Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | Sketches
Upagupt-A Buddhist Monk
Long long ago, in the time of Lord Buddha. there lived a dancer in the city of Mathuraa. She was known as Vaasavdattaa. She was well known for her beauty and dance. Although she had many a suitor, but none had the character she was looking for.
One evening Vaasavdattaa was looking out through her window when she saw a handsome young monk passing by. He was none other than Upagupt, an ardent disciple of Lord Buddha. Vaasavdattaa immediately fell in love with him and asked her maid to call that young monk to her house. The maid rushed to the monk and said, "Vaasavdattaa, my lady, wishes to see you. Oh the holy one, will you come in?" The monk gracefully replied, "No, not now, but I will see her in time."
Vaasavdattaa was disappointed to hear his reply. She thought that perhaps the poor monk was embarrassed to come inside as he had no gift for me. After all, the rich noblemen always came with gifts of gold and jewels. She asked her maid to run out and tell the monk that she wanted only his company and he need not bring any gift for her. The maid once again conveyed Vaasavdatta's message to Upagupt. But Upagupt replied gently but firmly, "No, I cannot. It is not yet time to visit Vaasavdattaa."
Disappointed Vaasavdattaa stopped dancing. The people were mad. "What is the matter with her? She seems to be always unhappy." complained the nobles. Vaasavdattaa's maid knew her sorrow and was sad to see her beloved mistress always brooding over that heartless monk who refused to visit her.
To get her mind off of the monk, the maid asked Vaasavdattaa to go an visit the exhibition of a young sculptor of Mathuraa. As Vaasavdattaa admired the works of art, the young sculptor was secretly admiring her beauty. His thought was interrupted when Vaasavdattaa found a sculpture that she liked.
Vaasavdattaa asked, "This is so beautiful. How much does it cost? Will you sell it to me?"
The sculptor said, "Are you going to go back on your word? You promised me to pay any price for it." Vaasavdattaa agreed to keep her promise and she started dancing again. The people of Mathuraa thanked the sculptor. The audience gave a thundering applause to Vaasavdattaa but in her heart Vaasavdattaa was still not happy. She kept on thinking, "Why did Upagupt shun her when thousands of people long for a sight of her."
In the days that followed, the chief sculptor got increasingly interested in Vaasavdattaa. He asked her to pose for him so that he could capture her image in stone. Seeing his exquisite work, Vaasavdattaa commented, "My art will die with me but your art will last for centuries to come." The sculptor remarked, "I am so happy to see my talent bringing happiness to you."
A few days later, the sculpture vanished. Both Vaasavdattaa and her maid were worried. They thought he might have left town. To their horror his body was found buried, not far from Vaasavdattaa' s house.
People reported that the young sculptor was last seen entering Vaasavdattaa's house three days before he was killed. The enemies of the sculptor, who were jealous of him for getting the favor of Vaasavdattaa, had killed him and secretly buried him near Vaasavdattaa' s house so that she would be falsely accused of the crime.
The king called Vaasavdattaa for an explanation. Shocked Vaasavdattaa had nothing to say. He confiscated all her property and banished her from Mathuraa. People threw stones at her and she was badly wounded. Finally she took shelter in a crematory. Her dearest maid knew that she was innocent. Vaasavdattaa was deliberately framed for the murder.
Vaasavdattaa soon became ill as her wounds got infected. She received no sympathy or medical help from anyone except her faithful maid. The passers-by would often throw stones at her and asked the maid to leave her to die. "She deserves that for the sin she has committed!" they shouted.
Then came Upagupt, the Buddhist monk. Vaasavdattaa asked her maid to cover her. She did not want to show her wounded face to her beloved, Upagupt. Upagupt said, "Vaasvadattaa, I have come to you just as you always desired." Vaasavdattaa said - "Oh monk! You rejected me when all of Mathuraa admired me, then why do you choose to come now when I am nothing but a mass of festering flesh, shunned by all?" asked she.
Upagupt smiled and said with great compassion, "At that time you did not need me, Vaasavdattaa, but you do need me now. Come, let me take you to my monastery and allow me to heal your wounds." In due course Vaasavdattaa recovered under the care and nursing of the young monk. But she lost her beauty and was always depressed.
Seeing this, Upagupt consoled her, "Vaasavdattaa, you are sorry for loosing your beauty which lasts only as long as you are young. You are yet to discover a beauty greater than that you have lost, the beauty of the self. Come with me and listen to Lord Buddha, it will bring you peace and eternal happiness." Vaasavdattaa, curious to know more, began to attend the discourses of Lord Buddha.
"You can't call your body your own." Buddha said in his discourse. "When the body is cast away, it becomes food for the vultures. Light the lamp within you, only then, will you find true peace." Quietly Vaasavdattaa began to think and repeat to herself, "Light the lamp within you, and the peace will come to you ---."
When the discourse ended, Vaasavdattaa fell at the feet of Lord Buddha seeking salvation. Buddha blessed her, "So be it, my child. May you find peace."
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 10/20/12