Chapter Ten: Cousin Srenya of Rajgriha
The broad-shouldered prince, having dismissed the minister and priest,
crossed the Ganges with its rushing current and went to Rajagriha with its
beautiful palaces and temples.
As calmly as Brahma ascending to highest heaven he reached the City of Five
Hills surrounded by its ancient stone wall, and blessed by the presence of so
many sacred sites.
The people of the region, although they had heard of his majesty, his prowess
and his outstandingly splendid appearance, were as amazed as if suddenly
confronted by Lord Shiva.
People stopped in their tracks at the sight of him and some even helplessly
found themselves following after him. Staid men began to hurry, and those
who had been just sitting around suddenly stood up.
Some people pressed their palms together in reverence, others bowed their
heads. Some addressed him affectionately, but not one went without paying
some form of homage.
On the road, the gaily dressed felt ashamed as he passed, and those who had been
idly chatting fell silent. No one indulged in any improper thought -- it was as
if Dharma herself had suddenly appeared.
Men and the women on the highway intent on other business, found that only
conduct of the profoundest reverence seemed appropriate, such as that enjoined
by rules of royal protocol but his eyes never even noticed them.
They could not tear their eyes away from his brows, his forehead, his mouth, or
his eyes; his body, his hands, his feet, or his gait, or whatever part that had
at first attracted them.
The Goddess of Rajagriha herself became disturbed when she saw him with the
beautiful circle of down between his brows, his long eyes, his radiant body and
his hands with their delicate membrane between the fingers. He was worthy
of ruling the earth and yet he was dressed like a common mendicant.
When Srenya, lord of the Magadha court, saw the huge procession of people going
past his palace, he asked the reason for it and a man told him:
The one predicted by the brahmins is out there. It is said that he will
either attain supreme wisdom or rule the empire of the earth. He is the
son of the king of the Sakyas, who became an ascetic, and the people are gazing
The king listened to that and having understood, at once commanded the man to
ask where the prince was going, so the man followed the crowd.
With unwavering gaze, focusing about a yoke's length ahead, and in a slow and
measured gait keeping his limbs and his thoughts from wandering, in
lowered tones, the noblest of mendicants went along begging alms.
Having received such alms as were offered, he retired to a lonely mountain
cascade and having eaten there in a fitting manner, he ascended Mount Pandava.
In that wood, thickly filled with lodhra trees resonant
with the cries of peacocks, the Sun of mankind wearing his red robe, shone like
the morning sun above the eastern mountain.
The royal attendant, having watched him there, related it all to King Srenya,
and when he heard it, in his deep veneration he started after him with only a
Like the Pandavas, the 5 heroes of the Mahabharata, and great as the
noblest of mountains named for them, the king like a maned lion -- truly a lion
among men -- ascended Mount Pandava, with lion-like determination.
There he beheld the Bodhisattva resplendently seated with his senses subdued,
and it was as if the mountain were moving and he were the peak; like the moon
rising from the top of a cloud.
As distinguished in his beauty and perfect tranquility as the very creation of
Dharma, so Srenya the king was filled with astonishment and admiration and he
went over to him the way Indra might approach Brahma.
That most courteous man, having politely approached, asked after his health --
the equilibrium of his bodily humours -- and the other with equal gentility
assured the king that he was fine in both mind and body.
Then the king sat down on the clean surface of the rock that was dark blue as an
elephant's ear and with permission, asked about his state of mind:
"You know I am a friend of your family's and that we are closely related
and that is the reason I would like to speak to you, my son, so please listen to
my words because I care about you.
"When I consider your illustrious origins that begin with the sun, your
youth, and your obvious beauty, I cannot help but wonder how you chose to become
a religious beggar rather than opt for the kingdom? It is so out of
character with all the rest.
"Your limbs deserve the balm of red sandalwood, not itchy red
cloth. That hand is for protecting your subjects; it was not made to hold
food doled out by another's.
"Young cousin, if out of consideration for your father, you do not
want to assume his kingdom, well that is certainly understandable. Then
please accept one half of my kingdom.
"In that way there will not be any disruption to your own people, and then
when time determines that it is appropriate, from our powerful alliance there
will be a peaceful transition to an empire. Please do me that kindness.
'The prosperity of the good becomes very powerful, when aided by the good.'
"However, if out of some sense of pride in your warrior background you do
not feel that this is the way to proceed, then with me as an ally, we can wage
war on countless armies and emerge victorious.
"By choosing one of these alternatives, you could acquire religious merit,
wealth, and pleasure; for those things -- love and the others -- in reverse
order of importance, are the three fitting objectives of life. When men
die they vanish, at least as far as this world is concerned.
"Pleasure when it surpasses wealth and merit, is wealth once it has
conquered merit and pleasure. And so is merit, when pleasure and wealth
are overcome, but all three would have to be abandoned, if you achieve your
"Pursue those three objectives in life and let your beauty bear its
fruit. They say that when attainment of religion, wealth, and pleasure is
successful, then a man's life has been fulfilled.
"Do not let those two strong arms of yours so worthy of drawing a bow
remain useless. They are as well equipped as those of Mandhatri's, and are even
more capable of winning the three worlds than they are of conquering the earth.
"I say this to you out of affection; not through love of power or out of
shock at seeing you dressed like this, though I am filled with compassion and I
do shed tears.
"O aspiring ascetic, enjoy pleasure now for in due time, lover of religion,
you will indeed have to practice religion, because before long you will be
too old and no longer handsome, though it certainly suits an illustrious young
man of the warrior class now.
"An old man can obtain merit by religion, since old age is useless for
enjoyment of pleasures. That is why they say that pleasures are for the young
man, wealth for the middle-aged, and religion for the old.
"In the world of today, youth is the enemy of religion and wealth because
our pleasures, however, well we may guard them, are hard to maintain.
Therefore, wherever pleasures are to be found, then youth should grab them.
" 'Old age is prone to reflection' they say, and is serious and preferring
of peace and quiet. An old person easily achieves equanimity -- it is
unavoidable and a pity, really.
"That is why once having gone through the deceptive period of youth in
which they were fickle, intent on external objects, unheeding, impatient, and
unmindful of the long term, they finally can catch their breath, like men who
have escaped safely through a forest.
So wait and let this transient time of youth pass with its recklessness and
excitement. The early years are intended as a time of pleasure, they cannot help
but be a time for indulging our senses.
" Or if religion is really your one true aim, then offer sacrifices as is
this family's custom since time immemorial. It is the highest form of
religion for us and even Indra, lord of the winds, achieved highest heaven by
means of them.
"Even with their arms weighed down by golden bracelets, and their colourful
crowns resplendently shining with precious stones, royal sages reach the same
goal by means of sacrifices as great sages do by means of
That is what the King of Magadha said, speaking as well and as forcefully as
Indra, and though the prince had heard him, he still did not falter but stood
steadfast as Mount Kailash with its striped peak.
lodhra: A tree whose scientific designation is
Symplocos racemosa. Its pollen was used as a face powder in ancient
NEXT: Chapter 11 Response
to his cousin, King of Magadha
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