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  • Leaves
  • Intizar Husain
    Translated by Alok Bhalla (bio) and Vishwamitter Adil (bio)

He went back to the same lane the next day. He knocked at the same door. The same woman with soft feet opened the door and stood before him. His eyes lowered, he held out his bowl for alms. When he received the food, he left. That was the rule of the bhikshus.

He had received alms from countless women at countless doors, but he had never raised his eyes to look at them. He knew that, of all the five senses, the eye was the most vulnerable to sin. The eye, easily enchanted by the beauty of the world, led man astray. A man who was caught in the net of maya suffered. It was the eye that deceived. The wise man, therefore, kept his eyes shut, refusing to be deceived, and so saved himself from suffering.

That was why Sanjaya never raised his eyes to see whose hands gave him alms.

Even at the door, he didn’t lift his eyes to look at the face of the woman who received him every day. He only saw a pair of soft feet come to the door for a moment and then disappear.

After the first day, he went back to that door the next day and the day after. He went back to it again and again. The woman always gave him alms with great reverence.

It was Basant Panchami. Yellow sarees fluttered in the breeze in every house, in every lane. It was as if mustard flowers had blossomed in the lanes instead of the fields, and marigolds had filled the houses with their fragrance.

That day he knocked at the same door once again. The same woman with soft feet came to the door again. But that day her feet were painted with mehndi. With his eyes lowered, he looked at those feet and was astonished to see how beautiful mehndi looked on fair feet. The feet of that woman, with mehndi designs, were like works of art. He stared at them as if in a trance. He forgot to beg for alms.

“Bhikshuji, please hurry up! It’s a festival day today.”

He had never heard her voice before. As he lifted his bowl for alms, he couldn’t resist lifting his eyes. And then he couldn’t lower them again. He was fascinated by the beauty of that woman. Her face was like the moon, her hair was dark like rain clouds, her eyes were like the eyes of a doe, her neck was graceful like that of a peacock, her breasts were like ripe pears, her hips were heavy, her waist was slender, her saree was yellow like the flowers of the mustard, and she wore a red bindi on her forehead. He was so enchanted that he gazed at her without being conscious of anything else around him.

The woman was shocked. The plate, full of food, slipped from her hand and fell to the ground. [End Page 84]

On that sacred day, Sanjaya returned to his monastery with an empty bowl. He was very perturbed.

“Have I fallen in love?” he wondered.

He thought for a long time, but he remained confused. It was as if he had lost his reason. Finally, he went to Ananda and said, “Prabhu, I am very perturbed.”

Ananda looked at him searchingly and asked, “Why?”

“Because of a woman.”

“A woman?”

“Yes, a woman.” Then Sanjaya told Ananda his sad story.

As Sanjaya explained it to him, Ananda stared in surprise, then closed his eyes and remained silent for some time. After a while he opened his eyes and said, “Bandhu, city streets and houses spread before us nets of attachment. The rule for a bhikshu is that he should wander from street to street and from door to door. One day he should ask for alms at one house, the next day at another. O fool, you didn’t obey that rule. You did exactly what Sundersamudra did.”

“What did Sundersamudra do?”

“Don’t you know what he did?”

“No, Prabhu, I don’t know what he did.”

Ananda then told Sanjaya...


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pp. 84-93
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