3.11. The Sages Asita and Nālaka and the Buddha’s advice
Prologue—Telling the story
In midday meditation the sage Asita saw
brilliantly arrayed the thrice-ten deva troop,
happy and joyful waving flags the while,
with Sakka their superior all highly elated.
Then when he had seen the devas so delighted
respectfully he greeted them and questioned them like this:
Why is this deva-Saṅgha so exceedingly joyful
they’ve brought along banners for brandishing about?
Even when the devas battled anti-gods
with a win for deva-hosts, and loss for demon-hordes,
then was no such celebration— so what have devas seen?
What wonder have they heard? Why devas are delighted?
They whistle and they sing, clap hands and strum sitars;
with dancing and with music, so they celebrate.
O you deva-dwellers on Meru’s airy peaks,
I beg you, good sirs, soon dispel my doubts.
A Bodhisattva has been born in the Sakyans’ city,
in lands along Lumbini. Precious gem beyond compare,
for the weal and welfare of those in the human realm.
That’s why we’re delighted and completely overjoyed.
He, best being of all, foremost among mankind,
mighty bull among men, of creatures all supreme,
will revolve the wheel in ancient seers’ woods,
likened to a roaring lion, mightiest of beasts.
So Sakyans he beseeched.
Then to him Asita named did Sakyans show their son,
the prince in colour clear as rays from shining gold,
burnished and illustrious both of supernal hue.
Joy with rapture great filled Asita’s heart
on perceiving this young prince, bright as crested flame,
pure like the lunar lord stars herding through the sky,
dazzling as the sun on cloudless autumn days.
Sky beings all above carried canopy of state
of many-tiered parasols as well as gold-handled whisks—
but no one saw the bearers of the whisks and parasols.
The sage with dreadlocked hair, also Kaṇhasiri called,
seeing then the prince— golden jewel upon brocade,
white parasols of state held above his head—
received him in his arms with gladdened mind and joy.
As soon as he received the foremost Sakyan man,
he, skilled in lore of signs and mastery of mantras,
“No fears do I foresee to come upon the prince,
nor any harm at all in future will befall,
nor he’s unfortunate, so do not be depressed,
for he will touch upon Enlightenment divine
and turn the Dharma wheel. Seer of perfect purity,
with compassion for the many, he will set forth the goodly life.
But I’ve only brief time left within my life,
while in this time I’ll die, having no chance to hear
the Dharma of that one of power incomparable;
this saddens me so, such loss distresses me.”
Having roused in Sakyans this joy profound, the sage,
keeper of pure precepts, left inner palace suites.
Then of his compassion to his sister’s son set out,
arousing in him interest in the Dharma deep:
From persons having heard the sound of “Buddha” word
who Sambodhi attained, practising the Dharma-path,
go there, then question him, as his disciples live with him.
Practice with that radiant lord precepts of purity.
So, instructed by him, whose mind set on benefit,
who foresaw in future time perfect purity complete,
that Nālaka, his nephew much merit stored away,
with guarded senses waited in expectation of the victor.
Having heard of the victor’s revolution of the noble wheel,
he went to him and saw him, that prime among the saviours,
and trust arose in him in the greatest sage.
Then he enquired upon the Silentness supreme,
thus coming to fulfil the sages wish.