Kamanita And Vasitthi
[By KARL GJELLERUP]
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
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.
**********to be continued***********
Edited by yawares