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21 Jan

Light of Asia by Edwin Arnold

Light of Asia by Edwin Arnold 

Edwin Arnold commences his work by stating that it is the Scripture of the Saviour of the World, known as Prince Siddhartha on earth. He is peerless in Earth, Heavens and Hells; He is honoured by all, is the wisest, best and most pitiful. He is the teacher of Nirvana, the Supreme Bliss, and the Law.

Section I of Light of Asia describes how Lord Buddha came to be born again for men.

Four Regents – the Angel of the East, the Angel of the West, the Angel of the North and the Angel of the South – who rule our world, sit below the highest sphere. There are zones beneath them where saintliest spirits of the dead wait thirty thousand years to be born again. Lord Buddha was waiting in that zone when the four sure signs of birth came upon Him. The Devas read these signs and declared that Lord Buddha will go again to help the world. Buddha confirmed it and proclaimed that He would go to help the World one last time. This would mark the end of the birth-death cycle for Lord Buddha and for all those who learn His Law. He announced that He would go down among the Sakyas in Himalaya where the just king Suddhodana and his pious people live.

That night, Maya, the Queen, had a strange dream. She dreamt that a star – splendid, six-rayed and rosy-pearl in colour, whose sign was a white and six-tusked elephant – shot through the vacuum and entered her womb. When she woke up, an other-worldly bliss filled her heart. A lovely light shone upon the earth even before it was morning. Nature expressed its joy – the hills shook, the waves remained calm, the flowers which blossom during the day bloomed at night as if it were high noon. The Queen’s joy passed into the farthest hells. A whisper pierced the depths which announced the imminent birth of Lord Buddha to the dead. Peace spread in Limbos, the heart of the world throbbed and a wind blew with unusual freshness over lands and seas. When it was morning the dream-readers interpreted the dream as something very good. They claimed that the astrological signs indicated that the Queen should give birth to a boy, a holy child of remarkable wisdom, who would save men from ignorance, and would rule the world if He wanted to.

Section II describes the manner in which Lord Buddha was born.

Her days fulfilled, Queen Maya stood under a palsa tree. Nature knew that the time had come for the Queen to give birth to Lord Buddha. The palsa tree bent down its boughs to make a bower for the Queen, Earth put forth a thousand sudden flowers to spread a couch, and the nearby rock gave out a clear stream to bathe the infant. The Queen brought forth the child without any pain. The child had, on his body, thirty two marks of blessed birth. The happy news reached the palace and a painted palanquin was brought to fetch the child home. But the bearers of the palanquin were not ordinary mortals; the four Regents of the Earth– the Angel of the East, the Angel of the West, the Angel of the North and the Angel of the South – who write men’s deeds on brazen plates, had descended from Mount Sumeru to bear the palanquin. (The hosts of the Angel of the East have silver dresses and shields made of pearl; Kumbhandas, the horsemen of the Angel of the South, ride on blue horses and bear sapphire shields; the Nagas, following the Angel of the West, ride on blood-red horses and bear coral shields; and the Yakshas, following the Angel of the North ride on yellow horses and bear golden shields.) In outward appearance they looked like ordinary bearers as they had concealed their pompous splendour. Though humans did not know that, gods walked freely with men that day. Heaven was filled with happiness for the sake of the earth knowing that Lord Buddha had come again. 


Copyright © Manu Mangattu, Assistant Professor, Department of English, SGC Aruvithura

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