(The death of King Dutugemunu is a poignant and well-written scene in the Mahavamsa, with everybody’s favorite hero king, who probably half-bankrupted the country thanks to his extensive building projects, being told as ascending into Tusita, one of six Buddhist heavens. But what did everyone else feel? Not everyone cries at funerals, after all….)
The skies were filled once again with ever-drifting clouds that obscured all light from the world once more. The metal-gray was like the bitter taste in the mouths of the people assembled by the now-invisible shadow of the Great Stupa as its domed form stood there in the middle of its construction. But where was the genius who had financed this building spree? Where was the man who would forever worship and respect his foe, the foe who battled him and the House of Magama since his great father’s days? Where was the hero now?
His eyes were clouded.
His ears were now blocked up as they strained to take in the sonorous chanting in the background.
The heroic, broad chest heaved heavily up and down, as if grasping the sweetness of the air around him for the final time before passing into final oblivion.
The chariots of Tusita were fast approaching.
The dull aura hung above the world as he lay on his bed. The linen sheets, the silken pillowcase, the gem-inlaid necklaces and bracelets from South India, the ebony frame of the bed, carved with its Makaras and Gajasinghas; no richness, no softness, could heal him. Five hundred figures stood, or sat, chanting old Buddhist verses, the same verses they’d learned in the halls of the monasteries he’s made for them. He had asked them to follow him on his wild crusade across rugged terrain. The Sangha of Rohana, the Sangha of Rajarata, the whole Sangha of Lanka, had broken their rules when they took part in this escapade. If only he could hear them! The unwise silently cursed. The wise hung their heads and chanted. What more could they do? It was their job, the job of all five hundred of them.
But there were things that they would never understand.
He had promised them freedom from the alien and his powerful grip. The hero had told them that his life’s mission would be to be the benefactor of the Brotherhood. But words, words they had been! Had he just built those monuments for them, the mighty Maricchavattiya among all other works just to look good in their eyes?
But then he had used them, hadn’t he…?
A few young, treacherous bhikkus wondered and pondered upon this through their chants, their piercing, scrutinizing hawkish eyes on the passing hero. Still, the clouds drew further in. It was like the great man’s reign should be eclipsed forever.A mighty, fleecy giant passed overhead as its formless bulk tried to shut out the last fragments of light that might touch the king’s glassy eyes. And this giant would roar, thunder booming from west to east, and the gods would shed tears as they reflected upon his rule. But could the gods look into his mind, powerful as they were? He could be born among them one day, a young, critical monk mused; they would know the truth. The Sangha would never be the same again with his passing.