Monday, July 19, 2010

Lake-born Vajra

Indrabhuti, king of Oddiyana, was old, blind and lacked an heir. His aged queen had recently given birth to a son but the child soon died. A great famine was raging. The king was depressed; Asenya, the local seer, gives him sagely advice to pacify his heart. As a result, on the first full moon of summer, the king makes great offerings to the Three Jewels, chants Mahayana sutras and vows to open his treasury for the relief of the country.
"This was the time of famine
when men even ate flowers."
While out foraging on the northwest margins of Lake Danakhosha, Trigunadhara, a minister of the royal court, discovers a beautiful child seated upon an extraordinarily large lotus in a forest of udumbara flowers. The boy appeared to be about eight years old. His complexion is radiant, the color of purple seashells. The minister hesitates to bring the child to the palace, for if this turned out to be a problem, he might lose his head. Better to tell the king and let him decide what to do about it. Presently, the king was out at sea and if all went well, was expected to be returning soon.

It had been another rough year, and the treasury was now empty. A council had been held to discuss economic concerns. Schemes involving farming, trade and warfare were considered. And so far, no royal baby was forthcoming. Sorcerers and astrologers were invited to make their calculations. All were predicting happiness and blessings. "Since he has distributed alms without limit, it is sure that a son will be born." King Indrabhuti got caught up in this optimism and felt he might be closing in on his goal. He arranges for massive assemblies of Buddhist and Brahmin pandits to intervene with the gods. The king himself makes great offerings and dramatizes his affliction but nothing changes.

Asenya came with his retinue to beg alms only to be told the treasury was empty. He complains, saying that if they were not given their share, all the sacrifice was for naught. The king trusts his old friend and to show that he is sincere in his efforts to make sure everyone is covered, Indrabhuti invites the old magician and his gang to move into the palace. The situation had gotten so bad, the king had been contemplating a risky sea voyage to seek out gems on distant shores but instead decides to give it another shot using more traditional means, employing the assembly of 1002 Brahmins and Buddhists to propitiate the gods. A sacrificial fire is prepared but as luck would have it, the demons are aroused by all of this and in union, unleash their dark powers. Oddiyana is assailed with 'gnawing sickness' and armed conflicts. Meteor showers rain stones from heaven, violent winds and thunderstorms destroy villages and lives. The king reconsiders his plan; perhaps the sea journey was a good idea after all.

Upon consultation, an old salt warns him that this kind of trip is only for poor folk and desperadoes, not kings, much less a blind one. Many supplies are required, from live pigeons and good rope, to sails and the ship itself. There are countless dangers. The king is not intimidated. He sees to everything and hires the old trader as captain. After the craft and a crew of 500 is in place, Indrabhuti insists on accompanying them. The captain makes some parting comments, giving the king and any crew member another chance to change their minds in light of the dangers. He then offered a few words of encouragement regarding the rewards of a successful adventure before the sails were spread and the ship 'moved forward like an arrow'. Arriving safely at the Land of Gems, the king and captain disembark and row off together in a little boat. Carefully following the captain's instructions, the king soon obtains the wish-fulfilling gem and vision is restored to his left eye.

Upon his return to Oddiyana, the minister Trigunadhara has arrived from his sojourn to the northwest and informs the king of the miraculous child. Indrabhuti is carrying the gem which will restore the health and happiness of his kingdom, but he is intrigued by this news. "We must go near. I had a dream last night that a radiant golden vajra with nine points appeared from the sky and came into my hand; and I dreamed that the sun was rising in my heart." They sail out across the lake and upon encountering the child, the king is amazed. He asks six very ordinary questions.

"Who is your father?"

"My father is the Knowing of Knowledge."

Who is your mother?"

"My mother is Samantabhadri, holy joy and transcendence of the Void."

"What is your country?"

"I have none, having been born on the Essence Plane with its unique caste."

"On what do you nourish yourself?"

"I nourish myself with both clarity and perplexity."

"What are you doing here?"

"I am here devoting myself to the destruction of suffering."
The king and minister both wept. Indrabhuti's right eye now opened. Given the name Tsokyi Dorje, Indestructible One Born of the Lake, the miraculous child was adopted by the king. As the royal entourage approached the palace with the child still seated upon the massive lotus , the town welcomed the procession with banners, dancers, mimes and musicians.

" The greatest actors of the land
put on masks and began their acts."

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