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The Light of Asia   By: (1832-1904)

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By Sir Edwin Arnold

This volume is dutifully inscribed to the Sovereign, Grand Master, and Companions of The Most Exalted Order of the Star of India by The Author.

Book The First

The Scripture of the Saviour of the World, Lord Buddha Prince Siddartha styled on earth In Earth and Heavens and Hells Incomparable, All honoured, Wisest, Best, most Pitiful; The Teacher of Nirvana and the Law.

Then came he to be born again for men.

Below the highest sphere four Regents sit Who rule our world, and under them are zones Nearer, but high, where saintliest spirits dead Wait thrice ten thousand years, then live again; And on Lord Buddha, waiting in that sky, Came for our sakes the five sure signs of birth So that the Devas knew the signs, and said "Buddha will go again to help the World." "Yea!" spake He, "now I go to help the World. This last of many times; for birth and death End hence for me and those who learn my Law. I will go down among the Sakyas, Under the southward snows of Himalay, Where pious people live and a just King."

That night the wife of King Suddhodana, Maya the Queen, asleep beside her Lord, Dreamed a strange dream; dreamed that a star from heaven Splendid, six rayed, in colour rosy pearl, Whereof the token was an Elephant Six tusked and whiter than Vahuka's milk Shot through the void and, shining into her, Entered her womb upon the right. Awaked, Bliss beyond mortal mother's filled her breast, And over half the earth a lovely light Forewent the morn. The strong hills shook; the waves Sank lulled; all flowers that blow by day came forth As 't were high noon; down to the farthest hells Passed the Queen's joy, as when warm sunshine thrills Wood glooms to gold, and into all the deeps A tender whisper pierced. "Oh ye," it said, "The dead that are to live, the live who die, Uprise, and hear, and hope! Buddha is come!" Whereat in Limbos numberless much peace Spread, and the world's heart throbbed, and a wind blew With unknown freshness over lands and seas. And when the morning dawned, and this was told, The grey dream readers said "The dream is good! The Crab is in conjunction with the Sun; The Queen shall bear a boy, a holy child Of wondrous wisdom, profiting all flesh, Who shall deliver men from ignorance, Or rule the world, if he will deign to rule."

In this wise was the holy Buddha born.

Queen Maya stood at noon, her days fulfilled, Under a Palsa in the Palace grounds, A stately trunk, straight as a temple shaft, With crown of glossy leaves and fragrant blooms; And, knowing the time some for all things knew The conscious tree bent down its boughs to make A bower above Queen Maya's majesty, And Earth put forth a thousand sudden flowers To spread a couch, while, ready for the bath, The rock hard by gave out a limpid stream Of crystal flow. So brought she forth her child Pangless he having on his perfect form The marks, thirty and two, of blessed birth; Of which the great news to the Palace came. But when they brought the painted palanquin To fetch him home, the bearers of the poles Were the four Regents of the Earth, come down From Mount Sumeru they who write men's deeds On brazen plates the Angel of the East, Whose hosts are clad in silver robes, and bear Targets of pearl: the Angel of the South, Whose horsemen, the Kumbhandas, ride blue steeds, With sapphire shields: the Angel of the West, By Nagas followed, riding steeds blood red, With coral shields: the Angel of the North, Environed by his Yakshas, all in gold, On yellow horses, bearing shields of gold. These, with their pomp invisible, came down And took the poles, in caste and outward garb Like bearers, yet most mighty gods; and gods Walked free with men that day, though men knew not For Heaven was filled with gladness for Earth's sake, Knowing Lord Buddha thus was come again.

But King Suddhodana wist not of this; The portents troubled, till his dream readers Augured a Prince of earthly dominance, A Chakravartin, such as rise to rule Once in each thousand years; seven gifts he has The Chakra ratna, disc divine; the gem; The horse, the Aswa ratna, that proud steed Which tramps the clouds; a snow white elephant, The Hasti ratna, born to bear his King; The crafty Minister, the General Unconquered, and the wife of peerless grace, The Istri ratna, lovelier than the Dawn... Continue reading book >>

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