by Oscar Fay Adams
The amber sunset faded into night,
And round the base of lofty Dandoku
The ever-present shadows in the woods
Clung closer to the forest depths, yet rose,
Still clinging, from the mountain's shaggy knees
To shining cone of snow that pierced the sky,
And still and breathless grew the darkened land.
Slow past the hours till in the east faint lights
Wavered awhile, then eddied into calm
And waxed apace, and from their midst, blood-red,
An angry moon sailed up a cloudless sky,
And all the peering shadows backward pressed,
Each upon other, ever clustering thick
To rearward of each bush and tree. But when
The blood-red splendor of the moon had paled
To white, and long and level rays became
Long rays that sloped from heaven's mid-height, there past
Down Dandoku's steep sides the merciful
Shaka-m-yorai, full of holy thoughts.
No sound yet broke the silence, save when now
And then a stone, dislodged by Shaka's steps,
Smote sharply 'gainst its neighbor rocks, or bird,
Half-roused by passing feet, fluttered a wing
Or chirped a sleepy note.
No sound save these,
Till rose from out a jagged mountain cleft
A mystic voice that rang around the sky
And trembled to the limits of the world,
Proclaiming one of Buddha's sacred truths:
Not always does the outward guise denote
The complex substance of the inner soul!
Lord Shaka, hearing, paused, then nearer drew
Toward the cleft, and peering downward, saw
A dragon on whose scales the moombeams shone,
And in whose eyes there glittered baleful fires.
No fear beset his soul at this strange sight,
But all unawed thereat, he by the edge
Sat down and questioned of the awful shape
Below, whence came this knowledge of the laws,
Which years of study had not shown to him.
"Knowing so much," said Shaka, "thou must needs
Know more. I wait thy farther word. Say on."
So saying, Shaka sat with joined palms,
Patiently waiting, while the dragon coiled
Its awful glistening length around the cliff,
And once more shook with thunders all the air,
As it, regarding Shaka's face serene,
Declared: All things that live to Buddha are
Opposed! There followed silence for a space,
Till Shaka said, "All that is good thou sayest,
All that is good, and yet I wait for more."
He ceased, and suddenly a soundless chill
Crept o'er the mountain side, and one dark cloud,
Coming from farthest space, enwrapt the moon,
And in the chill and through the gloom he heard
The awful voice, clear-sounding: All that live
Must die! And like an echo come from far
And fainter: All that live must die!
The listener bowed himself and said: " Thy mouth
Hast spoken greater wisdom than before.
O clothed with knowledge, still, I pray, say on!"
So spake Lord Shaka, and the shape below
Turned full on him the lightnings of its eyes,
And answered: "Lo, the last of these great truths
Most precious is of all the four, but weak
Am I, and may not utter it without
The meat I most desire," and while he spoke
The moon from out the bosom of the cloud
Came forth, and showed the dragon loosening
Its hold upon the rock, and all its length
Supinely stretching forth.
Then Shaka said:
"O thou so full of highest wisdom art
I can deny thee nothing. Name thy will."
Whereat the dragon, rearing high his crest,
Made answer like the roll of thunder heard
Far off in wake of a retreating storm,
All pityingly Lord Shaka gazed
Upon the dragon, and made answer thus:
"The Law forbids us to destroy a life,
But for the people whom I hope to teach
The fourth great sentence I must hear for them;
Thereafter will I give myself to thee.
And now, O Wisdom-Bearer, tell me all."
The dragon heard, and higher raised its head,
And slowly opening its ponderous jaws,
Made answer to Lord Shaka: Happiness
Is greatest when the soul the body leaves!
Rapt on these words the saintly hearer stood
A space, then reverently bowed his head
And sprang within the dragon's mouth, when lo,
A wonder! As Lord Shaka's sacred feet
Touched lightly on the shining monster's jaws
The crested head sank down and fell apart
Eight several ways, and into petals eight
That form the throne most holy briefly past
And left Lord Shaka seated, calm, serene,
Within the bosom of the Mystic Flower!
Last updated January 13, 2018