14. Gopa’s Great Virtue
PRESENTLY the women of the palace came to pay homage to the Master. Gopa, alone,
was missing. The king evinced his surprise.
“I asked her to come with us,” said Mahaprajapati. “‘I shall not go with you,’ she answered. ‘I may be wanting in virtue; I may not deserve to see my husband. If 1 have done nothing wrong, he will come to me of his own accord, and I shall then show him the respect that is his due.'”
The Master left his seat and went to Gopa’s apartments. She had discarded her costly raiment and her soft veils; she had flung aside her bracelets and her necklaces; she was wearing a reddish-colored robe, made of some coarse material. At the sight of her thus attired, he smiled with happiness. She fell at his feet and worshipped him.
“You see,” said she, “I wanted to dress as you are dressed; I wanted to know about your life in order to live as you live. You eat but once a day, and I eat but once a day. You gave up sleeping in a bed; look around: no bed will you see, for here is the bench on which I sleep. And from now on I shall have done with sweet perfumes, and no longer shall I put flowers in my hair.”
“I was aware of your great virtue, Gopa,” replied the Master. “It has not failed you, and I praise you for it. How many women are there in this world who would have had the courage to do as you did?”
And seating himself, he spoke these words:
“Women are not to be trusted. For one who is wise and good, more than a thousand can be found who are foolish and wicked. Woman is more mysterious than the path of a fish through the water; she is as fierce as a robber, and like the robber, she is deceitful; she will rarely tell the truth, for to her a lie is like the truth and the truth like a lie. Often have I told my disciples to avoid women. It displeases me even to have them speak to them. Yet you, Gopa, are not false; I believe in your virtue. Virtue is a flower not easily found; a woman must have clear eyes in order to see it; she must have pure hands in order to gather it Mara hides his pointed arrows under flowers oh, how many women love treacherous flower, flowers that inflict wounds which never heal! Unhappy women! The body is but foam and they know it not. They cling to this world, then the day comes when King Death claims them for his own. The body is less substantial than a mirage: who knows that will break Mara’s flowered arrows, who knows that will never meet King Death. Death carries away the woman who heedlessly gathers flowers, even as the torrent, swollen by the storm, carries away the drowsy village. Gather flowers, O woman, take joy in their colors, drink in their perfume; Death lies in wait for you, and before you are satisfied, you will be his. Consider the bee: it goes from flower to flower, and, harming no one, simply takes the nectar from which honey is made.”