The Life of Buddha, by A. Ferdinand Herold, tr. by Paul C Blum , at sacred-texts.com
THE chariot entered the wood. The young trees were in bloom, birds fluttered about joyously as though intoxicated by the light and atmosphere, and on the surface of the pools the lotuses had cupped their petals to drink in the cool air.
Siddhartha went unwillingly, like a young hermit, still new to his vows, who fears temptation and is taken to some celestial palace where lovely Apsarases are wont to dance. Filled with curiosity, the maidens rose and came forward as though to greet a betrothed. Their eyes were bright with admiration, and the hands they extended were like flowers. They all thought, "This is Kama himself come back to earth." But they did not speak nor even smile, so timid were they in his presence.
Udayin called to the boldest and the most beautiful, and he said to them:
"Why do you fail me to-day, you whom I have chosen from among many to captivate the prince, my friend? What makes you behave like shy, silent children? Your charm, your beauty, your boldness would win even a woman's heart, and you tremble
before a man! You mortify me. Come, wake up! Use your charms! Make him yield to love!" One of the maidens spoke up:
"He frightens us, O master; his majestic splendor frightens us."
"Great as it is," replied Udayin, "it should not frighten you. For strange is the power of women. Let him remind you of all those who, in the past, have been at the mercy of a tender glance. Once upon a time the great hermit Vyasa, whom even the Gods were afraid to offend, was kicked by a courtesan called the Belle of Benares, and he was not displeased. The monk Manthalagotama, who was famous for his long penances, became an undertaker's assistant, in order to win the favor of the wanton Jangha, a woman of the very lowest caste. Santa artfully managed to seduce Rishyasringa, a learned man who had never known woman; and that most pious of all men, glorious Visvamitra, one day, in the forest, yielded to the importunities of the Apsaras Ghritaki. And I could name many more who succumbed to women like you, O lovely maidens! Come, do not be afraid of the king's son. Smile at him, and he will fall in love with you."
Udayin's words encouraged the maidens. Smiling, and with exquisite grace, they gradually formed a ring around the prince.
They used the most engaging wiles in order to approach Siddhartha, in order to brush past him or hold him and steal a caress. One pretended to stumble and clung to his girdle. Another drew near and mysteriously whispered in his ear, "Deign to hear my secret, O prince." Another feigned intoxication; she slowly unwound the blue veil that bound her breasts, then came and leaned against his shoulder. Another jumped down from the branch of a mango-tree and laughingly tried to stop him as he passed. Still another offered him a lotus-flower. And one sang: "Look, dear love, this tree is covered with blossoms, with blossoms whose perfume cloys the air; in the branches, rare birds trill their happy songs, as though in a golden cage. Listen to the bees, hovering over the flowers; they are roused and consumed by a burning ardor. Look at those creepers, warmly embracing the tree; the breeze ruffles them with a jealous hand. Over there, in that lovely glade, do you see the silver pool asleep? It is smiling, drowsily, like a maiden caressed by a bold moonbeam."
But the prince was not smiling; he was unhappy, for he was thinking on death.
He thought, "They do not know these maidens, that youth is fleeting, and that old age will come and strip them of their beauty! They are blind to the menace that is sickness, though it is already
master of the world! They know nothing of death, of imperious death, of death that destroys everything! And that is why they can laugh, that is why they can play!"
Udayin tried to interrupt Siddhartha's thoughts.
He said, "Why are you so discourteous to these maidens? Perhaps they do not interest you? What matter! Be kind to them, even at the cost of a few lies. Spare them the shame of being spurned. How can your beauty profit you if you are ungracious? You will be like a forest without flowers."
"What good are lies, what good is flattery?" replied the prince. "I would not deceive these women. Old age and death lie in wait for me. Do not try to tempt me, Udayin; do not ask me to join in any vulgar amusement. I have seen old age, I have seen sickness, I am certain of death; nothing now can give me peace of mind. And you would have me yield to love? Of what metal is that man made who knows of death and still seeks love? A cruel, implacable guard stands at his door, and he does not even weep!"
The sun was setting. The maidens had ceased their laughter; the prince had no eyes for their garlands and their jewels. They felt their charms were of no avail, and slowly they took the road back to the city.
The prince returned to the palace. King Suddhodana heard from Udayin that his son was shunning all pleasure, and that night he found no sleep.
Gopa was waiting for the prince. He avoided her. It made her anxious, and when she finally fell asleep, she had a dream:
The whole earth shook; the tallest mountains swayed; a savage wind blew, shattering and uprooting the trees. The sun, the moon and the stars had fallen from the sky to the earth. She, Gopa, was stripped of her clothes and of her ornaments; she it had lost her crown; she was naked. Her hair was cut. The bridal bed was broken; the prince's robes and the precious stones with which they were embroidered were scattered about. Meteors sped across the sky over a darkened city, and Meru, king of the mountains, trembled.
Overcome with terror, Gopa awoke. She ran to her husband.
"My lord, my lord," she cried, "what will happen? I have had a terrible dream! My eyes are full of tears, and my heart is full of fear."
"Tell me your dream," the prince replied.
Gopa related all that she had seen in her sleep. The prince smiled.
"Rejoice, Gopa," said he, "rejoice. You saw the earth shake? Then one day the Gods themselves shall bow before you. You saw the moon and the
sun fall from the sky? Then you shall soon defeat evil, and you shall receive infinite praise. You saw the trees uprooted? Then you shall find a way out of the forest of desire. Your hair was cut short? Then you shall free yourself from the net of passions that holds you captive. My robes and my jewels were scattered about? Then I am on the road to deliverance. Meteors were speeding across the sky over a darkened city? Then to the ignorant world, to the world that is blind, I shall bring the light of wisdom, and those who have faith in my words will know joy and felicity. Be happy, O Gopa, drive away your melancholy; you will soon be singularly honored. Sleep, Gopa, sleep; you have dreamed a lovely dream."