Kamanita And Vasitthi
[~By KARL GJELLERUP]
EYES WIDE SHUT
Addressed thus, Kāmanīta trembled as does a
young buffalo when it hears for the first time the roar of
the tiger in a neighbouring thicket. With bent body, head
sunk on his breast, his face suffused with burning colour,
he sat for some time without uttering a word.
Then in a gruff although somewhat tremulous
voice, he answered:
"It still does not please me that the Master has
revealed nothing concerning this matter. That is, if he was
able to give any information which would have been full
of promise — and even if he has been silent because what
he knew was comfortless and terrifying, or because he
knew absolutely nothing, I am still no better pleased. For
the thoughts and the efforts of human beings are directed
towards happiness and pleasure, a tendency which has its
foundation in Nature Herself and cannot be otherwise.
And in keeping with this is the following which I have
heard from the lips of brahmin priests.
"Let us imagine the case of a youth, capable, eager
for knowledge, the quickest, strongest, most powerful of
all youths, and that to him belonged the world with all its
treasures. That would be a human joy. But a hundred
human joys are but as one joy of the heavenly devatā; and
a hundred joys of the heavenly devatā are but as one joy
of the gods; and a hundred joys of the gods are but as one
joy of Indra; and a hundred joys of Indra are but as one
joy of Prajāpati; and a hundred joys of Prajāpati are but as
one joy of Brahmā. This is the supreme joy, this is the path
to the supreme joy."
"Yes, friend; but perhaps I can use another analogy
to illustrate the situation I am describing: imagine there
was an inexperienced child, incapable of sensible reasoning.
This child feels in his tooth a burning, boring, stabbing
pain, and runs to an eminent and learned physician
and pours out his troubles to him — 'I beg you, honoured
sir, to give me by your skill, a feeling of blissful rapture in
place of this pain at present in my tooth.' And the physician
answers — 'My dear child, the sole aim of my skill is
the removal of pain.' But the spoilt child begins to wail —
'Oh! I have endured a burning, stabbing, boring pain in
my tooth for so long; is it not reasonable that I should now
enjoy a feeling of rapture, of delicious pleasure instead?
There do exist, as I have heard, learned and experienced
physicians whose skill goes this far, and I believed that
you were one of those.'
"And then this foolish child runs to a quack, a
'miracle‐worker' from the land of Gandhāra, who causes
the following announcement to be made by a town‐crier
to the accompaniment of drums and conches — 'Health is
the greatest of all gifts, health is the goal of all people.
Blooming, luxuriant health, a comfortable and blissful
feeling in all one's members, in every vein and fibre of the
body, such as the gods enjoy, even the sickliest can obtain
by my help, at a very small cost.' To this 'miracle‐worker'
the child runs and pours out his troubles — 'I beg you,
honoured sir, by your skill, give me a feeling of comfort or
blissful rapture in place of this pain in my tooth.'
"And the magician answers — 'My dear child, in
doing just this very thing lies my skill.' After he has pock‐
eted the money offered by the child, he touches the tooth
with his finger and produces a magical effect, by means of
which a feeling of blissful pleasure drives out the pain.
And the foolish child runs home overjoyed and supreme‐
"After a short time, however, the feeling of pleasure
gradually subsides and the pain returns. And why?
Because the cause of the pain was not removed.
"Then, let us also suppose that another, reasonable
person feels a burning, stabbing, boring pain in her tooth.
And she goes to a learned and experienced physician and
tells him of her trouble, saying — 'Honoured sir, I beg you
by your skill to free me from this pain.' And the physician
answers — 'If you, madam, demand no more from me, I
may safely trust my skill that far.' 'How could I ask for
more,' replies the woman. And the physician examines the
tooth and finds the cause of the pain in an inflammation at
its root — 'Go home and have a leech put on this spot.
When the leech has sucked itself full and falls off, then lay
these herbs on the wound. By so doing, the pus and the
impure blood will be removed and the pain will cease.'
This reasonable person then goes home and does as the
physician bids her. And the pain goes and does not return.
And why not? Because the cause of the pain has been
Now when the Master ceased speaking, Kāmanīta
sat reduced to silence and sorely disturbed, his body bent,
his head sunk on his breast, his face suffused with colour
and without a word, while anguished sweat dropped from
his forehead and trickled down from his armpits. For did
he not feel himself compared by this venerable teacher to
a foolish child and made equal with one? And as he was
unable to find an answer, in spite of his utmost efforts, he
was near to weeping.
Finally, when able to command his voice, he asked
in a subdued tone: "Venerable Sir, have you heard all this
before, from the mouth of the Master, the perfect Buddha
Now, it occasionally happens that Buddhas smile,
and at this question a wry and gentle smile did indeed play
momentarily around the Master's lips.
"No, brother", he replied, "I cannot truly say that I
have," for some of what he said had come to him just then.
When the pilgrim Kāmanīta heard this answer, he
joyfully raised his bent body and, with glistening eye and
reanimated voice he burst forth:
"Wasn't I sure of it! Oh, I knew for certain that this
couldn't be the doctrine of the Master himself, but rather
your own tortuous interpretation of it — an interpretation
based altogether on misunderstanding. Is it not said that
the doctrine of the Buddha is bliss in the beginning, bliss
in the middle, and bliss in the end? So how could one say
that of a teaching which does not promise eternal and
blessèd life, full of the most supreme joy? In a few weeks,
if I step out bravely, I shall myself sit at the feet of the
Master and receive the teaching of Liberation from his
own lips, as a child draws sweet nourishment from its
mother's breast. And you also should make efforts to get
there too — and, once truly taught, maybe you will alter
your mistaken and destructive view of things! But look,
those strips of moonlight have now stretched themselves
out and have almost disappeared, it must be far into the
night — let us lay ourselves down to sleep."
"As you will, brother," answered the Master kindly.
And, drawing his robe more closely around him, he laid
himself down on his mat in the posture of the lion, supporting
himself on his right arm, his left foot resting on the
right. And having in mind the hour of awakening, he
instantly fell asleep.
***********To be continued*****************
Edited by yawares
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