,
appearing to each one individually as her husband. Six‐
teen thousand, one hundred was the number of the
women, and in just so many separate forms did the God
incarnate himself so that each maiden's thought was: 'It is I
alone whom the Holy Lord hath chosen.'
"And, in like fashion," the Master continued, "when
the Tathāgata expounds the Dharma, and before him there
sits an assembly of several hundred monks and nuns and
lay disciples of both sexes, then many amongst these
listeners think — 'For me alone has the Samana Gotama
declared this teaching.'
"For I direct the power of my mind upon the indi‐
vidual nature of each seeker after peace, and the words
that are spoken are in response to the combined natures
of all those present; thus those who receive and under‐
stand the Teaching are calmed, filled with harmony and
made to be at one with themselves, and many make the
mistaken assumption that they alone have been 'chosen.'
"In this way the Tathāgata takes the sixteen‐thousand‐
one‐hundredfold marital state of Lord Krishna,
spiritualises it, refines it and completes it."
Of course, it at once appeared to me as though the
Master had read my thoughts and had given me a secret
reproof, in order that I might not entertain the delusion
that I occupied a privileged position and so become the
victim of an ugly vanity.
And now the Buddha went on to speak of how,
according to the beliefs of our forefathers, Lord Krishna —
although he himself was the Supreme God, the Upholder
— had caused a portion of his own divine being to descend
from high heaven and to be born as a man in the
human world. Passing to himself, the Master said that
when, after ardent effort, he had realised perfect enlightenment
— the blessèd and abiding certainty of liberation
— his first inclination was to remain in the enjoyment of
this transcendent serenity and not to try to declare his
understanding to others.
"I reasoned thus: 'This Truth that I have realised is
profound and hard to see, hard to discover; it is the most
peaceful and superior goal of all, not attainable by mere
conceptualisation, subtle, for the wise to experience. But
this pleasure‐loving generation relies on attachment,
relishes attachment, delights in attachment. It is hard
for such a generation to see this Truth — that is to say, the
laws of causality and Dependent Origination. And hard it
will also be for them to realise the implications of these
laws — that is to say, the freeing of oneself from all the
forms assumed by existence, the quenching of all craving,
the relinquishment of all delusions, the realisation of
Nirvāna. If I tried to explain this abstruse insight, others
would not understand and that would be wearying and
troublesome for me.'
"Considering thus, my nature inclined towards
inaction and not to the teaching of the Dharma. Then I
looked yet once again with far‐seeing eyes upon the
world. And, as in a lotus pond one sees some lotus flowers
which develop in the waters and remain under the surface,
others which force their way to the surface and float there,
and, finally, others which rise above the waters and stand
free from all contact with them; so also in this world I saw
that some beings were of a coarse nature, some were of a
noble nature, and some were of the noblest of all. And I
reasoned thus — 'There are a few beings with but a little dust
in their eyes, if they do not hear the Dharma there are some
who will lose their way on account of that; perhaps some of
these will understand the Truth.' And, out of compassion for
such beings, I decided to expound the Dharma to the world.
"Thus does the Tathāgata take up Krishnaʹs coming
down from heaven and becoming man, give it inward
force, illumine and complete it."
As he said this, there came to me a feeling of un‐
speakable joy for I knew that the Buddha numbered me
with the lotus flowers that had risen to the surface of the
water, and that I, by his help, would one day rise above it,
and would stand free, unsullied by material things.
Further, the Master told us of those heroic deeds of
Krishna, by which he had freed the world from monsters
and wicked rulers, and had added to the happiness of all
living beings. How he had vanquished the water serpent
Koliyā, slain the bull‐shaped demon Aristha, destroyed the
ravaging monsters Dhenuka and Kishī, and the demon
prince Nāraka, had overcome and killed the villainous
kings Kamsa and Paundraka, and other bloody tyrants
who were the terror of helpless human beings, and had
thus ameliorated in many a way the distressful fate of
But he, the Master, did not combat the foes that
assailed people from outside, but the monsters that were
within their own hearts — greed, hatred, delusion, love of
self, the craving for pleasure, the thirst for things that pass
away — and he freed humanity not from this or that evil
person, but from the experience of suffering — the tyranny
of the unawakened heart.
Then the Blessèd One spoke of the suffering which
everywhere and always follows life like its shadow. And I
felt as though someone with a gentle hand had lifted the
load of pain my love had brought me, bore it away and
had cast it into the great maelstrom of universal suffering,
where, in the general whirl of the rising and passing of all
things, it disappeared completely from view.
Deeply in my innermost heart I felt — "What right do
I have to expect enduring happiness when it is so normal for
beings to experience suffering?"
I had enjoyed my happiness: it had been born, it
had unfolded itself and it had passed — just as the Buddha
taught that everything in this world comes from some
source and, after its time is fulfilled, must sooner or later
This very transitory appearance, in which the unreality of
every individual thing veiled itself, was, he told us, the final
unavoidable source of suffering — unavoidable so long as
the desire for existence was not uprooted, so long as it
continued to flourish luxuriantly and forever gave rise to
something new. And as each individual is a part of the
suffering of the world, from the very fact of their existence,
I should now feel obliged — or so it seemed to me
— if I had been spared some pain, to feel myself doubly
blessèd and to be filled with a readiness to bear my part
I was no longer able to bewail my own lot; on the
contrary, as I listened to the Master's words the thought
awoke in me — "If only all living beings were no longer
obliged to suffer! If only this holy man might succeed in
his work of teaching, and that all living beings — all —
purified from delusion and enlightened, might reach the
utter end of suffering."
And the Master spoke also of this end of suffering
and of the world, of the overcoming of every form of
existence, of liberation into a serene state of being, void of
all craving, of the dispelling of all delusion, and of Nirvāna
— strange, wonderful words telling of this only Island in
all the troubled sea of birth, on whose rocky shores the
breakers of death dashed in impotent foam, and over to
which the teaching of the Blessèd One sailed like a trusty
ship. And he spoke of that blessèd place of peace not as
one speaks who relates to us what he has heard from
others — from priests and Brahmins — and also not as a
song‐maker who lets his fancy roam, but like one who
communicates what he has himself experienced and seen.
It is true that there was much he said which I, an
untaught woman, did not understand, but which also — I
would venture — would not have easily been understood
by even the most learned of men.
Many things I was not able to reconcile: for,
although the Master said that neither 'existence' nor 'non‐
existence' could be said to describe the reality of Life,
'lifelessness' was not the answer either — in fact it was
even further from the Truth But I felt in heart like one
who hears a new song utterly unlike any other she has
ever heard, a song of which she is able to catch no more
than a few words, yet the music of which penetrates to her
heart, telling her everything. And what music! Notes of
such crystal purity that all other sounds when compared
with it must seem to the listener like empty noise —
strains which brought greetings from so far away, from so
far above the spheres, that a new and undreamt‐of longing
was awakened, of which I felt that it could never be stilled
by anything worldly or world‐like, and which, if unsatis‐
fied, would never pass away.
Meanwhile night had come down. The pale light of
the moon, as it rose behind the temple, threw shadows
from its outlines right across the whole width of the forest
glade. The form of the speaker was all but indistinguish‐
able. These more‐than‐human words appeared to come
forth from the sanctuary itself, which had swallowed again
into its mass of shadows all the thousand wild and
tangled, life‐simulating forms, and now towered upward
in simple but imposing lines, a monument of all terrestrial
and celestial life.
My hands held palm to palm at my heart, I sat there
listening and looking up to the heavens, where great stars
glittered over the dark tree‐tops and the Heavenly Gangā
lay extended like a river of light. Then I remembered the
hour when we both, at that same spot, solemnly raised our
hands to it and mutually swore by its silver floods which
feed these lotus lakes, that we would meet here again in
the Paradise of the West in a heaven of pleasure like that
of Krishna, of which the Master had just spoken as the
place which the faithful devotees of the Dreaming God
strove to reach.
And as I thought of it, my heart grew sad; for I
could trace no desire in myself for such a life in Paradise,
for a shimmer of something infinitely higher had shone in
And without disappointment, without anything of
the painful emotion one feels whose dearest hopes have
been shattered, I caught the words of the Master:
"To be born is to die;
All‐destroying, Oblivionʹs breath holds sway;
As in the gardens of Earth,
Flowers in Paradise fade, and pass away."
~ 37 ~
THE BLOSSOMS OF PARADISE WITHER
YES, MY FRIEND," added Vāsitthī, "I heard those
words, which appear so destructive of all hope to you,
without disappointment — in the same way that now,
without pain and indeed even with joy, I perceive how
round about us here the truth of these words is establi‐
shed in what we see taking place."
During Vāsitthī's narration, the process of decay
had gone on, slowly but relentlessly, and there could no
longer be the least doubt but that all these beings and
their surroundings sickened and were fading away to their
full and complete dissolution.
The lotus flowers had already shed more than half
their crown‐petals and the waters only sparkled sparingly
forth from between these gay‐coloured little vessels,
which were set trembling every other instant as a fresh
one fell. On their flower‐thrones, divested of all adorn‐
ment now, sat the once‐happy inhabitants of the Paradise
of the West in positions more or less indicative of utter
breakdown. The head of one hung down upon her breast,
that of another sideways on his shoulder, and a shiver as
of fever ran through them every time an icy blast shook
the already thinning tops of the groves, causing blossoms
and leaves to rain to earth. The music of the gandharvas
sounded woefully subdued and more and more frequently
was interwoven with painful discords; with it were
blended deep sighs and anxious groans. All that had been
so luminous — the faces and robes of the devas and
gandharvas, no less than the clouds and flowers — all
gradually lost brightness and a blue twilight haze ap‐
peared to weave its threads about the distances. The fresh
fragrance of the flowers too, which had formerly been
such a vitalising breath to everything, had gradually
become a soporific odour, at once distressing to the body
and stupefying to the senses.
Kāmanīta indicated the things about him with a
tired movement of the hand: "How could you possibly
feel pleasure at such a sight, Vāsitthī?"
"For this reason, my friend," she replied, "it is
possible to feel pleasure in such a sight: that if all this were
lasting and did not pass away, there could be nothing
higher. But there is something higher; for this does pass,
and beyond it there is that which knows neither genesis
nor decay. Just this quality is what the Master calls 'joy in
the transient'; and for that reason he says: 'If you have
discerned the ephemeral nature of all created things, then
truly you know that which is Uncreated.'"
At these confident words, Kāmanīta's features grew
animated, as a flower that is withering for want of water
revives beneath the falling rain.
"Blessings on you, Vāsitthī! For you have given me
my liberation. Yes, I feel it. We have erred only in one
particular — our longings did not aim high enough. We
desired for ourselves this life in a paradise of flowers and
assuredly flowers must wither, in accordance with their
nature. The stars, however, are eternal; according to
changeless laws they keep their courses. And look there,
Vāsitthī; while all else shows the pale traces of decay, that
little river — a tributary of the Heavenly Gangā — that
flows into our lake, its water is just as star‐like in its purity
and just as plentiful as ever, and all because it comes from
the world of stars. One who should succeed in entering
into existence again among the gods of the stars, would be
raised above the sphere of mortality."
"Why should we not be able to succeed in that?"
asked Vāsitthī. "For I have certainly heard of samanas who
fixed heart and mind upon returning to existence in the
kingdom of the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā. And even
now it cannot be too late, if the ancient words of the
Bhagavad Gītā be true:
"'Longings for a future being, filling heart and
mind at death,
To the life that follows this one, will give
character and breath.'"
"Vāsitthī! You have given me super‐human courage!
Come, let us turn our whole hearts to entering again
into existence in the kingdom of the Hundred‐thousand‐
Scarcely had they come to this decision when a
violent hurricane swept through the groves and over the
lakes. Blossoms and leaves were whirled away in heaps;
the beings throned on the lotus flowers cowered before
the storm and, moaning pitifully, drew their filmy robes
ever closer about their trembling limbs.
But like one who, all but suffocated in the close
and perfume‐laden atmosphere of a room, breathes deep
and feels themselves renewed when the fresh sea‐breezes,
salt‐laden from the floods of the ocean, blow in through
the open window, so it was with Kāmanīta and Vāsitthī
when a breath of that absolute purity, which they had
once inhaled on the shores of the Heavenly Gangā, came
streaming now towards them.
"Do you notice anything?" asked Vāsitthī.
"A greeting from the Gangā," said Kāmanīta. "And
listen, She calls"
As he spoke, the wailing death‐song of the gandharvas
was silenced by the solemn, thundering sounds
that they both remembered from their journey long since
"Good that we already know the way!" exulted
Vāsitthī. "Are you still afraid, my friend?"
"How could I fear? Come!"
And like a pair of birds that dash from the nest and
fly into the teeth of the wind, so they flew thence towards
the Heavenly Gangā.
All stared after them, amazed that there were still
beings there who had the strength and courage necessary
But as they thus breasted the storm there arose a
whirlwind behind them which left everything bereft of leaf
and life alike, and made an end of the slowly fading
domain of Sukhavatī.
Soon they had reached the forest of palms and
soon passed over it. Before them the silvery expanse of
the Stream of the Universe stretched far away to the blue‐
black border of the heavens.
They swept out over its floods, and were instantly
caught in the current of air prevailing there and were
borne away with the swiftness of the tempest. Overpow‐
ered by the speed of their flight — and by the frightful
crashing that seemed like thunder mingled with the ring‐
ing of a myriad bells — their senses finally forsook them.
Their mutual life of bliss in the Paradise of the
West thus drew to its final close — during this time tens of
thousands of years had passed by on earth below.
~ 38 ~
IN THE KINGDOM OF THE
AND KĀMANĪTA AND VĀSITTHĪ entered again into
existence in the kingdom of the Hundred‐thousandfold
Brahmā as the gods of a double star.
* * *
The luminous astral substance with which
Kāmanīta's sense of being was united, enveloped symmet‐
rically the heavenly body which was both animated by his
strength and guided by his will. By the exercise of his will‐
power the star revolved on its own axis; and this motion
was his own individual life, his self‐love.
Further, Kāmanīta was reflected in Vāsitthī's lustre;
and he in turn reflected hers. Exchanging rays they circled
around a common axis where their rays accumulated. This
point was their mutual love; the circling was therefore their
love‐life, and in the course of this they constantly reflected
one another — and that was the joy of their love.
Gifted with sight on every side, each was able to
look, at one and the same moment, towards every point of
unending space. And everywhere they saw countless star‐
gods like themselves, the flashing of whose rays they
instantly caught and returned. Of these there was first a
number who formed with them a separate group; next,
other groups which with their own formed a whole
galactic‐system; further, other systems which formed them‐
selves into chains of systems; and beyond these yet other
chains, and rings of chains, and spheres upon spheres of
And Kāmanīta and Vāsitthī now guided their binary
star in harmonious flight among the other stars and double
stars of their group in a graceful, multi‐dimensional dance
— neither coming too near to their neighbours nor yet
removing to too great a distance. All the time, by a certain
unspoken sympathy, each communicated to one another
the exact direction and curvature of movement. But at the
same time a common consciousness was formed which
guided their whole group into harmony with the motion of
all the groups of their system, then again in turn joined in
the motion of all other groups.
And this harmonic sympathy with the vast swaying
rhythmic motion of the stellar bodies — this universal and
unceasing interchange of movement — this was their
relationship to the universe, their outer life, their all‐
embracing and all‐permeating loving activity.
However, that which was harmony of movement
here appeared to the gods of the air, who had their pal‐
aces beneath the star‐gods, to be a harmony of sound. By
participation in its enjoyment, the generations of gan‐
dharvas in the fields of Paradise imitated these harmonies
in their joyous melodies.
And because a weak and far‐off echo of these
harmonies pierces to our earth — so weak that it can only
be caught by the spiritual ears of the illuminati — the
seers talk mysteriously of the harmony of the spheres, and
the great masters of music reproduce what they, in their
ecstasy, have overheard; and this music is the greatest
delight of the human family. But just as the reality of life is
to its ever dimmer‐growing reflection, so too is the joy in
existence of the gods of the stars to the rapture of human
beings over notes and chords and melodies. For the joy of
life for the brahmā gods is simply their immeasurable joy
* * *
All these movements, however, these vast round‐
elays of world‐systems, had for their centre a single object
— the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā throned in the
midst of the universe: The One whose immeasurable
brightness permeated all the gods of the stars, and to
whom they in turn flashed back that radiance, like so
many mirrors of that splendour: The One whose inexhaus‐
tible strength, like a never‐failing spring, imparted life and
motion to all of them and in whom, in turn, all their
motion was centred. And this was their being, filled with
all the fullness of the brahmā, their communion with the
Highest God, their blessèdness, their devotion, their bliss.
* * *
They had in Brahmā the central point about which
everything else was collected, yet this brahmā‐world,
though boundless, was also, in a sense limited. As the
prescient eye of humanity discovered a zodiac in the
dome of heaven, even in far‐distant ages, so too the gods
of the stars saw untold zodiacs described in and around
one another — weaving pictures throughout the spheres,
pictures in which the most distant groups of stars resolved
themselves into luminous figures — now intertwined so
that one star shone as an inherent part of several pictures,
then again flashing in lonely exclusiveness. Objects ap‐
peared there: astral forms of all the beings that live and
move on the scattered worlds; or between these, abiding
pictures of the original forms of all that, wrapping itself in
the four great elements — earth, water, fire and wind —
ceaselessly comes into being and passes away in the
changeful river of life.
And this beholding of the original forms was their
knowledge of the worlds.
But because, being all‐seeing, they were able to
see that without having to look away from this — without
even the flutter of an eyelid they were able to behold at
one glance the unity of God and the multiplicity of worlds
and living beings — the knowledge of God and the
knowledge of the worlds thus became for them one and
the same thing.
If, however, human beings turn their gaze upon
the divine unity, the many forms of the changing universe
escape them; and, on the other hand, when they look
upon these forms, they can no longer hold in view the
unity of God. The divine ones, however, saw centre and
circle at one and the same moment. For that reason their
knowledge was a unified knowledge, never unstable and
a prey to no doubt.
Throughout this whole luminous brahmā‐world
time now flowed on silently and imperceptibly. As there is
not the least movement to be perceived in a perfectly clear
stream which glides quietly and smoothly along, and
whose waters are neither obstructed nor broken by any
resistance, so here the passage of time was just as imper‐
ceptible, because it experienced no resistance from the
rise or fall of thought and feeling.
This imperceptible passage of time was their
eternity. And this eternity was a delusion. So also was all
that it embraced — their knowledge, their godliness, their
joy in existence, their world‐life, and their own individual
life — all was steeped in delusion — all was overlaid with
the colour of delusion.
~ 39 ~
THE DUSK OF THE WORLDS
THERE CAME A DAY when a feeling of discomfort,
the consciousness of a void, arose in Kāmanīta.
* * *
And involuntarily his thoughts turned to the Hun‐
dred‐thousandfold Brahmā as the source of all fullness.
But the feeling of lack was not removed by that. On the
contrary, it increased almost perceptibly with the passing
of the years, from one decade of thousands to another.
For from that newly arisen feeling the tranquil
stream of time, which had hitherto flowed imperceptibly
by, encountered resistance as from an island suddenly
risen in its midst, on whose rocky cliffs it began to break
in foam as it flowed past. And at once there arose a 'be‐
fore' and an 'after' the rapids.
And it seemed to Kāmanīta as though the Hundred‐
thousandfold Brahmā did not now shine quite as brightly
After he had observed the Brahmā, however, for
five millions of years, it seemed to Kāmanīta as though he
had now observed him for a long time without reaching
And he turned his attention to Vāsitthī.
Upon which he became aware that she also was
observing the Brahmā attentively.
Which filled him with dismay; with dismay came
feeling; with feeling came thought; with thought, the
speech for its utterance.
And he spoke:
"Vāsitthī, do you also see it? What is happening to
the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā?"
After a hundred‐thousand years, Vāsitthī answered:
"What is happening to the Hundred‐thousandfold
Brahmā is that his brightness is diminishing."
"It seems so to me also," said Kāmanīta, after the
passage of a similar period of time. "True, that can only be
a passing phenomenon. And yet I must confess that I am
astonished at the possibility of any change whatsoever in
the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā."
After a considerable time — after several millions
of years — Kāmanīta spoke again:
"I do not know if I am not perhaps dazzled by the
light. Do you, Vāsitthī, notice that the brightness of the
Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā is increasing again?"
After five‐hundred‐thousand years, Vāsitthī ans‐
wered: "The brightness of the Hundred‐thousandfold
Brahmā does not increase, but steadily decreases."
As a piece of iron that, taken white‐hot from the
blacksmith's fire, very soon after becomes red‐hot, so the
brightness of the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā had now
taken on a red shimmer.
"I wonder what that may signify..."
"That signifies, my friend, that the brightness of the
Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā is in the process of being
"Impossible, Vāsitthī, impossible! What would then
become of all the brightness and the splendour of this
whole brahmā world?"
"He had that in mind when He said:
"'Upward to heaven's sublimest light, life presses —
Know, that the future will even quench the glow of
After the short space of but a few thousand years
came Kāmanīta's anxious and breathless question:
"Who ever uttered that terrible world‐crushing
"Who other than He, the Master, the Knower of the
Worlds, the Blessèd One — the Buddha."
Then Kāmanīta became thoughtful. For a consider‐
able length of time he pondered upon these words, and
recalled many things. Then he spoke:
"Once already, Vāsitthī, in Sukhavatī, in the Para‐
dise of the West, you repeated a saying of the Buddha
which was fulfilled before our eyes. And I remember that
you then faithfully reported to me a whole discourse of
the Master's in which that saying occurred. This world‐
crushing utterance was not, however, contained in it. So
have you then, Vāsitthī, heard yet other words of the
"Many, my friend, for I saw him daily for more than
half a year; yes, I even heard the last words he uttered."
Kāmanīta gazed upon her with wonder and rever‐
ence. Then he said:
"Then, because of that, I believe you must be the
wisest being in the whole brahmā‐world. For all these
star‐gods round about us are aghast; they shine with a
wavering light; they flicker and blink and even the Hun‐
dred‐thousandfold Brahmā himself has become restless,
and from his dulled radiance from time to time there dart
forth what seem to me to be flashes of anger. But you give
a steady light like a lamp in a sheltered spot. And it is also
a sign of disturbance that the movement of these heavenly
bodies has now become audible — we now hear on all
sides the thundering crashes and mighty groans which are
proceeding from this brahmā‐world, like the distant ringing
of great bells which once reached us on the shores of
the Heavenly Gangā, far from here in Paradise. This all
indicates that the harmony of motion is disturbed, that dis‐
union and separation of the world‐forces is taking place.
For it has been well said that — 'Where want is, there
noise is; but abundance is tranquil.' And so I do not doubt
that you are right.
"Please, belovèd Vāsitthī, while round about us this
brahmā‐world expires and becomes a prey to destruction,
relate to me your memories of the Buddha, so that I may
become as calm and bright as you are. Tell me all of your
last human life, for it may well be that we are united for
the last time in a place where it will be possible for spirit
to commune with spirit and tell of things that have hap‐
pened — and it still remains a mystery how Angulimāla
appeared in Ujjenī, although his becoming a monk has
been fully explained to me. But his appearance at that time
gave the impulse for my going forth into the homeless life,
and was the reason why I did not take to downward paths
but instead rose again in the Paradise of the West — there
to climb by your help to this highest of heavens, where
throughout immeasurable ages we have enjoyed the lives
of gods. I have an idea, however, that the impulse which
led to my becoming a seeker came from you. I would like
to learn the truth about this; but also, and before every‐
thing else, how did it come about that you, for my benefit,
entered again into existence in the Paradise of the West
and not in some far higher place of bliss?"
* * *
And while from one hundred thousand years to
another, the growing dimness of the brahmā‐light became
ever more apparent and the gods of the stars grew ever
While these flickered and spluttered with more and
more irregularity, and from the duller‐growing circle of fire
around the Great Brahmā vast fingers of flame shot forth
and swept hither and thither throughout the whole of
space, as if the God with a hundred giant arms were seek‐
ing the invisible foe who was besetting him;
While, owing to the disturbed movements of the
heavenly bodies, stellar whirlwinds arose which rent
whole systems of suns out of the kingdom of the Brahmā
and into their places rushed waves of darkness from the
mighty void, as the sea dashes in where a ship has sprung
And while, at other points, systems crashed into
one another and a universal conflagration broke out, with
explosions which hurled sheaves of shooting‐stars down
into the fiery throat of the Brahmā;
While the death‐rattle of the music of the spheres
was heard and felt all around — and the thunder of the
harmonies as they broke down and crashed into one
another rolled and re‐echoed with ever‐increasing fearful‐
ness from one quarter of the heavens to another —
Vāsitthī, untroubled, and speaking in measured tones,
related to Kāmanīta the last of her earthly experiences.
~ 40 ~
IN THE GROVE OF KRISHNA
AFTER THAT FIRST EVENING I neglected no
opportunity to visit the Krishna grove, and to become
more deeply immersed in the Teachings through the
words of the Master or one of his great disciples.
* * *
During the absence of my husband the fear of the
citizens of Kosambī grew from day to day, because of the
robber Angulimāla. Fantasy was stirred for the very reason
that nothing was heard of fresh deeds of his. A rumour
was spread that Angulimāla intended to fall upon the
Krishna grove one evening and carry off the citizens
assembled there, and not only these but even the Buddha
himself. That raised the already excited popular feeling
almost to the point of tumult. People declared that if harm
should come to the Master from such villainous robber
bands at the gates of Kosambī, then the anger of the gods
would surely be visited upon the whole town.
Enormous crowds of people swept through the
streets and, collecting in front of the royal palace, de‐
manded threateningly that King Udena should avert this
calamity and render Angulimāla incapable of further
On the following day Sātāgira returned. He at once
overwhelmed me with praise for my good advice for he
attributed his having come safely home solely to this.
Vajirā, his second wife, who came out to welcome him
with her little son on her arm, was dealt with very sum‐
marily:— He had Matters of Importance to talk over with
When we were alone again, to my unspeakable
discomfort, he straightaway began to talk of his love, of
how he had missed me on the way and with what joy he
had looked forward to this hour of reunion.
I was on the point of telling him about the troubles
in the town, in order to change the current of his thoughts,
when the servants announced the Chamberlain, who had
come to summon Sātāgira to King Udena.
After about an hour he returned — another being.
Pale and with a deeply perturbed expression on his face,
he came in to me, flung himself down on a low seat and
exclaimed that he was the most wretched man in the
world — a fallen great one, soon to be a beggar, maybe
even exposed to imprisonment or exile — and that the
cause of all his misfortune was his boundless love for me,
which I didn't even return. After I had repeatedly urged
him to tell me what had happened, he calmed himself
sufficiently to give me an account of what had taken place
in the palace, accompanying the recital with many out‐
bursts of sobbing despair and ceaselessly mopping his
forehead from which the sweat‐drops ran trickling down.
The King had received him very ungraciously and,
without desiring to hear anything of the village quarrel
which he had settled, had ordered him with threats to
acknowledge the whole truth about Angulimāla, which
Sātāgira was now obliged to confess to me also, without
having the smallest idea that I was already so well in‐
formed on the subject.
To my disgust he saw in his deceit only a proof of
his "boundless love" for me, and spoke of my love for you
lightly, as of a foolish youthful sentimentality which
would, in any case, have assuredly led to nothing.
The matter had come to the King's ears in the
During Sātāgira's absence, the police had suc‐
ceeded in tracking down Angulimāla's accomplice who
had, in the course of a severe interrogation, given the
assurance that the robber in question really was Anguli‐
māla himself, that the latter had not died under torture as
the Minister had always asserted, but had escaped; he had
also confessed Angulimāla's intended attack upon the
Krishna grove. His Majesty was naturally incensed to the
highest degree: first at Sātāgira's having allowed the
demonic robber to escape, and then at his having cheated
the whole of Kosambī, together with its King, with the
false head he had set up. He wouldn't listen to any words
of defence, or even of excuse:— If Sātāgira didn't render
Angulimāla incapable of further mischief within three days
— as the people so stormily demanded — then all the
consequences of the Royal Displeasure would be visited
upon him with the utmost rigour.
After Sātāgira had related the whole tale, he threw
himself weeping upon the seat, tore his hair and behaved
like one distraught.
"Be comforted, my husband," I said, "follow my
counsel, and not in three days but before this very day is
over, you shall again be in possession of the Royal Favour;
yes, and not only that, but it shall shine upon you even
more brightly than before."
Sātāgira sat up and looked at me as one might gaze
upon some bizarre freak of nature. "And what, then, is this
counsel of yours?"
"Return to the King and persuade him to take
himself to the Simsapā wood beyond the city gates. There
let him seek the Lord Buddha at the ancient temple and
ask counsel from him. The rest will follow of itself."
"You are a wise woman," said Sātāgira. "In any
case, your counsel is very good, for the Buddha is said to
be the wisest of all men. Although it can hardly have such
good results for me as you imagine, I shall nevertheless
make the attempt."
"For the results," I replied, "I shall answer with my
"I believe you, Vāsitthī!" he exclaimed, springing
up and seizing my hand. "How is it possible not to believe
you? By Indra! You are a wonderful woman; and I now
see how little I was mistaken when, in my still inexperi‐
enced youth as though obeying some profound instinct, I
chose you alone from amid the rich garden of Kosambī's
maidens and did not allow myself to be diverted from my
love by your coldness."
The heat with which he poured forth his praise
caused me almost to vomit and to repent that I had given
him such helpful advice; but his very next words brought
relief with them for he now spoke of his gratitude, which
would be inexhaustible no matter what proof I should put
"I have but a single petition to make, the granting
of which will testify sufficiently to your gratitude."
"Name it to me at once," he cried, "and if you
should even demand that I send Vajirā with her son back
to her parents, I shall do so without hesitation."
"My request is a just, not an unjust, one. I shall
only proffer it, however, when my counsel has proved
itself to be reliable to the fullest degree. But hurry now to
the palace and win His Majesty over to pay this visit."
He returned fairly soon, delighted that he had
succeeded in prevailing upon the King to undertake the
"Not until King Udena heard that the advice came
from you, and that you had vouched for its success with
your honour, did he consent; for he also thinks great
things of you. Oh, how proud I am of such a wife!"
These and similar speeches of his, of which in his
confident mood there was no lack, were disgusting and
painful to me; and they would have been still more pain‐
ful if I had not, throughout the whole matter, had my own
secret thoughts to buoy me up.
We took ourselves at once to the palace, where
already preparations were being made for the start.
As soon as the sun's rays had softened their inten‐
sity, King Udena mounted his state elephant, the celeb‐
rated Bhaddavatikā, who was only used on the most
important of occasions because she was now very old.
We, the Chamberlain, the Lord of the Treasury and other
high dignitaries came behind in carriages; two hundred
horsemen were in the vanguard and the same number
brought up the rear of the procession.
At the entrance to the wood the King caused
Bhaddavatikā to kneel down and he dismounted; the
others of us left the carriages and followed in his train on
foot to the Krishna temple; there the Buddha awaited us
surrounded by his disciples, as he already knew of the
approaching royal visit.
The King gave the Master a reverential greeting
and, stepping to one side, seated himself down. When we
others had also taken our seats, the Blessèd One asked
him: "What troubles you, noble king? Has the King of
Benares, or one of your other royal neighbours, threat‐
ened your land with war?"
"The King of Benares does not threaten me Vener‐
able Sir, nor does any one of my other royal neighbours.
A robber named Angulimāla lives in my land; he is cruel
and blood‐thirsty, given to murder and violence without
mercy for any living thing. He decimates villages; the
towns he renders heaps of smoking ruins; the lands he turns
to desert wastes. He slays people and then hangs their fin‐
gers around his neck. And in the wickedness of his heart
he has conceived a plan of falling upon this sacred grove
and of carrying you off, Master, you and your disciples.
My people murmur openly at the thought of this great
danger, they throng in great crowds around my palace and
demand that I should make Angulimāla incapable of fur‐
ther mischief. It is this grave concern alone that I have in
mind in coming to see you, Lord."
"But if you, great king, should see Angulimāla with
hair and beard shaven, clad in the robes of this Sangha
and forswearing the act of murder; no longer a robber,
content with one meal a day, modest in his behaviour,
virtuous and altogether noble, what would you then do
"We would greet him respectfully, Venerable Sir,
rise in his presence and invite him to be seated, we would
beg him to accept robes, food, lodging and medicine for
possible sickness, and would bestow upon him protec‐
tion, shelter and defence. But Lord, how could such an
unruly and malignant wretch experience such a change
Now the dread Angulimāla was sitting not far from
the Master. And the Master extended his right arm and
pointed over to him, saying to King Udena as he did so:
"Great king, this is Angulimāla."
At that, the face of the King grew pale from fear.
But greater by far was the horror on the face of
Sātāgira. His eyes looked as though they would start from
their sockets, his hair stood on end and cold sweat
dropped from his forehead.
"Oh no!" he called out. "That is Angulimāla — and
I, idiot that I am, have betrayed my King into putting
himself into his power."
At the same time I could see plainly that he only
quivered with fear because he imagined he himself to be
in the power of his deadly enemy.
"This demonic villain," he went on, "has deceived
us all — he has cheated the Master himself and also my
all‐too‐credulous wife who, like all women, lays too much
store by such tales of conversion. We have all walked into
And his glances jerked hither and thither, as
though he could discern half a dozen robbers behind
every tree. With stuttering voice and trembling hand he
begged the King to seek safety for his precious person by
Then I stepped forward and spoke: "Calm yourself,
husband, and restrain your cowardice! I am in a position
to convince you, and also my noble sovereign, that no
trap has been laid here and that no danger threatens."
And I now related how, persuaded by Angulimāla,
I had together with him planned an attack on the life of
my husband, and how our plan was frustrated by the
transformation of my ally to the good.
When Sātāgira heard how near he had been to
death, he was obliged to support himself on the arm of the
Chamberlain, in order not to sink to the ground.
I now prostrated myself before the King and
begged him to pardon my husband as I had pardoned
him, saying that, led away by passion he had acted fool‐
ishly and yet in the whole matter had assuredly, although
quite unconsciously, followed the leading of a higher
power that intended to bring to pass before our eyes this
greatest of all wonders, so that now, instead of a robber
having to be executed, the robber had committed himself
to the religious life. And when the King had graciously
consented to bestow his undiminished favour again upon
my husband, I said to Sātāgira:
"I have kept my promise. Now you must keep
yours also and fulfil my request, which is that I may be
permitted to enter the sacred Order of the Buddha."
With a mute inclination of the head Sātāgira gave
his consent. He had, of course by now, no other option.
But the King, who was by now quite reassured,
approached Angulimāla, spoke kindly and deferentially to
him and gave him the assurance of his royal protection.
Then he went again to the Buddha, bowed low before
him, and said: "Wondrous it is, indeed, Venerable Sir, how
you, the Tathāgata, tame the untameable. For this Anguli‐
māla whom we could not overcome by either punishment
or sword, him you have overcome without either punish‐
ment or sword. And this thrice‐sacred grove where such a
wonderful thing has transpired shall to the end of time
belong to the Sangha of the Blessèd One. Furthermore, I
trust the Master will graciously allow me to erect within its
bounds buildings for the shelter of the monks and others
for that of the nuns."
Signifying his acceptance with silence, the Master
received the royal gift. The King then took his leave and
went away with his retinue.
I, however, remained behind under the protection
of the sisters who were present and, the very next day, I
shaved my head and became a bhikkhunī — a member of
the Order of Buddhist Nuns.
~ 41 ~
THE SIMPLE CONTEMPLATION
I HAD NOW BECOME a sister of the Order; and I
took myself into Kosambī in the early morning of each
day, together with the other nuns, wrapped in the ochre
robe and with my alms‐bowl. There we went from
house to house until all those who wished to give had
done so — although Sātāgira would only too willingly
have spared me this daily alms‐round.
* * *
One day I took my stand at the door of his palace
because the oldest nuns had advised me to subject myself
to this trial also. At that moment Sātāgira appeared in the
gateway; he avoided me, however, with a startled glance
and sorrowfully covered his face. Immediately thereafter
the house‐steward came out to me weeping and begged
that he might be allowed to send me everything I needed
daily. But I answered him that it was of much greater
value to me to live as a simple member of the Sangha.
When I returned from the alms‐round and had
eaten what had been given to me, with which the question
of food was then settled for the whole day, I would be
instructed by one of the elder bhikkhunīs. In the evening I
listened, in the great assembly, to the words of the Master
or perhaps to those of one of the great disciples, like Sāri‐
putra or Ānanda. After this was over, however, it often
happened that one sister sought the company of another,
saying — "Sister, the Simsapā wood is delightful; glorious
is this clear moonlit night; the trees are in full bloom and
divine fragrances seem to be wafted through the air. Come
away then, let us find Sister Sumedhā. She is knowledgeable
and sincere, a treasure‐house of the Dharma. Her
eloquence will lend a double glory to this Simsapā grove."
And thereafter we would spend the greater part of such a
night in eager discussion of the spiritual life.
This life in the open air, the constant spiritual
activity, the lively interchange of ideas (as a result of which
there was no time left for sad brooding over personal
sorrows or idle reveries) and finally the elevating and
purifying of my whole nature by the power of the Dharma
— all this strengthened both body and mind most
marvellously. A new and nobler life opened out before me
and I enjoyed a calm and cheerful happiness of which a
few weeks earlier I could not have even dreamt.
When the rainy season came, the buildings already
stood prepared for the sisters, with a roomy hall for medi‐
tation and for common use, and a separate hut in the
forest for each nun.
My former husband and several other rich citizens
who had relatives amongst the nuns insisted upon fitting
out these abodes of ours with mats, seats and low wooden
beds so that we were richly provided with everything we
needed to make life reasonably comfortable.
This period of seclusion of the three month Rains
Retreat passed easily, what with the regular alternation of
conversation on spiritual questions, independent study,
physical work around the monastery and meditation.
Towards the evening of each day, however, we took
ourselves to the common hall of the monks to listen to the
Master; or else he or one of his great disciples came over
to see us.
The forest itself was very dear to the heart of the
Master so, when the rains had ceased, its freshness of
renewed youth and its hundredfold richness of leaf and
splendour of flower invited us to transfer the calm of our
solitary meditation and our common meetings to its more
open shelter. At this time of new beginnings, however, we
were met by the sorrowful news that the Master was now
preparing to set out on a journey to the eastern provinces.
Of course we had not dared to hope that he would
always remain in Kosambī. We also knew how foolish it
was to complain of the inevitable and how little we would
show ourselves to be worthy of the way of training if we
were to be overcome by grief. So we turned our steps to
the temple of Krishna late in the afternoon one day, to
listen perhaps for the last time in years to the words of the
Buddha, and then to bid him farewell.
Seated at the top of the steps, the Master spoke of
the transitoriness of all that comes into existence, of the
dissolution of everything that has been compounded, of
the fleeting nature of all phenomena, of the unreality of all
forms whatsoever. And after he had shown that nowhere
in this nor in any other world, as far as the desire for exist‐
ence propagates itself, nowhere in time or space, is there a
fixed spot, an abiding place of refuge to be found, he gave
utterance to that sentence which you with justice called
"world‐crushing," and which is now verifying itself round
about us —
"Upward to heaven's sublimest light, life presses —
Know, that the future will even quench the glow of
We sisters had been told by one of the bhikkhus
that after the Dharma talk we were to go to the Master,
one by one, in order to take leave of him and to receive a
theme of contemplation which would be a spiritual guide
to us in our future endeavours.
As I was one of the youngest in the training, and there‐
fore purposely kept myself in the background, I succeeded
in being the last. For I grudged to any other that she should
speak to the Master after I did, and I also thought that a longer
and less hasty interview would be more possible if no others
waited to come after me.
After I had knelt reverently before him, the Buddha
looked at me with a gaze which filled my being with light
to its innermost depths, and he said:
"And to you, Vāsitthī, on the threshold of this
ruined sanctuary of the Sixteen‐thousand‐one‐hundredfold
Bridegroom — to remember the Tathāgata by and to
contemplate under the leafy shade of this Simsapā wood,
of which you both carry a leaf as well as a shadow in your
heart — I offer you this to investigate: "Where there is
love, there is also suffering."
"Is that all?" I foolishly asked.
"All, and enough."
"And will it be permitted to me, when I have fully
understood it, to make a pilgrimage to the Tathāgata and
to receive a new sentence?"
"Certainly — it will be permitted, if you still feel the
need of asking."
"How should I not feel the need? Are you not,
Master, our refuge?"
"Seek refuge in yourself, Vāsitthī; take refuge in the
"I shall certainly do so. But, Master, you are the
very self of the disciples; you are the living Dharma. And
you have said, 'It will be permitted.'"
"If the way does not tire you."
"No way can tire me."
"The way is long, Vāsitthī. The way is longer than
you think — far longer than human imagination is able to
"And if the way leads through a thousand lives and
over a thousand worlds, no way shall tire me."
"Good, Vāsitthī. Farewell then — look into your
contemplation deeply and it will reward you."
At this instant the King, followed by a large retinue,
approached to take leave of the Master.
I withdrew to the rearmost circle of disciples where
I was a somewhat inattentive spectator of the rest of the
proceedings of that last evening. For I cannot deny that I
felt somewhat disappointed at the very simple phrase that
the Master had given me. Had not several of the sisters
received other quite weighty reflections for their spiritual
benefit: one, a sentence relating to existence and its
causes; another, relating to non‐existence; a third, to the
transitoriness of all phenomena? And I therefore felt I had
received some kind of slight, which grieved me deeply.
When I had reflected further upon the matter,
however, the thought occurred to me that the Master had
perhaps noticed some self‐conceit in me and wished to
illumine it in this way. And I resolved to be on my guard,
in order not to be retarded in my spiritual growth by vanity
or inflated self‐esteem. Soon I would be able to claim
praise for having mastered my contemplation and could
then obtain another directly from the lips of the Master.
Full of this assurance, I saw the Blessèd One depart
early next morning with many disciples — among these
naturally was Ānanda, who waited upon the Master and
was always with him. He had, in his gentle way, invariably
treated me with such special friendliness that I felt I should
miss him and his cheering glance greatly, even more than
I should the wise Sāriputra, who helped me over many a
knotty point of the Teaching by his keen analysis of all my
difficulties and his clear explanations. Now I would be left
to my own resources.
As soon as I had returned from my alms‐round and
had eaten my meal, I sought out a stately tree which stood
in the midst of a little forest meadow — the true original of
that "mighty tree far removed from the bustle of life," of
which it is said that people may profitably sit beneath,
absorbed in reflective meditation.
That I now did, and began earnestly upon my
sentence. When I returned to the meeting hall towards
evening, I brought with me, as the result of my day's
work, a feeling of dissatisfaction with myself and a dim
foreboding of what these few words might really come to
mean. But when I returned to my hut on the following
evening, at the close of my period of meditation, I already
knew exactly what the Master had in mind when he gave
me this phrase to investigate.
I had certainly believed I was on the straight path
to perfect peace, and that I had left my love with all its
passionate emotions far behind me. That incomparable
Master of the human heart, however, had seen that my
love was not by any means overcome — that on the
contrary, having been overawed by the mighty influence
of the new life I was leading, it had simply withdrawn into
the innermost recesses of my heart, there to bide its time.
And his desire, in directing my attention to it, was that I
should induce it to come forth from its lurking‐place and
so overcome it. And it certainly did come forth, and with
such power that I found myself at once in the midst of
severe, distracting conflicts of heart and became aware that
mine would be no easy victory.
It is true that the astonishing information that my
loved one had not been killed, and in all probability still
breathed the air of this earth with me, was now more than
half a year old. But when that knowledge rose so sud‐
denly within me, owing to the apparition on the terrace, it
was at once inundated by the stormy waves of feeling it
had stirred up and all but went down in its own vortex.
Passionate hate, longings for revenge and malignant
broodings succeeded one another in a veritable devil's
dance. Then came the transformation of Angulimāla, the
overwhelming impression made upon me by the Buddha,
the new life, and the dawn of another and utterly unsus‐
pected world whose elements were born of the apparent
destruction of all the elements of the old. Now, however,
the first impetuous onrush of the new feeling was over,
the great Master of this secret magic had disappeared from
my view, and I sat there alone, my gaze directed on love
— on my love. Again that marvellous revelation rose
clearly before me and a boundless longing for the distant
loved one, who still dwelt amongst the living, laid hold
upon my heart:— But did he really yet abide amongst the
living? And did he love me still?
The fearful anxiety and uncertainty of such ques‐
tions stimulated my longing yet further and, being
subdued by my love, I could make no progress with my
contemplation. I thought only of Love and never reached
Suffering, the Origin of Suffering and the Cessation of
These ever more hopeless soul‐struggles of mine
did not remain hidden from the other sisters and I heard,
of course, how they spoke of me: "Sister Vāsitthī, formerly
the wife of the Minister of State, whom even the stern
Sāriputra often praised for her quick and sure apprehen‐
sion of even the most difficult points of the Teaching, is
now unable to master her sentence, and it is so simple."
That discouraged me even more; shame and
despair laid hold upon my heart and at last I felt I could
bear this state of things no longer.
~ 42 ~
THE SICK NUN
AT THIS TIME one of the bhikkhus came over to
us once a week and expounded the Teaching.
After some time Angulimāla's turn came — I did
not go into the meeting hall on this occasion but remained
lying in my cell, and begged a neighbouring sister to say
"Venerable Sir, Sister Vāsitthī lies sick in her hut
and cannot appear in the assembly. Will you, after the
meeting, go to her and expound the Dharma also?" And I
should add that this pretext of sickness was not entirely
untrue: the emotional torments which I had been experi‐
encing had also taken their toll on my body and I was
regularly faint and feverish during these weeks.
So, after his talk to the nuns, the good Angulimāla
and a companion came to my hut, greeted me deferen‐
tially and sat down by my bed.
"You see here, brother," I said then, "what none of
us would desire to see — a love‐sick nun — and you
yourself are the cause of my sickness, seeing that it was
you that robbed me of the object of my love. True, you
have since brought me to this great physician who heals
all life's ills, but now even his marvellous powers cannot
help me. In his great wisdom he has recognised this and
has given me a remedy to bring the fever to a crisis, and so
to get rid of the insidious germ of disease at present in my
"As a result, then, you see me at this moment with a
fever of longing raging within. So I wish to remind you of
a promise you once made to me — on that night, I mean,
on which you sought to lead me into crime, the execution
of which was only frustrated by the intervention of the
"At that time you promised to go to Ujjenī and
bring me certain news of Kāmanīta: whether he still lived,
and how he was. What the robber once promised, that I
now demand from the monk. For my desire to know
whether Kāmanīta lives, and how he lives, is such an
overpowering one that, until it is gratified, there is no
room in my heart for any other thought, any other feeling,
and it is consequently impossible for me to take even the
smallest step further forward on this, our way to enlighten‐
ment. For this reason it becomes your duty to do this for
me, and to quiet my feelings by bringing me some definite
After I had spoken thus, Angulimāla rose, and said:
"It will be just as you require from me, Sister Vāsitthī."
As he spoke I was unsure if his sense of duty was
also coloured with a feeling of criticism for myself, and for
my weakness of spirit. However, he bowed low and,
together with the bhikkhu who was his chaperone, he left
my hut and disappeared into the darkness of the forest.
The young nun who was my nurse cast her eyes to
the floor and fanned me slowly — I lay back in silence,
alone with my thoughts, feeling the sweat of the night
upon my skin.
* * *
Angulimāla went straight to his hut to get his alms‐
bowl and in that same hour left the Simsapā wood. People
generally believed that he had simply gone on a pilgrim‐
age, following the Master. I alone knew the true goal of
This step once taken, I felt myself grow somewhat
calmer, although haunted by a doubt as to whether I
should not have given him some greeting or messages for
my belovèd. But it seemed to me unfitting and profane to
use a monk in such a way — as a go‐between — while, on
the other hand, he could perfectly well go to a distant city
and give an account of what he had seen there. It would
also be something quite other — I said to myself with
secret hope — if he, acting on his own judgement and
without being commissioned to do so, should decide to
speak of me to my loved one.
"I will myself go to Ujjenī and bring him here safe
and sound" — these words resounded ever in my inner‐
most heart. Would the monk be likely, then to redeem the
promise of the robber? Why not, if he himself were con‐
vinced that it was necessary for both of us to see and to
speak with one another?
And with that came a new thought from which
streamed an unexpected ray of hope that at first dazzled
and then bewildered me:— If my belovèd should return,
what was then to hinder my leaving the Order and becom‐
ing his wife?
When this question arose in my mind burning
blushes covered my face, which I involuntarily hid in my
hands from fear that someone might just at that moment
be observing me and know my thoughts. What a hateful
misinterpretation such a course of action would be ex‐
posed to! Would it not look as though I had regarded the
Order of the Buddha simply as a bridge over which to
pass from a loveless marriage to one of romantic
fulfilment? My action would certainly be construed thus
by many. But, when all was said and done, what could
the judgement of others matter to me? And how much
better to be a devoted lay sister who stood loyally by the
Sangha, than a sister of the Order whose heart lingered
elsewhere. Yes, even if Angulimāla only brought me the
information that my Kāmanīta was still alive, and I could
gather from the account of their meeting that my loved
one was still true to me in the faithfulness of his heart,
then I would be able to make the journey to Ujjenī
myself. And I pictured how I would one morning, with
my shaven head and my robes, stand at the door of your
house — how you would fill my alms‐bowl with your
own hands and in so doing would recognise me — and
then all the indescribable joy of having found one
To be sure, it was a long journey to Ujjenī, and it
was not seemly for a nun to travel alone. But I did not
need to seek long for a companion. Just at this time
Somadatta came to a sad end.
His passion for the fatal dice had gradually enslaved
him and, after gambling away all his wealth, he had
drowned himself in the Gangā. Medinī, deeply distressed
by her loss, now entered the Sangha too. It was perhaps
not so much the religious life itself that drew her irresist‐
ibly to this sacred grove, as the need she felt to be always
in my neighbourhood; for her childlike heart clung with
touching fidelity to me. And so I did not doubt that when I
revealed my purpose to her, she would go with me to
Ujjenī — yes, if need be, to the end of the world. Already
her company was helping in many ways to rouse my
spirits; and I, by offering comforting words, softened her
genuine grief for the loss of her husband.
As the time approached when Angulimāla's return
might be expected, I went every afternoon to the south‐
west edge of the wood and sat down under a beautiful
tree on some rising ground, from which I could follow to a
great distance with my eye the road he would be obliged
to take. I imagined he would reach the goal of his journey
I kept watch there for some days in vain, but was
quite prepared to wait for a whole month. On the eighth
day, however, when the sun was already so low that I had
to shade my eyes with my hand, I became aware of a form
in the distance approaching the wood.
I presently saw the gleam of a golden robe and, as
the figure passed a woodcutter going homeward, it was
easy to see that it belonged to a man of unusual stature. It
was indeed Angulimāla — alone. My Kāmanīta he had not
"brought with him safe and sound"; but what did that
matter? If he could only give me the assurance that my
loved one was still alive, then I would myself find the way
We met in the courtyard near the gateway to the
bhikkhunīs' section; other sisters were passing to and fro
and I was embarrassed that they might divine the reason
for our meeting.
My heart beat violently when Angulimāla finally
stood before me and greeted me with courteous grace.
"Kāmanīta lives in his native town in great opu‐
lence," he said; "I have myself seen and spoken to him."
And he related how he had one morning arrived at
your house, which was a veritable palace; how your wives
had grossly abused him and how you yourself then came
out and drove them back inside, speaking to him in
friendly and apologetic words.
After he had related everything exactly — just as
you know it — he bowed before me, threw his robe again
about his shoulders and turned round, as though he
intended to proceed in the direction he had come from
instead of going into the monks' part of the forest. Much
astonished, I asked whether he were not going to go to
the great hall.
"I have now faithfully carried out your request,
Sister, and there is no longer anything to prevent my
making my way to the east, in the tracks of the Master —
towards Benares and Rājagaha where I hope to find him."
Even as he spoke, this powerful man started off
with his long easy strides along the edge of the wood,
without granting himself even the smallest rest.
I gazed after him long, and saw how the setting
sun threw his shadow far in front to the crest of the hill on
the horizon — yes, to all appearances even farther, as
though his longing outran him in its vehemence, while I
remained behind like one paralysed, without a goal for my
longing to which I could send even one precious hope.
My heart was dead, my dream dispelled.
The sobering ascetic utterance — "A crowded,
dusty corner is domestic life" — echoed again and again
through my desolate heart. On that splendid Terrace of the
Sorrowless, under the open, star‐filled and moonlit
heaven, my love had had its home.
How could I, fool, ever have thought to send it
begging to that sluttish domesticity in Ujjenī — to be wife
and problem number three in that already tormented
house — and in order that quarrelsome women might
attack it with their invective?
I crawled back to my hut with difficulty, to stretch
myself on a sick‐bed again. This sudden annihilation of
my feverishly excited hopes was too much for my powers
of resistance, already weakened by months of inner strife.
With matchless self‐sacrifice, Medinī now nursed me day
and night. But as soon as my spirit, buoyed up by her
tender care, was able to raise itself above the pain and
inflammation of the fever, the plans I had formed for my
journey developed in another direction.
I wanted to make my pilgrimage: not to the place
where I had sent Angulimāla, however, but to the place
where he now journeyed. I would follow in the footsteps
of the Master until I overtook him. Was I not done with my
sentence? Had I not learned in the deepest sense that
when love comes, suffering also comes?
And so I might, I thought, seek the Buddha again
and gain new life from the power of the Holy One in
order to be able to press farther forward to the highest
I confided my intention to the good Medinī, who at
once adopted the unexpected suggestion with wild enthu‐
siasm and painted, in her childish fantasy, how splendid it
would be to roam through exquisite regions, free as the
birds of the air when the migratory season calls them to
other and far‐distant skies.
Of course, for the first thing, we were obliged to
wait patiently until I had regained sufficient strength. And,
just as that was accomplished to some extent, the rainy
season began and imposed for our patience a still longer
In his last discourse the Master had spoken thus:
"Just as when in the last month of the rainy season, at
harvest, the sun, after dispersing and banishing the water‐
laden clouds, goes up into the sky and by its radiance
frightens all the mists away from the atmosphere and
blazes and shines, so also, disciples, does this mode of life
shine forth, it brings good in the present as well as in the
future; it blazes and shines, and by its radiance it frightens
away the fussing of common samanas and brahmins."
And when Mother Nature had made this picture a
reality round about us, we left the Krishna grove at the
gates of Kosambī and, turning our steps eastward, hurried
towards that sun of all the living.
~ 43 ~
THE PASSING OF THE TATHĀGATA
MY LACK OF STRENGTH did not allow us to
undertake long daily journeys and made it necessary
sometimes to take a day for rest, so it took us a whole
month to reach Vesāli. We knew that the Master had
made a lengthy stay there, but he had been gone now
for about six weeks.
* * *
We had learned a short time before, in a village in
which lived many faithful followers of the Blessèd One,
that the Venerables Sāriputra and Moggallāna had passed
away. The thought moved me deeply that these two great
disciples — the Generals of the Dharma as we named
them — no longer dwelt on earth. Of course we all knew
well that these great ones, as even the Buddha himself,
were merely human beings just as we, but the idea that
they could leave us had never been allowed to arise in our
minds. Sāriputra, who had so often in his deliberate way
solved difficult questions for me, had passed away. He
was the disciple most like the Master in wisdom, and he
stood, as did the Master, in his eightieth year. Was it
possible that even the Buddha himself could be approach‐
ing the end of his life on earth?
Perhaps the uneasiness which was caused by this
fear fanned some smouldering remnant of my past fever
again into a blaze. Be that as it may, I arrived in Vesāli sick
and exhausted. In the town there lived a rich woman, a
follower of the Buddha, who made it her special care to
minister in every possible way to the needs of the monks
and nuns passing through. When she learned that a sick
nun had arrived she at once sought me out, brought
Medinī and myself to her house, and tended me there with
Moved by her kindness, I soon gave expression to
the fear that was troubling me, and asked whether she
thought it possible that the Master, who was of the same
age as Sāriputra, would also soon leave us.
At that she burst into a flood of tears and, in a
voice broken by sobs, exclaimed:
"Then you don't know yet? Here, in Vesāli —
about two months ago — the Master himself foretold that
he would enter Final Nirvāna in three months' time. And
just to think! If only Ānanda had possessed understanding
enough and had spoken at the right moment, it would
never have taken place and the Buddha would have lived
on to the end of the æon!"
I asked what the good Ānanda had had to do with
it, and in what way he had deserved such blame.
"In this way," answered the woman, "one day the
Master went with Ānanda outside of the town, to meditate
in the neighbourhood of the Cāpāla temple. In the course
of their conversation the Master told Ānanda that whoso‐
ever had developed the spiritual powers within himself to
perfection could, if he so desired, remain alive through a
whole æon. Oh, that simpleton Ānanda, that he didn't at
once, even with this plain hint, say — 'Please Lord, remain
alive throughout this æon for the blessing, the welfare
and the happiness of the manyfolk'! His heart must have
been possessed by Māra, the Evil One, seeing that he only
proffered his request when it was too late."
"But how could it be too late," I asked, "seeing that
the Master is still alive?"
"Forty‐five years ago, when the Master had awakened
to Buddhahood in Uruvelā, and was enjoying the possession
of a sacred calm of spirit after his six years of fruitless
ascetic practices, he sat in meditation under the Nigrodha
tree of the goat‐herds, and there Māra, the Evil One, drew
near to him, very much disturbed on account of the danger
that threatened his kingdom in the person of the
"In the hope of hindering the spread of the
Dharma, he said: 'Lord! The time has come for the Blessèd
One to enter into Final Nirvāna.' But the Buddha answered
— 'Evil One, I will not enter Final Nirvāna until I have
monks, nuns and lay‐disciples who are accomplished,
trained, skilled, learned, knowers of the Dharma, correctly
trained and walking in the path of the Dharma, who will
pass on what they have learned from their Teacher, teach
it, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it and make it
clear; until they shall be able by means of the Dharma to
refute false teachings that have arisen, and teach the
Dharma of wondrous effect. I shall only enter into Final
Nirvāna, Evil One, when the Kingdom of Truth stands on
firm foundations: when this holy life has been successfully
established and flourishes, is widespread, well‐known far
and wide, and well‐proclaimed amongst humanity every‐
"But after the Master had spoken thus to Ānanda
— and, without his comprehending the hint, he had gone
away — then Māra, the Evil One, approached the Master
and said to him — 'Lord! The time has at last come for the
Master to enter into Final Nirvāna. All that the Master
formerly spoke of under the Nigrodha tree of the goat‐
herds at Uruvelā, as necessary for his entering Final
Nirvāna, has now been fulfilled. The Kingdom of Truth
rests on sure foundations. I trust that the Master will now
enter into Final Nirvāna.' Then the Buddha answered
Māra, the Evil One, thus: 'Fear not, Evil One. The
Tathāgata's final passing will soon take place. Three
months from now the Tathāgata will enter into Final
Nirvāna.' At these words there rolled great peals of thun‐
der, and the earth trembled and shook violently, as you
will probably have noticed."
As a matter of fact, we had felt a slight earthquake
in Kosambī about a month before I left the sacred grove,
and this I now told her.
"You see!" exclaimed the woman excitedly, "it has
been felt everywhere. The whole earth shook and the
drums of the gods emitted groans as the Blessèd One
waived his claim to longer life. Ah! if that simple‐minded
Ānanda had only understood the hint so plainly given to
him! For when, wakened by the earthquake from his self‐
absorption, he came back to the Master and begged that
he would consent to remain alive for the rest of this æon,
the Master had of course already given his word to Māra
and had renounced his claim to longer life."
I could no longer bear to remain patiently under
her hospitable roof as I realised I had to reach the Buddha
before he should leave us. It had always been our one
great comfort: that we were able to turn to him, the inex‐
haustible Source of Truth. He alone could solve all the
doubts of my troubled heart; only he, of all the world, was
able to restore to me the peace which I had once tasted.
So, when ten days had passed and my strength
made travelling possible to some extent, we started out.
My good hostess' conscience troubled her for allowing me
to go farther in my weak condition, so I comforted her
with the promise that I would lay a greeting from her at
the feet of the Master.
We now continued our journey in a north‐westerly
direction, in the Master's footsteps, which we found the
more recent the farther we were able to advance, aided by
the information gathered from place to place.
In Ambagāma it was said that he been there just
eight days earlier.
In the Sāla grove of Bhoganagara we heard that he
had left to go to Pāvā, a mere three days before we arrived
In the heat of late morning, and very tired, we
reached the latter place.
The first house that attracted our attention belonged
to a coppersmith, as could be seen from the great
variety of metal wares ranged along the wall. But no blow
of a hammer resounded from it; the occupants seemed to
be having a holiday and at the well in the courtyard dishes
and platters were being washed by the servants as though
a marriage had just taken place.
Suddenly a little man in festive garb came forward
and begged courteously to be allowed to fill our almsbowls.
"If you had come a few hours earlier," he added,
"then I should have had two additional welcome and
honoured guests, for your Master, the Buddha, with his
monks, dined with me today."
"So the Master is still here in Pāvā, then?"
"Not any longer, most honoured sister," answered
the coppersmith. "Immediately after the meal the Blessèd
One was taken with a violent illness and severe pains,
which brought him near to fainting, so that we were all
greatly frightened. But he rallied from the attack and
started for Kusinārā about an hour ago."
I would have preferred to go at once, for what the
smith said about this attack caused me to anticipate the
worst. But it was a necessity to strengthen ourselves not
only with food, but by a short interval of rest as well.
The road from Pāvā to Kusinārā was not possible
through tiger‐grass and undergrowth, ever deeper into the
jungle. We waded through a little river and refreshed
ourselves somewhat by bathing. After a few minutes'
pause we started on again. Evening was approaching,
however, and it was with difficulty that I managed to drag
Medinī tried to persuade me to spend the night on
a little bit of rising ground under a tree:— There was no
such great hurry.
"This Kusinārā is, I expect, not much more than a
village, and seems to be quite buried in the jungle. How
could you imagine that the Master would die here? Surely
he will pass away some time hence in the Jetavana at
Sāvatthi, or in either one of the great monasteries at
Rājagaha; but the life of the Master will certainly not go
out in this wilderness. Who has ever heard of Kusinārā?"
"It may be that people will hear of Kusinārā from
this day forward," I said, and went on.
But my strength was soon so terribly exhausted
that I was forced to bring myself to climb the nearest tree‐
less height in the hope of being able to see the neighbour‐
hood of Kusinārā from it. If we couldn't find the village we
would be obliged to spend the night up there, where we
would be less exposed to the attacks of beasts of prey and
snakes, and would also be, to a certain extent, immune
from such fever‐producing vapours as seem to lurk in the
lower reaches of the wildwood.
Arriving at the summit we looked in vain for some
sign of human dwellings. In seemingly endless succession
the slopes of the jungle rose before us, like a carpet that is
gradually being drawn upward. Soon, however, tall trees
to miss. It soon led us away from the cultivated fields,
emerged from the low undergrowth as the swathes of mist
dissolved — the thick leafy masses of a virgin forest rose
dome‐like one above another, and in a dark glade foamed
an unruly brook, the same stream in whose silently flowing
waters we had bathed a short time before.
The whole day through, the air had been sultry
and the sky overcast. Here, however, we were met by a
fresh breeze and the landscape grew ever clearer as
though one veil after another were being lifted before our
Huge walls of rock towered skyward above the
woods; and higher yet, like a roof above them were piled
green mountain‐tops — forest‐clad peaks they must have
been, though they looked like so many mossy cushions —
and ever higher, until they seemed to disappear into the
One solitary far‐stretching cloud of soft red hue —
one, and one only — floated above.
Even as we gazed at it this cloud began to glow
strangely. It reminded me of the past when I had seen my
father take a piece of purified gold out of the furnace with
pincers and, after cooling, lay it on a background of light‐
blue silk, for so did this luminous air‐picture now shine
forth in sharply defined surfaces of burnished gold. In
between, vaporous strips of bright green deepened and
shot downward in fan‐shaped patches until, becoming
gradually paler, they plunged into the colourless stratum
of air beneath, as though desirous of reaching the verdure‐
clad mountain‐tops that lay below. Ever redder grew the
golden surfaces, ever greener the shadows.
That was no cloud.
"The Himalaya," whispered Medinī, overawed and
deeply moved as her hand tremblingly sought my arm.
Yes, there it rose before us: the mountain of moun‐
tains, the place of eternal snows, the abode of the gods,
the resting place of the holy ones! The Himalaya — even
in childhood this name had filled me with feelings of deep
fear and reverence, with a mysterious prescience of the
How often had I heard in legends and tales the
sentence — "And he betook himself to the Himalaya and
lived the life of an ascetic there." Thousands upon thou‐
sands had climbed those heights — seekers after liber‐
ation — in order to reach eternal happiness amid the
loneliness of the mountains by means of profound auster‐
ities — each with their own special delusion; and now He
was approaching — the One Being among them free from
all delusions — He whose footsteps we were following
As I stood there, lost in thought, the luminous
picture was suddenly extinguished, as though heaven had
finally absorbed it into itself. I felt myself, however, so
wonderfully animated and strengthened by the sight that I
no longer thought of rest.
* * *
"Even if the Master," I said to Medinī, "were to go
to yonder summit in order to pass from that peak into the
highest of the regions above, I would still follow and
And, full of courage, I walked on. We had not,
however, been half an hour on the way when suddenly
the undergrowth ceased and cultivated land lay before us.
It was already quite dark and the full moon rose large and
glowing above the wood which lay opposite when at last
we reached Kusinārā.
It was indeed not much more than a small village
of the Mallā people with walls and houses built of wattle
and daub. My first impression was that a devastating
sickness must have depopulated the little township. At the
doors of several houses there sat a number of old and sick
people, who all looked very sad and some of whom
We asked them what had happened.
"Soon, all too soon, the Master dies," they ex‐
claimed, wringing their hands. "This very hour, the light of
the world will be extinguished. The Mallās have all gone
to the Sāla grove to see and worship the Sublime One.
For, shortly before sunset, the Venerable Ānanda came
into our town and went to the market where the Mallās
were having a council meeting and said — 'This very day,
people of Mallā, before the hour of midnight the Blessèd
One will enter Final Nirvāna. See that you do not later
have to reproach yourselves, saying — "In our town a
Buddha passed away and we did not take advantage of
the opportunity to see him in his last hours."' Upon which
all of the Mallās, husbands, wives and children, went out
to the Sāla grove. Many of the agèd and weak were carried
by friends and family but there were not enough people to
help us all, therefore we are obliged to remain behind
here and cannot pay respects to the Master in his final
We immediately had the way from the town to the
Sāla grove pointed out to us but, finding it already filled
with crowds of returning people, we preferred to hurry
across the fields, towards a corner of the little wood.
As we reached it we saw a monk leaning against
the door‐post of a small lodging, weeping and lamenting.
Deeply affected, I stopped and at that instant he raised his
face towards the sky. The light of the full moon fell upon
his pain‐filled lineaments, and I recognised the noble
"Then I have arrived too late — oh no!" I said to
myself, and felt my strength leaving me.
Just then, however, I heard rustling in the bushes,
and saw a tall monk step forward and lay his hand upon
"Brother Ānanda, the Master calls for you."
So I really was to see the Buddha in his last moments
after all! At once my strength returned and rendered
me capable of following.
That instant Angulimāla observed and recognised
us. Reading his troubled glance, I said: "Have no fear,
brother, that we shall disturb the last moments of the
Tathāgata by loud weeping and emotion‐filled cries. We
have taken no rest on the way from Vesāli to here in order
that we might see the Master once again. Do not refuse us
admission to him; we will be strong."
Upon this he signed to us to follow them.
We did not have far to go. In a little glade of the
forest there were perhaps two hundred monks collected,
sitting silently in semicircles. In their midst rose two Sāla
trees — one splendid mass of white blossoms, even though
it was not their flowering season — and beneath them,
on a bed of golden robes spread out between the two trunks,
the Tathāgata rested on his right side in the lion's posture,
his head supported on his right arm. And the blossoms
rained softly down upon him.
Behind him I saw in spirit the pinnacles of the
Himalaya rise, clad in their eternal snows, illuminated by
the bright moon and yet veiled in the darkness of night,
and I seemed to catch again the dreamlike glimpse I had
just enjoyed, and to which I owed it that I now stood here
in the presence of the Blessèd One. And the unearthly
glow which had come to me with such a greeting across
the distances flashed towards me again, in spiritual glorifi‐
cation, from His face. Just the same as those floating
cloud‐like peaks, the Master also appeared not to belong
to this earth at all; and yet he had, like them, climbed up
from this same earth‐level to those immeasurable spiritual
heights whence he was about to disappear from the sight
of gods and humans.
He spoke first of all to Ānanda, who now stood
"I know well, Ānanda, that you were weeping in
lonely grief and that your thought was — 'I am not yet
free from delusion; I have not yet reached the Goal, and
the Master is about to enter into Final Nirvāna — he who
has had such kindness for me.' Put such thoughts from
yourself, Ānanda — neither complain, nor lament. Have I
not told you already, Ānanda, that all things that are
pleasant and delightful are changeable, subject to separa‐
tion and becoming other? How is it possible, Ānanda —
since whatever is born, become, and compounded is
subject to decay — how could it be that it should not pass
away? For a long time, Ānanda, you have been in the
Tathāgata's presence, showing loving‐kindness in body,
speech and mind, with your whole heart, gladly, blessèdly
and without guile. You have done well, Ānanda, make the
effort, and in a short time you will be free from desire,
from selfishness and from delusion."
As if to show that he was no longer allowing grief
to overcome him, Ānanda, commanding his voice by sheer
force of will, now asked what the disciples were to do
with the Master's mortal remains.
"Don't let that trouble you, Ānanda," answered the
Buddha. "There are wise and faithful disciples among the
warrior nobles, among the brahmins and among the heads
of families — they will pay the last honours to the mortal
remains of the Tathāgata. You have more important things
to do; think of the Immortal, not of the mortal; speed
forwards, don't look back."
And as he let his glance wander around the circle
and he looked at each one individually, he added:
"It may be, disciples, that your thought is — 'The
world has lost its Master; we no longer have a Master.' But
you are not to think this. The Dharma and Discipline
which I have taught you, that will be your Master when I
am gone. Therefore cling to no external support. Hold fast
to the Dharma as your island, your support. Be your own
light, be your own island."
* * *
He also noticed me then — and the look the All‐
Compassionate One rested upon me was tender and full
of kindness, and I felt my pilgrimage had not been in vain.
After a short time he spoke again: "It might per‐
haps be, disciples, that in some one of you a doubt arises
with regards to the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha, or
about the path or the practice. Ask freely, disciples! Do not
afterwards feel remorse, thinking — 'The Teacher was
with us, face to face, and we did not ask him.'"
Thus he spoke, and gave to every one the oppor‐
tunity of speaking, but all remained silent.
How, indeed, could a doubt have remained in the
presence of the departing Master? Lying there, with the
gentle light of the full moon flowing over him — as
though the devas of heaven were bestowing on him a final
benediction; rained upon by the falling blossoms — as
though they were the tears of Mother Earth herself, be‐
wailing the loss of her most precious child; in the midst of
the range of deep feelings of his band of disciples, himself
unmoved, quiet, cheerful; who did not feel that this Holy
One had for ever cast off all limitations, had overcome all
We clearly saw before us the serenity of what is
called The Visible Nirvāna, in the radiant features of the
Ānanda, stirred to the very depths of his being,
raised his hands with palms together, and said: "How truly
wonderful it is, Master, that in this assembly, there is not
even a single one in whom a doubt exists."
And the Sublime One answered him: "You have
spoken out of the fullness of your faith, Ānanda. But I
know indeed that there is not a single doubt in anyone
here. Even the most backward in this assembly has en‐
tered the stream of enlightenment and will certainly reach
the final Goal."
As he uttered this affirmation, it assuredly seemed
to each one of us as though the Gateway to the Timeless
were opening inexorably before us.
Once again the lips parted that had given to the
world the highest — the final — Truth.
"Now, disciples, I declare to you:
Appamādena sampādetha —
"All created things are of the nature to pass away
— mindfully fare onwards to the Goal."
These were the last words of the Master.
~ 44 ~
AND THEY WERE the last I heard on earth.
My life‐force was exhausted; fever held my senses
figures round about me — Medinī's face often near to
mine. Then everything became dark.
Suddenly, it seemed as if a cool bath were extin‐
guishing my burning fever. I felt as a traveller standing on
the brink of a pond in the blazing sun may well imagine
the lotus feels when, wholly submerged in the cool water
of the spring, it imbibes a refreshing draught through
every fibre. At the same time it became light overhead, and
I saw there above me a great floating red lotus flower and
over its edge bent your belovèd face. Then I ascended
without effort and awoke beside you in the Paradise of the
"And blessings on you," said Kāmanīta, "that, led by
your love, you followed that path. Where would I be now
if you had not joined me there? True, I don't know
whether we shall be able to escape from the terrible
wreckage of these ruined worlds — nevertheless, you
inspire me with confidence for you seem to be as little
disturbed by these horrors as the sunbeam by the storm."
"One who has seen the greater, my friend, is not
in a thrall. Like fleeting dream‐pictures I still saw the
moved by the less. And this — that thousands upon thou‐
sands of worlds should pass away — is of trifling signifi‐
cance compared with the entering into Final Nirvāna of a
Perfect Buddha. For all this that we see around us is only a
process of change, and all these beings will enter again
into existence. Yonder Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā
who, burning with rage, resists the inevitable and in all
probability regards even us enviously because we quietly
continue to shine, he will reappear on some lower plane
while some other aspiring spirit will arise as the Great
Brahmā. All beings will appear where the deepest desire of
their hearts and the tides of their karma guides them. On the
whole, however, everything will be as it was — neither
better nor worse — because it will be created, as it were,
out of the same material. For this reason I call this a very
small matter. And, for the same reason, I consider it not
only not terrible, but actually a matter of rejoicing to live
through this wrecking of worlds. For if this Brahmā world
were eternal, there would be nothing higher."
"Then you know of something higher than this
"This Brahmā world, as you see, passes away. But
there is that which does not pass, which shall have no end
and which has had no beginning. 'There is,' said the
Master, 'a realm where there is neither earth nor water,
neither light nor air, neither infinitude of space nor infini‐
tude of consciousness, neither perception nor the lack of
perception; where there is neither this world nor another
world, or moon or sun; and this I call neither a coming nor
a going, nor a staying, neither a dying nor a birth; it has no
basis, no evolution and no support; it is the end of suffer‐
ing, the place of rest, the island of peace, the invisible
"Help me, sweet and holy one, in order that we
may rise again together there, in the land of peace!"
"'That we shall rise again there,' the Master has
said, 'cannot truly be said of that realm,' and — 'That we
shall not rise again there, that is also not true.' Any appel‐
lation by which you make anything tangible and capable
of being grasped, is untrue in this respect."
"But what is the value to me of that which I cannot
"Rather ask — is that which can be grasped, worth
stretching out one's hand for?"
"Oh, Vāsitthī, truly I believe I must have murdered
a brahmin at some time, or committed some horrible crime
that pursued me so cruelly with its retribution in that little
street in Rājagaha. For if I had not been so suddenly thrust
out of life there I would have sat at the Master's feet, and
would also assuredly have been present, as you were, at
his Final Nirvāna and now I would be as you are.
"Vāsitthī — while thought and perception are still
ours, please do just one thing for love of me: describe the
Blessèd One to me exactly, so that I may see him in spirit
and thereby maybe obtain what was not possible for me
on earth. That will surely bring me some peace."
"Gladly, my friend," she answered. And she de‐
scribed to him the appearance of the Buddha, feature by
feature, not forgetting even the smallest detail.
But in a tone of deep discontentment, Kāmanīta
said: "What use are descriptions! All of what you say now
could just as well have been said of that old ascetic, the
one I told you that I spent the night with in the hall of the
potter in Rājagaha, and who I now realise was not quite so
foolish as I had believed, for he indeed said much that
"Well then, Vāsitthī, don't tell me anything more,
but visualise the Tathāgata until you see him as when you
saw him face to face, and it may be that in consequence of
our spiritual fellowship I shall then share your vision."
"Gladly, my friend."
And Vāsitthī recalled the image of the Master as he
was about to enter into Final Nirvāna.
"Do you see him, dear friend?"
"Not yet, Vāsitthī."
"I must make this mind‐picture more tangible,"
And she looked around her in the immeasurable
spaces where the Brahmā world was in process of being
And just as when some great master‐founder, who
has completed the mould of the glorious image of a god
and finds that he hasn't enough metal to fill it, looks
around in his foundry and throws all that lies around him
there — tiny images of gods, figures, vases, and bowls, all
his possessions, the work of his life — gladly and heartily
into the smelting furnace in order that he may be able to
make a perfect cast of this one glorious divine image, so
did Vāsitthī look around herself in immeasurable space,
and all that there was left over of the paling light and
dissolving forms of this Brahmā world she drew by her
spiritual force to herself, thereby emptying the whole of
the cosmos. She cast into the mould of her mind‐picture
this whole mass of astral matter, thus creating a colossal
and radiant image of the Buddha, just as he was about to
enter into Final Nirvāna.
And when she saw this picture opposite her there
arose in her no longing and no sadness.
Even when the great and holy Upagupta, by the
magic art of Māra, the Evil One, saw the form of the
Buddha long after the Blessèd One had passed away,
even he was so filled with longing that he flung himself
adoring at the feet of the deceptive apparition and, over‐
come by grief, wailed — "Damn this pitiless transiency
that dissolves even such glorious forms. For that splendid
body of the Great and Holy One bowed to the law of
change and it too has become a prey to destruction."
But not so Vāsitthī.
Unmoved and self‐possessed, she looked upon the
likeness as an artist upon her work, full of but one thought
— to reveal it to Kāmanīta.
"Now I begin to see a figure," said the latter. "Hold
it fast, make it shine more clearly."
Whereupon Vāsitthī again looked around herself in
space. In the midst of it, despite the fact that the great entity
had expired, there still remained the lurid and angry glow
of the giant star of the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā.
And Vāsitthī rent by her spiritual force the spent
astral body of this highest deity from its place and cast it
into the mould of the Buddha likeness, which was imme‐
diately illuminated and vivified, like one who has enjoyed
an invigorating draught.
"Now I see it more distinctly," said Kāmanīta.
And all became still.
Then it seemed to Vāsitthī as though she heard a
clear and golden voice, but she was unsure as to whether
it emanated from the image before her or from the depths
of her innermost heart.
"So you are here, Vāsitthī. Are you finished with
And as one answers in a dream, she responded: "I
am finished with it."
"Even so, Vāsitthī. And the long way has not tired
you? Do you still need the help of the Tathāgata?"
"No, I no longer need the help of the Tathāgata."
"Even so, Vāsitthī. You have sought refuge in
yourself; and do you rest in your self, Vāsitthī?"
"I have learned to know myself. As one unfurls the
sheaf of leaves that make up the trunk of a plantain and
one finds beneath it no sound wood from which anything
firm can be made, so I have learned to know myself: a
body and a mind of changing forms in which there is
nothing eternal, nothing that offers permanence. And so
this 'self' of mine is given up — 'This is not me, this does
not belong to me, this is not my self' is the judgement now
passed upon the question."
"Even so, Vāsitthī. So now you cling firmly only to
"The Teaching has brought me to the Goal. As one
crossing a stream by means of a raft, neither clings to the
raft when she has reached the farther side, nor drags it
along with her, so I no longer cling to the Dharma but let
"Even so, Vāsitthī. Thus, clinging to nothing,
attached to nothing, you will rise again in the Place of
"'That we shall rise again there,' the Tathāgata has
said, is not true of that place, and 'That we shall not rise
again there,' is also not true. And even the teaching that —
'Neither is it true to say that we shall rise again nor yet to
say that we shall not rise again' — even this itself is not
perfectly true. No thing is true any longer — and, least of
all, is nothingness true. Thus there is perfect understand‐
ing at last."
Then, on the face of the Buddha likeness, there
appeared a glowing, scarce‐perceptible smile.
"Now I am able to see the face," said Kāmanīta.
"Like a reflection in flowing water I recognise it vaguely.
Hold it fast — steady it, Vāsitthī."
Vāsitthī looked around her in space.
Space was empty.
Then Vāsitthī flung her own corporeal substance
into the astral mass of the vision.
As Kāmanīta observed that Vāsitthī had suddenly
disappeared, a searing wave of grief shook him to the core
of his being. His heart froze — his senses became stupefied
and numb — but, strangely enough, soon the feeling
passed. For, as one who is dying leaves a legacy, so had
Vāsitthī left to Kāmanīta the Buddha likeness. This alone
remained with him in all of space, and now he clearly
"That old wanderer with whom I spent the night in
Rājagaha and whom I blamed for his foolishness, that was
the Blessèd One! Oh fool that I was! Was there ever a
greater idiot than I?! What I have been longing for as the
highest happiness, as fulfilment itself, that I have already
been in possession of for billions and billions of years."
Then the vision of the Buddha drew near like an
on‐coming cloud and enveloped him in a radiant mist.
~ 45 ~
NIGHT AND MORNING IN THE SPHERES
AS IN A BANQUET HALL, when all the torches and
lamps are extinguished, and one little lamp is left
burning before a sacred picture in a corner, so
Kāmanīta was left behind — alone, in universal night.
* * *
For just as his body was enfolded by the astral
substance of that Buddha likeness, so his being was
completely absorbed by the recollection of the Buddhaʹs
presence; and that was the oil which fed the flame of this
The whole conversation he had had with the
Master in the outer hall of the potterʹs house in Rājagaha
rose up before him from beginning to end, sentence by
sentence, word by word. But after he had gone quite
through it, he began again at the beginning. And every
sentence was to him like a gate that stood at the head of
the way to new avenues of thought which, in their turn,
led to others. And he explored them all with measured
steps, and there was nothing which remained dark to him.
And while his spirit, in such fashion, wove the
recollection of the Buddha into its own fabric until its last
strand was exhausted, his body absorbed ever more of the
astral matter which surrounded it, until what remained at
last became transparent. And the darkness of universal
night began to appear as a delicate blue that became ever
* * *
Whereupon Kāmanīta thought: "Out there reigns
the vast darkness of universal night. But a time will come
when morning shall dawn and a new Brahmā world will
come into existence. If my thoughts and acts were to be
directed towards becoming the new Hundred‐thousand‐
fold Brahmā, who would call the new world into exist‐
ence, I do not see who could outrival me. For while all the
beings of this Brahmā world have sunk into helplessness
and non‐existence, I alone am here at my post, watchful,
and in full possession of my faculties. Yes, if I so wished I
could summon all those beings into life at this instant and
begin the new universal day. But one thing I cannot do —
I can never again call Vāsitthī into being.
"Vāsitthī has gone.
"She has gone, into that passing away which
leaves no seed of existence behind; neither God nor Brahmā,
nor Māra the Evil One can find her. But what can life be to me
without Vāsitthī, who was its fairest and its best? And what
could a Brahmā existence be to me, a life beyond which
one is able to pass? And why trouble with the temporal,
when there is an Eternal?
"'There is an Eternal and a way to the Eternal.'
"An old forest brahmin once taught me that round
about the heart are spun a hundred fine arteries, by means
of which the consciousness is able to range throughout the
whole body; but there is, however, only one which leads
to the crown of the head — that one by which the con‐
sciousness leaves the body. So too there are a hundred,
yes, a thousand, a hundred thousand ways which lead
here and there in this world, through many scenes of
happiness and suffering, both where the lifespan is of long
and where it is of short duration, where all is beautiful and
where all is miserable, through divine and human worlds,
through animal kingdoms and under‐worlds. But there is
only one which leads absolutely out of this universe. That
is the way to the Eternal, the way to the untraversed land.
I am now on that road. Well then, I shall tread it to its
And he continued to dwell on the thought of the
Buddha, and of the way which leads to the End of all
And ever darker became the blue of the diapha‐
nous universal night.
* * *
But when it began to grow almost black, the new
Brahmā flashed into existence, the Hundred‐thousandfold
Brahmā, who illumines and preserves a hundred thousand
And the Brahmā sent forth a joyous summons to
"Sandhyas! Sandhyas! Sandhyas! "
"Wake up, all you beings! All you who have rested
throughout the whole of creationʹs night in the lap of
nothingness! Here, to me! Form the new Brahmā universe;
enjoy the new world day, each one in your place, each
one according to your strength!"
And the beings and the worlds sprang forth from
the darkness of the void, star by star, and the jubilant
shouts of a hundred thousand voices and the sound like
a hundred thousand drums and conch‐horns rang in the
"Hail! The Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā who
calls us to the new universe and the new day! Hail to us
who are called to share the new day with Him, and to
reflect His divine glory in bliss!"
When Kāmanīta saw and heard all this he was
filled with deep compassion.
"These beings and these worlds, these stellar gods,
and the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā himself shout for
joy to welcome the universal day — rejoicing in their own
existence. And why? Because they do not understand it."
And this compassion of his for the world, for the
gods, and for the Supreme God, vanquished in Kamanita
the last remnant of his conceit and self‐concern.
But he now considered:
"During this new day also, perfect Buddhas are
certain to appear who will declare the Ultimate Truth. And
when these deities I see around me now, hear about the
possibility of their liberation and remember that in the
earliest dawn of the universal day they saw a being who
went away, out of the universe, then that memory will be
to their advantage. They will say to themselves — 'Already
one from our midst — one who was a part of ourselves —
has preceded us on that road,' and that will aid their
enlightenment. So I shall help all in helping myself. For in
truth no‐one can help themselves without helping all."
Very soon, some of the stellar gods began to notice
that there was one amongst them who did not shine ever
brighter like the others, but who, on the contrary, steadily
diminished in brilliance.
* * *
And they called to him:
"Ho, there, brother! Turn your gaze upon the Great
Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā, that way you will recover
your brilliance and shine like us. For you also, brother, are
called to the bliss of reflecting the glory of the Supreme
When the gods called to him thus, Kāmanīta
neither looked nor listened. And the gods who saw him
grow ever paler were greatly troubled about him. And
they appealed to Mahā‐Brahmā.
"Great Brahmā, Our Light and Preserver, look
upon this poor being who is too weak to shine as we do,
whose brilliance continually decreases and does not
increase! Oh, give him your blessèd attention, illumine
him, revive him! For surely you have also
called him to reflect your divine glory in bliss."
And the Great Brahmā, full of tenderness for all
beings, turned his attention to Kāmanīta to refresh and
strengthen him. But Kāmanīta's light, nevertheless, de‐
Then the Great Brahmā was more grieved that this
one being would not allow himself to be illumined by him
and did not reflect his glory, than he was glad that a
hundred thousand sunned themselves in his light and
hailed him with shouts of joy. And he withdrew a large
part of his divinely illuminating power from the universe
— power sufficient to set a thousand worlds on fire — and
he directed it on Kāmanīta.
But Kāmanīta's light continued to pale, as though
drawing nearer to complete disappearance.
Mahā‐Brahmā now became a prey to great anxiety.
"This one star withdraws from my influence — so
then I am not omnipotent. I do not know the way he is
going, so I am not omniscient. For he is not expiring as do
the beings who expire in death, to be reborn each accor‐
ding to their actions; not as the worlds go out in the brahmā
night, only to shine forth again. What light illumines his
way, seeing that he disdains mine? Is there then another
light more radiant than mine? And a road which leads in
the opposite direction to mine — a road to untraversed
lands? Shall I myself, perhaps, ever take that road — that
path to the untraversed land?"
And now the minds of the stellar gods also became
filled with great anxiety, great trouble.
"This one withdraws from the power of the Great
Brahmā — so then, is the Great Brahmā not omnipotent?
What light can be lighting his way, seeing that he disdains
that of the Great Brahmā? Is there then another light more
splendid than that which we so blissfully reflect? And a
road that leads in the opposite direction to ours — a road
to an untraversed land? Shall we, perhaps, ever take that
road — the road to the untraversed land?
Then the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā pondered
— "My mind is made up. I shall re‐absorb my illuminating
power, now diffused throughout space, and shall plunge
all these worlds again into the darkness of the brahmā
night. And when I have gathered my light into a single ray
I shall turn it upon that one being in order to rescue him
for this my brahmā world."
And the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā now re‐
absorbed all the illuminating power which he had diffused
throughout space, so that the worlds sank again into the
darkness of the Brahmā night. And gathering his light into
a single ray, he directed it on Kāmanīta.
"Henceforward there must shine at this point," he
willed, "the most radiant star in all my brahmā world."
Then the Hundred‐thousandfold Brahmā drew
back into himself that ray which had illuminating power
great enough to set a hundred thousand worlds on fire,
and again unleashed his blazing light throughout the
whole of space.
At the point, however, where he had hoped to see
the most radiant of all the stars, only a little, slowly fading
spark was to be seen.
And while in immeasurable space, worlds upon
worlds flashed and shouted as they pressed forward once
again into the new brahmā day, the pilgrim Kāmanīta went
out — out of the sphere of knowledge of gods and humans.
Out, quite as the light of a lamp goes out when it has
consumed the last drop of oil in its wick.
Kāmanīta's pilgrimage was complete.