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The Gospel of Buddha:Chapter 73: Rescue in the Desert

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There was a disciple of the Blessed One,
full of energy and zeal for the truth,
who, living under a vow to complete a meditation in solitude,
flagged in a moment of weakness. He said to himself:
"The Teacher said there are several kinds of men;
I must belong to the lowest class
and fear that in this birth there will
be neither path nor fruit for me.
What is the use of a forest life
if I cannot by my constant endeavour
attain the insight of meditation
to which I have devoted myself?"
And he left the solitude
and returned to the Jetavana. [1]

When the brethren saw him they said to him:
"Thou hast done wrong, O brother, after taking a vow,
to give up the attempt of carrying it out;"
and they took him to the Master. [2]

When the Blessed One saw them he said:
"I see, O mendicants,
that you have brought this brother here against his will.
What has he done?" [3]

"Lord, this brother, having taken the vows of so sanctifying a faith,
has abandoned the endeavour to accomplish the aim of a member of the order,
and has come back to us." [4]

Then the Teacher said to him:
"Is it true that thou hast given up trying?" [5]

"It is true, O Blessed One!" was the reply. [6]

The Master said:
"This present life of thine is a time of grace.
If thou fail now to reach the happy state
thou wilt have to suffer remorse in future existences.
How is it, brother, that thou hast proved so irresolute?
Why, in former states of existence whou wert full of determination.
By thy energy alone the men and bullocks of five hundred wagons
obtained water in the sandy desert, and were saved.
How is it that thou now givest up?" [7]

By these few words that brother was re-established in his resolution.
But the others besought the Blessed One, saying:
"Lord! Tell us how this was." [8]

"Listen, then, O mendicants!" said the Blessed One;
and having thus excited their attention,
he made manifest a thing concealed by change of birth. [9]

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Kasi,
the Bodhisatta was born in a merchant's family;
and when he grew up, he went about trafficking with five hundred carts: [10]

One day he arrived at a sandy desert many leagues across.
The sand in the desert was so fine
that when taken in the closed fist
it could not be kept in the hand.
After the sun had risen
it became as hot as a mass of burning embers,
so that no man could walk on it.
Those, therefore, who had to travel over it
took wood, and water, and oil, a
nd rice in their carts,
and travelled during the night.
And at daybreak they formed an encampment
and spread an awning over it,
and, taking their meals early,
they passed the day lying in the shade.
At sunset they supped,
and when the ground had become cool
they yoked their oxen and went on.
The travelling was like a voyage over the sea;
a desert-pilot had to be chosen,
and he brought the caravan safe to the other side
by his knowledge of the stars. [11]

Thus the merchant of our story traversed the desert.
And when he had passed over fifty-nine leagues he thought,
"Now, in one more night we shall get out of the sand,"
and after supper he directed the wagons to be yoked, and so set out.
The pilot had cushions arranged on the foremost cart
and lay down, looking at the stars and directing the men where to drive.
But worn out by want of rest during the long march, he fell asleep,
and did not perceive that the oxen had turned around
and taken the same road by which they had come. [12]

The oxen went on the whole night through.
Towards dawn the pilot woke up,
and, observing the stars, called out:
"Stop the wagons, stop the wagons!"
The day broke just as they stopped
and were drawing up the carts in a line.
Then the men cried out:
'Why this is the very encampment we left yesterday!
We have but little wood left and our water is all gone!
We are lost!"
And unyoking the oxen and spreading the canopy over their heads,
they lay down in despondency, each one under his wagon.
But the Bodhisatta said to himself,
"If I lose heart, all these will perish,"
and walked about while the morning was yet cool.
On seeing a tuft of kusa-grass, he thought:
"This could have grown only by soaking up some water
which must be beneath it." [13]

And he made them bring a spade and dig in that spot.
And they dug sixty cubits deep.
And when they had got thus far,
the spade of the diggers struck on the rock;
and as soon as it struck, they all gave up in dispair.
But the Bodhisatta thought,
"There must be water under that rock,"
and descending into the well he got upon the stone,
and stooping down applied his ear to it and tested the sound of it.
He heard the sound of water gurgling beneath,
and when he got out he called his page.
"My lad, if thou givest up now, we shall all be lost.
Do not lose heart. Take this iron hammer,
and go down into the pit, and give the rock a good blow." [14]

The lad obeyed, and though they all stood by in despair,
he went down full of determination and struck at the stone.
The rock split in two and fell below,
so that it no longer blocked the stream,
and water rose to fill its depth
from the bottom to the brim of the well was equal to the height of a palm-tree.
And they all drunk of the water, and bathed in it.
Then they cooked rice and ate it, and fed their oxen with it.
And when the sun set, they put a flag in the well, and went to the place appointed.
There they sold their merchandise at a good profit and returned to their home,
and when they died they passed away according to their deeds.
And the Bodhisatta gave gifts and did other virtuous acts,
and he also passed away according to his deeds. [15]

After the Teacher had told the story
he formed the connection by saying in conclusion,
"The caravan leader was the Bodhisatta, the future Buddha;
the page who at that time despaired not, but broke the stone,
and gave water to the multitude, was the brother without perseverance;
and the other men were attendants on the Buddha." [16]

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