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.
'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.'
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.
'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