a short novel by Orsi Foldesi
Before we were born
On this early morning on a first day of religious celebrations in Paduma, Nepal, the city is buzzing with chatter. Sounds of people, animals and bells fill the air. Visitors from many surrounding villages are in the town already, they must have left their homes in dark, or even late last night. This year it’s even busier then usual. The newcomers bring food, musical instruments, flags, presents and heavy coats.
It’s still early Spring time, the Sun rising at a decent time. The soft light can warm the soul, but it’s far from supplying enough strength to warm the body just yet. In the background of our scene, tremendous mountain tops are covered with crisp, clear snow. The terrain is flat otherwise, not a lot of trees around, just grass and small patches of snow. For the untrained eye, unable to appreciate the subtle forms of life, it may even seem empty. Today however, there is plenty to see.
Between the huts and houses around the palace loud, cheerful men of all ages greet and bow to each other. Beautiful, short, dark haired women carrying babies on their backs or arms, in their overwhelmingly colourful and layered celebration-dresses. They don’t mind the chill. Women in all ages chose vanity over practicality. Finally! A good day to dress pretty and show off out in the world.
Most people of the region who are able to travel, gather here to pay their respect and gratitude on the several events throughout the next couple of days. There will be quiet prayer, chanting of the names of the many gods, washing hands in water that smells like roses, oils dripping on feet and forehead. A feast, following many days of the careful preparation of the food. Dancing, masks, singing together and talking around fires. Introduction of new friends, reunion and laughter of old relatives. The traders exchange goods and information, the priests serve blessings to all the new souls, astrologers seek the perfect date for marriages, to plant the crops and to plan the harvest.
On the market place, the flowers are first to sell out today. Bringing flowers to the temple is a traditional way to express gratitude and this year the King sent his people to purchase all the flowers the city could provide. He had his first son born this winter, so he feels this to be a good enough reason to express his gratitude generously.
Dipankara Buddha, (Buddha means enlightened being) and his young novice monk the Brahmin Sumedha approaching the city to join the celebrations. They seldom visit crowded places like this, but for the Spring celebrations they come to join the vibrating city. Arriving barefoot in simple orange robes, Dipankara and Sumedha walk slowly between people. They both carry a sweet, calm atmosphere with them, as if part of the Himalayan air could remain around their body at all times. Their eyes remain low and gentle and even though the crowd is tight and overwhelming, somehow they can navigate amongst the people with great poise.
“Sumedha, it would be appropriate to bring a lotus flower to the temple today. Go and find us one please” - “Yes, master “- replies the monk and only now, as he looks at his teacher with adoration, we can see the beauty of his face. As he walks away, we note his strong shoulders. He is an exceptionally handsome man. His life of being a monk started when he was only four years old. Many years of practice, discipline and focus chiselled his mind into brilliance and quiet wisdom. His presence is composed, a bit shy perhaps, but still carrying some playful curiosity, being young and full of vitality. “He may be the next Buddha -his teachers predicted early on - In this lifetime, or maybe in the next.”
“-There are no more flowers on the market, Master. I hear the King purchased them first thing in the morning for his own offering” - Sumedha returns.
“Well then. How about that young flower over there?” says Dipankara smiling and pointing at a girl running with her bucket. She is late. The wooden water bucket containing eight lotus flowers splashes around wildly as she arrives to a corner on the market, stopping about 20 feet distance from the monks.
The young monk approaching her in a few smooth steps, stands there in front of her almost the same moment she arrived. She is still busy adjusting her dress, settling in the space. Perhaps a bit embarrassed for running here, which is not too polite at her age anymore. Some of her strong, straight black hair escaped from her beautifully decorated head piece and she is desperately trying to fix it.
Everything must be perfect today. The big day, when she can see, hear, taste and experience the most of this whole year! How exciting to be in the city with all these people!
“Who is this bare footed bald man blocking the sunshine?” - Sumedha’s calm presence finally registers in her mind. The young man is looking at her with patience, eyes wide open, touched by the innocence and beauty of a young female like her, perhaps for the first time.
“My name is Sumedha, I follow the enlightened Buddha master Dipankara. I wish to purchase one of your lotus flowers as an offering.”
The girl looks at him more deeply this time, tilts her head a little and wonders. “Wait a minute. Where do I know you from? ….You seem so familiar… I know you… You...How did you find me? ….Is it really You? Can this be possible?“ - her thoughts are racing, her heart beats faster by every breath. Seconds. Only seconds go by, but somehow time seems to slow a little as she tries to grasp her own thoughts.
This deep and distant recognition can not shape into clear words in her mind at this moment, it’s just a feeling. A hint. A full body experience which is more real then any words a girl and a monk can exchange in a busy market place in the city of Paduma, Nepal. Her lips are sealed and unable to move, but she is finally able to bring a smile on her face and look into the eyes of Sumedha with such warmth, he can not help but try to escape.
“I give you five of these lotus flowers. Take them. I want none of your money. I ask for a promise only. Promise me that you will marry me some day. Promise, that we will be husband and wife not only for one lifetime but for all of our future existence.”
It is the monk's turn now to become speechless, standing there with the five lotuses in his hand. He feels his face burning up, his knees start to shiver. He can not stay there standing. It’s impossible to bear this unknown warmth, this wild and dangerous state of body and mind which he never encountered before, in those years of trials his Master put him through. This doesn't compare to the most challenging moments of meditation. Perhaps slightly similar to those times when he struggled to calm the strongest emotion he ever felt: anger. But somehow this is new, and not unpleasant at all. Sudden, strong, overwhelming and let’s be honest: not in his power to control.
He slowly makes a step back, and another. Someone walks into him from the crowd. He must turn away. Walk away. Run away! “I need to breathe. To sit. To gain my grasp over this energy. I just need air.”
“What is your name wild flower? - are the only words he is able to speak.
“Sumidha. I know you will find me one day.”
This is the story of the first meeting of Gautama Siddhartha and Pali Yasodhara. They will have to wait a whole lifetime to meet again and will be able to recognize their karmic connection based on this previous life experience. In their next lifetime they will marry, separate and reunite in different qualities.
Will they stay married for all of their future existences like Sumidha predicts? What happens when Gautama finally enlightens and becomes the Buddha? What happens to Yasodhara when Gautama goes out to seek and leaves her with her new born baby? What are her choices as a woman, a young mother?
What happens when we marry? How do we find each other and what do we actually promise to each other? How long is the contract that binds one soul to another?
What does it mean to walk the spiritual path? Is it a lonely road or can we share it? What is enlightenment?
Do we have to choose between spirituality and family? What price do we pay for our choices? and finally…. when one of us finally awakens… what happens to the other?
I wish to explore and understand the answers to these questions through the next pages. Thank you for joining me. Let us have a wonderful meditation.
“I believe in our ability to live an amazing life. Our choices shape our schedule, our body, our destiny. Choose well and enjoy the ride. "