Scene 1

(Gautami and her son in the forest.)

GAUTAMI: My son, you and I have come to the forest to meditate on God. You are dearer to me than my life. I have nobody on earth except you. Your father left us two years ago. He is now with God. One day we two will also go to God and be with your father there in Heaven. My son, in you I have everything.

SON: Mother, you are my everything. You are my everything, Mother.

GAUTAMI: My son, I wish you to sing me a most soulful song. While you are singing, I shall meditate. And when your singing is over, you also join me in meditation.

SON: Certainly I shall do so. Do you want me to sing any particular song, Mother?

GAUTAMI: I wish you to sing that song which you sing so soulfully, Nayam atma bala-hinena labhyo [This soul cannot be won by the weakling.]

SON: Yes, Mother, I shall sing that song to please you.

(The son sings the song most soulfully. Gautami meditates with her eyes closed. Suddenly a snake comes and bites the son. He screams and Gautami’s meditation is disturbed. She sees the snake. The son’s face becomes pale. He faints, then dies in front of his mother.)

GAUTAMI: O snake, you have killed my son! O God, there was no doctor here; there was nobody to save my son’s life. My son is no more. O Lord, You know what is best. Let Thy Will be done, O Lord.

(Enter a hunter.)

HUNTER: O venerable lady, is this your child?

GAUTAMI: My only son. He has been bitten by a snake.

HUNTER: Your only son has been bitten by a snake, and he is dead? Let me kill the snake. And after I have killed it, shall I destroy it by burning it or shall I cut it into pieces? Tell me how I can please you.

GAUTAMI: I do not want you to kill the snake.

HUNTER: Why not? Your only son is no more, and you don’t want me to kill the culprit? Why?

GAUTAMI: If you kill the snake, do you think that I will get my son’s life back?

HUNTER: No, you won’t get your son’s life back. But the snake deserves punishment. The snake has killed him, and I have the capacity to kill the snake.

GAUTAMI: No, I don’t want you to kill the snake. The time had come for my son to leave this body. The snake was just an instrument. It was an innocent instrument, and I really don’t want you to kill it.

(The snake lifts up its hood.)

SNAKE: Mother Gautami, I didn’t want to bite your son, but the King of Death, Yamaraj, sent me to bite him. So I have bitten him, and he is now dead. But it is not my fault.

HUNTER: Whose fault is it, then? This boy was such a young child. Now he is dead. What did he do? Why should Yamaraj want to kill an innocent, beautiful, divine boy? Yamaraj sent you. True, it was his crime; he did the wrong thing. But it was you who executed his order; it was you who killed the boy. Your crime is more serious, so it is you who deserve my punishment.

SNAKE: O hunter, you are a wise man. When you wish to perform religious sacrifices, when you wish to perform pujas, you appoint a priest, and the priest prays and meditates for you. He adores and worships God for you. Then you get the benefit, you get the merit, you get the result of the puja. The priest does everything for you, but since you are the employer, you get the benefit. The priest does not get it. I was employed by the King of Death. I have only worked for him. The consequences of my acts belong to him.

(Enter Yamaraj.)

SNAKE: Master, I listened to you. You asked me to bite the boy, and I did. Now he is dead, and they blame me. I just executed your will and they blame me. They want to kill me — at least this hunter wants to kill me.

GAUTAMI: I don’t want to kill you. I want the hunter to let you go.

HUNTER: I want to kill you. I will kill you. (To Yamaraj.) Why are you so cruel? You sent this snake to kill this young boy who was so beautiful, so divine.

YAMARAJ: Look, hunter, I am not responsible. Time, Eternal Time, ordered me to send the snake to bite this young boy. I am under the express command of Time.

(Enter Time.)

TIME: What is this all about?

YAMARAJ: O Time, I executed your order, and now they are blaming me. Is it my fault that I asked the snake to come and bite this boy? It was your order. We are all at your feet, O Time.

TIME: It is not your fault; it is not my fault. It is nobody’s fault. In his previous incarnation this boy did something wrong, and this is the result. He is paying the penalty for his action in his previous incarnation.

GAUTAMI: O hunter, go away. I knew this; I felt it. Everything here on earth is caused by God’s Will. O Yamaraj, go back to your home. O Time, go back to your abode. Please allow me to pray to my God. He will give me strength; He will console my heart; He will illumine my life. My son is with God and my husband is with God. As long as God wants me to stay on earth to work for Him, I shall stay. And when He wants me to go back to Him in Heaven, with my heart’s deepest joy I shall go back. I have no son, I have no husband. In my outer life I am alone; but in my inner life I am never alone. God is within me, guiding me, protecting me and illumining me. I need only one Person on earth and in Heaven: that is my God. In Him I see my husband, my son, my Everything. God is my All, my only One.