Kamanita And Vasitthi
[By KARL GJELLERUP]
TO BE BORN IS TO DIE
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.
********to be continued*************
Edited by yawares