Sacred-Texts Buddhism Index Sources Previous Next
§ 6. THE GREAT RETIREMENT.
Translated from the Introduction to the Jâtaka (i.5881).
NOW on a certain day the Future Buddha wished to go to the park, and told his charioteer to make ready the chariot. Accordingly the man brought out a sumptuous and elegant chariot, and adorning it richly, he harnessed to it four state-horses of the Sindhava breed, as white as the petals of the white lotus, and announced to the Future Buddha that everything was ready. And the Future Buddha mounted the chariot, which was like to a palace of the gods, and proceeded towards the park.
"The time for the enlightenment of prince Siddhattha draweth nigh," thought the gods; "we must show him a sign:" and they changed one of their number into a decrepit old man, broken-toothed, gray-haired, crooked and bent of body, leaning on a staff, and trembling, and showed him to the Future Buddha, but so that only he and the charioteer saw him.
Then said the Future Buddha to the charioteer, in the manner related in the Mahâpadâna,--
"Friend, pray, who is this man? Even his hair is not like that of other men." And when he heard the answer, he said, "Shame on birth, since to every one that is born old age must come." And agitated in heart, he thereupon returned and ascended his palace.
"Why has my son returned so quickly?" asked the king.
"Sire, he has seen an old man," was the reply; "and
because he has seen an old man, he is about to retire from the world."
"Do you want to kill me, that you say such things? Quickly get ready some plays to be performed before my son. If we can but get him to enjoying pleasure, he will cease to think of retiring from the world." Then the king extended the guard to half a league in each direction.
Again, on a certain day, as the Future Buddha was going to the park, he saw a diseased man whom the gods had fashioned; and having again made inquiry, he returned, agitated in heart, and ascended his palace.
And the king made the same inquiry and gave the same orders as before; and again extending the guard, placed them for three quarters of a league around.
And again on a certain day, as the Future Buddha was going to the park, he saw a dead man whom the gods had fashioned; and having again made inquiry, he returned, agitated in heart, and ascended his palace.
And the king made the same inquiry and gave the same orders as before; and again extending the guard, placed them for a league around.
And again on a certain day, as the Future Buddha was going to the park, he saw a monk, carefully and decently clad, whom the gods had fashioned; and he asked his charioteer, "Pray, who is this man?"
Now although there was no Buddha in the world, and the charioteer had no knowledge of either monks or their good qualities, yet by the power of the gods he was inspired to say, "Sire, this is one who has retired from the world;" and he thereupon proceeded to sound the praises of retirement from the world. The thought of retiring from the world was a pleasing one to the Future Buddha, and this day he went on until he came to the park. The repeaters of the Dîgha,1 however, say that he went to the park after having seen all the Four Signs on one and the same day.
When he had disported himself there throughout the day,
and had bathed in the royal pleasure-tank, he went at sunset and sat down on the royal resting-stone with the intention of adorning himself. Then gathered around him his attendants with diverse-colored cloths, many kinds and styles of ornaments, and with garlands, perfumes, and ointments. At that instant the throne on which Sakka was sitting grew hot. And Sakka, considering who it could be that was desirous of dislodging him, perceived that it was the time of the adornment of a Future Buddha. And addressing Vissakamma, he said,--
"My good Vissakamma, to-night, in the middle watch, prince Siddhattha will go forth on the Great Retirement, and this is his last adorning of himself. Go to the park, and adorn that eminent man with celestial ornaments."
"Very well," said Vissakamma, in assent; and came on the instant, by his superhuman power, into the presence of the Future Buddha. And assuming the guise of a barber, he took from the real barber the turban-cloth, and began to wind it round the Future Buddha's head; but as soon as the Future Buddha felt the touch of his hand, he knew that it was no man, but a god.
Now once round his head took up a thousand cloths, and the fold was like to a circlet of precious stones; the second time round took another thousand cloths, and so on, until ten times round had taken up ten thousand cloths. Now let no one think, "How was it possible to use so many cloths on one small head?" for the very largest of them all had only the size of a sâma-creeper blossom, and the others that of kutumbaka flowers. Thus the Future Buddha's head resembled a kuyyaka blossom twisted about with lotus filaments.
And having adorned himself with great richness,--while adepts in different kinds of tabors and tom-toms were showing their skill, and Brahmans with cries of victory and joy, and bards and poets with propitious words and shouts of praise saluted him,--he mounted his superbly decorated chariot.
At this juncture, Suddhodana the king, having heard that
the mother of Râhula had brought forth a son, sent a messenger, saying, "Announce the glad news to my son."
On hearing the message, the Future Buddha said, "An impediment [râhula] has been born; a fetter has been born."
"What did my son say?" questioned the king; and when he had heard the answer, he said, "My grandson's name shall be prince Râhula from this very day."
But the Future Buddha in his splendid chariot entered the city with a pomp and magnificence of glory that enraptured all minds. At the same moment Kisâ Gotamî, a virgin of the warrior caste, ascended to the roof of her palace, and beheld tile beauty and majesty of the Future Buddha, as he circumambulated the city; and in her pleasure and satisfaction at the sight, she burst forth into this song of joy:--
|271.||"Full happy now that mother is,|
Full happy now that father is,
Full happy now that woman is,
Who owns this lord so glorious!"
On hearing this, the Future Buddha thought, "In beholding a handsome figure the heart of a mother attains Nirvana, the heart of a father attains Nirvana, the heart of a wife attains Nirvana. This is what she says. But wherein does Nirvana consist? "And to him, whose mind was already averse to passion, the answer came: "When the fire of lust is extinct, that is Nirvana; when the fires of hatred and infatuation are extinct, that is Nirvana; when pride, false belief, and all other passions and torments are extinct, that is Nirvana. She has taught me a good lesson. Certainly, Nirvana is what I am looking for. It behooves me this very day to quit the household life, and to retire from the world in quest of Nirvana.1 I will send this lady a teacher's fee." And
loosening from his neck a pearl necklace worth a hundred thousand pieces of money, he sent it to Kisâ Gotamî. And great was her satisfaction at this, for she thought, "Prince Siddhattha has fallen in love with me, and has sent me a present."
And the Future Buddha entered his palace in great splendor, and lay on his couch of state. And straightway richly dressed women, skilled in all manner of dance and song, and beautiful as celestial nymphs, gathered about him with all kinds of musical instruments, and with dance, song, and music they endeavored to please him. But the Future Buddha's aversion to passion did not allow him to take pleasure in the spectacle, and he fell into a brief slumber. And the women, exclaiming, "He for whose sake we should perform has fallen asleep. Of what use is it to weary ourselves any longer?" threw their various instruments on the ground, and lay down. And the lamps fed with sweet-smelling oil continued to burn. And the Future Buddha awoke, and seating himself cross-legged on his couch, perceived these women lying asleep, with their musical instruments scattered about them on the floor,--some with their bodies wet with trickling phlegm and spittle; some grinding their teeth, and muttering and talking in their sleep; some with their mouths open; and some with their dress fallen apart so as plainly to
disclose their loathsome nakedness. This great alteration in their appearance still further increased his aversion for sensual pleasures. To him that magnificent apartment, as splendid as the palace of Sakka, began to seem like a cemetery filled with dead bodies impaled and left to rot; and the three modes of existence appeared like houses all ablaze. And breathing forth the solemn utterance, "How oppressive and stifling is it all!" his mind turned ardently to retiring from the world. "It behooves me to go forth on the Great Retirement this very day," said he; and he arose from his couch, and coming near the door, called out,--
"Master, it is I, Channa," replied the courtier who had been sleeping with his head on the threshold.1
"I wish to go forth on the Great Retirement to-day. Saddle a horse for me."
"Yes, sire." And taking saddle and bridle with him, the courtier started for the stable. There, by the light of lamps fed with sweet-smelling oils, he perceived the mighty steed Kanthaka in his pleasant quarters, under a canopy of cloth beautified with a pattern of jasmine flowers. "This is the
one for me to saddle to-day," thought he; and he saddled Kanthaka.
"He is drawing the girth very tight," thought Kanthaka, whilst he was being saddled;" it is not at all as on other days, when I am saddled for rides in the park and the like. It must be that to-day my master wishes to issue forth on the Great Retirement." And in his delight he neighed a loud neigh. And that neigh would have spread through the whole town, had not the gods stopped the sound, and suffered no one to hear it.
Now the Future Buddha, after he had sent Channa on his errand, thought to himself, "will take just one look at my son;" and, rising from the couch on which he was sitting, he went to the suite of apartments occupied by the mother of Rahula, and opened the door of her chamber. Within the chamber was burning a lamp fed with sweet-smelling oil, and the mother of Râhula lay sleeping on a couch strewn deep with jasmine and other flowers, her hand resting on the head of her son. When the Future Buddha reached the threshold, he paused, and gazed at the two from where he stood.
"If I were to raise my wife's hand from off the child's head, and take him up, she would awake, and thus prevent my departure. I will first become a Buddha, and then come back and see my son." So saying, he descended from the palace.
Now that which is said in the Jâtaka Commentary, "At that time Râhula was seven days old, "is not found in the other commentaries. Therefore the account above given is to be accepted.
When the Future Buddha had thus descended from the palace, he came near to his horse, and said,--
"My dear Kanthaka, save me now this one night; and then, when thanks to you I have become a Buddha, I will save the world of gods and men." And thereupon he vaulted upon Kanthaka's back.
Now Kanthaka was eighteen cubits long from his neck to his tail, and of corresponding height; he was strong and swift, and white all over like a polished conch-shell. If he neighed or stamped, the sound was so loud as to spread
through the whole city; therefore the gods exerted their power, and muffled the sound of his neighing, so that no one heard it; and at every step he took they placed the palms of their hands under his feet.
The Future Buddha rode on the mighty back of the mighty steed, made Channa hold on by the tail, and so arrived at midnight at the great gate of the city.
Now the king, in order that the Future Buddha should not at any time go out of the city without his knowledge, had caused each of the two leaves of the gate to be made so heavy as to need a thousand men to move it. But the Future Buddha had a vigor and a strength that was equal, when reckoned in elephant-power, to the strength of ten thousand million elephants, and, reckoned in man-power, to the strength of a hundred thousand million men.
"If," thought he, "the gate does not open, I will straightway grip tight hold of Kanthaka with my thighs, and, seated as I am on Kanthaka's back, and with Channa holding on by the tail, I will leap up and carry them both with me over the wall, although its height be eighteen cubits."
"If," thought Channa, "the gate is not opened, I will place my master on my shoulder, and tucking Kanthaka under my arm by passing my right hand round him and under his belly, I will leap up and carry them both with me over the wall."
"If," thought Kanthaka, "the gate is not opened, with my master seated as he is on my back, and with Channa holding on by my tail, I will leap up and carry them both with me over the wall."
Now if the gate had not opened, verily one or another of these three persons would have accomplished that whereof he thought; but the divinity that inhabited the gate opened it for them.
At this moment came Mâra,1 with the intention of persuading
the Future Buddha to turn back; and standing in the air, he said,--
"Sir, go not forth! For on the seventh day from now the wheel of empire will appear to you, and you shall rule over the four great continents and their two thousand attendant isles. Sir, turn back!"
"Who are you?"
"I am Vasavatti."
"Mâra, I knew that the wheel of empire was on the point of appearing to me; but I do not wish for sovereignty. I am about to cause the ten thousand worlds to thunder with my becoming a Buddha."
"I shall catch you," thought Mâra, "the very first time you have a lustful, malicious, or unkind thought." And, like an ever-present shadow, he followed after, ever on the watch for some slip.
Thus the Future Buddha, casting away with indifference a universal sovereignty already in his grasp,--spewing it out as if it were but phlegm,--departed from the city in great splendor on the full-moon day of the month Âsâlhi,1 when the moon was in Libra. And when he had gone out from the city, he became desirous of looking back at it; but no sooner had the thought arisen in his mind, than the broad earth, seeming to fear lest the Great Being might neglect to perform the act of looking back, split and turned round like a potter's wheel.2 When the Future Buddha had stood a while facing the city and gazing upon it, and had indicated in that place the spot for the "Shrine of the Turning Back of Kanthaka," he turned Kanthaka in the direction in which he meant to go, and proceeded on his way in great honor and exceeding glory.
For they say the deities bore sixty thousand torches in front of him, and sixty thousand behind him, and sixty
thousand on the right hand, and sixty thousand on the left hand. Other deities, standing on the rim of the world, bore torches past all numbering; and still other deities, as well as serpents and birds, accompanied him, and did him homage with heavenly perfumes, garlands, sandal-wood powder, and incense. And the sky was as full of coral flowers as it is of pouring water at the height of the rainy season. Celestial choruses were heard; and on every side bands of music played, some of eight instruments, and some of sixty,--sixty-eight hundred thousand instruments in all. It was as when the storm-clouds thunder on the sea, or when the ocean roars against the Yugandhara rocks.
Advancing in this glory, the Future Buddha in one night passed through three kingdoms, and at the end of thirty leagues he came to the river named Anomâ.
But was this as far as the horse could go? Certainly not. For he was able to travel round the world from end to end, as it were round the rim of a wheel lying on its hub, and yet get back before breakfast and eat the food prepared for him. But on this occasion the fragrant garlands and other offerings which the gods and the serpents and the birds threw down upon him from the sky buried him up to his haunches; and as he was obliged to drag his body and cut his way through the tangled mass, he was greatly delayed. Hence it was that he went only thirty leagues.
And the Future Buddha, stopping on the river-bank, said to Channa,--
"What is the name of this river?"
"Sire, its name is Anomâ [Illustrious]."
"And my retirement from the world shall also be called Anomâ," replied the Future Buddha. Saying this, he gave the signal to his horse with his heel; and the horse sprang over the river, which had a breadth of eight usabhas,1 and landed on the opposite bank. And the Future Buddha, dismounting and standing on the sandy beach that stretched away like a sheet of silver, said to Channa,--
"My good Channa, take these ornaments and Kanthaka and go home. I am about to retire from the world."
"Sire, I also will retire from the world."
Three times the Future Buddha refused him, saying, "It is not for you to retire from the world. Go now!" and made him take the ornaments and Kanthaka.
Next he thought, "These locks of mine are not suited to a monk; but there is no one fit to cut the hair of a Future Buddha. Therefore I will cut them off myself with my sword." And grasping a simitar with his right hand, he seized his top-knot with his left hand, and cut it off, together with the diadem. His hair thus became two finger-breadths in length, and curling to the right, lay close to his head. As long as he lived it remained of that length, and the beard was proportionate. And never again did he have to cut either hair or beard.
Then the Future Buddha seized hold of his top-knot and diadem, and threw them into the air, saying,--
"If I am to become a Buddha, let them stay in the sky; but if not, let them fall to the ground."
The top-knot and jewelled turban mounted for a distance of a league into the air, and there came to a stop. And Sakka, the king of the gods, perceiving them with his divine eye, received them in an appropriate jewelled casket, and established it in the Heaven of the Thirty-three as the "Shrine of the Diadem."
|272.||"His hair he cut, so sweet with many pleasant scents,|
This Chief of Men, and high impelled it towards the sky;
And there god Vâsava, the god with thousand eyes,
In golden casket caught it, bowing low his head."
Again the Future Buddha thought, "These garments of mine, made of Benares cloth, are not suited to a monk."
Now the Mahâ-Brahma god, Ghatîkâra, who had been a friend of his in the time of the Buddha Kassapa, and whose affection for him had not grown old in the long interval. since that Buddha, thought to himself,--
"To-day my friend has gone forth on the Great Retirement. I will bring him the requisites of a monk."
|273.||"Robes, three in all, the bowl for alms,|
The razor, needle, and the belt,
And water-strainer,--just these eight
Are needed by th' ecstatic monk."
Taking the above eight requisites of a monk, he gave them to him.
When the Future Buddha had put on this most excellent vesture, the symbol of saintship and of retirement from the world, he dismissed Channa, saying,--
"Channa, go tell my father and my mother from me that I am well."
And Channa did obeisance to the Future Buddha; and keeping his right side towards him, he departed.
But Kanthaka, who had stood listening to the Future Buddha while he was conferring with Channa, was unable to bear his grief at the thought, "I shall never see my master any more." And as he passed out of sight, his heart burst, and he died, and was reborn in the Heaven of the Thirty-three as the god Kanthaka.
At first the grief of Channa had been but single; but now he was oppressed with a second sorrow in the death of Kanthaka, and came weeping and wailing to the city.
Next: § 7. The Great Struggle
1 Dîgha-Nikâya: see General Introduction.
1 The Future Buddha puns upon the word "happy" in Kisâ Gotamî's verses. The word in Pâli is nibbuta, and is in form a past passive participle of a verb which perhaps does not occur in Pâli in any finite form, but which appears in Sanskrit as nirvr. Now there is a Pâli verb of which the third person singular present indicative is nibbâyati, and from this verb is formed the verbal noun nibbâna (Sanskrit, Nirvâna). Nibbuta is constantly made to do duty as past passive participle to this verb, so that what would be the true form (nibbâta) is never found. The Future Buddha therefore puns when he pretends that Kisâ Gotamî was using nibbuta as the participle of nibbâyati, and was urging him to Nirvana.
The verb nibbâyati means "to be extinguished," as the flame of a candle; and, when used as a metaphysical term, refers to the fires of lust, desire, etc. And as when fire is extinguished coolness results (a consummation devoutly to be wished in a hot climate like India), the verb acquires the further meaning of "be assuaged," "become happy." And in like manner the verbal noun Nirvana (in Pâli nibbâna), meaning both literally and metaphorically "becoming extinguished," comes to stand for the summum bonum.
I add a retranslation of the passage, to show the punning meanings given by the Future Buddha to the words, nibbuta, nibbâyati, and Nirvana:--
|"Nirvana hath that mother gained,|
Nirvana hath that father gained,
Nirvana hath that woman gained,
Who owns this lord so glorious!"
On hearing this, the Future Buddha thought, "In beholding a handsome form the heart of a mother is made happy (nibbâyati), the heart of a father is made happy, the heart of a wife is made happy. This is what she says. But wherein does happiness (nibbuta) consist?" And to him whose mind was already averse to passion, the answer came: "When the fire of lust is assuaged (nibbuta), that is happiness (nibbuta); when the fires of hatred and infatuation are assuaged, that is happiness; when pride, false belief, and all other passions and torments are assuaged, that is happiness. She has taught me a good lesson. Certainly, happiness (Nirvana) is what I am looking for. It behooves me this very day to quit the household life and to retire from the world in quest of happiness. I will send this lady a teacher's fee."
1 In India it is customary to hang doors at the height of about two feet from the ground for the sake of coolness and ventilation. The threshold is thus exposed even when the door is shut.
1 The Buddhists recognize no real devil. Mâra, the ruler of the sixth and highest heaven of sensual pleasure, approaches the nearest to our Satan. He stands for the pleasures of sense, and hence is The Buddha's natural enemy.
1 About the first of July.
2 I think the conception here is that a round portion of the earth, on which the Future Buddha stood, turned around like a modern railroad turn-table, thus detaching itself from the rest and turning the Future Buddha with it.
1 An usabha is 140 cubits.