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Buddha (Poem)

Under Mount Ratnagira's western shade,
Weary and worn with his long search for Truth,
Sorrowing, unsatistied, disconsolate,
Sat Buddha, knowing not where he should turn
To find the Truth that he had so long sought—
The Truth that maketh steadfast, strong, and pure,
The Truth that bringeth peace and blessed rest
The schools had failed him; the philosophies,
Hoary and ancient, had not stilled the cry
Of passion in his heart; and passion's child,
Sorrow, was with him still; the scriptures, creeds,
Proud pillars of the State, had failed to bear
The weight of his great woe, crumbling away
Under temptation, leaving him the prey
Still of desire and pain and clouded mind.
Mortifications he had tried, and they
Had left him strengthless, wan, wanting the Truth;
And now he seemed as one defeated, borne
Upon the stream of Fate, helpless, alone.

But while the Buddha brooded in the shade,
Suddenly on his ear there fell a cry,
A sob of pain, a pitiful strange sigh;
Whereat he rose, and left the shade, and sought
(He scarce knew why, but that there leaped within
His sorrowing heart a mighty unknown love)
Whence came the cry; and presently he saw,
Upon the road, 'mid thirsty clouds of dust,
Under the fierce blaze of the Indian sun,
A shepherd, driving hard a flock of sheep;
And in the rear there lagged a little lamb
With wounded feet, bleating most piteously,
The while the ewe, with anguish deep and sore,
Cried o'er her little one, knowing that she
Was helpless to relieve her.

When Buddha saw
The piteous spectacle, compassion slew
His own deep sorrow; and he straightway took
The wounded lamb, and bore it in his arms,
Saying, "Vain are the strivings of the soul
After vain knowledge; vain the learned lore
That hath not pity in it; vain is life
That hath not love: and whatsoe'er is false,
And what uncertain, though it seemeth true,
This thing is true, that I should pity thee.
The priests who pray and read, and read and pray,
Die in their sins at last, and do not find
The Love I mourn for, the deep Truth I seek;
And better were it that I ease thy pain
Than pray with them, and seek and never find.
Thee will I love; yea, I will pity thee
Whom none will pity; thee will I relieve;
Tired of the soulless theories of men,
I, Buddha, will stoop to thee, thou dumb, weak thing,
Whom men despise, knowing that this is true:—
Whate'er is doubtful, and whate'er unsure,
Pity and Love are right; whatever fades
And perishes, Compassion will not fade,
And Love will never perish. So he took
Into his arms the weary, wounded thing
Which nestled in his bosom, and became
Quiet and peaceful; and the anxious ewe
Walked by his side, looking into his face,
Glad that her lamb had found those blessed arms:
And so she walked, and dumbly worshiped him,
Knowing him Buddha, the compassionate.

And Buddha in that hour entered the Way
Which he had vainly sought in schools and creeds;
Entered the Path which no philosophy
Leads unto, and which none shall ever find
But by sweet deeds of love, forgetting self:
And in his heart there grew a holy Love;
And in his mind a knowledge new and strange;
And his whole being felt a painless peace;
Sorrow and pain were not; and then he knew
That he had found the holy Truth at last.

And from thenceforward Buddha lived the Truth,
And taught its practice; and from far and near
Came men and women who had sought the Truth,
And at his feet they sat, and worshiped him,
Learning of love and pity; finding bliss
And peace that cannot fail; and him they called
Deliverer, Redeemer, Blessed Lord.
And even those who understood not, sensed
Faintly this Truth that one day they should know:—
Better than learning is a loving heart;
And to give comfort to one wounded lamb
Is higher than the wisdom of the schools,
And greater than the world's philosophy.

This poem is selected from the book Poems of Peace.

Man's lack of heart makes earth yield lack of bread.
—Adair Welcker
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
—St. Paul (Romans 12:21)

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James Allen

James Allen was a little-known philosophical writer and poet. He is best recognized for his book, As a Man Thinketh. Allen wrote about complex subjects such as faith, destiny, love, patience, and religion but had the unique ability of explaining these subjects clearly and in a way that is easy to understand. He often wrote about cause and effect, sowing and reaping, as well as overcoming sadness, sorrow, and grief. For more information on the life of James Allen, click here.

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