The Life of Buddha/Part Two/7. The Buddha at the Bamboo Grove

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The Life of Buddha by André Ferdinand Herold, translated by Paul C. Blum
7. The Buddha at the Bamboo Grove

7. The Buddha at the Bamboo Grove[edit]

THE Blessed One remembered that King Vimbasara had once expressed a desire to know the law, and he resolved to go to Rajagriha. He set out with the eldest Kasyapa and a few of his new disciples, and he went to live in a wood, near the city.

Vimbasara soon learned of the arrival of the monks. He decided to pay them a visit. Accompanied by a host of retainers, he went to the wood. He recognized the Master, and he exclaimed:

"You did not forget my wish, O Blessed One; great is my gratitude and my reverence."

He prostrated himself, and when the Master bade him rise, he stood at a distance, to show his respect.

But in the crowd there were some who knew Kasyapa, and who considered him a very saintly man. They had never seen the Buddha before, and they were astonished that the king should do him such honor.

He has surely made a mistake," said one brahman; "he should have prostrated himself before Kasyapa."

"Yes," said another, "Kasyapa is a great master."

"The king has made a strange blunder," a third added; "he has mistaken the pupil for the master."

They were speaking in whispers, yet the Blessed One heard them, for what could escape his notice? He said to Kasyapa:

"Who persuaded you to leave your hermitage, O man of Uruvilva? Who made you admit your weakness? Answer, Kasyapa; how did you come to leave your familiar retreat?"

Kasyapa understood what the Master had in mind. He replied:

"I know now where my former austerities were tending; I know the vanity of all that I once taught. My discourse was evil, and I began to hate the life I was leading."

As he said these words, he fell at the Master's feet, and he added:

"I am your devoted pupil. Let me lay my head upon your feet! You are the Master; it is you who command. I am your pupil, your servant. You will I heed and you will I obey."

Seven times he prostrated himself, and the crowd exclaimed in admiration:

"Mighty is he who has convinced Kasyapa of his ignorance! Kasyapa thought he was the greatest of teachers, and now see him bow before another! Oh, mighty is he who is Kasyapa's master!"

Then the Blessed One spoke to them of the four great truths. When he had finished, King Vimbasara approached him, and, in front of them all, boldly uttered these words:

"I believe in the Buddha, I believe in the law, I believe in the community of the saints."

The Blessed One gave the king leave to sit beside him, and the king spoke again:

"In my lifetime I have had five great hopes: I hoped that some day I would be king; I hoped that some day the Buddha would come into my kingdom; I hoped that some day my gaze would rest upon his countenance; I hoped that some day he would teach me the law; I hoped that some day I would profess my faith in him. To-day, all these hopes are realized. I believe in you, my Lord, I believe in the law, I believe in the community of the saints."

He rose.

"O Master, deign to take your meal at my palace, to-morrow."

The Master consented. The king left; he knew great happiness.

Many of those who had accompanied the king now followed his example, and professed their faith in the Buddha, in the law and in the community of the saints.

The next day, the inhabitants of Rajagriha left their homes and went to the wood; they were eager to see the Blessed One; They all admired him, and they praised his power and his glory.

The time came for him to go to the king's palace, but the road was so crowded with spectators that it was impossible to advance a step. Suddenly, a young brahman appeared before the Master. No one knew whence he came. He said:

"The gentle Master is among gentle folk; he brings deliverance. He who shines like gold has come to Rajagriha."

He had a pleasant voice. He beckoned to the crowd to make way, and they obeyed without a thought of resisting. And he sang:

"The Master has dispelled the darkness; night will never be reborn; he who knows the supreme law has come to Rajagriha."

"Where does he come from, this young brahman with the clear, sweet voice?" the people wondered.

He continued to sing:

"He is here, he who is omniscient, the gentle Master, the sublime Buddha. He is supreme in the world; I am happy to serve him. Not to serve the ignorant, but humbly to serve the wise and to venerate those who are noble: is there in the world a holier joy? To live in a land of peace, to do many good works, to seek the triumph of righteousness: is there in the world a holier joy? To have skill and knowledge, to love acts of generosity, to walk in the path of justice: is there in the world a holier joy?"

The young brahman managed to make a way through the crowd, and he led the Master to the palace of King Vimbasara. Then, his work done, he rose from the earth, and upon attaining the highest reaches of the sky, vanished into the light. And the people of Rajagriha knew that a God had deemed it an honor to serve the Buddha and exalt his grandeur.

Vimbasara received the Blessed One with great reverence. At the end of the meal, he said to him:

"I rejoice at your presence, my Lord. I must see you often, and often hear the sacred word from your lips. You must now accept a gift from me. Nearer the city than that forest where you dwell, there is a pleasant wood, known as the Bamboo Grove. It is vast; you and your disciples can live there in comfort. I give you the Bamboo Grove, my Lord, and if you will accept it, I shall feel that you have done me a great service."

The Buddha smiled with pleasure. A golden basin was brought, filled with sweet-scented water. The king took the basin and poured the water over the Master's hands. And he said:

"As this water pours from my hands into your hands, my Lord, so may the Bamboo Grove pass from my hands into your hands, my Lord."

The earth trembled: the law now had soil in which to take root. And that same day, the Master and his disciples went to live in the Bamboo Grove.