Buddha and the Courtesan
Buddha and his disciples underwent a curious incident which left the disciples, for a time, puzzled as to the character of their Master.
The Buddha and his disciples were all vowed to celibacy and the renunciation of carnal love. And yet, one day, when the great Buddha and his disciples were resting in the cool shade of a tree, a courtesan approached him, attracted by the glowing body and face of the Master.
No sooner had she seen the celestial face of the Lord Buddha than she fell in love with him, and with open arms ran to Buddha to embrace and kiss him, exclaiming loudly: “O beautiful Shining One, I love thee.”
The celibate disciples were astonished to hear the Buddha’s reply to the courtesan. He said, “Beloved, I love thee too. Do not touch me now, however. Not yet.”
The courtesan replied: “You call me beloved and to me you are my beloved. Why, then, do you object to my touching you?”
The great Buddha replied: “Beloved, again I tell thee, I will touch thee later; not now. Then I will prove my true love for thee.” The disciples were shocked, thinking that the Master had fallen in love with the courtesan.
Years later, as Buddha was meditating with his disciples, he suddenly cried out: “I must go! My beloved, the courtesan, is calling me; she needs me now. I must fulfill my promise to her.” The disciples ran after the Master, hoping somehow to save him, though he seemed madly in love with the courtesan.
The great Buddha, followed anxiously by his worried disciples, came to the same tree where they had met the courtesan before. There she lay, with her beautiful body covered with putrefying, odorous smallpox sores. The disciples cringed and held themselves far from her.
The Buddha, however, took her decaying body, held it like a child, and placed her head on his lap, whispering to her: “Beloved, I have come to prove my love to thee, and to fulfill my promise to touch thee. I have waited for a long time to demonstrate my true love, for I love thee when everyone else has ceased loving thee. I touch thee when all thy summer friends fear to touch thee any more.”
Thus speaking, Buddha healed the courtesan and invited her, now purged by him of all carnal desire, to join his growing band of disciples.
Personal love is selfish, and considers its own comforts—often at the cost of everything else. Divine love is unselfish, it seeks the happiness of the object of its love and is not limited or partial.
God loves both the wicked and the good equally, for they are His children. All those who aspire to know Him must prove to Him that their love, like His love, is for all.
When a soul proves to the Heavenly Father that he loves his good and evil brothers equally, then the Father will say: “My noble son, I accept thy love, for thou lovest all with My love, even as I do.”
To love those who love you is natural, but ego-inspired. To love those who do not love you, or even hate you, is to express supernatural love, to see God in all.
Excerpted from How to Love and Be Loved by Paramhansa Yogananda
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