The Coversion OF The Robber Chief

Chapter 6 from "Karma" by Paul Carus.

Mahaduta lay quiet for a while to collect his thoughts, and then addressed the samana not without effort:

"Listen honorable sir, I will make a confession: I was the servant of Pandu, the jeweller of Kaushambi, but when he unjustly had me tortured I ran away and became a chief of the robbers. Some time ago when I heard from my spies that Pandu was passing through the mountains, I succeeded in robbing him of a great part of his wealth. Will you go to him and tell him that I have forgiven him from the bottom of my heart for the injury which he unjustly inflicted on me, and ask him, too, to pardon me for having robbed him. While I stayed with him his heart was as hard as flint, and I learned to imitate the selfishness of his character. I have heard that he has become benevolent and is now pointed out as an example of goodness and justice. He has laid up treasures of which no robber can ever deprive him, while I fear that my Karma will continue to linger in the course of evil deeds; but I do not wish to remain in his debt so long as it is still in my power to pay him. My heart has undergone a complete change. My evil passions are subdued, and the few minutes of my life left to me shall be spent in the endeavor to continue after death in the good Karma of righteous aspirations. Therefore inform Pandu that I have kept the gold crown which he wrought for the king, and all his treasures, and have them hidden in a cave near by. There were only two of the robbers under my command who knew of it, and both are now dead. Let Pandu take a number of armed men and come to the place and take back the property of which I have deprived him. One act of justice will atone for some of my sins; it will help to cleanse my soul of its impurities and give me a start in the right direction on my search for salvation."

Then Mahaduta described the location of the cave and fell back exhausted.

For a while he lay with closed eyes, as though sleeping. The pain of wounds had ceased, and he began to breathe quietly; but his life was slowly ebbing away, and now he seemed to awake, as from a pleasant dream.

"Venerable sir," said he, "what a blessing for me that the Buddha came upon earth and taught you and made our paths meet and made you comfort me. While I was dozing I beheld as in a vision the scene of the Tathagata's finat entering into Nirvana. In former years I saw a picture of it which made a deep impression on my mind, and the recollection of it is a solace to me in my dying hour."

"Indeed, it is a blessing," replied the samana, "that the Buddha appeared upon earth; he dispelled the darkness begotten by ill will and error, and attained supreme enlightenment, He lived among us as one of us, being subject to the ills of life, pain, disease, and death, not unlike any mortal. Yet he extiguished in himself all selfishness, all lust, all greed for wealth and love of pleasure, all ambition for fame and power, all hankering for things of the world and clinging to anything transitory and illusive. He was bent only on the one aim, to reach the immortal and to actualise in his being that which cannot die. Through the good Karma of former existences and his own life he reached at last the blessed state of Nirvana, and when the end came he passed away in that final passing away which leaves nothing behind but extinguishes all that is transitory and mortal. Oh, that all men could give up clinging and thereby rid themselves of passion, envy, and hatred!"

Mahaduta imbibed the words of the samana with the eagerness of a thirsty man who is refreshed by a drink of water that is pure and coll and sweet. He wanted to speak, but he could scarcely rally enough strength to open his mouth and move his lips. He beckoned assent and showed his anxiety to embrace the doctrine of the Tathagata.

Panthaka wetted the dying man's lips and soothed his pain, and when the robber chief, unable to speak, silently folded his hands, he spoke for him and gave utterance to such vows as the latter was ready to make. The samana's words were like music to the ears of Mahaduta. Filled with the joy that originates with good resolutions and entranced by the prospect of advance in the search for a higher and better life, his eyes began to stare and all pain ceased.

So the robber chief died converted in the arms of the samana.

Chapter Seven

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