The Miracle (IV/?)

581 years before the common era, King Suddhodana is at war. An arrow flies. One of his ministers, Madhav, pushes Suddhodana out of the way, taking the arrow in his own leg.

Pain takes Madhav. The arrow is tainted with poison fit for a King. Madhav is screaming. After a time, the screaming stops. There is, at least, a little peace.

“How may I reward you?” Suddhodana asks.

“I had not thought it would hurt me, so,” says Madhav. “I had not thought I’d suffer, acting for my King.”

But the pain grows deeper, and he loses the leg below the knee.

“How may I reward you?” asks Suddhodana.

“Release me from my loyalty,” says Madhav. “And do not make me bear the company of those who love their King.”

Several decades pass.

King Suddhodana speaks to his court:

Truly, I have a miracle for a wife.
Listen. In all the world,
Is there anyone that knows no suffering?

His courtiers answer as one: “There is no such person, great King!”

King Suddhodana leans back, comfortably. He says:

We are bound, are we not, to the wheel of suffering?
Born to pain, ending in sorrow?
Is there anyone free of it,
In all the wide world?

His courtiers answer as one: “There is no such person, great King!”

King Suddhodana says:

Then witness the strange example of my wife,
Prajapati, who has raised my son.
In the fire this morning, she burned her hand.
Yet I could see no agony in her eyes.

Glorious Rajik, the Minister of Affairs That Require the King’s Immediate Attention, ventures:

Is this, then, a miracle, great King?
Surely some kind of action of the gods?

King Suddhodana says:

I said, “In every direction, there is suffering.”
And she said, “I know no suffering, great King.”
I said, “There is no answer to life’s endless suffering.”
And she said, “I know no suffering, great King.”

Magnificent Pravin, the Minister of Affairs That Can Be Left for A Little Later, suggests:

It is her love for you, great King,
And Prince Siddhartha, raised as her son.
She knows that he must see no suffering.
She has created a habit of denial!
With time and effort it much resembles truth.

King Suddhodana says, “And should you burn your hand in Siddhartha’s presence, Pravin, or slice it, or impale it on a spear—could I expect the same of you?”

Pravin is slightly pale. He says:

We are bound, are we not, to the wheel of suffering?
Born to pain, ending in sorrow?
Is there anyone free of it,
In all the wide world?

King Suddhodana says:

I said, “But surely, when you are sick, Prajapati.
Surely, Prajapati, you suffer then.
And she said, “I know no suffering, great King.”
“But surely, when you are weary, Prajapati.
Surely, Prajapati, you suffer then.”

Her eyes were clear.
“I have not suffered for many years, great King,
Not since that glorious day, great King,
That I saw Siddhartha
Our Siddhartha
Enter this our world.

Rajik suggests, again:

It is a miracle, a sign,
An evidence.
Surely, your son
Will be a demon-slaying sage king
Ruler of the treasure wheel!

King Suddhodana says, “It is a thing that awed me, Rajik. To imagine a life free of suffering.”

Radiant Sefreen, the Minister of Those Things That May or May Not Be Good Ideas, says this:

If this is true,
It is a miracle that should be shared with all,
Witnessed by all,
Save only Siddhartha,
Whose innocence we must not break.

“Let it be so,” says King Suddhodana.

It is 561 years before the common era. The sun passes behind a cloud. The wind is cold. In a distant forest, Siddhartha and Devadatta hunt. In the court of King Suddhodana, they bring Prajapati forth.

Vinod, the Minister of Events, announces:

First, it shall be archery.

Servants lead Prajapati forth. She stands on a narrow platform before the court. She is blindfolded and clad in a simple white garment. She says:

Great King, please remember
That I am not immortal.

Vinod, the Minister of Events, announces:

Pierce her with arrows:
In the shoulder! In the thigh!
In the knee! In the arm!
But do not strike her heart.
She is not immortal.

There is the whisper of a dozen arrows set to bows. Prajapati scratches the bridge of her nose.

King Suddhodana asks, “Do you fear this, Prajapati?”

Prajapati says:

I have certain duties
That are more difficult to perform
If I am dead.
Chief among them, living.
Also, raising our son.
Still, it is not fear
But foresight
That arouses my concern.

There are murmurs of pleasure from the crowd.

“Bah!” cries one bowman. His name is Madhav. One of his legs is wooden, below the knee, and he is safe from immediate censure by the King. He adds:

She feels no trepidation
Because you warned her in advance
That we would not fire.
That is why she does not suffer fear!

“Then fire,” says Suddhodana. “But you shall be marked where she is marked.”

Madhav considers this. Then he fires. The arrow pierces Prajapati’s leg below the knee. Suddhodana frowns; but Prajapati does not. She balances for a moment, then falls down.

“Ouch,” she says. It is a word without reproach.

Madhav frowns at her. “Still,” he says.

Still, her life is happy.
She does not live with bitterness as her bread.
Freaks and warriors
Know no pain.
Yet still they know the emptiness of the heart.
Against such things as this, can Prajapati stand?

“And how would you suggest,” says Suddhodana King, “that we show her bitterness, Madhav?”

Madhav cries:

Cast her out, great King.
Let her live with nothing.
Then she will know suffering!

Suddhodana laughs, ever-so-slightly.

Prajapati, wife,
Here is a man
Who hates you for your virtues.

Prajapati’s face shows the smallest of frowns.

Suddhodana, King,
I am not responsible for other men.

Her answer stirs the crowd as if it were a wind. Eyes go wide. Hearts beat faster. Excited murmurs rise.

King Suddhodana says:

Is it not wondrous?

And the crowd shouts:

It is wondrous, great King!

King Suddhodana cries, again:

Is it not wondrous?

And the crowd shouts, as one, and stomps its feet:

It is wondrous, great King!

For in this fashion Suddhodana has shown his people a miracle: that there is one woman in his kingdom who knows no suffering. It is hidden from her heart, carried far away, estranged from her, where she will not know of it. It dwells not in her consciousness or in her flesh but in her fetch, her dove, her goddess Yasodhara, manifested from her heart in answer to Maya’s request: her fetch, Yasodhara, her secret-keeping god.

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