Rediscovering the Buddha: Legends of the Buddha and Their Interpretation

By Hans H. Penner | Go to book overview

15
Once the Buddha Was a
Universal Monarch

The Buddha knew his career was coming to an end. After resting, he told Ananda that they should travel north to Kusinara, a town close to his birthplace. Ananda thought that that was a bad idea. Once they arrived, he told the Buddha that Kusinara was not the place to spend his final hours, that cities such as Rajagaha or Savatthi were much more appropriate. Kusinara, he said, “is a miserable little town, unheard of, in the middle of nowhere.” The Buddha immediately rebuked him: “Don’t call this town a miserable backwater town hidden in the jungle.” He then told Ananda its history.

Once upon a time, Ananda, King Mahasudassana was a wheelturning monarch, a cosmic king, a righteous king who had conquered the four quarters of the cosmos and chose this very town, which was then called Kusavati, for his capital. It was 120 miles long from east to west and 70 miles wide from north to south. The royal city was surrounded by seven walls and had four gates. It was prosperous, full of sounds night and day, filled with a large number of spirit beings as residents. It was, the Buddha said, just like one of the cities of the gods called Akamanda, that is to say, it was a replica of the royal city of the northern quarter called Kuru. One of the walls was made of gold, one of silver, one of beryl, one of crystal, one of ruby, one of emerald, and one of all sorts of gems. The gates of Kusavati were of four colors: gold, silver, beryl, and crystal. And before each gate were a set of seven pillars. Trees made of the same

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