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