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