Maṇimēkhalai

Book X
[Interview with a Goddess]

While she was in this state of sorrow and uncertainty, the Goddess Maṇimēkhalā, knowing that Maṇimēkhalai had already learnt of her previous birth, and that she was possessed of a beautiful disposition, came down from the clouds. Moving through the air, she recited so as to be audible to Maṇimēkhalai,

‘When living beings should have lost all feeling, when their ears should have become deaf to the good teaching, when they should have lost all right understanding, and thus reduce the world to a turmoil consequent upon poverty of right knowledge, you appeared like a glorious morning sun, after there had been long suffering owing to the loss of the daily appearance and disappearance of the sun, to make Dharma prevail in the world. At your feet, therefore, I offer my worship. I regard your seat as yourself. I have set you on my tongue. I have placed you on my head. I have seated you on my heart, a full blown lotus flower.’

When she came within hail of Maṇimēkhalai, she asked her to desist from weeping. [135] Descending to the earth, she went right round the seat thrice and offered it worship. Maṇimēkhalai in her turn made due obeisance to the Goddess and asked her,

‘By your grace, I am now possessed of knowledge of my previous birth; where is Rāhuḷa born who was then my husband?’

The Goddess replied:

‘Oh, Lakṣmī, you were one day with your husband in a garden having fallen out with him in a love quarrel. He fell at your feet to remove your displeasure. While in that position there appeared a Buddhist Cārana (One that moves through air). by name Sādhu Sakkaran. He had gone to Ratnadīpa to set the “Wheel of Law” going, and was returning across the air. Being mid-day, he came down to the earth as it was the hour for taking food. Seeing him, you were greatly frightened, and, feeling ashamed of yourself in the condition in which you happened to be, you offered your obeisance to him.

Seeing your discomfort, Rāhuḷa demanded who he was in a tone of anger. Trembling with fear, you shut his mouth and told him that it was an act of great error on his part not to have done due worship at the feet of the great one who had just descended from the air and remained without addressing him in prayer. Taking him with you, you again made profound obeisance and offered to bring him food and drink though both of you, the husband and the wife, were not of his way of persuasion and requested him to accept your food. The Sādhu (Saint). consented and promised to take it. The merit that you have thus acquired by feeding him will never abandon you and will ultimately get rid of your rebirth.

That Rāhuḷa, your husband, is the Prince Udayakumāra who came after you to the garden at the city. It is this that explains why he had exhibited that strong affection for you and, what is more, your mind also feels attracted [136] to him. To change that feeling of attachment and set you on the good path, I brought you over to this island and showed you this seat.

There is more that I can tell you. In your former birth, when you were the daughter of Ravivarma and his wife Amudapatī, king and queen of Yaśodharanagara, you had two sisters Tārai and Vīrai. Those two had married the king of Kaccāyanagara in the kingdom of Aṅga by name Duccaya (Durjaya). who took them one day to see the hills in his kingdom, and was with them on the banks of the Ganges on his return.

Aṟavaṇa Aḍigaḷ came to his camp then and in reply to his enquiry as to what brought his Holiness there, the Holy one replied that he had come to that part of the country to worship the footprints on the hill Gdhrakūṭa. He said that of old Buddha stood on the top of the hill and taught the Dharma, in order that all living beings might release themselves from sorrow and live in happiness. While so preaching his footmarks acquired permanence and, remaining in that condition ever since, the hill acquired the name Pādapankayamalai. (The hill of the Lotus foot-mark).

He advised the monarch also to go and offer worship at it. By the merit so acquired by worship at the feet, both your sisters are born respectively as your mother and her companion Sutamatī.

Oh, Maṇimēkhalai, now you understand your former birth. You have also acquired a notion of what the Dharma is. You will someday in the future hear of the teaching of the sectaries of other persuasions. These latter may hesitate to teach you because you are a young woman. But as such knowledge is essential to you, you will have to assume a form more worthy of that teaching.’

So saying she taught Maṇimēkhalai two mantras (Spells or incantations). at the thought of which she could acquire [137] respectively the capacity to move through the air and to assume any form that would suit her for the occasion.

She retired telling her that one essential that Maṇimēkhalai should remember was that she should adopt the path of Dharma as taught by the Buddha, and the next, that she was to offer her worship to the seat and return. Having ascended the air, she came down again and asked Maṇimēkhalai,

‘You have undertaken to follow the path of discipline. Human bodies are built of food, and hunger is a great necessity.’

She taught Maṇimēkhalai therefore another mantra which would get rid of hunger at the thought of it. Having given her this, she left and disappeared through the air.