BY THE REV. S. BEAL.
"I remember in years gone by, there were 500 merchants in Jambudwîpa, of whom a certain one was the chief, his name was Mâitri (Sse-chè). On one occasion, these merchants all assembled together, and began to consult how they might best embark on some expedition for the purpose of getting gain. Having agreed upon a voyage in a certain direction, and settled all preliminaries as to freight and provisioning the ship, they separated for a time, returning to their homes, to take leave of their wives and families.
"Now at this time, Mâitri went to see his mother, to get her permission and blessing ere he set out on the expedition contemplated. At this time his mother was living in retirement in the upper portion of the house, exercising herself in religious discipline [laws of purity and self-restraint].
"Mâitri approaching her, addressed his mother thus: 'Honoured mother! [or, honoured 'parent'] I am about to undertake a voyage by sea for the purpose of getting much profit. I hope to return home with gold, silver, jewels of every kind, and so be able to minister in every way to your comfort, and also to that of the members of my family [give me then your permission and blessing].'
"Then his mother began to expostulate with him, and to say, 'Dear son! why venture your life at sea? Surely you have wealth enough at home, and every comfort and necessary without stint. You can easily afford to give what is necessary in religious charity; there is no impediment in the way of your happiness (merit). Darling son! dear son! the sea is full of perils, boisterous winds, hungry and cruel monsters (fishes), evil spirits, Râkshasîs, and ghouls; dear son! darling Mâitri! all these dangers infest the ocean; and now I am getting old, and if you leave me now, although as you say you want to return a rich man to minister to my necessities, still the day of my death is so near, that all your pious intentions may be of little use to me; stay, then, dear son! stay, to be the comfort of my old age! [And so she entreated him three times.]
"Then Mâitri answered: 'Yes, dear mother, but still I must go! think of the wealth I shall bring back, the gold and silver and jewels! think how I shall be able to nourish and cherish you in your old age, and what gifts I can bestow in religious charity.'
"Then his mother arose from her seat, and threw her arms round his neck, and embraced him as she cried: 'Darling son! dear Mâitri! I cannot let you go; I cannot give you leave to risk your life on the ocean just to seek for gain! We have money enough, we have all we need at home! I cannot let you go!'
"Then Mâitri thought thus:--'My mother is cross with me, and does not want me to prosper, and so she forbids me go this voyage,' and then he got angry, and pulling his mother to the ground, he slapped (kicked) her head, and rushed out of the house.
"Then the merchants having assembled on the coast, and offered their worship to the Sea-God, selected five men to superintend the various departments (as before), and set sail. But sad to say! their ship was soon overtaken by a storm, and broke to pieces, and all the merchants except p. 225 Mâitri were lost. But he, having clung to a plank, after tossing about on the waves for a long time, was at length thrown on the shore of an islet called Vaisvadîpa [North island or islet]. So Mâitri, having refreshed himself with some wild seeds and medicinal herbs growing on the shore, at length recovered his strength, and began to explore the neighbourhood of the spot where he had been cast ashore. At length, as he went on, he came to a southern division (fork) of the island, and there he saw a path leading right before him. Following the track, after a short distance he saw, from a slight eminence, a city immediately in front of him, shining like silver, extremely beautiful and glorious! it was full of towers and palaces, surrounded by a lofty wall, and in every respect perfectly adorned [with lakes, woods, censers, flags, etc., etc.] and calculated for the unbridled indulgence of love and pleasure. In the centre of the city was a charming palace (called 'Merry-joy,') built of the seven precious substances, and most exquisite to behold!
"And now, from the inside of the city there came forth four beautiful women, adorned with jewels, and every ornament calculated to please. Approaching the spot where Mâitri was, they addressed him as follows:--'Welcome, O Mâitri! let us conduct you within yonder city, there is no one there to interfere with us, and there is an abundance of every necessary for food and enjoyment. See yonder beautiful palace, called 'Joy and Pleasure,' constructed of the seven precious substances! It is there we four live, we rise up and lie down as we like, with no one to molest us! come then, oh Mâitri! enter there with us and enjoy our company without interference, we will nourish you and cherish you with fondest care.' So entering into that pleasant hall, Mâitri enjoyed the society of these women, with no one (man) to dispute possession with him. Thus passed many, many years; nothing to interrupt the current of his happiness. At length, after a long lapse of time, these four women addressed Mâitri, and said, 'Dear Mâitri; remain here with us, and go not to any other city.' Then Mâitri began to doubt about the matter, and he thought 'What do those women mean when they talk about other cities? I will wait till they are asleep, and then go and explore in every direction, and see whether there is good or bad luck in store for me.' So when they had dropped off to slumber, Mâitri arose, and leaving the precious tower, and passing through the eastern gate, he entered the garden which surrounded the city, and then leaving this by the southern gate, he struck into a road, along which he pursued his way. At length he saw before him at some distance a city of gold, most beautiful to look at, and in the middle of it a lovely palace called 'Ever Drunk,' made of the seven precious substances and beautifully adorned. Now whilst he gazed, lo! eight beautiful women came forth from the city to the place where he stood, and addressed Mâitri as follows:--'Dear Mâitri! come near and enter this city in our company, there is a beautiful palace which we occupy, with no one to molest us, there is no lack of any comfort or necessary within its walls; come, then, and enjoy our society, whilst we nourish and cherish you without intermission.' So he went with them, and enjoyed their company for many years, till at last, when they began to talk to him about going to any other city, his suspicions were aroused as before, and he resolved when they were asleep to explore further, and find out what other cities there were, [And so he discovered two other cities, one built of crystal, the other of lapis lazuli, the first with sixteen, the other with thirty-two maidens, who invited him to use their company as before.] On receiving similar hints from these, in succession, he went on further discoveries, till at length he saw an iron city, that appeared to him quite desolate, only he heard a voice constantly crying out 'Who is hungry? who is thirsty? Who is naked? who is weary? Who is a stranger? Who wishes to be carried?' On hearing this voice, Mâitri began to consider with himself: 'At the other cities I found agreeable companions, but here I see no one, but only hear this doleful voioe. I must search into this.' Accordingly he entered the city to see whence the voice prooeeded. No sooner had he passed through the gate, than it shut behind him, and he felt that he was alone within the walls and all escape cut off; On this he was filled with fear, his limbs trembled, and the hairs of his body stood upright. He began to run to and fro in every direction, exclaiming, 'Woe is me! I am undone! I am ruined.' At length, as he ran here and there, lo! he saw confronting him a man, on whose head there was placed an iron wheel, p. 226 --this wheel red with heat, and glowing as from a furnace, terrible to behold. Seeing this terrible sight, Mâitri exclaimed: 'Who are you? why do you carry that terrible wheel on your head?' On this, that wretched man replied: 'Dear sir! is it possible you know me not? I am a merchant chief called Govinda.' Then Mâitri asked him, and said, 'Pray then tell me, what dreadful crime have you committed in former days that you are constrained to wear that fiery wheel on your head?' Then Govinda answered, 'In former days I was angry with and struck my mother on the head as she lay upon the ground, and for this reason I am condemned to wear this fiery iron wheel around my head.' At this time, Mâitri, self-accused, began to cry out and lament; he was filled with remorse in recollection of his own conduct, and exclaimed in his agony, 'Now am I caught like a deer in the snare.'
"Then a certain Yaksha, who kept guard over that city, whose name was Viruka, suddenly came to the spot, and removing the fiery wheel from off the head of Govinda, he placed it on the head of Mâitri. Then the wretched man cried out in his agony, and said, 'Oh, what have I done to merit this torment?' [The Gâthas are to this effect.] To which the Yaksha replied, 'You, wretched man, dared to strike (kick) your mother on the head as she lay on the ground; now, therefore, on your head you must wear this fiery wheel, through 60,000 years your punishment shall last; be assured of this, through all these years you shall wear this wheel.'
"'Now, Bhikshus! I was that wicked Mâitri, and for 60,000 years I wore that wheel for disobedience to my mother; so be ye assured that disobedience to your religious superiors will be punished in the same way.'"
[1. From the Oriental, Oct. 9th, 1875, also reprinted in The Romantic Legend of Sâkya Buddha.]