Compassion, An Example

Upagupta, the disciple of Buddha, lay asleep in

the dust by the city wall of Mathura.

 

Lamps were all out, doors were all shut, and

stars were all hidden by the murky sky of August.

 

Whose feet were those tinkling with anklets,

touching his breast of a sudden?

 

He woke up startled,

and a light from a woman’s lamp fell on his forgiving eyes.

 

It was a dancing girl, starred with jewels,

Wearing a pale blue mantle, drunk with the wine of her youth.

 

She lowered her lamp and saw a young face austerely beautiful.

 

“Forgive me, young ascetic”, said the woman,

“Graciously come to my house. The dusty earth is not fit bed for you.”

 

The young ascetic answered, “Woman, go on your way;

When the time is ripe I will come to you.”

 

Suddenly the black night showed its teeth in a flash of lightening.

 

The storm growled from the corner of the sky, and

The woman trembled in fear of some unknown danger.

 

A Year has not yet passed.

 

It was evening of a day in April,

in spring season.

 

The branches of the wayside trees

were full of blossom.

 

Gay notes of a flute came floating in the

warm spring air from afar.

 

The citizens had gone to the woods

for the festival of flowers.

 

From the mid sky gazed the full moon

on the shadows of the silent town.

 

The young ascetic was walking

along the lonely street,

 

While overhead the love-sick koels

uttered from the mango branches

their sleepless plaint.

 

Upagupta passed through the city gates,

and stood at the base of the rampart.

 

Was that a woman lying at his feet in the

shadow of the mango grove?

 

Stuck with black pestilence,

her body spotted with sores of small-pox,

 

She had been hurriedly removed from the town

To avoid her poisonous contagion.

 

The ascetic sat by her side,

took her head on his knees,

 

And moistened lips with water, and

smeared her body with sandal balm.

 

“Who are you, merciful one?”,

asked the woman.

 

“The time, at last, has come to visit you,

and I am here,” replied the young ascetic.

 

-Rabindranath Tagore

 

 

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