The Beautiful City

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"This is dedicated to the Worthy One [Skt. arhant] who is superior to Brahma the Creator in granting us happiness. He is greater than the Sun in dispelling the darkness of our ignorance, and superior to the Moon in his cooling influence!"

Chapter One:  The City

There once was a city named after holy Kapila that lay surrounded by the foothills of the Himalayas so that its skyline was like a white cloudbank, and its glistening spires seemed to pierce the sky.

Its government was as just as that of heaven itself, and dealt with chance problems in an effective and imaginative manner. And in that shining city there were no homeless or poor; everyone lived in harmony, prosperity and enjoyment.

It had beautiful parks, gates and towers and every dwelling was well-maintained; there was no other like it anywhere. The women there were more beautiful than the setting sun, which seemed to set in the western ocean just to cool itself off from the effects of having gazed upon their perfect faces.  And colourful banners waved over the city as if they had been won in competition with the King of gods, Lord Indra (so famous for his magnificent projects.)  At night, moonbeams reflected off the silvery pavilions as if they were lilies in a pond; during the day sunbeams reflected off its golden palaces as if they were dazzling lotuses. 

The king, Shudhodana, ['holding pure rice'] was a lawful, hereditary monarch of the highest lineage and he ruled with glorious distinction in the manner of a bee visiting a full-blown lotus to ensure its well-being.  He was the best of sovereigns, heedful of his ministers, liberal and not arrogant; fair in his dealings, gentle in manner but with a gracious majesty.

Once, during a battle when he had been wounded in the arm, the enemy's elephants actually bent down to him, tears falling from their eyes like pearls -- like offerings of flowers.

At this time in his reign however, he no longer had to contend with enemies and like the sun after a dismal eclipse, he was a shining example to the leaders of neighboring lands.  Under his guidance, duty, wealth, and pleasure went hand in hand but there was not much ostentation and the result was happy and harmonious.

This monarch of the Shakyas owed a great deal of his fame to his innumerable wise advisors, and so his actual position was like that of the bright moon amidst stars shining with a similar light.

He had a queen, improbably named Maya, for she was as entirely free of deceit or trickery as is the shining sun which does not have even a smidgen of gloom, and she was the most distinguished of all the king's wives.  She was like a mother to her subjects, as caring of the people's welfare as Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity herself, and was always respectful and supportive of those devoted to religion.

Sadly, a woman's existence is often an unhappy one, but Maya illuminated the lives of those who shared the women's quarters like the crescent moon that bejewels the night sky.

~

Now the Manifestation of Dharma saw, that unless he appeared in a truly remarkable fashion, people would not be suitably roused to admiration.  Therefore, for the purpose of destroying the evils of the world, that most Excellent of all Bodhisattvas fell directly from his place among the residents of Tushita heaven, and streaking through the three worlds, suddenly took the form of a huge six-tusked elephant as white as Himalaya, and entered Maya's womb. 

All the guardians of the world directed their protection over the pair, just as moonbeams shining everywhere are especially bright on Mount Kailash.

And Maya felt as great a joy at containing him as a line of clouds that holds a flash of  lightning.  In celebration and to share her joy, Queen Maya bestowed generous gifts on all the citizens. 

One day, with the king's permission, the queen had a yearning to go out with the other royal women to the Lumbini garden, and there, supporting herself with a low-hanging branch heavy with flowers, the Bodhisattva suddenly slid out of her womb and emerged into this world.

This was during the auspicious month of
Vaishaka (Tib: Saga Dawa / sa ga zla ba), while the Moon was in the lunar mansion of Pushya when, from the side of the queen purified by the aspiration to help beings her son was born, without any pain or illness, for the welfare of the world.  He emerged from his mother like the sun bursting from a cloud in the morning making all the world a golden place, completely erasing the least trace of darkness.

 

As soon as he was born, Indra-of-a-thousand-eyes caused two pure heavenly streams of water to sprinkle his head along with heaps of mandira blossoms.  And the child was transported by ashuras who were totally delighted by the rays of light that streamed from his body so that he was more beautiful than the new moon resting on an evening cloudbank.

Like so many other divine beings, his birth was entirely miraculous -- he had not been born in the natural way.  And he was full of wisdom -- not babyish, as if his mind had been purified by countless eons of meditation and contemplation.

Immediately, all eyes were drawn to him for, with his beautiful golden complexion, he seemed to shine in all directions.  

Calmly, the seal of lotus blossoms on his feet, he planted seven firm footsteps as evenly and solidly positioned as the stars forming the constellation known as the Rishis

Like a lion, he turned his head to the four directions, and said, "I was born for supreme knowledge, for the welfare of the world, and this is my final birth."

To refresh his body the two streams of water, one hot and the other cold, again burst forth  bright as moon beams upon his head. 

Then he lay down on a gold-framed bed with feet of lapis lazuli guarded by yakshas  holding golden lotuses.  In homage to the Son of Maya,  the gods bowed at his majesty and raised a white canopy over him in the sky while they murmured highest blessings on his supreme wisdom.

The great nagas who had had the privilege of attending past Buddhas, in their enormous thirst for the Dharma gazed intently at him with devotion, fanning him and strewing mandira blossoms all over him.

And though all their passion had been extinguished for the sake of this world of sorrows, yet due to the birth of Tathagata, the deities of all the Pure Lands were filled with joy. 

At the moment of that birth the earth, despite being pinned down by Himalaya, King of Mountains, shook like a ship tossed by the wind as out of a cloudless sky fell a shower of lotuses and water-lilies scented with sandalwood.

Gentle breezes wafted soft as silk.  The sun suddenly seemed to shine more brightly, although fire, gently gleaming, did not move.

In the northeastern part of the dwelling, a well of pure water appeared all by itself where the women, filled with wonder, bathed as at a sacred spring.

Drawing strength from the devotions of the heavenly visitors, the pool itself could experience the Buddha and it too worshipped by means of perfumes exuding from its flowering trees.  More and more blossoms burst from the branches and the fragrance was wafted in all directions by the breeze.  To the tune of bewildered worker bees, the aromatic air was inhaled and absorbed by the many serpents also gathered there.

Now and then, from either side, was heard the sound of singing from women whose lightly jangling ankle bells mingled with the music of various instruments --  horns, lutes and drums, tambourines and all the rest. 

_________________________________________________________________

Maya:

Pushya:  For more about the months and also the lunar houses or mansions  see the Kalachakra calendar.  In Indian astrology this is an  auspicious time for all undertakings -- the moon was in Pushya when Rama was to be anointed king -- but it is never a portent for marriage purposes, and therefore here it may foreshadow the eventual celibate state of the Buddha.

Rishis: The constellation called in India after the  7 primordial Sages who transmitted knowledge to the first beings.  In the West, the same constellation is known as  the Pleiades.

yakshas: earth spirits.


NEXT: The Advisors & a King's Concern "Sons always surpass their fathers ... ." 

 

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