Kamanita And Vasitthi
[By KARL GJELLERUP]
A PURE OFFERING
When we reached the glade in which the temple stood a great many people were already assembled there,
lay‐people as well as nuns and monks. They stood broken up into groups, most of them in the vicinity of the
ruin which rose just opposite to us. Near to the spot where we entered the clearing in the forest I noticed a fairly large group of monks; there was one amongst them whom it was impossible not to notice, he was practically a giant and he towered a full head above the tallest of those who stood beside him.
Then, when we were looking about us to discover where we should turn our steps, there came out of the
forest, between us and those monks, an aged and sagely figure clad in the golden robes of the Order. His tall frame had such a regal bearing, and such a cheerful peace radiated from his noble features, that at once the thought came to me: "I wonder whether this is the Sākyan prince whom people call the Buddha."
In his hand he bore a few Simsapā leaves and,turning to the monks of whom I have made mention, he said:
"What do you think, bhikkhus, which are more numerous, these Simsapā leaves which I hold in my hand
or all the other leaves in the forest?" And the monks answered: "The leaves which you hold in your hand are very few, Lord, whereas the leaves in the Simsapā wood are far more numerous."
"So too, bhikkhus," said he, who I now knew was indeed the Buddha, "so too that which I have discerned and yet
not revealed to you is far greater in sum than that which I have revealed to you. And why have I not revealed all things to you? Because it would in no way profit you spiritually, because it would not assist you in the holy life, it would not lead to your turning away from worldly things, nor to the destruction of all craving, nor to the change which is the end of all change; it would not lead you to peace and to the realization of Nirvāna."
"So that foolish old man was right after all!" exclaimed Kāmanīta.
"What old man?" asked Vāsitthī.
"That monk with whom I spent the night, the last night of my earthly life, in the hall of the potter in that
suburb of Rājagaha. He would insist on trying to expound to me the Teaching of the Master and, as I readily perceived, did not especially succeed. But he manifestly quoted many genuine sayings, including what you have just told me — even to the very words. He even gave the name of the place correctly and moved me deeply as he did so. Had I imagined that you had been present there too, I would have been much more profoundly affected."
"He was very probably among those who were there," said Vāsitthī; "in any case, he seems to have given
you an accurate report."
And then the Master added further:"And what, friends, have I declared to you? I have declared to you what Suffering is, what the Origin of Suffering is, what the End of all Suffering is, and what the Path that leads to the End of all Suffering is — all this have I declared to you. Therefore, what I have revealed, let that remain revealed; and what I have left unrevealed, leave that unrevealed."
As he uttered these words he opened his hand and let the leaves fall. And when one of these fluttered down
near to me, describing gyrations in the air, I took courage,stepped quickly forward and caught it before it had
touched the earth, in that way receiving it, as it were, from the Master's hand. This priceless memorial I concealed within my bosom: a symbol of the short but all‐sufficing first message communicated to us by the Buddha from his measureless wealth of understanding, a symbol from which I was not to be parted until death.
This movement of mine drew the attention of the Master to me. The gigantic monk to whom I have alluded now bowed before him and made a whispered communication, upon which the Master again looked at me and then made a sign to him.The latter now came towards us.
"Approach, noble lady," said the monk — and I knew at once from the voice that it was Angulimāla's —"the Master himself will receive your offerings."Even though Angulimāla had by now shaved off his hair and beard, and was clad in the robes of the Buddha's disciples, it somehow came as no surprise to me to find him thus transformed. His manner had changed so completely that the robes of a monk seemed as natural to him now as the garland of severed fingers had been to his previous robber state.We all went forward to within a few paces of the Buddha and bowed low, greeting him reverently, our hands with palms placed together. But I was unable to utter a word.
"Your offerings are rich, noble lady," said the Master,"and my disciples have few needs. They are heirs of Truth, not heirs of material things. But all the Buddhas of past ages have recommended the practice of giving and have gladly accepted the offerings of devoted followers; in this way the Sangha is provided with life's essentials and opportunity is given to the faithful to cultivate generosity."For, if people knew the fruits of giving as I know them then, if they had but a handful of rice left, they would not eat of it without giving a portion to one poorer than themselves, and the selfish thoughts which darken their spirits would disappear from them. Let your offering,then, be gratefully accepted by the Sangha — a pure offering. For I call a pure offering that with which the giver is purified and the receiver also. And how does that take place? It takes place, Vāsitthī, when the giver is pure in life and noble in heart, and the receiver is pure in life and noble in heart; and when that is the case the giver of the offering is purified and the receiver also. That is, Vāsitthī, the purity of the supremely pure offering — such as the one that you have just now brought."
Then the Master turned to Angulimāla:"Go, friend, and have these offerings placed with the other stores. But first show our noble guests to seats in front of the temple steps for I shall speak from there to those who are present today."
Angulimāla bade the servants wait and called upon us to follow him. First, however, we had all our flowers
and also several beautiful mats handed to us. Then, conducted by our stalwart guide, we made our way to the
temple through the rapidly growing crowd, who respectfully parted and made way for us.Here we spread the mats upon the steps and twined garlands of flowers round about the old weather‐worn and crumbling pillars. Then Medinī and I picked a whole basketful of roses and strewed the petals upon the felted mat at the top of the steps for the Master to seat himself upon.
Meanwhile the assembled crowd had grouped themselves in wide semicircles, with lay‐people to the left,
and the monks and nuns to the right of the temple — the whole assembly either sitting on small grass mats or on the carpet of Simsapā leaves that formed the forest floor. We now took our places on an overturned pillar, only a few paces from the steps.There were probably about five hundred people there yet an all but absolute silence reigned in the circle— no sound was to be heard save the ringing of the crickets, and the fitful rustling and low whispering of the forest leaves.
***********to be continued**********
Edited by yawares
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