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"I don't know;" upon which they laughed
and thought he was a bit cracked. But his
thought was only, " Laugh away F On no
account would he tell every goose on the
high-road that he was going northwards in
search of a wife.

One day he saw a beautiful lake lying
some distance off from the high-road, very
inviting looking with its border of shady
trees. He went towards it, and was just
about to stretch himself out comfortably
upon its banks, when he heard a shriek, and,
looking round, saw a girl fall from a tree.
He sprang swiftly to her assistance, but her
injury was nothing worse than a sprained


ankle. Nala sat down beside the girl, and
waited till she had finished crying, for she
carried on, not as if she had sprained an
ankle, but as if she had broken both her

When at last she grew quiet, she began
to wonder that Nala never spoke a word.

" Why don't you say something ? Do
you know how I got up this tree ? " she said.

" No."

" Well, ask!"

11 1 may not ask. It is a vow."

" Dear me ! What a bad vow ! " said the
girl, pityingly. " What do you do then,
when you lose your way and don't know
how to find it again ? "

" It is not like that ; it is only that I may
not ask a woman anything."

"Oh, is that it?" she laughed. "Well,
since you may not ask, I will tell you myself
how I got up the tree. But what is your
name ? "

" I am called Nala."

"And I am called Katha. You mustn't
think that is my right name, but that is what


people call me, so you may call me that too.
You see, the village folk say that if a maiden
climbs up this tree in the daytime, and eats
all the berries, without being seen by a man
you must know that many people bathe
here the first young man she afterwards
meets is her future husband. If, however,
she is surprised in the act by any one, then
it is all over. The worst of it is that I had
just picked the last berry, and my stomach
was as full as a barrel, when up you came
and spoiled everything. As I caught sight
of you, I got frightened, made a misstep,
and tumbled down."

" I'm awfully sorry," said Nala, and looked
at her with much concern. " But what a
stupid I am ! " he suddenly exclaimed,
striking himself on the brow. " I didn't see
you on the tree at all ; I only saw you when
you fell/'

" Really ? Are you quite sure ? "

" Quite sure ! You can depend on that.
Your heel was at least a hand-breadth from
the tree when I saw you."

" Did I fall head over heels, Nala ? "


" Very likely, Katha."

" Did I look very foolish as I was falling

Nala reflected, while she scrutinised him
keenly. " Try to remember ! " she urged

" Really I don't know. You came down
so fast."

" Did you ever before see a girl fall
from a tree ? "

" Never in my life."

After a pause she began, " If you are
sure, Nala, that my heel was already out of
the tree, everything may still be all right.
But what a stupid I am!" she suddenly
exclaimed, striking herself on the brow.
" If you haven't seen me on the tree,
then " She halted.

" Indeed, Katha, you are right." He
also halted.

" I must go home now," she said, and
made to rise. But she had forgotten her
hurt ankle, and gave a loud cry of pain.

" Dear me ! How shall I ever get
home ? " she wailed.


" I will carry you," he said resolutely.

She laughed again. " It is much too far.
But I'll tell you what : just carry me as far
as the high-road. There I will wait till a
cart comes along and gives me a lift."

So Nala took her up in his arms to carry
her to the high-road. She leant away from

" Put your arm round my neck," he said,
" I can't carry you that way."

Then she put her left arm round his neck,
and just because she was now in such a
position, she said, " Nala, I love you."

"Then you can become my wife, Katha,"
Nala quickly cried.

" Can I really ? " she retorted pertly ;
" there are more than you that are courting


" I only thought . . . because you were
up in the tree," said Nala, dejectedly.

" Oh, that was only a girl's prank," she
answered down to him. " All the girls in
the village do the same. You mustn't think
that everything is quite settled for you be-
cause you saw me fall from the tree."


" All the same, I am your husband to be,"
persisted Nala.

" Yes, if I will have you/*

" But you have already said that you love


" That doesn't matter. How can I be-
come your wife if you don't ask me ? "
" But I can't ask any woman, Katha."
"And when you are married will you
never ask your wife if she still loves you ? "
" I must not, Katha."
" Nala," she said, and clasped her arms a
trifle tighter round his neck, "are you not
tired now ? "

" Not in the least," he said brightly, and
gave her a slight toss by way of confirmation.
She laughed with pleasure and said,
"Nala, I can't really let you off from the
question. But if you can't put it at all, then
I will let you do something else in its place.
If you will carry me from here to my village,
I will be your wife without any asking, and
I'll give you just the very sweetest betrothal
kiss when we get there. If on the way you
even only ask if you may put me down, then


you have lost the bargain. If I get too heavy
for you, you have only to say : * Katha, will
you become my wife ? ' and everything is all

They had now reached the high-road.
Nala was a sturdy fellow. He thought,
" I can easily do it. From now on I may
wander till I am old and grey if I don't
succeed here." He considered women the
rarest articles in the world. So he said

"All right! Katha; that's a bargain. I
am to carry you right into the village."

" No ! what are you thinking of ? Only
as far as the Buddha image. I will point
it out to you directly. There is only one."

" Good ! But I also have my conditions."

" What are they like ? "

" First of all, allow me to put you down
here just once."

" That you may do, Nala."

He let her slip down carefully on to the

" Secondly, you must hold on to me quite
tight, so as to make it easier for me."

" I will do that too, Nala."


" And, thirdly, you mustn't say a single
word to me on the way. If you only let out
a single sound, you have lost and I have


" I promise you on my sacred word."

Nala thought that he had now ? provided
well for everything. One thing only he had
forgotten to ascertain, about how far it was
to her village.

When he was thoroughly rested, he took
her up again in his arms, as one might take
a child. True to her promise, she snuggled
up so close to him, that her firm round bosom
lay full on his breast.

"Will that do?" she asked, " but these
words don't count yet, for you haven't begun
to walk."

" Yes, that will do," he said, with strained
voice ; " I am starting now."

With that he began to step out. He felt
as if he would have liked to journey thus all
his life with such a burden in his arms. He
distinctly heard the little heart give beat
after beat ; he felt the rise and fall of the
little body, and her gentle breathing fell on


his cheek like a cooling breeze* He thought
he had never felt so happy in all his life.
In silent bliss he walked along. "Why
ever did the Exalted One teach, 'To whom
not anything is dear to him not anything is
grievous ? ' ' he thought. " What grief for
me can grow out of this dear one ? " Never
was vow in greater danger of being broken.

It was now early afternoon and the sun
shone mercilessly hot. Nala had scarcely gone
a few hundred paces when he found himself
extremely hot and thirsty, but he still strode
valiantly along. The girl lay silent on his
breast. Ever slower became his steps, ever
stronger the temptation to put the little
question, which at one stroke would give
him everything and take only one thing from
him his vow.

He waited quietly to see if Katha would
not, perhaps, forget herself and say some-
thing, such as, "Just look at that beautiful
bird, Nala!" or, ' There's a stone, Nala!
Take care ! " or, " There is a nice shady
place ! Go there, Nala ! " But nothing of the
kind happened. She was as dumb as a stone.


He began to pant. The perspiration ran
down his purple face. The living body
in his arms, but lately bliss incorporate, had
now become as lead for him, and heated him
most unbearably. From time to time he
shifted his burden a little in order to enjoy
a moment's freedom from her breast. " How
obstinate the woman is ! " he thought.

She on her part felt quite comfortable and
calculated in this wise : " If he is such a
stubborn fellow that he would rather faint
with exhaustion than give up his silly vow,
I must cure him of his obstinacy in good
time. If I give in to-day, I must always
give in. Besides, what have I to lose ? If
he puts me down, I have won. If he carries
me to the end, well I haven't lost any-
thing." So, perfectly at her ease, she allowed
herself to be rocked up and down, and lis-
tened to Nala's panting with the same interest
as that with which a sailor might listen to
the creaking of his ship.

But, as the panting became ever more
painful, amounting almost to a groan ; as the
footsteps became ever more tottering, she



turned her head anxiously and looked into
Nala's face. It had become pale ; the veins
stood out, thick as her fingers, on neck and
temples, and the eyes appeared ready to
start from their sockets.

Nala noticed the movement and thought,
" Thank Heaven! At last! Now she is
going to say, ' Enough ! That will do.' '

And really, when she looked down into
the strange face of the man she was alarmed ;
but she tightened her lips, which meant,
" If he holds to his vow, I hold to mine."

Nala thought, " How merciless the
woman is ! " He made a last effort. At
a turn in the road the Buddha image
beckoned. With trembling knees, ready to
drop with fatigue, he laid his burden down
on the plinth of the image.

The girl immediately spread out her arms
lovingly and pursed up her mouth for the
betrothal kiss. Nala, however, sighed twice,
deeply and long, as if the full heart would
free itself of something that weighed upon
it : then he said

"Wait a bit, Katha!"


With that he began to wipe the perspira-
tion from him with the back of his hand. But
the back of a hand was of little good to that
flood! Then he took his pocket-handker-
chief, then the sleeve of his white jacket, and
finally, the end of his loin-cloth. He did not
hurry ; indeed, it almost looked as if he
found a deliberate pleasure in taking his
time, and the stone Buddha looked down on
him and smiled. Meanwhile, the girl sat
firmly on the pedestal looking like one
who would like to sneeze and cannot, or like
one whose mouth is full of water and yet
dares not spit it out.

When at last Nala was ready, he said

" Maiden, pardon me ! It has come to
me on the way, that your heel was still in
the tree when I saw you falling down, so
you will have to go back and eat berries
again." Which said, he wheeled round, and
went full speed back home.

Arrived there, he looked down once more
upon the broad plain at his feet, on which
the distant hillocks seemed like ships upon


an ocean, and the streams like veins of silver ;
and every day he beheld the great sun rise
in the east and go down in the west. And
because he lived there, in serene solitude,
year after year, he finally came to acquire
the reputation of being a sage ; indeed, a
saint. And when any one sufferers, bur-
dened ones come to him and ask him,
" Father, how have you attained this state
of quiet serenity ? " he usually answers, " To
whom not anything is dear to him not any-
thing is grievous ! " And if his visitor is
a man, he adds, " Never put a question to
a woman ! "

Thus did Nala become increasingly famous
for wisdom and sanctity. And to whomso-
ever life has become a painful thing, he needs
only to go and see if Nala is still alive ; for
his motto is a good motto.


IN the town of Akyab in Burma there
lived a man named Maung Hpay, who
was a Burmese judge of the township
and first in rank after the English Chief
Magistrate. He was everywhere held in
the highest esteem, so that people, when
they met him, always bowed deeply and
said : " How do you do, Maung Hpay ? "

This man had a pretty wife, a little son,
a fine house, a fair portion of money and
property, and all the comfort and content
which the possession of these things is sup-
posed to bestow. In addition, he had hopes,
which he kept quietly to himself, of one day
becoming a judge in Rangoon City.

" That is something different from Akyab,
and if then I have a praying-hall built up
on the platform of Shw& Dagon Pagoda,
with an inscription in large gold letters upon


it : * Erected by Maung Hpay, Chief Magis-
trate, at an expenditure of so many rupees '
why, that would be doing something worth
while ! Then, my little son is growing up.
He is scarcely two years old yet, but already
he promises well. He will be clever, enter
government service, and marry a rich wife.
And if my wife should yet present me with
a little daughter, as beautiful as herself, what
a fine match she might make ! " In such
foolish fashion as this did Maung Hpay
think things over, as he sat of an evening on
his veranda smoking his after-dinner cheroot.

One morning this Maung Hpay sat at
breakfast in the house. The evening before
he had eaten somewhat too freely of durians,
and in consequence had slept rather badly.
He had waked up feeling out of sorts and
heavy of head, and now sat down absent-
mindedly to the business of eating, which
with him was usually a very important
business indeed.

For dessert there were mangoes. As he
bit, unthinking, into one, his teeth encoun-
tered its hard, stony core. He experienced


a sudden sharp pain, and spat out of his
mouth a piece of tooth that had been
broken off. The pain soon passed away,
but Maung Hpay was now in quite a
different mood from before. He held the
morsel of bony substance in his hand, and
said gravely and thoughtfully : " So passes
away our body. What is this but a kind of
dying ? We die daily and hourly and take
no heed. What a wretched thing is this
body of ours ! "

Now, Maung Hpay was also a school-
manager, and on this very day he purposed
paying a visit to the Girls' School, which
stood close by the little Chinese Temple.
His mind occupied by these and similar
reflections, he left his house and entered the
school building. The mistress received him
with the greatest respect, and he passed
through the different rooms, here and there
putting a question, and in one of the lower
classes asked the teacher for some test of
the progress made by her little pupils.

The teacher began : " Why are you
born ? "


" That we may die," rang back the answer
from thirty fresh, child throats.

Maung Hpay felt as if the walls around
him were alive and were flinging at him this
"That we may die." He heard nothing of
what followed; he stared straight before
him as if at the source of the voice.

He scarcely noticed when the lesson ended
and the teacher turned towards him. His
brain seemed to him to be a gong that went on
reverberating with this " That we may die/'
Usually, at the end of the inspection he would
pass a joke or two with the teachers, and pat
some of the children on the head by way of
approval of their work, but to-day there was
nothing of this. He left the building with-
out a single word, so that the teachers could
not help looking after him in perplexity.
Once he was outside the building, some-
thing cried within him : " O Thou lotus-
enthroned One, how truly, how clearly, in
Thy boundless compassion, hast Thou laid
down for us everything that we need to
know, and wretch that I am ! how have I
paid heed to it? For five and thirty years,


now, have I been hastening towards death,
and at every moment of that time have been
in danger of meeting Him face to face!
and what, up till now, have I done to
prepare myself beforehand for such an
encounter ? Oh how foolish we men are !
We torment ourselves over this thing, and
worry ourselves about some other thing, but
of that in regard to which we ought con-
tinually to be on the watch, we simply never
think at all. Woe is me ! When will it be
otherwise? When? To-day, fool! Now!
Here on this very spot that my foot even
now treads." Unconsciously he lengthened
his steps and strode swiftly along.

At this moment a beggar, squatting on
the ground, begged an alms of him. In the
tumult of his emotion, he felt in his pocket,
and flung his well-furnished purse with its
entire contents into the beggar's lap.

" Before all things, giving ! Giving is the
first rung on the ladder. No one can reach
the higher rungs who has not first trodden the
lower," thought Maung Hpay as he passed
on his way. This morning the great


Transiency-idea and, with it, the cognition,
" It is wiser to be good than to be bad!"
had taken root in Maung H pay's heart,
but this root can never again be torn up.
However slowly it may sprout and grow,
still it does sprout and grow, until finally the
blossom and, following the blossom, the
fruit appears. Maung Hpay had begun his
great renunciation.

Maung Hpay's wife quickly noticed that
in more than one respect her husband had
become quite another man. She pondered
much and often over what the reason might
be, but all without success. She knew of
nothing for which she herself could be to
blame. There had been no dispute between
them. Husband and wife had always had a
fond regard for one another, and this fond
regard had thrown up round them a sort of
rampart, as it were, which shut them off from
the rest of the world. To Maung Hpay
care had always meant care for his own
family alone. All outside it were to him
strangers and aliens. So it had been up till
now. What then did all this extravagant


giving mean ? Her husband appeared to
her to be putting everybody on the same
level in his regard as his own wife and child.
What a mistaken way of looking at things !
Why has nature drawn us closer to one
than to another ? Obviously that we may
care for that one more than for others.

One day she spoke to him. "You give
and give, and never appear to bethink you
that you have a little son. What will be-
come of him if you give everything away to
strangers ? And who knows," she proceeded
significantly, " whether Kamma may not yet
send us a little daughter. Where is her
dowry to come from ? "

' 'Wife, Kamma will never send us an-
other child."

The woman held her peace. She saw
what her husband meant. She thought:
" Holy men belong to the monastery. Who-
ever is in life must live."

So passed the better part of a year.
Maung Hpay lived "restrained of body,
restrained of speech, restrained of mind,"
and gave lavishly, so that all the needy of


Akyab swarmed round him like flies round
a pot of honey, and his worldly wealth more
and more melted away.

One day a serious case came before the
courts for trial ; a native Burman had mur-
dered his wife. The English Chief Magis-
trate was out in the district upon a lengthy
tour, and Maung Hpay had to preside over
the trial.

The facts of the case were briefly these :

The accused, a man fifty-two years of
age and a cripple from his birth he had
come into the world with a shapeless stump
where his right hand should have been
had married about a year before. His wife
was seventeen years of age. One night,
out of jealousy, he had murdered her in her

As soon as the man was brought before
him, Maung Hpay began

11 Speak ! Do you admit having killed
your wife named so and so ? "

" Yes, sir."

" Why didst thou do it ? Why didst thou
so give way to rage against thine own self


unhappy that thou art, here and here-
after ? "

"Yes, sir, I have given way to rage
against myself, unhappy that I am, here and
hereafter. But what else could I do ? Could
you stand it if your wife became set against
you and another kissed and fondled her ? "

Here the mother of the murdered woman,
who also had been summoned to court, in-
terrupted him with a cry :

" You grey-haired wretch 1 You old
libertine! Can you wonder that things
have so happened with you ? What did
you take a wife of sixteen for ? Day and
night did you plague my poor child with
your jealous ways, while she was still a
faithful wife to you."

The veins swelled on the man's brow.
He gave the old woman a terrible look.

" Accursed match-maker, did you not sell
me your daughter for money ? "

Maung Hpay ordered silence.

" Man, tell me how it all happened," he
said, turning to the accused.

The accused began, " See, sir, thus was


I born ! " With that, he stretched out the
stump of his arm towards the judge. " My
father was shot before my birth. My mother
died before I had even learned to say
1 Mother/ As long as I can remember I
have lived by begging. What could I work
at ? You must know that I am not only a
cripple, but also burdened with an illness.
People say that it is the evil Nats that
torment me; for I am dragged to the
ground without my being able to prevent
it, and I strike and kick all round me like
a madman.

" One day, as I was going as usual to
my place at the great pagoda, I was attacked
by the Nats right in front of this woman's
stall," and he pointed to the murdered
woman's mother.

"You must know, sir," the woman again
interrupted, "I deal in fruit, and have earned
my bread in an honourable way all my days,
and have given two annas every week for the
new image of the Buddha."

Maung Hpay signed to her to be quiet,
and the cripple went on :


"As I lay on the ground, this woman's
daughter thought, ' It might be a good thing
if I did a charitable deed/ Whereupon she
came over to me and helped me up. As
she did so, my shoulder came into contact
with her bosom. This shoulder, sir," he
repeated, at the same time slightly raising
his left shoulder. "That, sir, was my evil

"Why was it thy evil destiny?" asked
Maung Hpay.

"Only think of it, sir! I was almost
fifty years of age, and, as true as I'm standing
here before you, I had never yet even touched
a woman's breast."

The woman opposite laughed maliciously.
The man did not appear to notice it. He
looked like one lit up from within by some
fiery glow.

"It was a stroke of destiny, sir. This
was the beginning of all my misfortune.
Up till then I had lived happily. The
beggar has the best of it, sir."

Maung Hpay nodded.

" Everything was different now. I was


no longer content to get my daily bread by
begging. I kept thinking, * What's the
use ? ' And so things went for a year."

" Every day he ran past our stall and
stared at my daughter," the woman screamed
out again.

" It is true. I could not help it. But my
greatest misfortune was still to come. One
day I was sitting in my place, when one came
past from whom I begged for a pice. He
threw a heavy purse down to me. I open !
I count ! Sir, two hundred and fifty rupees !
Cursed be the money ! I remain sitting ; I
do not dare to move. I think : * If I stir, it
will all disappear. 1 I think: * He will come
back again and take it away.' Nothing of
the sort happened. I had two hundred and
fifty rupees, sir, really and truly, all my own.
I got up and went straight to that woman
there what else should I do ? and said,
' I will give you a hundred rupees. Give
me your daughter for my wife.' '

"You lying rascal! It was fifty rupees
that you offered. I had to squeeze rupee
after rupee out of you."


" Woman," said Maung Hpay, "why dost
thou cry abroad thine own infamy ? "

" Am I not a widow, sir? Do I not give
two annas every week for the new image of
the Buddha ? Where is everything to come
from ? It is the custom with us."

" Very well ; that will do. Prisoner, pro-

" Sir, I gave a hundred rupees to the old
woman, and presented the daughter with a
golden bracelet. Three days later we were
married.' 7

" Then she was fond of you ? " Maung
Hpay asked.

" Sir, he captivated my poor child with his
gold. Only think ! A bracelet as heavy as

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Online LibraryPaul DahlkeBuddhist stories → online text (page 12 of 14)