By Richard Rudd
Ananda was Buddha’s closest disciple. He had been with him since the very beginning. He was the first.
Now he was old. His face was furrowed with the seasons that he had seen, and he seemed like an old, eroding statue.
That very night, Siddhartha, the Buddha, “the awakened One”, passed into the next world. It is said that all of heaven rejoiced with his passing. His death was like the most exquisite sunset the world has ever seen. After the sun had gone down below the horizon, the sky only became richer and richer until the colours were impossibly dazzling. The whole sky continued to resound for several hours with this unbelievable display.
It was as though every one of the thousands and thousands of lives that this man had led, suddenly all erupted simultaneously and cried out in wonder and relief.
Then the night fell, and the void came and claimed it all with its hungry, infinite silence.
All of the Buddha’s disciples gathered together for a great feast, to celebrate the life and passing of their beloved Master. Everyone was elated beyond their normal state. It is said that when a great Master dies, he passes into the blood of his disciples……
Only Ananda remained alone. He was devastated. He felt no joy. Only a sorrow so deep that he felt he could not contain it……He wept uncontrollably. One of the other disciples, Adideva, came to him, asking; ” gentle Ananda, why do you weep? This is a time of great rejoicing, for our master has made the final great passage. He shall never again pass into this world. He has gone beyond all, and paved the way for so many……why then are you so sad? “
And the old man replied, choking through his words, ” I do not weep for the Master, but for myself, for I have been all these years by his side, all these lifetimes I have waited for this one lifetime, and still I have found nothing. I have not attained to the ultimate. And now, all hope is gone. “
Adideva laid his hand softly upon Ananda’s shoulder, and left him to his anguish.
Throughout that night, that black hopeless night, Ananda continued to weep.
It was as though he wept the world through his tears. The arrow of his suffering had entered so deeply into his being that he could no longer tell what was what.
He entered so profoundly into his agony that he became one with it, and by the morning he had forgotten himself entirely.
He sat staring endlessly into eternity, beneath the tree where his Master had taught the morning before.
At dawn, Adideva awoke from his deep, peaceful sleep, having dreamed of his Master the Buddha, awaiting him under the tree. As he approached the great tree, he saw instead, Ananda sitting naked at its foot. It was a perfect winter morning, and extremely cold, and he concernedly gathered up a robe and went to cover Ananda’s withering, frail body. As he stooped quietly to drape the orange robe around the old man’s shoulders, he looked into Ananda’s eyes.
His Master’s eyes stared back at him. Their air of utter calm and blissful release caused him a moment of shock, and for that moment it seemed as though the death of his master, and the events of the last two days, had been a dream……
The Buddha had died, and yet the Buddha remained.
Through the very heart of his sorrow, Ananda had found the heart of his freedom.
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