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26.09 00:15 - The last days of Siddhartha Gautama - part I
Автор: andorey Категория: История   
Прочетен: 199 Коментари: 1 Гласове:

Последна промяна: 27.09 10:01

Part I

Closing to the end  

Siddhartha Gautama, prince of the Sakyas, was sitting lost in meditation under a big asvattha tree, near the sacred well. Birds perched on his head and shoulders, coloured squirrels dashed around and climbed on his body, but nothing could disturb his deep concentration. After many months of fasting and meditation, the body of the prince had undergone a transformation, rarely seen even among the well-known ascetics in the kingdom of Magadha. The skin of the prince, white by birth, had acquired such a colour that some of those who saw him said: “Ascetic Gautama is black”. “No, ascetic Gautama is brown” said another. “No, the colour of his skin is like flint”, said a third.  The appearance of his body aroused fear in some people, disgust in others, yet religious worship to some. His hands and legs were so weak that they looked like stalks of vine, dry and sinewy. His chest was bulged, and his ribs were visible like the exposed rafters of a dilapidated house. His abdomen had sunk, so that when he put his hand on it he could feel his back, and when he put his hand on his back he could feel the front of his body. His spine stood out like a row of spindles, arranged one over the other, and his buttock, from the long sitting, had hardened and diminished at the same time, so that it resembled the feet of a camel. The skin of his face was withered, wrinkled and darkened. His eyes were sunk deep in their sockets, and the light in them was  like the sunlight which goes down in a deep well.  Consciousness and life slowly ebbed in the prince, but nothing could break his will on the road to the goal determined long ago – the subduing of mind and body, achieving the final liberation, nirvana.  Nearby were sitting five ascetics- Brahmins, who had voluntarily left their priestly caste. None of them obtained the will of Siddhartha on his road to liberation, but from a certain period of time they began following the prince, because they thought like this: “Siddhartha Gautama is benevolent and noble. If he finds the true Doctrine and achieves enlightenment, he will share his knowledge with us.”

      The kingdom of the Sakyas  

Almost six years had passed since Siddhartha left the capital city of Kapilavastu. The kingdom of the Sakyas was not huge, but covered a fertile and beautiful area along the river Aciravati, at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. Sudhodana, the father of Siddhartha, belonged to the Kshatriyas, hereditary warriors and skilful administrators. He ruled his subordinated lands prudently, so that he preferred to convince his opponents not by the force of the arms but by the power of the reasonable speech. He refrained from eating meat, which was rare to see among the representatives of the Sakyas and the similar white-skinned clans, who came from the West centuries ago and populated the northern areas of the huge Jambudvipa. Sudhodana was married and loved his wife Maya, a princess from the neighbouring kingdom of the Koliyas. Princess Maya was white-skinned, slender with regular features. Like Sudhodana, she also refrained from eating meat and consuming intoxicating beverages. She was generous and compassionate, when necessary, did not like indecent thoughts and despised theft and lies. On the day Siddhartha was conceived, Maya dreamed a marvellous dream. Four Great kings, who came from the four directions, took her, together with her bed, up in the air, after which they brought her to the shore of a beautiful lake, at the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. There she was showered and dressed in heavenly garments, decorated with flowers and sprinkled with fragrances.  The Great kings took her to the nearby silver mountain, into a house made of gold, and then laid her on a beautiful bed, richly decorated. A white elephant, holding a white lotus with his trunk, spun around her three times, and then entered her womb.  Pleased, but also a little worried, on the next morning the queen shared her dream with Sudhodana. Puzzled, he called eight Brahmin-priests, gave gifts to them, and asked them to interpret the dream of the queen. The Brahmins stood silent for a while, then silently discussed among themselves the signs of the queen’s dream, and finally one of them stood before the king and said: “Do not worry, King! The queen has conceived a male child, not female, and you will soon have a son. And not just a son, but one worthy to be ruler of the whole world.” Pleased, Sudhodana sent the priests away. Maya’s pregnancy lasted longer than expected. The tenth month, after the conception, was coming to an end but still she could not give birth. The court healer and experienced older women advised her to do some exercises, to release herself quicker from the heavy burden. For this purpose Maya chose the lovely area of Lumbini, not far from Kapilavastu. Here, away from the eyes of others, she walked and exercised as advised. During one of the walks Maya felt the onset of  labour pains.  Miraculous was this event and the coming of the child to the world. Unlike other women who give birth lying, Maya gave birth while standing and holding the curved stem of a young salva tree. Also, unlike other women who give birth on the ninth month, she bore her child on the tenth. A celestial force took the child, before it could touch the ground, and presented him to his mother. She heard a voice from heaven saying: “Rejoice woman, a glorious son was born!” At that same hour a rain came from the sky, at the same time both hot and cold, which bathed the mother and her newborn child. Great was the joy of Sudhodana. He had an heir. At the same time he realized that his beloved wife was passing away. Maya could not bear the heavy pregnancy and, on the seventh day after giving birth, she died. At the same time Mahaprajapati, the sister of Maya, also obtained a son. To her cares Sudhodana entrusted the little Siddhartha. Sudhodana was truly suffering for his beloved queen Maya, but the king’s duty required that he should have a competent wife beside him. So Mahaprajapati took the place of her sister Maya. She possessed most of the merits of the former queen. She was caring and attentive to the little Siddhartha but could not replace completely the absence of the real mother. Siddhartha, feeling this absence, was often crying. To bring peace to the mind of the infant, Sudhodana ordered three artificial lakes to be made in the court yard. White lotuses were set in the first, red in the second and blue in the third. Several white geese, which flapped their wings and hissed at the appearance of a snake or any other danger, always accompanied the infants during their walk in the park. Everyone in the palace was showing particular attention to the young inheritor. Sudhodana issued strict orders concerning the safety of the young prince. Sudhodana was making a great effort to ensure that Siddhartha could have calm, away from worldly worries, so that he should be undisturbed by the vicissitudes of fate. After the sixth year, the tuition of the child began. Together with several other children, from the noble families close to the court, Siddhartha began to visit the place where learned men taught the young children the arts of writing, reading, arithmetic, music and painting. In their spare time, the children ran around the big tent, wrestling with each other, or playing, or just watching the surrounding world. As an heir of the Kshatriays the prince soon began to master the arts of war as well – archery, spear throwing, sword fighting, horse riding, chariot driving and the handling of a battle elephant.  Siddhartha grew up a strong and handsome young man. He was taller than his friends and his physical strength was great. After sixteen years the time came to choose a wife. Sudhodana sent notices to the courts of the neighbouring kingdoms – the Mallas, the Koliyas and the great kingdom of Kosala. He also sent notices to the families in Kapilavastu. Among all the noble girls who had reached the age of marriage, one was distinguished by her behaviour and beauty. This was Yashodara, a cousin of Siddhartha from his mother’s side. She was born on the same day and in the same year as the prince. The attraction between the two young people was strong and spontaneous.  King Sudhodana arranged a big wedding party which went on for days, to which many people came. Everyone enjoyed the wedding and later Channa, the personal charioteer of Siddhartha, showed the married couple around the city in a chariot driven by four splendid white horses. The appearance of the young couple, in such splendour, provoked exclamations of admiration among the inhabitants of Kapilavastu.   

    Happiness and grief  

Twelve years had passed since Siddhartha and Yashodara’s wedding. The seasons were passing. Spring was changing the cold winter, summer was changing the spring, the long rainy days – the warm summer. The prince was attending, together with his father, the council of the elders, was meeting the guests who were coming to the palace, was carrying out ceremonies and studying the principles of the royal governance. His body was strong and healthy, his hair black and luxuriant, his beard also, but he still had no heir. On the day of his twenty-eight birthday, Siddhartha called Channa and said: “Harness the horses in the chariot. Tonight I expect guests. Before that I want to walk in the park.”  Soon Channa was ready, and together with the prince they set off outside the palace walls. The weather was still spring-like and not very hot. Strength and joy filled the prince on this day. When they were coming out of the town, near the town gate, they saw an old man. The man was old with sparse gray hair, wrinkled face, broken teeth and his body was bent in two. In his hand he held a stick for support, nonetheless his body was trembling. His appearance evoked in the prince a feeling of anxiety, shame and disgust, all at the same time. Siddhartha made a sign with his hand and Channa stopped the chariot.  “Who is this man?” – asked the prince. “I have not seen him before, master”  replied the charioteer.  “Could be a stranger”. Siddhartha continued to look at the old man, who felt the sudden attention upon him but continued to stay leaning on the stick, body  shivering.  “Shall it happen the same with us, Channa?”, the prince asked again, “Me and you, shall we look like this man?” “If we live to see old age, this will be inevitable, my lord”, the charioteer replied. With a hand Siddhartha gave a sign that they should proceed. The walk in the park did not bring the expected satisfaction to the prince. The image of the decrepit old man was still in front of his eyes. “It’s true – the prince thought – that human beings are subject to ageing. But I am also subject to this and cannot avoid it.” At this moment all the joy from his own youth suddenly left him. When he returned to the palace his look was thoughtful. “What it is, my master?”, asked Yashodara. “Nothing“,  the prince replied. In the evening the guests gathered and the celebration began. The dancing girls performed their dances, at the table there were delicious meals and intoxicating beverages, but Siddhartha continued to be thoughtful. “These gorgeous bodies – he reasoned while watching the dancing girls – are also subject to decay, aging and death. Nothing in the human nature is permanent and eternal”. The friends and the relatives saw his serious look and asked what had happened. Siddhartha described encountering the old man, his appearance and the thoughts that followed. The other men were already drunk so they just laughed. Only his younger cousin Devadatta said: “That’s why eat and drink Siddhartha, till your hands can hold the cup alone“. The others laughed again and continued the celebration. That night Siddhartha sought relief from the oppressive thoughts in the arms of Yashodara, but her intimacy could not bring him peace. During the night a close relative from the royal family had died. This was a man Siddhartha had known from an early age. For the first time the prince realized what death really is – parting with something close and familiar, parting with a beloved person, whose place in this world remains empty. “One day death will overtake me, too. And I will also disappear. The same”, the prince realized and at that moment the whole joy of his own life entirely left him.  A change came over the prince. His eyes,  before directed outwards to the external world, turned inwards. Siddhartha gradually became aware of human selfishness and delusion, their cyclic recurrence which led to the repetition of  events. The prince pondered over the nature of existence, the value and the meaning of human life. His walks in the park, which he used for contemplation, became more frequent, while his occupation with social obligations lessened. Several times in the park the prince witnessed the disputes between materialists and advocates of the Upanishads, who argued about whether the eternal and indestructible Atman existed, the invisible basis of the visible world. Disputes were long, each side defending their position with the relevant evidences and quotations from sacred texts. But consensus could not be reached. The prince came upon wandering sramanas, parivrajaka and strange roamers, most of whom came from the south, from the lands of Magadha.  Siddhartha spent the rainy season in the palace, devoted to reflections. None of his associates, not even Yashodara, could understand what was happening in the prince’s soul, what the thoughts were that made him remain silent and indifferent to the surrounding world. One day, towards the end of the rainy season, the prince sent one of his servants to seek a meeting with Sudhodana. After a while the servant returned to inform the prince that Sudhodana expected him in the big hall, the one where they received guests.   Siddhartha entered the vast hall. After the morning visit of some applicants from the city, his father was left alone.  “Honourable sir” began Siddhartha “I want to inform you about my decision, and to ask for your permission.” “Speak, my son” said Sudhodana. “Dear father, I came to ask for your permission to leave the palace. I want to enter the life of a sramana and to discover the true law. I want to achieve liberation and to overcome worldly suffering. I want to go to Rajagaha, the capital of Magadha. There are famous teachers there, who will show me the right way.”  Sudhodana sighed deeply.  “I never thought that this day would come, but here it is”  said the ruler of the Sakyas.  “Sit beside me, my son, I want to tell you something.” Siddhartha obeyed, and sat opposite his father, with his head bowed. “The same day that your mother died” began Sudhodana  “a sage named Asita appeared in the palace. He said that the Devas from heaven had themselves told him to visit the palace and see my newborn child. After taking you in his hands, Asita named the thirty two major and the eight smaller signs, which the body of a great man possess, and said they all are visible in your body. He predicted that you will become a powerful king or a renowned sage. I had no strength to be pleased by his prophecy because the grief for your deceased mother was great.” Sudhodana sighed again, after that he raised his head and his body and continued. “Our clan, Siddhartha, is one of noble warriors and fair administrators. The search for immortality and the path to liberation is a task of the Brahmins, the guardians of the rituals and the Sacred songs. The warrior should be able to use the sword, the bow and the spear, to defend his land, his family, and his dignity. You know we are descendants of the glorious king Okaka. Our ancestors were unfairly forced to leave the kingdom of Kosala. They were strong and had enough people available, but instead of oppressing the others they built a new city at the foothills of Himalaya. Now you are their only ancestor. Your duty is to protect their legacy and to continue their family. Therefore Siddhartha, and because of the memory of your ancestors, I can not let you leave the palace.” Siddhartha stood up and bowed in silence. He left the big hall, agitated, with even more sadness in his heart.      

The flight  

The rainy season came to an end. The fields in the vicinity of Kapilavastu filled once again with people, who cultivated the land and harvested the new crop of rice. The prince resumed the walks outside the city walls. Sometimes he went alone, mounted on his favourite horse Kanthaka. After one of these walks, Yashodara told him that she was expecting a child. The news of her pregnancy was met with joy in the royal family. Everyone was happy and Sudhodana prayed to the celestial Devas that they should send a grandson to him.  The cold and foggy winter went. The hot month, vesaka, came – the month of Siddhartha’s birth. “Oppressive is life in a house” reasoned the prince “it is stagnant and  full of dust. Outside under the blue sky, in the open air is the true righteous life. It is not easy for one who dwells in a house to practice a completely pure and perfect righteous life. Has not the time come for me to shave my hair and beard, to put on the yellow robe and go forth from the house, to lead a homeless, but righteous life?” The news of the birth of his newborn son was told to Siddhartha as he was coming back from the river. After bathing in the royal pool, he  put on a new robe and decorations. The palace hairdresser brushed his long beard and tied exquisite braids in his long hair.  Accompanied by Channa, the prince headed towards the palace. The two men walked in silence.  “Kingdom, power, family – it’s all nothing but chains, Channa”, sighed the prince.  “If I greet another dawn in the palace, I will be forever shackled in these chains. I will never find the path to liberation. So Channa, saddle Kanthaka, and get ready. Tonight we leave Kapilavastu”.  In the palace there was a celebration that night. Yashodara, with her son, was in her room but the joy at the birth of an heir was present everywhere. Late in the evening the palace quietened and dreams were sweet. Channa was ready and waiting for his master, holding in his hands the reins of both horses - his own and the superb Kanthaka. Siddhartha was also ready, but a father’s desire to see his son rose up in him. He got up, left the room and quietly approached the rooms of Yashodara. He opened the door. The flame in the lamp was still burning. Covered with jasmine and other flowers, the beautiful Yashodara was sleeping, hugging her son. Her fine hand was laid on his body so that it was hiding his little face. Siddhartha stood at the doorway and hesitated. “If I take my son in my arms the princess will wake up and this will hinder my departure”, he thought, “ When I discover the path to liberation I will come back and then see him.” The prince quietly went back to his room, took the things he had prepared and silently left the palace.  Channa and Siddhartha left Kapilavastu without waking anyone. The small eastern gate was left open and the hooves of both horses were wrapped in cloths, to deaden their rattle. It was a full moon and they quickly receded into the twilight. Soon they reached the crossroads where they headed south, through the lands of the Koliyas and Mallas, towards the kingdom of Magadha. The city walls were still visible in the distance when a dark shadow, surrounded by a glimmering radiance, appeared in their path. They stopped. In front of them stood Mara the Tempter, Master of seduction and death.  “Where to, Siddhartha?” – asked the divine wraith. The prince raised his head. He knew it was him - Mara the Tempter, Master of seduction and death.  “I seek deliverance and a way out of your kingdom, o Namuci!”, the prince said proudly. “Many would like to tread this path, Siddhartha, but no one has escaped from my kingdom. Better, then, that you return to the palace. Rule the kingdom and lead a rich life. Enjoy a devoted wife and a famous son“.  “O, Namuci”, the prince replied, “earthly happiness is transient. All worldly creatures are subject to birth, aging and death. I will find the way to the eternal, to the good and to everlasting happiness. I will overcome suffering and reach eternity“.  “Many would tread this path, Siddhartha, but nobody has found the eternal and reached eternity. Therefore prince, listen to my advice. Return to the palace. Your kingdom needs you. Your father, Yashodara, and your son also.   “O, Namuci”, the prince replied, “when I find out how to end worldly suffering, how to overcome the transient and discover eternity, I will liberate everyone from your power”. “So be it, prince”, said Mara, “but be careful! From now on even the bare thought of worldly happiness, fortune or delight I will punish fiercely.  So said Mara the Tempter, disappearing into the dark as quickly as he had appeared. Channa and Siddhartha continued on their way. They rode all night and also the next day and night. They crossed the kingdom of the Mallas and that of the Koliyas, and so reached the frontiers of Magadha.  Here they stopped. Siddhartha addressed Channa and said: “From here on I go alone, my friend“. He dismounted and took from the saddle the things he that he had prepared – three yellow robes, the clothing of a wandering sramana, a clay pot, in which the wanderers collected their food, a razor, to maintain his hair and beard, thread and needle, and a strainer for water. Siddhartha took the short sword, which was gird on his waist, and cut with it his long hair, which remained only two fingers long. He cut his beard in the same way. After that he took off his fine silken garments and dressed in the dark-yellow robes. Channa stood, with silence and grief, and watched the transformation of his master. In front of his eyes, Siddhartha had changed from a king into one of the many wandering homeless.  “Get my garments, jewels and sword, Channa, and take Kanthaka back to Kapilavastu. Hurry up because the anxiety in the palace is likely to be great“.  It was difficult for both men to speak.  “Goodbye, Channa”, said the prince. “Goodbye, my master”, replied Channa, crying.
Siddhartha waved turned and continued on his way.



1. andorey - Книгата на български може да про...
27.09 09:58
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Автор: andorey
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