The Summoning of the King (I/?)

It is before the First Kingdom, and time has no meaning.

A woman named Maya kneels beside a dying man. She takes his hand. “I will end such suffering as this, ” she says.

“Each of us,” he says. “Our pains are our own. You cannot know them. You cannot end them.”

“I will know them all,” she says. “I will end them all. I promise.”

Time passes.

Let us call it, for convenience, one hundred thousand cycles of the world.

It is 577 years before the common era, and

The power of the Ultimate Monarch has fallen into Maya’s hands.

In the palace of King Suddhodana, Maya speaks:

The world is cut, to north, south, east, and west,
It wells forth its black blood in wounds.

I am Maya. I am illusion. And all this world is mine.
And I must watch it cut to shreds.
And I have seen too many children die.
And I have seen the fullness of their pain.
And I would make an end to it.

And so I call the demon-slaying King;
The wheel-turning sage of all the world,
Ruler of the treasure wheel.

Come! Take birth in mortal form!
Deva Setaketu!

“Ah!” answers the Deva Setaketu of the supreme divine Heaven.

The womb that calls forth such a man—
It would be a woman’s, who has labored 100,000 cycles of the world
To dedicate herself to the ten perfections.
Only a woman of such supreme virtue can bring forth such a man,
A wheel-turning sage king,
Making answer to the suffering of the world!

Are you such a one?
It is not so.
It has been 100,000 cycles of the world
Since last you turned your thoughts to virtue.
One cannot cure the world with such come-lately sorrow.

Trouble me not with your desires!

Maya answers:

What must be done, I must.
The treasure wheel of that King is mine.
It is jeweled, great Deva, and thousand-spoked,
And where it goes it conquers,
And where it conquers, it spreads its doctrine,
And if it rolls to the east,
The Kings of the East make obeisance to it.
And if it rolls to the west,
Then the Western Kings, the same!

Yet what good is this supreme treasure to Maya?
I am the king of illusion. I am the queen of desire.
It rolls to the east.
Kings succumb to illusion!
It rolls to the west.
Kings succumb to desire!
I am no virtuous thing, great Deva; such is not my nature;
Nor have I a doctrine of virtue to teach.
It must go to a man who can heal the world of pain.

She holds up her hand. There is a wheel burnt into her palm.

I command you, with the wheel in my hand,
Come to earth! Be my heir!

The Deva Setateku stirs in his Heaven, and endless Devas and Brahmas come to stand by his side. To them, he says:

It is as I have said.
The woman who shall bear this King
For 100,000 cycles of the world
Must seek perfection.

In all the world, is such a woman known?

“Glorious Deva!” they say. “In the continent to the west, there is such a woman.”

Ah! exclaims the Deva.
Truly, from such a woman, I might manifest,
And bring great glories to the world;
But not in the west.
I would be eaten by jaguars.

“Glorious Deva!” they say. “In Babylon, there is such a woman.”

Ah! exclaims the Deva.
Truly, from such a woman, I might manifest,
And reign as a virtuous wheel-turning king;
But not in Babylon.
I would be eaten by a fiend.

“Glorious Deva!” they chorus, and say:

It is not worthwhile to take incarnation in the world
If one is only to be eaten.
A wheel-turning King spreads his doctrine and conquers the world.
This cannot be done from some creature’s stomach!

But in all the world, there are no others
Who have given themselves for 100,000 cycles of the world
To pursuit of the ten perfections.
Such women! They are rarer than fine jewels!

And Maya looks up to the sky, and says,

I have no power to stop the horrors I have seen.
I am illusion.
Though I reign with the treasure wheel over all the kingdoms of the world
I have no power.
I see the cruelty and I see the pain
I cannot stop it.
I cannot forbid it with the treasure wheel
For I am Maya.

They turn to me for hope.
I give them hope
But I cannot free them.

What use are the ten perfections,
O Great Deva,
If suffering is the master of the world?

The Deva speaks:

And are you not, then, Maya,
Resigned to it?
Have you not learned
That suffering is the nature of the world?

Have you not laughed
At men who raped you;
Or cut you with their knives;
Or practiced their tortures upon you;
And said,

“This pain is life;
And less than all my joy?”

For such I have heard of you,
Queen Maya,
In my supreme Heavenly abode.

And now you hold the treasure wheel,
And thus you rule the world.
And now you are a bride
To the handsome and kingly Suddhodana.
And now you may have every pleasure of your desiring;
Why choose now to trouble me?

Maya does not look down from the Heavens.

It is easy to be helpless
When one is an ordinary woman.
Then you are alone.
Your suffering is your own.

It is harder to be helpless,
O Great Deva,
When one is queen of the world.
You hear others’ screams
And not your own.
Somehow, you cannot laugh.

Am I so worthless to you, Deva?
Do you so quickly forget
The oath that gave my nature birth?

The Deva turns. He sighs. He looks at those assembled, and says:

Bathe her, then, in Lake Anotatta,
And dress her in celestial costume,
And put her to sleep,
And shake the earth;
And I, in the form of a white elephant,
Shall enter her womb from its right side.

And I shall name her Mahamaya,
Answer to pain.
In honor of the oath that forged her,
Though she is a demon and I am a saint.

And it is done.