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Chapter Six:  Saying Good-bye

As the Eye of the World, the sun, came up, this noblest of men saw before him the hermitage of Bhrigu's son, the deer still peacefully asleep, the birds quiet and still, and he too began to relax as if he had already reached his destination.

To satisfy his curiosity and as a sign of his respect, he dismounted and then patted the horse exclaiming, "We're safe now."  And he turned to Chanda the groom and said, bedewing  him with his tears, "Good friend, by managing to keep up with this steed that's as swift as Tarkshya, the sun's winged stallion, you've shown how faithful and brave you are.

Though I have other things on my mind, you have won me over with your sense of duty and your commitment to helping me carry out my wish.  "It's possible to be good at something without liking it, and to like something but not be able to do the job, so in this world it's hard finding someone like you.

"I am pleased with your noble behaviour and I appreciate what you have done even though right now I cannot repay you with any reward.  Who would not be ready to help someone if he thought he would get something out of it ? Usually even your own family stays away when times are bad.  

"It's only for the sake of the family that a son is supported, and a father is honoured for the sake of our own reward [in the next life]; the world shows kindness only out of what it can get and there is no such a thing as unselfishness without any motive.

"Why am I saying all this? Because you have done me a very great favour.  Now take my horse and go back; I have finally reached the woods, which is where I was going."

Having said that, the mighty hero wanting to demonstrate his kindness and generosity undid his jewelry and gave it to the groom who was feeling so sad.

He took off a brilliant jewel that had decorated his headband, and stood there with it, the sun shining down as if this were Mount Mandara [manthanam] for churning the ocean at the beginning of time, and said, "When the king sees you with this jewel, Chhanda, after you have repeatedly bowed to him let him know that he should not mourn and not give up his love and confidence in me.  For I have gone into retreat to destroy old age and death --  not to seek a reward in the afterlife, and not because I do not love them, or out of any feelings of anger towards anyone.

Tell them I said: "Do not think of mourning me for leaving home for any relationship, no matter how long it lasts is bound to come to an end.  Separation is a fact of life, that's why my mind is set on liberation, otherwise wouldn't there be a continuous series of separations from friends and family?

"Don't even think of mourning me, someone who has gone off to leave sorrow far behind.  Instead, mourn for all those who are all caught up in feelings and desires.

"Others before me were also confident of what I am saying, so I am only one of many people  embarking on this path and should not even be mourned by my heir.

"At any man's death there are certainly heirs to his wealth; but heirs to his merit are hard to find on the earth if they exist at all.  

"Even if you're only saying, 'Fine.  It's just that this is the wrong time to go into retreat in the woods,' -- there is no wrong time for practicing dharma, life being as fragile [uncertain] as it is.  Therefore I am absolutely set on the idea that 'I must seek what's best for me right now --  today;' for how can we believe in any future when Death, our adversary, is sitting right  there?"

"My friend, please tell the king what I just said, in words just like that and trying you hardest so that he doesn't even miss me.  Yes, remind him of how useless I am right now so that when he actually thinks about it, he won't care for me any longer.  You can't miss someone you don't give a care about."

Hearing that, Chanda was overwhelmed with grief, and over folded hands, his voice choked with tears he replied, "The thought of what this is doing to your family has so profoundly affected my mind, Master, that it's the same as an elephant floundering and sinking in quicksand.  Who wouldn't cry at this decision of yours -- not even someone's whose heart is made of iron!  So think what it does to the hearts throbbing with love for you?"

"What difference could it make whether you continue to live as a delicate aristocrat in the lap of luxury, or begin living the life of a yogi sitting on rough stalks of kusha straw in the woods?

"When I heard of your decision and brought you your horse, it was fate or something that made me do it; something completely took over my will.  But now, even though I realize that's what you want me to do -- Majesty, how will I be able to take this riderless horse back to a sorrowing Kapilavastu?

"Surely, Hero, you do not intend to abandon the king, that old man who loves his son so devotedly -- that would be like a heretic giving up the true faith! And your step-mother, worn out from raising you -- you would be an ingrate to forget her!  And what about your queen -- how could you abandon such a fine woman, -- think of the reputation of her family -- she is a loyal and devoted wife, and to be left with a young son, wouldn't that be as shameful as someone who quits at the very last moment when the prize is just within reach?

"You wouldn't abandon the young son of wonderful Yasodhara -- you who are a religious and reputable person; it would be like a playboy throwing away his most prized possession.

But even if that is what you've decided -- to abandon your family as well as your kingdom -- oh please, Master -- you wouldn't abandon me? You are my sole protector!

"I cannot return to the city with my soul on fire like this, abandoning you to the forest as [The Ramayana says] Sumitra did to [Prince Rama of the clan of] Raghu.  What will the king say to me when I return to the city without you? How will I give the 'good news' to your consorts?

"As for asking me to 'remind the king of how unworthy I am' -- how can I tell lies about somebody as faultless as a saint?

"And even if I dared say any of that with a heart heavy with shame and a lying tongue stuck in my throat, who would dare believe it?  Someone might as well believe that the moon could burn you as believe that you had any flaws at all, Mender of Flaws.

It's hard to believe that someone like you who is always compassionate and never fails to feel pity could actually abandon a person who loves him.  Turn back; have mercy on me.'

The prince was overcome with sorrow listening to those words of Chhanda's, but he regained his composure and with utmost firmness, the Orator responded, "Chandaka, stop worrying about separation; change is inevitable for corporeal beings that are subject to various births.  Even if, out of affection, I decided not to abandon my family in my quest for liberation, death would still come and cause us to helplessly abandon one another.

My own mother who carried me in her body and suffered great thirst and pain -- where do we stand today? Her efforts were in fact, fruitless ones for where is my mother today?

"As birds roost in a favourite tree and then depart, any meeting between beings inevitably ends in separation.

"As clouds form, blend and then disintegrate, that's what I consider the meeting and parting of living things to be like. And since this world goes away for each one of us, to be deceived into thinking that anything or any relationship belongs to us at any time during the formation period, is like taking dreams for the real thing.

'And even the trees are parted from the characteristic colour of their leaves; why shouldn't there be a parting of two things that are much more alien to each other?

"So, since that's the way it is, don't grieve, my good friend, just go on; or if you still feel the same way in a while, then go and come back later.

Say, making it clear that there is no blame attached to the people in Kapilavastu, "Give up you love for him and listen to his resolution: 'Either he will quickly come back, having destroyed old age and death; or else he will perish, having failed through loss of determination and of support."

Having heard his words, Kamthaka, that noblest of steeds, began distractedly to lick his forelegs, and his large liquid eyes dripped hot tears.

With curved palm and webbed fingers extended, the noble hand marked with the auspicious svastika stroked the horse and the prince addressed him as a friend, saying, " Don't shed tears, Kamthaka, you have shown us a perfect equine nature; maintain it and your labour will soon produce results."

Then seizing the be jewelled sword which was in Chhanda's hand, he resolutely drew the sharp blade from the ornate golden scabbard, as a serpent yanked from its den, and having drawn it, the blade as dark blue as certain lotus petals, he cut his decorated headdress along with his hair, tossing it and tatters of muslin high into the air, like a grey goose into a lake.

Some divine beings, longing to worship it, seized it respectfully as it was thrown and with highest celestial honours, the hosts of heaven acknowledged the act.

Divested of his ornaments including the royal insignia from his head, and watching the muslin turban floating away like a golden goose, the steadfast prince was eager to put on the garments of a forest-dweller.

Then a deva in the form of a hunter, pure in heart and able to read his mind approached him wearing his maroon garment, and the son of the Sakya king addressed him:  " Your red robe is the auspicious sign of a saint, but the killing bow does not really go with it, so if you don't mind, my good friend, please trade clothes with me."

The hunter replied, "The subterfuge works to fulfill my wishes, Wish-fulfiller, for the clothing inspires confidence in animals so I can kill them, but if you need it, Man-like-Indra, accept it at once and give me that white cloth."

Joyously the prince took that robe and gave away his linen garment, and the hunter, re- assuming his heavenly form, having taken the white lunghi, rose up to heaven.

The prince and the groom were filled with wonder as they saw him leave, and immediately paid great honour to that special sylvan dress.

He sent the weeping Chanda on his way and then the Bodhisattva, his frame veiled in the symbolism of the red garment, went towards that hermitage like Meru enveloped in an evening cloud.

But as his master, with not a single thought for his kingdom, walked towards the hermitage wearing his lowly ascetic's robe, the groom wailing bitterly threw his hands up in the air and then fell to the ground.  He stood to look again, but continued weeping aloud as he wrapped his arms about Kamthaka, the horse.  And then hopelessly and with repeated lamentations, his body went towards the city but not his soul.

Lost in thought, sometimes he lamented.  He stumbled, and sometimes fell and so, going along, wretched with devoted attachment, he did all kinds of things along the way that he was not even aware of.

Next: Chapter 7 A Yoga Ashram


Son of Bhrigu:  This name indicates a tantric practitioner.  The Sanskrit word, bhrigu, evokes the crackling fuel of a ritual fire.  Bhrigu was a great sage who had once cursed Lord Shiva, causing him to be worshipped in the form of a lingam.  Such yogis aspire to master the transformation of the energies of the subtle body, converting male sexual substance to "spiritual" energy. 

Once, in order to test Lord Vishnu, Bhrigu went up to where the god was resting on the coils of a serpent while Lakshmi, his wife, lovingly massaged his feet.  So incensed was he that the Lord did not get up to greet him, that the man climbed up and kicked him right in the chest.  It was then that Vishnu arose, and gently bent to rub Bhrigu's foot, saying, " O dear sir,  my chest is hard but your foot is soft, so I hope I did not hurt you.  I am blessed indeed to have been honoured in this way by your lotus feet, and this mark will stay forever on my body." This, according to the Bhagavata Purana (10: 89) is the origin of the auspicious sign, or Shrivatsa.

As a guru, Bhrigu's specialty was to expose his students to various forms of suffering -- "penances" -- so they could develop equanimity in the face of life's ups and downs.

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