"My memory must indeed be growing weak, for I confess that I do not remember doing this thing."
"The real Buddha was named by us Sugata," replied the other. "Before that, he was known as Rild."
"Rild!" Yama chuckled. "You are trying to tell me that he was more than an executioner whom you talked out of doing his job?"
"Many people are executioners who have been talked out of doing their jobs," replied the one on the rock. "Rild gave up his mission willingly and became a follower of the Way. He was the only man I ever knew to really achieve enlightenment."
"Is this not a pacifistic religion, this thing you have been spreading?"
Yama threw back his head and laughed. "Gods! Then it is well you are not preaching a militant one! Your foremost disciple, enlightenment and all, near had my head this afternoon!"
A tired look came over the Buddha's wide countenance. "Do you think he could actually have beaten you?"
Yama was silent a moment, then, "No," he said.
"Do you think he knew this?"
"Perhaps," Yama replied.
"Did you not know one another prior to this day's meeting? Have you not seen one another at practice?"
"Yes," said Yama. "We were acquainted."
"Then he knew your skill and realized the outcome of the encounter."
Yama was silent.
"He went willingly to his martyrdom, unknown to me at the time. I do not feel that he went with real hope of beating you."
"To prove a point."
"What point could he hope to prove in such a manner?"
"I do not know. I only know that it must be as I have said, for I knew him. I have listened too often to his sermons, to his subtle parables, to believe that he would do a thing such as this without a purpose. You have slain the true Buddha, deathgod. You know what I am."
The Context: Yama-Dharma, Deathgod has been dispatched to kill Great-Souled Sam, in order to discredit Buddhism. Buddhism was only a weapon to Sam, a tool to undermine Heaven. An assassin named Rild was dispatched to kill him, but he failed when he fell ill. Sam and his monks nursed Rild back to health, and Rild has an epiphany becomes a monk. Sam never believed what he was preaching, but Rild did, and he surpassed his master. eventually achieving enlightenment, before departing to confront Yama, who was dispatched when Rild failed,
Why I like it: Because it feels true. Zelazny has a segment earlier in the chapter that I really enjoy:
"Illustrious One," he said to him one day, "my life was empty until you revealed to me the True Path. When you received your enlightenment, before you began your teaching, was it like a rush of fire and the roaring of water and you everywhere and a part of everything, the clouds and the trees, the animals in the forest, all people, the snow on the mountaintop and the bones in the field?"
"Yes," said Tathagatha.
"I, also, know the joy of all things," said Sugata.
"Yes, I know," said Tathagatha.
"I see now why once you said that all things come to you. To have brought such a doctrine into the world, I can see why the gods were envious. Poor gods! They are to be pitied. But you know. You know all things."
Tathagatha did not reply.
Sam's silence always spoke to me of his guilt, that he twisted something beautiful into a spear against the Gods, and although it lead to Rild's enlightenment, on some level, he regrets ensnaring this idealistic young man.