Sorrowful dwelt the King Suddhodana
All those long years among the Sakya Lords
Lacking the speech and presence of his Son;
Sorrowful sate the sweet Yasodhara
All those long years, knowing no joy of life,
Widowed of him her living Liege and Prince.
And ever, on the news of some recluse
Seen far away by pasturing camel-men
Or traders threading devious paths for gain,
Messengers from the King had gone and come
Bringing account of many a holy sage
Lonely and lost to home; but naught of him
The crown of white Kapilavastu's line,
The glory of her monarch and his hope,
The heart's content of sweet Yasodhara,
Far-wandered now, forgetful, changed, or dead.
But on a day in the Wasanta-time,
When silver sprays swing on the mango-trees
And all the earth is clad with garb of spring,
The Princess sate by that bright garden-stream
Whose gliding glass, bordered with lotus-cups,
Mirrored so often in the bliss gone by
Their clinging hands and meeting lips. Her lids
Were wan with tears, her tender cheeks had thinned;
Her lips' delicious curves were drawn with grief
The lustrous glory of her hair was hid—
Close-bound as widows use; no ornament
She wore, nor any jewel clasped the cloth—
Coarse, and of mourning-white—crossed on her breast.
Slow moved and painfully those small fine feet
Which had the roe's gait and the rose-leaf's fall
In old years at the loving voice of him.
Her eyes, those lamps of love,—which were as if
Sunlight should shine from out the deepest dark,
Illumining Night's peace with Daytime's glow—
Unlighted now, and roving aimlessly,
Scarce marked the clustering signs of coming Spring
So the silk lashes drooped over their orbs.
In one hand was a girdle thick with pearls,
Siddartha's—treasured since that night he fled.
(Ah, bitter Night! mother of weeping days!
When was fond Love so pitiless to love
Save that this scorned to limit love by life?)
The other led her little son, a boy
Divinely fair, the pledge Siddartha left—
Named Rahula—now seven years old, who tripped
Gladsome beside his mother, light of heart
To see the spring-blooms burgeon o'er the world.
So while they lingered by the lotus-pools
And, lightly laughing, Rahula flung rice
To feed the blue and purple fish, and she
With sad eyes watched the swiftly-flying cranes,
Sighing, "O creatures of the wandering wing,
If ye shall light where my dear Lord is hid,
Say that Yasodhara lives nigh to death
For one word of his mouth, one touch of him."—
So, as they played and sighed, mother and child,
Came some among the damsels of the Court
Saying: "Great Princess! there have entered in
At the south gate merchants of Hastinpur
Tripusha called and Bhalluk, men of worth,
Long traveled from the loud sea's edge, who bring
Marvellous lovely webs pictured with gold,
Waved blades of gilded steel, wrought bowls in brass,
Cut ivories, spice, simples, and unknown birds
Treasures of far-off peoples; but they bring
That which doth beggar these, for He is seen!
Thy Lord,—our Lord,—the hope of all the land
Siddartha! they have seen him face to face
Yea, and have worshiped him with knees and brows,
And offered offerings; for he is become
All which was shown, a teacher of the wise,
World-honored, holy, wonderful; a Buddh
Who doth deliver men and save all flesh
By sweetest speech and pity vast as Heaven
And, lo! he journeyeth hither, these do say."
Then—while the glad blood bounded in her veins
As Gunga leaps when first the mountain snows
Melt at her springs—uprose Yasodhara
And clapped her palms, and laughed, with brimming tears
Beading her lashes. "Oh! call quick," she cried,
"These merchants to my purdah, for mine ears
Thirst like parched throats to drink their blessed news.
Go bring them in,—but if their tale be true,
Say I will fill their girdles with much gold,
With gems that kings shall envy; come ye too,
My girls, for ye shall have guerdon of this
If there be gifts to speak my grateful heart."
So went those merchants to the Pleasure House,
Full softly pacing through its golden ways
With naked feet, amid the peering maids,
Much wondering at the glories of the Court.
Whom, when they came without the purdah's folds,
A voice, tender and eager, filled and charmed
With trembling music, saying: "Ye are come
From far, fair Sirs! and ye have seen my Lord—
Yea, worshiped—for he is become a Buddh,
World-honored, holy, and delivers men,
And journeyeth hither. Speak! for, if this be,
Friends are ye of my House, welcome and dear."
Then answer made Tripusha: "We have seen
That sacred Master, Princess! we have bowed
Before his feet; for who was lost a Prince
Is found a greater than the King of kings.
Under the Bodhi-tree by Phalgu's bank
That which shall save the world hath late been wrought
By him—the Friend of all, the Prince of all—
Thine most, High Lady! from whose tears men win
The comfort of this Word the Master speaks.
Lo! he is well, as one beyond all ills,
Uplifted as a god from earthly woes,
Shining with risen Truth, golden and clear.
Moreover as he entereth town by town,
Preaching those noble ways which lead to peace,
The hearts of men follow his path as leaves
Troop to wind or sheep draw after one
Who knows the pastures. We ourselves have heard
By Gaya in the green Tchirnika grove
Those wondrous lips and done them reverence.
He cometh hither ere the first rains fall."
Thus spake he, and Yasodhara, for joy,
Scarce mastered breath to answer: "Be it well
Now and at all times with ye, worthy friends,
Who bring good tidings; but of this great thing
Wist ye how it befell?"
Then Bhalluk told
Such as the people of the valleys knew
Of that dread night of conflict, when the air
Darkened with fiendish shadows, and the earth
Quaked, and the waters swelled with Mara's wrath.
Also how gloriously that morning broke
Radiant with rising hopes for man, and how
The Lord was found rejoicing 'neath his Tree.
But many days the burden of release—
To be escaped beyond all storms of doubt,
Safe on Truth's shore—lay, spake he, on that heart
A golden load; for how shall men—Buddh mused—
Who love their sins and cleave to cheats of sense,
And drink of error from a thousand springs—
Having no mind to see, nor strength to break
The fleshly snare which binds them—how should such
Receive the Twelve Nidanas and the Law
Redeeming all, yet strange to profit by,
As the caged bird oft shuns its open door?
So had we missed the helpful victory
If, in this earth without a refuge, Buddh
Winning the way had deemed it all too hard
For mortal feet, and passed, none following him.
Yet pondered the compassion of our Lord,
But in that hour there rang a voice as sharp
As cry of travail, so as if the earth
Moaned in birth-throe "Nasyami aham bhu
Nasyati loka! Surely I Am Lost,
I And My Creatures:" then a pause, and next
A pleading sigh borne on the western wind,
"Sruyatam dharma, Bhagwat!" Oh, Supreme
Let Thy Great Law Be Uttered! Whereupon
The Master cast his vision forth on flesh,
Saw who should hear and who must wait to hear,
As the keen Sun gilding the lotus-lakes
Seeth which buds will open to his beams
And which are not yet risen from their roots;
Then spake, divinely smiling, "Yea, I preach!
Whoso will listen let him learn the Law."
Afterwards passed he, said they, by the hills
Unto Benares, where he taught the Five,
Showing how birth and death should be destroyed,
And how man hath no fate except past deeds,
No Hell but what he makes, no Heaven too high
For those to reach whose passions sleep subdued.
This was the fifteenth day of Vaishya
Mid-afternoon and that night was full moon.
But, of the Rishis, first Kaundinya
Owned the Four Truths and entered on the Paths;
And after him Bhadraka, Asvajit, Bassav, Mahanama; also there
Within the Deer-park, at the feet of Buddh,
Yasad the Prince with nobles fifty-four
Hearing the blessed word our Master spake
Worshipped and followed; for there sprang up peace
And knowledge of a new time come for men
In all who heard, as spring the flowers and grass
When water sparkles through a sandy plain.
These sixty—said they—did our Lord send forth,
Made perfect in restraint and passion-free,
To teach the Way; but the World-honored turned
South from the Deer-park and Isipatan
To Yashti and King Bimbasara's realm,
Where many days he taught; and after these
King Bimbasara and his folk believed,
Learning the law of love and ordered life.
Also he gave the Master, of free gift—
Pouring forth water on the hands of Buddh—
The Bamboo-Garden, named Weluvana,
Wherein are streams and caves and lovely glades;
And the King set a stone there, carved with this:
"Ye dharma hetuppabhawa
Yesan hetun Tathagato;
Aha yesan cha yo nirodho
Ewan wadi Maha samano.
"What life's course and cause sustain
These Tathagato made plain;
What delivers from life's woe
That our Lord hath made us know."
And, in that Garden—said they—there was held
A high Assembly, where the Teacher spake
Wisdom and power, winning all souls which heard,
So that nine hundred took the yellow robe—
Such as the Master wears,—and spread his Law;
And this the gatha was wherewith he closed:
Sabba papassa akaranan;
Sa chitta pariyodapanan;
"Evil swells the debts to pay,
Good delivers and acquits;
Shun evil, follow good; hold sway
Over thyself. This is the Way."
Whom, when they ended, speaking so of him,
With gifts, and thanks which made the jewels dull,
The Princess recompensed. "But by what road
Wendeth my Lord?" she asked: the merchants said,
"Yojans threescore stretch from the city-walls
To Rajagriha, whence the easy path
Passeth by Sona hither and the hills.
Our oxen, treading eight slow koss a day,
Came in one moon."
Then the King hearing word,
Sent nobles of the Court—well-mounted lords—
Nine separate messengers, each embassy
Bidden to say: "The King Suddhodana—
Nearer the pyre by seven long years of lack,
Wherethrough he hath not ceased to seek for thee—
Prays of his son to come unto his own,
The Throne and people of this longing Realm,
Lest he shall die and see thy face no more."
Also nine horsemen sent Yasodhara
Bidden to say, "The Princess of thy House—
Rahula's mother—craves to see thy face
As the night-blowing moon-flower's swelling heart
Pines for the moon, as pale asoka-buds
Wait for a woman's foot: if thou hast found
More than was lost, she prays her part in this,
Rahula's part, but most of all thyself."
So sped the Sakya Lords, but it befell
That each one, with the message in his mouth,
Entered the Bamboo-Garden in that hour
When Buddha taught his Law; and—hearing—each
Forgot to speak, lost thought of King and quest,
Of the sad Princess even; only gazed
Eye-rapt upon the Master; only hung
Heart-caught upon the speech, compassionate,
Commanding, perfect, pure, enlightening all,
Poured from those sacred lips. Look! like a bee
Winged for the hive, who sees the mogras spread
And scents their utter sweetness on the air,
If he be honey-filled, it matters not;
If night be nigh, or rain, he will not heed;
Needs must he light on those delicious blooms
And drain their nectar; so these messengers
One with another, hearing Buddha's words,
Let go the purpose of their speed, and mixed,
Heedless of all, amid the Master's train.
Wherefore the King bade that Udayi go—
Chiefest in all the Court, and faithfullest,
Siddartha's playmate in the happier days—
Who, as he drew anear the garden, plucked
Blown tufts of tree-wool from the grove and sealed
The entrance of his hearing; thus he came
Safe through the lofty peril of the place
And told the message of the King, and hers.
Then meekly bowed his head and spake our Lord
Before the people: "Surely I shall go!
It is my duty as it was my will;
Let no man miss to render reverence
To those who lend him life, whereby come means
To live and die no more, but safe attain
Blissful Nirvana, if ye keep the Law,
Purging past wrongs and adding naught thereto,
Complete in love and lovely charities.
Let the King know and let the Princess hear
I take the way forthwith." This told, the folk
Of white Kapilavastu and its fields
Made ready for the entrance of their Prince.
At the south gate a bright pavilion rose
With flower-wreathed pillars and the walls of silk
Wrought on their red and green with woven gold.
Also the roads were laid with scented boughs
Of neem and mango, and full mussuks shed
Sandal and jasmine on the dust, and flags
Fluttered; and on the day when he should come
It was ordained how many elephants—
With silver howdahs and their tusks gold-tipped—
Should wait beyond the ford, and where the drums
Should boom "Siddartha cometh!" where the lords
Should light and worship, and the dancing-girls
Where they should strew their flowers with dance and song
So that the steed he rode might tramp knee-deep
In rose and balsam, and the ways be fair;
While the town rang with music and high joy.
This was ordained and all men's ears were pricked
Dawn after dawn to catch the first drum's beat
Announcing, "Now he cometh!"
But it fell Eager to be before—Yasodhara
Rode in her litter to the city-walls
Where soared the bright pavilion. All around
A beauteous garden smiled—Nigrodha named—
Shaded with bel-trees and the green-plumed dates,
New-trimmed and gay with winding walks and banks
Of fruits and flowers; for the southern road
Skirted its lawns, on this hand leaf and bloom,
On that the suburb-huts where base-borns dwelt
Outside the gates, a patient folk and poor,
Whose touch for Kshatriya and priest of Brahm
Were sore defilement. Yet those, too, were quick
With expectation, rising ere the dawn
To peer along the road, to climb the trees
At far-off trumpet of some elephant,
Or stir of temple-drum; and when none came,
Busied with lowly chores to please the Prince;
Sweeping their door-stones, setting forth their flags,
Stringing the fruited fig-leaves into chains,
New furbishing the Lingam, decking new
Yesterday's faded arc of boughs, but aye
Questioning wayfarers if any noise
Be on the road of great Siddartha. These
The Princess marked with lovely languid eyes,
Watching, as they, the southward plain and bent
Like them to listen if the passers gave
News of the path. So fell it she beheld
One slow approaching with his head close shorn,
A yellow cloth over his shoulder cast,
Girt as the hermits are, and in his hand
An earthen bowl, shaped melonwise, the which
Meekly at each hut-door he held a space,
Taking the granted dole with gentle thanks
And all as gently passing where none gave.
Two followed him wearing the yellow robe,
But he who bore the bowl so lordly seemed,
So reverend, and with such a passage moved,
With so commanding presence filled the air,
With such sweet eyes of holiness smote all,
That as they reached him alms the givers gazed
Awestruck upon his face, and some bent down
In worship, and some ran to fetch fresh gifts,
Grieved to be poor; till slowly, group by group,
Children and men and women drew behind
Into his steps, whispering with covered lips,
"Who is he? who? when looked a Rishi thus?"
But as he came with quiet footfall on
Nigh the pavilion, lo! the silken door
Lifted, and, all unveiled, Yasodhara
Stood in his path crying, "Siddartha! Lord!"
With wide eyes streaming and with close-clasped hands,
Then sobbing fell upon his feet, and lay.
Afterwards, when this weeping lady passed
Into the Noble Paths, and one had prayed
Answer from Buddha wherefore-being vowed
Quit of all mortal passion and the touch,
Flower-soft and conquering, of a woman's hands—
He suffered such embrace, the Master said
"The greater beareth with the lesser love
So it may raise it unto easier heights.
Take heed that no man, being 'soaped from bonds,
Vexeth bound souls with boasts of liberty.
Free are ye rather that your freedom spread
By patient winning and sweet wisdom's skill.
Three eras of long toil bring Bodhisats—
Who will be guides and help this darkling world—
Unto deliverance, and the first is named
Of deep 'Resolve,' the second of 'Attempt,'
The third of 'Nomination.' Lo! I lived
In era of Resolve, desiring good,
Searching for wisdom, but mine eyes were sealed.
Count the grey seeds on yonder castor-clump—
So many rains it is since I was Ram,
A merchant of the coast which looketh south
To Lanka and the hiding-place of pearls.
Also in that far time Yasodhara
Dwelt with me in our village by the sea,
Tender as now, and Lukshmi was her name.
And I remember how I journeyed thence
Seeking our gain, for poor the household was
And lowly. Not the less with wistful tears
She prayed me that I should not part, nor tempt
Perils by land and water. 'How could love
Leave what it loved?' she wailed; yet, venturing, I
Passed to the Straits, and after storm and toil
And deadly strife with creatures of the deep,
And woes beneath the midnight and the noon,
Searching the wave I won therefrom a pearl
Moonlike and glorious, such as kings might buy
Emptying their treasury. Then came I glad
Unto mine hills, but over all that land
Famine spread sore; ill was I stead to live
In journey home, and hardly reached my door—
Aching for food—with that white wealth of the sea
Tied in my girdle. Yet no food was there;
And on the threshold she for whom I toiled—
More than myself—lay with her speechless lips
Nigh unto death for one small gift of grain.
Then cried I, 'If there be who hath of grain,
Here is a kingdom's ransom for one life
Give Lukshmi bread and take my moonlight pearl.'
Whereat one brought the last of all his hoard,
Millet—three seers—and clutched the beauteous thing.
But Lukshmi lived and sighed with gathered life,
'Lo! thou didst love indeed!' I spent my pearl
Well in that life to comfort heart and mind
Else quite uncomforted; but these pure pearls,
My last large gain, won from a deeper wave—
The Twelve Nidanas and the Law of Good—
Cannot be spent, nor dimmed, and most fulfill
Their perfect beauty being freeliest given.
For like as is to Meru yonder hill
Heaped by the little ants, and like as dew
Dropped in the footmark of a bounding roe
Unto the shoreless seas, so was that gift
Unto my present giving; and so love—
Vaster in being free from toils of sense—
Was wisest stooping to the weaker heart;
And so the feet of sweet Yasodhara
Passed into peace and bliss, being softly led."
But when the King heard how Siddartha came
Shorn, with the mendicant's sad-coloured cloth,
And stretching out a bowl to gather orts
From base-borns' leavings, wrathful sorrow drove
Love from his heart. Thrice on the ground he spat,
Plucked at his silvered beard, and strode straight forth
Lackeyed by trembling lords. Frowning he clomb
Upon his war-horse, drove the spurs, and dashed,
Angered, through wondering streets and lanes of folk.
Scarce finding breath to say, "The King! bow down!"
Ere the loud cavalcade had clattered by:
Which—at the turning by the Temple-wall
Where the south gate was seen—encountered full
A mighty crowd; to every edge of it
Poured fast more people, till the roads were lost,
Blotted by that huge company which thronged
And grew, close following him whose look serene
Met the old King's. Nor lived the father's wrath
Longer than while the gentle eyes of Buddh
Lingered in worship on his troubled brows,
Then downcast sank, with his true knee, to earth
In proud humility. So dear it seemed
To see the Prince, to know him whole, to mark
That glory greater than of earthly state
Crowning his head, that majesty which brought
All men, so awed and silent, in his steps.
Nathless the King broke forth: "Ends it in this,
That great Siddartha steals into his realm,
Wrapped in a clout, shorn, sandaled, craving food
Of low-borns, he whose life was as a god's,
My son! heir of this spacious power, and heir
Of Kings who did but clap their palms to have
What earth could give or eager service bring?
Thou should'st have come appareled in thy rank,
With shining spears and tramp of horse and foot.
Lo! all my soldiers camped upon the road,
And all my city waited at the gates;
Where hast thou sojourned through these evil years
Whilst thy crowned father mourned? and she, too, there
Lived as the widows use, foregoing joys;
Never once hearing sound of song or string,
Nor wearing once the festal robe, till now
When in her cloth of gold she welcomes home
A beggar spouse in yellow remnants clad.
Son! why is this?"
"My father!" came reply,
"It is the custom of my race."
Answered the King "counteth a hundred thrones
From Maha Sammat, but no deed like this."
"Not of a mortal line," the Master said,
"I spake, but of descent invisible,
The Buddhas who have been and who shall be:
Of these am I, and what they did I do,
And this which now befalls so fell before,
That at his gate a King in warrior-mail
Should meet his son, a Prince in hermit-weeds;
And that, by love and self-control, being more
Than mightiest Kings in all their puissance,
The appointed Helper of the Worlds should bow—
As now do I—and with all lowly love
Proffer, where it is owed for tender debts,
The first-fruits of the treasure he hath brought;
Which now I proffer."
Then the King amazed
Inquired "What treasure?" and the Teacher took
Meekly the royal palm, and while they paced
Through worshiping streets—the Princess and the King
On either side—he told the things which make
For peace and pureness, those Four noble Truths
Which hold all wisdom as shores shut the seas,
Those Eight right Rules whereby who will may walk—
Monarch or slave—upon the perfect Path
That hath its Stages Four and Precepts Eight,
Whereby whoso will live—mighty or mean
Wise or unlearned, man, woman, young or old
Shall soon or late break from the wheels of life,
Attaining blest Nirvana. So they came
Into the Palace-porch, Suddhodana
With brows unknit drinking the mighty words,
And in his own hand carrying Buddha's bowl,
Whilst a new light brightened the lovely eyes
Of sweet Yasodhara and sunned her tears;
And that night entered they the Way of Peace.
More from Sir Edwin Arnold
- Lived from June 10th, 1832 to March 24th, 1904
- The Light of Asia is his best known work.
- Born in Gravesend, Kent, United Kingdom
- Knighted in 1888