Putting Away DesireLife of Buddha
On the prince entering the garden the women came around to pay him court; and to arouse in him thoughts frivolous; with ogling ways and deep design, each one setting herself off to best advantage; or joining together in harmonious concert, clapping their hands, or moving their feet in unison, or joining close, body to body, limb to limb; or indulging in smart repartees, and mutual smiles; or assuming a thoughtful saddened countenance, and so by sympathy to please the prince, and provoke in him a heart affected by love. But all the women beheld the prince, clouded in brow, and his god-like body not exhibiting its wonted signs of beauty; fair in bodily appearance, surpassingly lovely, all looked upwards as they gazed, as when we call upon the moon Deva to come; but all their subtle devices were ineffectual to move Bodhisattva’s heart.
At last commingling together they join and look astonished and in fear, silent without a word. Then there was a Brahmaputra, whose name was called Udâyi (Yau-to-i). He, addressing the women, said, “Now all of you, so graceful and fair, see if you cannot by your combined power hit on some device; for beauty’s power is not forever. Still it holds the world in bondage, by secret ways and lustful arts; but no such loveliness in all the world as yours, equal to that of heavenly nymphs; the gods beholding it would leave their queens, spirits and Rishis would be misled by it; why not then the prince, the son of an earthly king? why should not his feelings be aroused? This prince indeed, though he restrains his heart and holds it fixed, pure-minded, with virtue uncontaminated, not to be overcome by power of women; yet of old there was Sundarî (Su-to-li) able to destroy the great Rishi, and to lead him to indulge in love, and so degrade his boasted eminence; undergoing long penance, Gautama fell likewise by the arts of a heavenly queen; Shing-kü, a Rishi putra, practising lustful indulgences according to fancy, was lost. The Brahman Rishi Visvâmitra (Pi-she-po), living religiously for ten thousand years, deeply ensnared by a heavenly queen, in one day was completely shipwrecked in faith; thus those enticing women, by their power, overcame the Brahman ascetics; how much more may ye, by your arts, overpower the resolves of the king’s son; strive therefore after new devices, let not the king fail in a successor to the throne; women, though naturally weak, are high and potent in the way of ruling men. What may not their arts accomplish in promoting in men a lustful desire?” At this time all the attendant women, hearing throughout the words of Udâyi, increasing their powers of pleasing, as the quiet horse when touched by the whip, went into the presence of the royal prince, and each one strove in the practice of every kind of art. They joined in music and in smiling conversation, raising their eyebrows, showing their white teeth, with ogling looks, glancing one at the other, their light drapery exhibiting their white bodies, daintily moving with mincing gait, acting the part of a bride as if coming gradually nearer, desiring to promote in him a feeling of love, remembering the words of the great king, “With dissolute form and slightly clad, forgetful of modesty and womanly reserve.” The prince with resolute heart was silent and still, with unmoved face he sat; even as the great elephant-dragon, whilst the entire herd moves round him; so nothing could disturb or move his heart, dwelling in their midst as in a confined room. Like the divine Sakra, around whom all the Devîs assemble, so was the prince as he dwelt in the gardens; the maidens encircling him thus; some arranging their dress, others washing their hands or feet, others perfuming their bodies with scent, others twining flowers for decoration, others making strings for jewelled necklets, others rubbing or striking their bodies, others resting, or lying, one beside the other; others, with head inclined, whispering secret words, others engaged in common sports, others talking of amorous things, others assuming lustful attitudes, striving thus to move his heart. But Bodhisattva, peaceful and collected, firm as a rock, difficult to move, hearing all these women’s talk, unaffected either to joy or sorrow, was driven still more to serious thought, sighing to witness such strange conduct, and beginning to understand the women’s design, by these means to disconcert his mind, not knowing that youthful beauty soon falls, destroyed by old age and death, fading and perishing! This is the great distress! What ignorance and delusion (he reflected) overshadow their minds: “Surely they ought to consider old age, disease, and death, and day and night stir themselves up to exertion, whilst this sharp double-edged sword hangs over the neck. What room for sport or laughter, beholding those monsters, old age, disease, and death? A man who is unable to resort to this inward knowledge, what is he but a wooden or a plaster man, what heart-consideration in such a case! Like the double tree that appears in the desert, with leaves and fruit all perfect and ripe, the first cut down and destroyed, the other unmoved by apprehension, so it is in the case of the mass of men: they have no understanding either!”
At this time Udâyi came to the place where the prince was, and observing his silent and thoughtful mien, unmoved by any desire for indulgence, he forthwith addressed the prince, and said, “The Mahâraga, by his former appointment, has selected me to act as friend to his son; may I therefore speak some friendly words? an enlightened friendship is of three sorts: that which removes things unprofitable, promotes that which is real gain, and stands by a friend in adversity. I claim the name of ‘enlightened friend,’ and would renounce all that is magisterial, but yet not speak lightly or with indifference. What then are the three sources of advantage? listen, and I will now utter true words, and prove myself a true and sincere adviser. When the years are fresh and ripening, beauty and pleasing qualities in bloom, not to give proper weight to woman’s influence, this is a weak man’s policy. It is right sometimes to be of a crafty mind, submitting to those little subterfuges which find a place in the heart’s undercurrents, and obeying what those thoughts suggest in way of pleasures to be got from dalliance: this is no wrong in woman’s eye! even if now the heart has no desire, yet it is fair to follow such devices; agreement is the joy of woman’s heart, acquiescence is the substance (the full) of true adornment; but if a man reject these overtures, he’s like a tree deprived of leaves and fruits; why then ought you to yield and acquiesce? that you may share in all these things. Because in taking, there’s an end of trouble—no light and changeful thoughts then worry us—for pleasure is the first and foremost thought of all, the gods themselves cannot dispense with it. Lord Sakra was drawn by it to love the wife of Gautama the Rishi; so likewise the Rishi Agastya, through a long period of discipline, practising austerities, from hankering after a heavenly queen (Devî), lost all reward of his religious endeavors, the Rishi Brihaspati, and Kandradeva putra; the Rishi Parâsara, and Kavañgara (Kia-pin-ke-lo). All these, out of many others, were overcome by woman’s love. How much more then, in your case, should you partake in such pleasant joys; nor refuse, with wilful heart, to participate in the worldly delights, which your present station, possessed of such advantages, offers you, in the presence of these attendants.”
At this time the royal prince, hearing the words of his friend Udâyi, so skilfully put, with such fine distinction, cleverly citing worldly instances, answered thus to Udâyi: “Thank you for having spoken sincerely to me; let me likewise answer you in the same way, and let your heart suspend its judgment whilst you listen:—It is not that I am careless about beauty, or am ignorant of the power of human joys, but only that I see on all the impress of change; therefore my heart is sad and heavy; if these things were sure of lasting, without the ills of age, disease, and death, then would I too take my fill of love; and to the end find no disgust or sadness. If you will undertake to cause these women’s beauty not to change or wither in the future, then, though the joy of love may have its evil, still it might hold the mind in thraldom. To know that other men grow old, sicken, and die, would be enough to rob such joys of satisfaction; yet how much more in their own case (knowing this) would discontentment fill the mind; to know such pleasures hasten to decay, and their bodies likewise; if, notwithstanding this, men yield to the power of love, their case indeed is like the very beasts. And now you cite the names of many Rishis, who practised lustful ways in life; their cases likewise cause me sorrow, for in that they did these things, they perished. Again, you cite the name of that illustrious king, who freely gratified his passions, but he, in like way, perished in the act; know, then, that he was not a conqueror; with smooth words to conceal an intrigue, and to persuade one’s neighbor to consent, and by consenting to defile his mind; how can this be called a just device? It is but to seduce one with a hollow lie—such ways are not for me to practise; or, for those who love the truth and honesty; for they are, forsooth, unrighteous ways, and such a disposition is hard to reverence; shaping one’s conduct after one’s likings, liking this or that, and seeing no harm in it, what method of experience is this! A hollow compliance, and a protesting heart, such method is not for me to follow; but this I know, old age, disease, and death, these are the great afflictions which accumulate, and overwhelm me with their presence; on these I find no friend to speak, alas! alas! Udâyi! these, after all, are the great concerns; the pain of birth, old age, disease, and death; this grief is that we have to fear; the eyes see all things falling to decay, and yet the heart finds joy in following them; but I have little strength of purpose, or command; this heart of mine is feeble and distraught, reflecting thus on age, disease, and death. Distracted, as I never was before; sleepless by night and day, how can I then indulge in pleasure? Old age, disease, and death consuming me, their certainty beyond a doubt, and still to have no heavy thoughts, in truth my heart would be a log or stone.” Thus the prince, for Uda’s sake, used every kind of skilful argument, describing all the pains of pleasure; and not perceiving that the day declined. And now the waiting women all, with music and their various attractions, seeing that all were useless for the end, with shame began to flock back to the city; the prince beholding all the gardens, bereft of their gaudy ornaments, the women all returning home, the place becoming silent and deserted, felt with twofold strength the thought of impermanence. With saddened mien going back, he entered his palace.
The king, his father, hearing of the prince, his heart estranged from thoughts of pleasure, was greatly overcome with sorrow, and like a sword it pierced his heart. Forthwith assembling all his council, he sought of them some means to gain his end; they all replied, “These sources of desire are not enough to hold and captivate his heart.”
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