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