Chunda, The Smith

Excerpted from “Buddha the Gospel ” by Paul Carus.

THE Blessed One went to Pava. When Chunda, the worker in metals, heard that the Blessed One had come to Pava and was staying in his mango grove, he came to the Buddha and respectfully invited him and the brethren to take their meal at his house. And Chunda prepared rice-cakes and a dish of dried boar’s meat.

When the Blessed One had eaten the food prepared by Chunda, the worker in metals, there fell upon him a dire sickness, and sharp pain came upon him even unto death. But the Blessed One, mindful and self-possessed, bore it without complaint. And the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: “Come, Ananda, let us go on to Kusinara.”

On his way the Blessed One grew tired, and he went aside from the road to rest at the foot of a tree, and said: “Fold the robe, I pray thee, Ananda, and spread it out for me. I am weary, Ananda, and must rest awhile!” “Be it so, Lord!” said the venerable Ananda; and he spread out the robe folded fourfold. The Blessed One seated himself, and when he was seated he addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: “Fetch me some water, I pray thee, Ananda. I am thirsty, Ananda, and would drink.”

When he had thus spoken, the venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One: “But just now, Lord, five hundred carts have gone across the brook and have stirred the water; but a river, O Lord, is not far off. Its water is clear and pleasant, cool and transparent, and it is easy to get down to it. the Blessed One may both drink water and cool his limbs.”

A second time the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ananda, saying: “Fetch me some water, I pray thee, Ananda, I am thirsty, Ananda, and would drink.”

And a second time the venerable Ananda said: “Let us go to the river.”

Then the third time the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: “Fetch me some water, I pray thee, Ananda, I am thirsty, Ananda and would drink.” “Be it so, Lord!” said the venerable Ananda in assent to the Blessed One; and, taking a bowl, he went down to the streamlet. And lo! the streamlet, which, stirred up by wheels, had become muddy, when the venerable Ananda came up to it, flowed clear and bright and free from all turbidity. And he thought: “How wonderful, how marvelous is the great might and power of the Tathagata!”

Ananda brought the water in the bowl to the Lord, saying: “Let the Blessed One take the bowl. Let the Happy One drink the water. Let the Teacher of men and gods quench his thirst. Then the Blessed One drank of the water.

Now, at that time a man of low caste, named Pukkusa, a young Malla, a disciple of Alara Kalama, was passing along the high road from Kusinara to Pava. Pukkusa, the young Malla, saw the Blessed One seated at the foot of a tree. On seeing him he went up to the place where the Blessed One was, and when he had come there, he saluted the Blessed One and took his seat respectfully on one side. Then the Blessed One instructed, edified, and gladdened Kukkusa, the young Malla, with religious discourse.

Aroused and gladdened by the words of the Blessed One, Pukkusa, the young Malla, addressed a certain man who happened to pass by, and said: “Fetch me, I pray thee, my good man, two robes of cloth of gold, burnished and ready for wear.”

“Be it so, sir!” said that man in assent to Pukkusa, the young Malla; and he brought two robes of cloth of gold, burnished and ready for wear.

The Malla Pukkusa presented the two robes of cloth of gold, burnished and ready for wear, to the Blessed One, saying: “Lord, these two robes of burnished cloth of gold are ready for wear. May the Blessed One show me favor and accept them at my hands!”

The Blessed One said: “Pukkusa, robe me in one, and Ananda in the other one.” And the Tathagata’s body appeared shining like a flame, and he was beautiful above all expression.

The venerable Ananda said to the Blessed One: “How wonderful a thing is it, Lord, and how marvelous, that the color of the skin of the Blessed One should be so clear, so exceedingly bright! When I placed this robe of burnished cloth of gold on the body of the Blessed One, lo! it seemed as if it had lost its splendor!”

The Blessed One said: “There are two occasions on which a Tathagata’s appearance becomes clear and exceeding bright. In the night, Ananda, in which a Tathagata attains to the supreme and perfect insight, and in the night in which he passes finally away in that utter passing away which leaves nothing whatever of his earthly existence to remain.

And the Blessed One addressed the venerable Ananda, and said: “Now it may happen, Ananda, that some one should stir up remorse in Chunda, the smith, by saying: ‘It is evil to thee, Chunda, and loss to thee, that the Tathagata died, having eaten his last meal from thy provision.’ Any such remorse, Ananda, in Chunda, the smith, should be checked by saying: ‘It is good to thee, Chunda, and gain to thee, that the Tathagata died, having eaten his last meal from thy provision. From the very mouth of the Blessed One, O Chunda, have I heard, from his own mouth have I received this saying, “These two offerings of food are of equal fruit and of much greater profit than any other: the offerings of food which a Tathagata accepts when he has attained perfect enlightenment and when he passes away by the utter passing away in which nothing whatever of his earthly existence remains behind-these two offerings of food are of equal fruit and of equal profit, and of much greater fruit and much greater profit than any other. There has been laid up by Chunda, the smith, a karma redounding to length of life, redounding to good birth, redounding to good fortune, redounding to good fame, redounding to the inheritance of heaven and of great power.”‘ In this way, Ananda, should be checked any remorse in Chunda, the smith.”

Then the Blessed One, perceiving that death was near, uttered these words: “He who gives away shall have real gain. He who subdues himself shall be free, he shall cease to be a slave of passions. The righteous man casts off evil; and by rooting out lust, bitterness, and illusion, do we reach Nirvana.”

THE BODHISATTVAS RENUNCIATION

IT was night. The prince found no rest on his soft pillow; he arose and went out into the garden. “Alas!” he cried “all the world is full of darkness and ignorance; there is no one who knows how to cure the ills of existence.” And he groaned with pain.

Siddhattha sat down beneath the great jambu-tree and gave himself to thought, pondering on life and death and the evils of decay. Concentrating his mind he became free from confusion. All low desires vanished from his heart and perfect tranquility came over him.

In this state of ecstasy he saw with his mental eye all the misery and sorrow of the world; he saw the pains of pleasure and the inevitable certainty of death that hovers over every being; yet men are not awakened to the truth. And a deep compassion seized his heart.

While the prince was pondering on the problem of evil, he beheld with his mind’s eye under the jambu tree a lofty figure endowed with majesty, calm and dignified. “Whence comest thou, and who mayst thou be asked the prince.

In reply the vision said: “I am a samana. Troubled at the thought of old age, disease, and death I have left my home to seek the path of salvation. All things hasten to decay; only the truth abideth forever. Everything changes, and there is no permanency; yet the words of the Buddhas are immutable. I long for the happiness that does not decay; the treasure that will never perish; the life that knows of no beginning and no end. Therefore, I have destroyed all worldly thought. I have retired into an unfrequented dell to live in solitude; and, begging for food, I devote myself to the one thing needful.

Siddhattha asked: “Can peace be gained in this world of unrest? I am struck with the emptiness of pleasure and have become disgusted with lust. All oppresses me, and existence itself seems intolerable.”

The samana replied: “Where heat is, there is also a possibility of cold; creatures subject to pain possess the faculty of pleasure; the origin of evil indicates that good can be developed. For these things are correlatives. Thus where there is much suffering, there will be much bliss, if thou but open thine eyes to behold it. Just as a man who has fallen into a heap of filth ought to seek the great pond of water covered with lotuses, which is near by: even so seek thou for the great deathless lake of Nirvana to wash off the defilement of wrong. If the lake is not sought, it is not the fault of the lake. Even so when there is a blessed road leading the man held fast by wrong to the salvation of Nirvana, if the road is not walked upon, it is not the fault of the road, but of the person. And when a man who is oppressed with sickness, there being a physician who can heal him, does not avail himself of the physician’s help, that is not the fault of the physician. Even so when a man oppressed by the malady of wrong-doing does not seek the spiritual guide of enlightenment, that is no fault of the evil-destroying guide.”

The prince listened to the noble words of his visitor and said: “Thou bringest good tidings, for now I know that my purpose will be accomplished. My father advises me to enjoy life and to undertake worldly duties, such as will bring honor to me and to our house. He tells me that I am too young still, that my pulse beats too full to lead a religious life.”

The venerable figure shook his head and replied: “Thou shouldst know that for seeking a religious life no time can be inopportune.”

A thrill of joy passed through Siddhattha’s heart. “Now is the time to seek religion,” he said; “now is the time to sever all ties that would prevent me from attaining perfect enlightenment; now is the time to wander into homelessness and, leading a mendicant’s life, to find the path of deliverance.”

The celestial messenger heard the resolution of Siddhattha with approval. “Now, indeed he added, is the time to seek religion. Go, Siddhattha, and accomplish thy purpose. For thou art Bodhisatta, the Buddha-elect; thou art destined to enlighten the world. Thou art the Tathagata, the great master, for thou wilt fulfill all righteousness and be Dharmaraja, the king of truth. Thou art Bhagavat, the Blessed One, for thou art called upon to become the savior and redeemer of the world. Fulfill thou the perfection of truth. Though the thunderbolt descend upon thy head, yield thou never to the allurements that beguile men from the path of truth. As the sun at all seasons pursues his own course, nor ever goes on another, even so if thou forsake not the straight path of righteousness, thou shalt become a Buddha. Persevere in thy quest and thou shalt find what thou seekest. Pursue thy aim unswervingly and thou shalt gain the prize. Struggle earnestly and thou shalt conquer. The benediction of all deities, of all saints of all that seek light is upon thee, and heavenly wisdom guides thy steps. Thou shalt be the Buddha, our Master, and our Lord; thou shalt enlighten the world and save mankind from perdition.

Having thus spoken, the vision vanished, and Siddhattha’s heart was filled with peace. He said to himself: “I have awakened to the truth and I am resolved to accomplish my purpose. I will sever all the ties that bind me to the world, and I will go out from my home to seek the way of salvation. The Buddhas are beings whose words cannot fail: there is no departure from truth in their speech. For as the fall of a stone thrown into the air, as the death of a mortal, as the sunrise at dawn, as the lion’s roar when he leaves his lair, as the delivery of a woman with child, as all these things are sure and certain-even so the word of the Buddhas is sure and cannot fail. Verily I shall become a Buddha.”

The prince returned to the bedroom of his wife to take a last farewell glance at those whom he dearly loved above all the treasures of the earth. He longed to take the infant once more into his arms and kiss him with a parting kiss. But the child lay in the arms of his mother, and the prince could not lift him without awakening both. There Siddhattha stood gazing at his beautiful wife and his beloved son, and his heart grieved. The pain of parting overcame him powerfully. Although his mind was determined, so that nothing, be it good or evil, could shake his resolution, the tears flowed freely from his eyes, and it was beyond his power to check their stream. But the prince tore himself away with a manly heart, suppressing his feelings but not extinguishing his memory.

The Bodhisattva mounted his noble steed Kanthaka, and when he left the palace, Mara stood in the gate and stopped him: “Depart not, O my Lord,” exclaimed Mara. “In seven days from now the wheel of empire will appear, and will make thee sovereign over the four continents and the two thousand adjacent islands. Therefore, stay, my Lord.”

The Bodhisattva replied: “Well do I know that the wheel of empire will appear to me; but it is not sovereignty that I desire. I will become a Buddha and make all the world shout for joy.”

Thus Siddhattha, the prince, renounced power and worldly pleasures, gave up his kingdom, severed all ties, and went into homelessness. He rode out into the silent night, accompanied only by his faithful charioteer Channa. Darkness lay upon the earth, but the stars shone brightly in the heavens.

 

excerpted from:

BUDDHA, THE GOSPEL

By Paul Carus

Chicago, The Open Court Publishing Company,

[1894]