Amitabha, A Story of Buddhist Theology, by Paul Carus, , at sacred-texts.com
As the night was far advanced, the royal messenger allowed his horses a short rest in the Vihâra, and set out with Charaka at an early hour the following morning. The two travelers could not, however, make rapid progress, for the atmosphere was murky, and the fogs of the rainy season obscured the way. They passed a picket of Gandhâra soldiers who were on the lookout for the hostile mountaineers. The mounted messenger showed them his passport, and the two men reached the capital only when the shades of evening were settling upon the valley. The gates were carefully guarded by armed men. The sentinel led the two horsemen to the officer at the gate, who seemed satisfied with the report that Charaka had nowhere encountered enemies; but the home news was very bad, for one of the princes had died and Chandana (commonly
called Kanishka), the third and youngest son of the king, was thought to be critically ill.
The night was darker than usual, and the town made a gloomy impression. The inhabitants were restless and seemed to be prepared for a dire calamity.
Charaka was at once conducted to the royal palace. He passed through a line of long streets which seemed narrow and dismal. The people whom they met on their way, being wrapped in a veil of mist, resembled even at a short distance dim dusky specters, like guilty ghosts condemned for some crime to haunt the scene of their former lives. At last they reached the palace, and Charaka was ushered into the dimly lighted bedroom of Prince Kanishka. Charaka stood motionless and watched the heavy breathing of the patient. He then put his hand gently upon the feverish forehead and in a low voice demanded water to cool the burning temples of the sick man. Turning to the attendants, he met the questioning eye of a tall and beautiful woman, an almost imperious figure. He knew her well; it was Princess
[paragraph continues] Kamalavatî, the king's daughter and a younger half-sister of the prince.
"His condition is very bad," whispered Charaka in reply to the unuttered question that was written in her face, "but not yet hopeless. Where are the nurses who assist you in ministering unto the patient?"
Two female attendants appeared, and the physician withdrew with them into an adjoining room where he listened to their reports. "The king and his second son have died of the same disease, and the situation is very critical," said Charaka; "but we may avoid the mistakes made in the former cases and adjust the diet strictly to the condition of the patient."
Charaka and Kanishka were of the same age. They had for some time been educated together and were intimate friends. But when the prince joined the royal army, Charaka studied the sciences under the direction of Jivaka, the late court physician of Gandhâra, and knowing how highly the latter had praised the young man as his best disciple, the prince had unbounded confidence in the medical skill of his boyhood companion. He had suggested
calling him when his father, the king, fell sick, but his advice had remained unheeded, and now being himself ill, he was impatient to have the benefit of his friend's assistance.
Charaka gave his instructions to the princess and the other attendants and then sat down quietly by the bedside of the patient. When Kanishka awoke from his restless slumber, he extended his hand and tried to speak, but the physician hushed him, saying: "Keep quiet, and your life will be saved."
"I will be quiet," whispered Kanishka, not without great effort, "but save my life,—for the sake of my country, not for my own sake." After a pause he continued: "Tell my sister to call Matura, our brave and faithful Matura, to my bedside."
Matura, the scion of a noble Gandhâra family, had served his country on several occasions and was at present at the capital. He came and waited patiently till Charaka gave him permission to see the patient.
In this interview the prince explained to Matura the political situation since his father's death. His royal brother, now in the field
against the Parthians, was at present the legitimate king. "During his absence," said Kanishka, "the duty devolves on me, as the vicegerent of the crown, to keep the mountaineers out of the kingdom, and I call upon you to serve me as a chancellor in this critical situation. Raise troops to expel the marauders, but at the sane time exhaust diplomatic methods by appealing to the honor and dignity of the kingdom of Magadha of which these robber tribes are nominal subjects."
Thus Matura took charge of state affairs and Charaka and Kamalavatî united in attending to the treatment of the sick prince. They had weary nights and hours of deep despondency when they despaired of the recovery of their beloved patient, but the crisis came and Kanishka survived it. He regained strength, first slowly, very slowly, then more rapidly, until he felt that he was past all danger.
The rainy season had given the people of Gandhâra a respite from the suffering caused by the hostilities of their enemies. The king, Kanishka's elder brother, continued to wage war against the Parthians and concentrated
his forces for striking a decisive blow. But while the best troops of the country had thus still to be employed against a formidable foe, the mountaineers renewed their raids, and the king of Magadha, too weak to interfere with his stubborn vassals, pleaded their cause declaring that they had grievances against the kingdom of Gandhâra and could therefore not be restrained. The prince accordingly declared war on the kingdom of Magadha. He raised an army, and the young men of the peasantry, who had suffered much from this state of unrest, gladly allowed themselves to be enlisted.