Buddhist Scriptures, by E.J. Thomas, , at sacred-texts.com
"Resist not him that is evil, but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." It has been said that if the principles of the Sermon on the Mount were put into practice, the world could not go on. This story is interesting as showing that a Buddhist asked himself the question whether the principle is practicable, and answered it in the affirmative. It is also curious to notice that the moral expressly inculcated in the verse is the homely one of perseverance. The prose part of the story has probably been transformed, and the verse belonging to an earlier form of the story retained.
Long ago, when Brahmadatta was ruling in Benares, the Bodhisatta was re-born as the son of the chief queen. On his naming-day they gave him the name of prince Sīlava [i.e. the virtuous]. At the age of sixteen he had attained perfection in all branches of learning; and afterwards, on the death of his father, he was established in the kingdom, and under the name of king Mahāsīlava became a righteously ruling king. He built six almshalls, four at the four gates of the city, one in the middle, and one at his palace-door, gave
alms to poor travellers, kept the commandments, and performed the fast-day duties, being filled with patience, kindness, and compassion. As a parent cherishes a son seated on his hip, so he cherished all beings, and ruled his kingdom in righteousness.
Now one of his ministers misconducted himself in the harem, and this became commonly known. The ministers informed the king. The king inquiring into the matter found it out himself, and, sending for the minister, said, "Blind fool, you have acted wrongly, you are not worthy to dwell in my kingdom. Take your property, your wife and children, and go elsewhere." And he sent him forth from the country. The minister left the Kāsi country, and, going to the king of Kosala, gradually became a confidant of the king.
One day he said to the king of Kosala, "Your majesty, the kingdom of Benares is like a honeycomb free from flies. The king is very mild, and with even a small military force it is possible to take the kingdom of Benares." The king, on hearing his words, thought, "The kingdom of Benares is great; can he be a hired robber in saying it is possible to take it even with a small force?" and he replied, "You are hired for this, I suppose." "I am not hired, your Majesty, I speak the real truth; if you do not believe me, send me with some men to waste a border village. When the men are taken and brought before the
king, he will give them money and send them away." The king replied, "He speaks as a very brave man, I will test him then "; and sending his men he caused them to waste a border village. The robbers were caught and brought before the king of Benares. The king, on seeing them, asked, "My children, why did you waste the village?" "We cannot get a living," they said. "Then why did you not come to me? Henceforth do not do the like again." And, giving them money, he sent them away. They went, and announced to the king of Kosala what had happened. But notwithstanding this he did not dare to go, and again he sent men to waste the country in the middle of the kingdom. In the same way the king gave the robbers money, and sent them away. Notwithstanding this, however, he did not go, but again sent men to plunder in the very streets of Benares. The king gave money to these robbers also, and sent them away likewise. Then the king of Kosala, seeing that he was a very righteous king, said, "I will capture the kingdom of Benares," and set out with an army.
Now at that time the king of Benares had a thousand invincible heroic warriors, who would not turn back from the advance of a mad elephant, intrepid even against the thunderbolt falling on their heads, and if king Sīlava wished it, able to subdue the whole of Jambudīpa [India]. They, on hearing that the king of Kosala was coming,
approached their king, and said, "Your Majesty, the king of Kosala is coming, saying he will take the kingdom of Benares; let us go, and, even before he has entered the border of our kingdom, smite him and capture him." "My children," he replied, "for my sake no suffering is to be inflicted upon others. Let those who want kingdoms take this." And he forbade them to go.
The king of Kosala crossed the border, and entered the middle of the country. Again the ministers of the king of Benares approached him, and spoke as before, but the king again refused. The king of Kosala stopped outside the city, and sent a message to king Sīlava, "Let him either resign his kingdom or give battle." The king, on hearing, sent the reply, "I have nothing to do with fighting; let him take the kingdom." And again the ministers approached the king, saying, "Your Majesty, let us not allow the king of Kosala to enter the city; even outside the city let us smite and capture him." But once more the king refused, and, causing the city gates to be opened, sat with his thousand ministers round him on his throne in the great hall.
The king of Kosala with a great army entered Benares. Not seeing even a single enemy he went to the king's palace, and, finding the doors open, ascended to the splendidly adorned royal hall, thronged with ministers, caused the guiltless king Sīlava, who was seated there, to be seized
with his thousand ministers, and said, "Come, bind this king and his ministers with their hands tightly fastened behind their backs, and take them to a cemetery. 1 Bury them in holes up to their necks, and so cover them with earth that they cannot move even a hand. At night the jackals will come and do what is fitting."
The men, hearing the command of the robber king, bound the king and his ministers with their hands tightly fastened behind their backs and took them away. Even at that moment king Sīlava harboured no thought of violence against the robber king, and there was not one of the ministers, when being bound and led off, who could disobey the king's word, so well disciplined was his assembly.
Then the king's men took king Sīlava and his ministers, buried them in holes up to their necks, the king in the middle, with the ministers on both sides. They placed them all in holes, scattered earth over and made it firm, and came away. King Sīlava addressed his ministers and exhorted them, "Give not way to anger against the robber king, but practise kindness, my children."
Now at midnight the jackals came saying, "Let us eat human flesh." The king and his
ministers, on seeing them, gave a shout with one voice. The jackals fled in terror. Then they turned to look back, and, seeing that no one was following, came up again. A second time the men uttered the shout. As many as three times the jackals fled away, and again looking back and seeing that not a single person was following, they thought, "These must be men sentenced to death"; and they became bold, and when the shout was raised again, they did not flee. The oldest jackal came up to the king, and the others approached the ministers. The king, who was clever in device, marked the jackal's approach, and as though giving him the opportunity to bite, threw back his neck, and as the jackal was biting seized his neck with his teeth, and held him firm as in a vice. Being held by the teeth of the king, who was strong as an elephant, the jackal, firmly held by the neck, and being unable to free himself, was in fear of death, and gave a great howl. The other jackals, hearing his cry of pain, thought he must have been seized by some man, and, not daring to approach the ministers, they all fled in fear of their lives.
Through the king holding firmly to the jackal that he had seized, the earth was loosened, as the jackal moved to and fro, and the terrified animal removed the earth with his four feet on the upper part of the king. Then the king, seeing that the earth was loosened, released the jackal, and, moving
to and fro with the strength of an elephant, got both hands free, and clutching the edge of the hole, came out like a cloud driven before the wind, comforted the ministers, removed the earth, took them all out, and stood in the cemetery surrounded by his ministers.
Now at that time some persons had thrown away a corpse in the cemetery, and had placed it on a boundary between the territories of two goblins [yakkhas]. The goblins, being unable to divide the corpse, said, "We cannot divide it, but king Sīlava is righteous, he will divide it and give it to us; let us go to him." Taking the corpse and dragging it by the foot they went to the king, and said, "Your Majesty, divide this and give it to us." "Well, goblins," he replied, "I would divide and give it to you, but I am dirty; I must first bathe." The goblins, through their magic power, brought scented water prepared for the robber king's use, and gave it to king Sīlava for bathing. After he had bathed they brought and gave him clothes intended for the robber king. He put these on, and they brought him a box with the four kinds of scent with which he anointed himself, and then various kinds of flowers, placed upon jewelled fans in a gold casket. When he had adorned himself with the flowers, they asked, "Can we do anything else?" The king made a sign of hunger. They went and brought him food flavoured with various
kinds of excellent essences, which had been prepared for the robber king, and king Sīlava, bathed, anointed, dressed, and adorned, ate the food flavoured with the various kinds of excellent essences. The goblins brought him scented drink in a golden cup and golden bowl, prepared for the robber king's use. Then he drank the water and rinsed his mouth, and, as he washed his hands, they brought him the robber king's betel, prepared with the five kinds of scent, and, after he had chewed it, they asked, "Can we do anything else?" "Go and bring the robber king's sword of state, which lies by his head-pillow," said the king; and they went and brought this also. The king took the sword, set the corpse upright, and smote it from the middle of the skull downwards into two parts, and, thus dividing it, gave an equal part to each goblin, and, washing the sword, he stood with it girded on.
Then the goblins ate the flesh, and, being well disposed and delighted in heart, asked, "What else can we do, O king?" "Well, then, by your magic power set me down in the robber king's royal bedchamber, and put these ministers again each in his own house." They replied, "Very well, your Majesty," and did so. At that time the robber king was lying asleep on his royal bed in the royal bedchamber. King Sīlava smote his stomach with the flat of his sword, as he lay asleep and unconscious. He awoke in a fright,
and, recognizing king Sīlava by the light of a lamp, arose from his bed, summoned his courage, and stood up and addressed the king, "O king, in a night like this, with the house guarded, the doors shut, and the place inaccessible owing to the guard set, how did you come with sword girded on and fully adorned to my bedside?" The king recounted in full all the details of his coming. The robber king, on hearing, replied with terrified mind, "O king, I, although a man, did not know your virtue, but your virtues are known to fierce and cruel goblins, devourers of flesh and blood; I will no longer, O king, be an enemy to you, who are endowed with such goodness." Then on the sword he swore an oath, asked the king's pardon, caused him to lie down on the state bed, while he himself lay on a small couch.
When it dawned and the sun rose, he caused a drum to be sounded, assembled all the trade-gilds, ministers, brahmins, and householders, and recounted before them the virtues of king Sīlava, as though he were making the full moon rise in the heavens. And again in the midst of the assembly he asked the king's pardon, delivered back the kingdom to him, and said, "Henceforth it shall be my charge to deal with robbers who rise against you. Do you rule your kingdom with me to keep guard." Then he passed sentence on the calumniator, and with his army departed to his own kingdom.
But king Sīlava, splendidly adorned, sat beneath the white umbrella on a golden throne which had legs shaped like those of a deer, and as he beheld his glory he thought, "This great glory and the lives of these thousand ministers being saved would not have happened, if I had not acted with perseverance. It was by the power of perseverance that I recovered this splendour that I had lost, and saved the lives of my thousand ministers. One should show perseverance without abandoning one's desire, for thus the fruit of practising perseverance ripens." And, making a solemn utterance, he spoke this verse:
[paragraph continues] Thus the Bodhisatta expressing his solemn utterance in this verse, showing how surely the fruit of perseverance ripens in those who are endowed with virtue, and doing good throughout his life, passed away according to his deeds [karma]. (Jat. No. 51.)
84:1 The Pāli word means a cemetery for the disposal of dead bodies which have not received the due rites of cremation and burial.