Sunday, November 25, 2007

Death of Siddartha - Chapter 3

My life has been a fable to me. A series of stories. Bedtime stories merging with reality. As I grew up, I learned to differentiate between the real and the unreal.

I was born into the Gauthma gotra of the Shakya clan. My father was the commander in chief of the clan. Ours was the prominent family in Kapilavastu. The ruling of it fell upon my father, King Suddhodana.

I have no recollection of my mother. She died 7 days after my birth. I have learned about my mother from Ma. Mother revealed herself to me as bed time stories.

It was my mother who introduced me to death; the finality to an existence; but it was Ma who kept me away from being engulfed by its concept.

'Did she die because of me, Ma?' I had asked. Lying on the wooden bed, cushioned with cushions filled with yak hair, my head on her lap. I was five.

From where I lay, I could see out the window. The dusk was approaching and the palace guards were already lighting the torch around the compound. Ma's fingers stroked my curly hair.

She leaned forward and kissed my forehead.

'No, Gautama, you were the easiest birth a woman could ask for. You never gave her any trouble. She was a fortunate mother to have you. ' She said.

I smiled. I had no recollections of my mother. I have seen a painting of her in my father's bed chamber.It showed a young woman in flowing clothes, the clouds behind her curling and flowering plants around her. Her face seemed the same as many I have seen in the silk scrolls of the traders who came from beyond the mountains.

'Maya used to dream of your coming.' Ma continued.

She had noticed my silence.

'Really?' I asked.

' Yes Gautama, you were the reason for her life and once you were born, her karma was finished and mine started.'

'Is that why she died ? , because she had completed what she had to do in life? ' I asked.

'Yes, Gautama'

'What is life, Ma?' I asked.

Ma was silent for a while. I waited for her answer. Looking up, I saw her looking out the window and watching the lite torches lining the palace walls.

' Go to sleep now child. You are destined to lead the Shakyas, like your father and become a great leader, perhaps even a king.'

A king.

She was just parroting what has been told to me a hundred times, since my birth. The destiny that was in store for me revealed by Sage Asita to my father. I was being lead through my life like the goat taken for sacrifice. My fate foreseen, written and decided.

I closed my eyes. Waited for that sleep which never came.

I felt Ma gently lift my head from her lap and lay it on the pillow. I felt my body being covered by the thick peshwani blanket. I heard her withdrawal from my room. I heard her sigh and the creak of the bed in my father's chamber as she sat on it.

'Is he sleeping?' I heard my father ask Ma. His voice gentle. I imagined him next to her, his hands on her shoulder.

' Yes'

'I heard his questions.' my father said, ' Iam grateful for your presence here.'

There was silence. Outside I heard the shuffling footsteps of the guards. My eyelids felt heavy.

' Maya has not left him. She still envelopes him'

My fathers words echoed within me as I succumbed to the night

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Death Of Siddhartha - Chapter 2

A light rain fell. Fine mist of droplets. Cooling the night air, soaking the ground. Muffling our progress.

Chandra clung on to me as we raced to my unknown destination.

Surprisingly I was calm. The act once committed had purged away all sense of uneasiness I had earlier felt about it. I had expected to feel a sense of guilt or some amount of remorse for my seemingly heartless act. Yet I felt exhilarated . I felt like a caged bird set free.

I felt alive.

All my life I seem to have lived a life that seemed contrived. A life that was always lived in half measures. A life planned out by my father, lived by me.

I have questioned his intrusions. Not directly, but through Mahaprajapati, my foster mother. She who bestowed upon me her abundant love to repel the shadow of my mothers death.

It was through Ma that I had learned of my birth, the predictions and my father's inner turmoil. The stories had took on an aura of mysticism to keep me, then a little child, interested. Today I knew that theres an expectation that, somehow the birth and life of a privileged one should be different and more wondrous than that of an ordinary child. Today, at 29, Iam aware that my birth was no more or no less wondrous than the birth of a healthy baby anywhere in the world.

I was born to Maya, wife of Suddhodana, king of the Sakhyas. I was born , Ma told me, at the foot the glorious Palpa Mountains, in the Lambani groves. My mother was on her way to her parents place to have the delivery. This was our custom. My mother went into labour in the Lambini groves , much to the panic of her companions. They were forced to perform the delivery there and then. My mother held onto the low lying branch of a tree and pushed me out into the world, standing up. This particular type of delivery is not unusual in the hills, in fact, Ma told me that, it probably aided in the fast and painless delivery.

I must have been a perfectly formed baby. Later on Ma's version of my birth used to alter, depending on her mood, and my enthusiasm. She told me stories, which used to delight my youthful imagination. Stories about how I started walking from the time I was born, how from each step I took , a lotus bloomed.

To Ma, I could do no wrong. I was her ideal of perfection. Later I gathered that there was nothing unusual in her sentiments; to every mother, their child is the biggest miracle.

The cold wind chilled my body through the thin shawl that was wrapped around me. The fine mist of the rain had soaked through my clothes. I hopped that Chandran is warm behind me, protected by my body from the elements.

Kantaka rode on.

A man's life as it stands today is a sum total of all his actions and deeds. These actions and deeds are influenced by his experiences. The experiences in turn are perceived through his senses, which are filtered by his mind .

Today Iam running towards something, rather than away. I seemed to have been prepared by everything and everyone around me, for this day. I found comfort in that thought. My mother's death, my father's protectiveness, Ma's indulgences, the love of my friends, the secrets, my yearning, everything, helped to culminate into today.

Before I shed the known, let me indulge in remembering them one last time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Death Of Siddhartha

I sat by Yashodara's feet.

The moon lit the chamber in its silvery glow. A thin red woven sheet covered Yashodara's sleeping form. She lay facing my son Rahula. Her arms engulfing his tiny body. She stirred in her sleep, let out a sigh and moved closer to her son.

I sat by her feet. Looking, memorizing, helpless.

I reached out and touched Rahula's cheeks. His tiny lips puckered to meet my fingertip, mistaking perhaps in his sleep for his mother's breast. I smiled.

The city of Kapilavattu slept.

I got up and sat for a while on the carved wooden chair by the latticed window. In the dark. I looked out at the palace courtyard. Everything seemed unusually quiet.The celebrations that had been held for my son's birth had run for two days. Now the whole palace lay asleep in a drunken haze.

I felt a weight on my chest. A heaviness. I breathed deep the night air. Trying to calm the restlessness within me.

I turned my gaze again towards my wife and my son.

I got up , wrapped the shawl around me and moved towards the door.

I did not look back.

I pulled out the wooden lock from its clasp and pushed the door open as gently as possible, lest I wake anybody.

I stepped over the sleeping guards and made my way down the stairs.

The courtyard was in darkness. The dim light of the dying lanterns that hung around the palace walls, showed me the way to the stable. I caught sight of the sleeping Chandra. My friend. He lay on the parapet , covered in a thick blanket, near the stable. I shook him awake.

He sat up with alarm. I hushed his questions with my hands. I entered the stable and untethered Kantaka, my black steed. Chandra, helped me saddle him. No questions. I was grateful. I would not have known the answers if he had asked.

We led Kantaka out of the palace compound. Chandra closed the wooden palace gates. I mounted Kantaka and hoisted Chandra behind me.

We rode out into the night.

I, Siddhartha, son of King Shuddodana Gautama , chief of the Shakyas; sneaked out of his home , like a thief, leaving behind his birth rights , his old father , his young wife and his new born son.

I left with no other intention than to get away from everything that would snuff the flickering flame of something I had no name for , than a feeling of intense restlessness, a call that could not be refused , an emotional agony that threatened to consume me.

Kantaka rode like the wind. My mind recalled a childhood memory of a moth that flirted with the temple lamps, attracted my its yellow light, finally burning itself to death.