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Jataka 546

Māha-Ummagga Jātaka

The Great Tunnel

as told by Eric Van Horn

originally translated by Professor Edward Byles Cowell, Cambridge University and

William Henry Denham Rouse, Cambridge University

This is a very (very!) long story. It reads more like a novella, and it has some of the heroic qualities of Homer about it.

There are two recurring themes in this tale. The first is the superiority of wisdom over wealth and status. The other is the value of living with wise people.

As often happens in Pāli, the word for wisdom – pañña – covers a lot of ground. First and foremost, this is Buddhist wisdom. This means living in an ethical, moral, virtuous way. A wise person is a person of integrity. A wise person knows what is skillful and what is not skillful.

But it also has an active quality to it that is missing in the English word “wisdom.” It is something more like knowing what to do and when to do it. Ṭhānnisaro Bhikkhu prefers the word “discernment.” “Pañña” can also mean “intelligence,” “cleverness,” and the ability to creatively solve problems. We see all of these qualities in the sage of this story.

The Buddha often emphasized the importance of being around wise people. In a Buddhist context this means arhats, or at least members of the Noble Saṇgha (someone who is at least a stream-enterer). On one hand, bad friends can get you into all kinds of trouble. But good friends will a) always give you good advice and b) are role models for the best possibilities in life.

The Pāli Text Society translation of this story uses the word “omniscient” in reference to the Buddha. However, the Buddha never claimed to be omniscient. He only said that he could know what he needed to know when he needed to know it. Thus I have substituted the phrase “who knows and sees,” which is a phrase that comes from elsewhere in the Canon.

This Jātaka has 10 separate stories in it. They are:

  1. The 19 Tests
  2. The Story of the Chameleon
  3. The Question of Good and Bad Luck
  4. The Question of the Goat
  5. The Question of Poor and Rich
  6. The Question of the Secret Path
  7. The Question of the Goddess
  8. The Question of the Five Wise Men and The Story of Slander
  9. The Tale of the Great Tunnel
  10. The Question of the Water Demon

King Cūḷani of Uttarapañcāla,” et al. The Teacher, while living at Jetavana, told this story about the perfection of knowledge.

One day the monks were sitting in the Dharma Hall, and they described the Buddha’s perfection of knowledge. “Brothers, the Buddha knows and sees. His wisdom is vast, ready, swift, sharp, crushing wrong views. After converting, by the power of his own knowledge the brahmin Kūṭadanta and the rest, the ascetic Sabhiya and the rest, the thief Aṇgulimāla and the rest, the yakkha Āḷavaka and the rest, the god Sakka and the rest, and the brahmins Baka and the rest, he humbled them. He ordained many people as recluses and established them in the fruition of the path of liberation.”

The Teacher arrived and asked what they were discussing. When they told him, he replied, “Not only now does the Buddha know and see. In past times also, before his knowledge was fully mature, he was full of wisdom as he worked for the sake of wisdom and knowledge.” He then told this story of the past.


In days gone by, a King named Vedeha ruled in Mithilā. He had four sages who instructed him in the law. They were named Senaka, Pukkusa, Kāvinda, and Devinda. Now when the Bodhisatta was conceived in his mother’s womb, the King had the following dream. He saw four columns of fire as high as the great wall blaze up in the four corners of the royal court. In the midst of them a flame the size of a firefly rose up. At that moment it suddenly shot up as high as the Brahma world and illuminated the whole world. Even a grain of mustard seed lying on the ground could be easily seen. The human world and the world of gods paid homage to it with garlands and incense. Many beings passed through this flame, but not even a hair of their skin was singed.

When he saw this vision, the King recoiled in terror and sat wondering what was going to happen, and he waited for the dawn.

When the four wise men came in the morning, they asked him whether he had slept well.

“How could I sleep well,” he replied, “when I have had a frightening dream.” He told them his dream.

Then Paṇḍita (this is an honorific term for someone who is learned, a.k.a., a scholar) Senaka replied, “Fear not, Oh King. It is an auspicious dream. It means that you will be prosperous.” When he was asked to explain, he went on, “Oh King, a fifth sage will be born who will surpass us four. We four are like the four columns of fire, but in the midst of us there will arise a fifth column of fire, one who is unparalleled and fills a post that is unequaled in the world of gods or men.”

“Where is he at this moment?”

“Oh King, he will either assume a body or come out of his mother’s womb.” (He will either have a normal birth or be spontaneously born into an existing body.)

Thus Senaka reported what he had seen by his divine eye, and the King remembered his words from that time forward.

Now at the four gates of Mithilā there were four market towns. They were called the East Town, the South Town, the West Town, and the North Town. A rich man named “Sirivaḍḍhaka” and his wife Sumanādevī lived in the East Town. Now on the day when the King had the vision, the Great Being left the heaven of the Thirty-three (the Tāvatiṃsa Heaven, which is two realms above the human realm in the Buddhist cosmology) and was conceived in her womb. A thousand other sons of the gods also went from that heaven and were conceived in the families of various wealthy merchants in that village. At the end of the tenth month the lady Sumanā gave birth to a child. He was the color of gold.

Now at that moment Sakka (supreme god of the Tāvatiṃsa Heaven), as he looked over the world of humankind, beheld the Great Being’s birth. He said to himself that he ought to make it known in the world of gods and men that this Bodhisatta had sprung into being. Sakka manifested in a visible form just as the child was born. He placed a piece of a medicinal herb into the child's hand, and then he returned to his own realm.

The Great Being seized the herb firmly in his closed hand. And as he came out from his mother’s womb, she did not feel the slightest pain. He came out as easily as water from a sacred water pot. When his mother saw the piece of medicinal herb in his hand, she said to him, “My child, what do you have in your hand?” He replied, “It is a medicinal plant, mother.” He placed it in her hand and told her to take it and give it to anyone who was ill.

Full of joy she told this to the merchant Sirivaḍḍhaka. He had been suffering from a painful headache for seven years. He said to himself, “This child came out of his mother’s womb holding a medicinal plant, and as soon as he was born he talked to his mother. A medicine given by a being of such great merit must have great power.” He rubbed it on a grindstone and smeared a little of it on his forehead, and the pain in his head disappeared at once like water from a lotus leaf. Overcome with joy he exclaimed, “This is a medicine of marvelous power.”

The news spread quickly that the Great Being had been born with a medicine in his hand. Everyone who was sick rushed to the merchant’s house and begged for the medicine. They gave a little to all who came. As soon as the divine medicine touched a sick body, its disease was cured. The delighted patients went away proclaiming the wondrous virtues of the medicine in the house of the merchant Sirivaḍḍhaka.

On the naming day of the child the merchant thought to himself, “My child does not have to be named after one of his ancestors. Let him be given the name of the medicine.” So he gave him the name “Mahosadha.” Then he thought again, “My son possesses great merit. He would not be born alone. Many other children must have been born at the same time.” He discovered that thousands of other boys were born on the same day. He sent nurses to all of them and gave them clothes as gifts. He resolved that they should be his son’s attendants. He celebrated a festival for them with the Great Being, and he adorned the boys and brought them to wait upon him every day.

The Great Being grew up playing with them, and when he was seven years old he was as beautiful as a golden statue. However, as he was playing with them in the village, sometimes elephants and other animals passed by and disturbed their games, and sometimes the children were distressed by the rain and the heat. One day as they played, an unseasonable rainstorm came on. When the Great Being, who was as strong as an elephant, saw it, he ran into a house. As the other children ran after him they fell over each other’s feet and bruised their knees and limbs. Then he thought to himself, “We should build a hall for playing. We should not play in this way.” He said to the boys, "Let us build a hall here where we can stand, sit, or lie down in time of wind, hot sunshine, or rain. Let each one of you bring his share of money.”

The thousand boys all did so, and the Great Being sent for a master-carpenter and gave him the money. He told him to build a hall. The carpenter took the money, levelled the ground, and cut posts. He spread out the measuring line, but he did not understand exactly what the Great Being wanted. So the Great Being told the carpenter how he wanted the building to be built. The carpenter replied, "I have laid it out according to my practical experience. I cannot do it in any other way.”

“If you can build it this way, how can you take our money and build a hall? Take the line. I will measure and show you.” He took the line and drew out the plan. It was done as if Vissakamma (a deva who was the architect in the Tāvatiṃsa heaven) had done it. Then he said to the carpenter, “Will you be able to build it this way?”

“I will not be able to, sir.”

“Will you be able to do it if I tell you how?”

“I will be able to do that, Sir.”

Then the Great Being laid out the hall so that there was one area for ordinary strangers, another place for the poor, a place for destitute women, another place for housing spiritual seekers and brahmins. In another space there was housing for other sorts of men, in another a place where foreign merchants could store their goods, and all these rooms had doors opening outside.

He also had a public place built for sports. There was a court of justice and a hall for religious assemblies. When the work was completed he summoned painters. He put them to work painting beautiful pictures so that the hall became like (the god) Sakka’s heavenly palace Sudhammā.

Still he thought that the palace was not yet complete, “I must have a bathing pool constructed as well.” So he ordered the ground to be dug. He hired an architect and had him build a pool with a hundred steps leading down to the river. The water was covered with the five kinds of lotuses. It was as beautiful as the lake in the heavenly garden Nandana (literally “paradise”). On its bank he planted various trees and had a park made like Nandana. And near this hall he established a place for giving alms to holy men whether they were spiritual seekers or brahmins, and for strangers and for people from the neighboring villages.

These actions of his were reported everywhere and crowds gathered at the place. The Great Being used to sit in the hall and discuss the right and the wrong of the good or evil circumstances of all the people who came there. He gave his judgment on each, and it became like the happy time when a Buddha makes his appearance in the world.

When he was seven years old, King Vedeha remembered how the four sages had said that a fifth sage would be born who would surpass them in wisdom. He said to himself, “I wonder where is he now?” He sent out his four councilors, each by one of the four gates of the city, telling them to find out where he was.

Three of the sages saw no sign of the Great Being. But the one who went out by the eastern gate saw the hall and its various buildings. He felt sure that only a wise man could have built this palace. They asked the people, “What architect built this hall?” They replied, “This palace was not built by any architect, but by Paṇḍita Mahosadha, the son of the merchant Sirivaḍḍha.”

“How old is he?”

“He has just completed his seventh year.”

The councilor remembered all the events from the day on which the King saw the dream, and he said to himself, “This being fulfills the King’s dream.” He sent a messenger with this message to the King: “Mahosadha, the son of the merchant Sirivaḍḍhaka in the East Town, who is now seven years old, has built an extraordinary hall and pool and park. Shall I bring him to you?”

When the King heard this he was delighted. He sent for Senaka, and after telling him what had happened, he asked him whether he should send for this sage. But Senaka, being jealous, replied, “Oh King, a man is not to be called a sage simply because he built halls and such. Anyone can build things. This is a trivial matter.”

When the King heard his words he said to himself, “There must be some secret reason for all this,” and he was silent. Then he sent the messenger back with the command that the councilor should remain there for a while and carefully observe the sage.

The councilor did that. He carefully observed the sage’s actions, and he performed this series of tests:

1. “The piece of meat.” One day when the Great Being was going to the play hall, a hawk stole a piece of meat from a slaughterhouse and flew up into the air. Some of the boys decided to get it from him, and they ran after him. The hawk flew this way and that. They tried to follow him, but they just wore themselves out. They threw stones at him and kept stumbling over each other. Then the sage said to them, “I can make him drop it.” They begged him to do so. He told them to watch. Then he ran with the swiftness of the wind and walked onto the hawk’s shadow. Then he clapped his hands and shouted. His shout seemed to pierce the bird’s belly through and through, and in its terror he dropped the meat. The Great Being, knowing by watching the shadow that he had dropped the meat, caught it in the air before it reached the ground.

The people saw this marvel. They shouted and clapped their hands. The councilor sent an account of this incident to the King telling him how the sage had made the bird drop the flesh. The King asked Senaka whether he should summon him to the court. Senaka reflected, “If he comes I will lose my status. The King will forget that I even exist. I must not let him bring him here.” So enviously he said, “He is not a sage just because he can do something like that. This is a trivial matter.” And the King, being impartial, sent word to the councilor that he should continue to test him.

2. “The cattle.” A man who lived in the village of Yavamajjhaka bought some cattle from another village and took them home. The next day he took them to a field of grass to graze, and he rode on the back of one of the cattle. But he got tired, so he got down and sat on the ground and fell asleep. Meanwhile a thief came and stole his cattle. When he woke up he did not see his cattle. But as he looked around he saw the thief running away. Jumping up he shouted, “Where are you taking my cattle?”

“They are my cattle, and I am taking them where I want.”

A great crowd gathered as they heard the argument. The sage heard the noise as they passed by the door of the hall. He sent for them both. When he saw how they were acting, he knew at once who was the thief and who was the real owner. But even though he felt sure, he asked them what they were arguing about.

The owner said, “I bought these cattle, and I brought them home and put them in a field of grass. This thief saw that I was not watching and came and carried them off. I caught sight of him, ran after him, and caught him. The people of the village where I got them know that I bought the cattle and that they belong to me.”

The thief replied, “This man is lying. They were born in my house.”

The sage said, “I will decide your case fairly. Will you abide by my decision?” and they both promised to do so.

Thinking to himself that he must convince the crowd of people, he first asked the thief, “What have you fed these cattle, and what have you given them to drink?”

“They have drunk rice gruel and have been fed on sesame flour and kidney beans.”

Then he asked the real owner, who said, “My lord, how could a poor man like me afford to feed them rice? I fed them on grass.”

The sage ordered panic seeds (an "emetic," something that makes you vomit) to be brought. He ground them up in a mortar. Then he added water to the mixture and had this given to the cattle. The cattle vomited only grass. He showed this to the assembly, and then asked the thief, “Are you the thief or not?” He confessed that he was the thief. He said to him, “Then do not commit such an offense ever again.”

But the Bodhisatta’s attendants carried the man away and cut off his hands and feet and made him helpless. Then the sage addressed him with words of good counsel, “This suffering has happened to you only in this present life. But in a future life you will suffer great torment in the different hells if you continue to act in this way,” and he taught him the Five Precepts.

The minister sent an account of the incident to the King, who asked Senaka about it. But once again Senaka advised him to wait. “It is only an affair about cattle, and anyone could have done this.” The King, being impartial, sent back the same message as before.

3. “The necklace of thread.” A poor woman had tied together several threads of different colors and made them into a necklace. She removed it from her neck and placed it on her clothes when she was getting ready to go and bathe in the pool that the Bodhisatta had built. A young woman nearby coveted the necklace. She picked it up and said, “This is a very beautiful necklace, how much did it cost to make? I will make one for myself. May I put it on my own neck and see if it fits me?” The woman gave her permission, but once she put it on, she ran away. The elder woman ran after her and grabbed hold of her dress. She cried, “You are running away with a necklace that I made.”

The young woman replied, “I am not taking anything of yours. It is my necklace that I wear on my neck.” A great crowd gathered as they heard this. The sage, while he played with the boys, heard them arguing as they passed by the door of the hall. He asked what the commotion was about. When he heard the cause of the quarrel, he sent for them both. He knew at once by the expression on her face who the thief was. He asked them whether they would abide by his decision. They both agreed to do so. He asked the thief, “What scent do you use with this necklace?”

She replied, “I always use sabbasaṃhāraka (a perfume made of many different scents).”

Then he asked the other woman, who replied, “How would a poor woman like me get sabbasaṃhāraka? I always scent it with a perfume made of piyaṇgu flowers.” (“Piyaṇgu” is also called “panic seed,” as above. It is a medicinal plant.) The sage had a jar of water brought, and he put the necklace in it. Then he sent for a perfume seller. He asked him to smell the jar and tell him what it smelled like. He directly recognized the smell of the piyaṇgu flower, and quoted this stanza:

No sabbasaṃhāraka it is. Only the piyaṇgu smells.

That wicked woman told a lie. The perfumer finds the truth.

The Great Being told the bystanders what had happened. He asked each of the women, “Are you the thief? Are you not the thief?” and he made the guilty one confess. And from that time on his wisdom became known to the people.

This matter was reported to the King, with the usual response.

4. “The cotton thread.” One day a woman who tended cotton fields took some clean cotton and spun some fine thread. She rolled it into a ball and put it in her lap. As she was going home she thought to herself, “I will bathe in the great sage’s pool,” so she placed the ball on her dress and went down into the pool to bathe. Another woman saw the ball of cotton. Coveting it, she picked it up and said, “This is a beautiful ball of thread. Did you make it yourself?” She put it in her lap as if to examine it more closely, and then she walked off with it. (The rest of the story is the same as the previous one.) The sage asked the thief, “When you made the ball what did you put inside?” (to roll the thread around) She replied, “A cotton seed.” Then he asked the other woman, and she replied, “A timbaru seed.” (Timbaru is a type of fruit.) When the crowd had heard what each one had said, he untwisted the ball of cotton and found a timbaru seed inside. He forced the thief to confess her guilt. The great crowd was very pleased. They shouted their applause at the way in which the case had been decided.

This matter was reported to the King, with the usual response.

5. “The son.” There was a woman who took her son and went down to the sage’s pool to wash her face. After she bathed her son, she laid him in her dress, washed her face, and went to in to bathe herself. At that moment a female goblin saw the child and wanted to eat it, so she took hold of the dress and said, “My friend, this is a fine child, is he your son?” Then the goblin asked if she might hold him. The mother gave her consent. The goblin took him and played with him for a while and then tried to run off with him. The mother ran after her. She seized hold of the goblin, shouting, “Where are you taking my child?”

The goblin replied, “Why do you touch the child? He is mine.” As they argued they passed by the door of the hall. The sage, hearing the noise, sent for them and asked what was the matter. When he heard the story, although he knew at once by her red unwinking eyes that one of them was a goblin, he asked them whether they would abide by his decision. On their promising to do so, he drew a line and laid the child in the middle of the line. He told the goblin to grab the child by the hands and the mother by the feet. Then he said to them, “Grab hold of it and pull. The child will belong to whoever can pull it over the line.” They both pulled, and the child uttered a painful cry. The mother’s heart seemed ready to burst. She let the child go and stood there crying. The sage asked the crowd, “Is it the heart of the mother who is tender towards the child or the heart of her who is not the mother?” They answered, “The mother's heart.”

“Is she the mother who kept hold of the child or she who let it go?”

They replied, “She who let it go.”

“Do you know who stole the child?”

“We do not know, oh sage.”

“She is a goblin. She stole it in order to eat it.”

When they asked how he knew that he replied, “I knew her by her unwinking and red eyes, by her casting no shadow, and by her fearlessness and lack of mercy.”

Then he asked her what she was, and she confessed that she was a goblin.

“Why did you seize the child?”

“To eat it.”

“You blind fool,” he said. “You committed an offense in a previous life. This is why you were born as a goblin. And now you continue to commit offenses, blind fool that you are.”

Figure: The Goblin is Revealed!

Figure: The Goblin is Revealed!

Then he encouraged her and established her in the Five Precepts and sent her away. The mother blessed him, saying, “May you live a long life, my lord.” Then she took her son and went her way.

The minister sent an account of the incident to the King who asked Senaka what he thought. But once again he advised him to wait. “It is only an affair about a child and anybody could have decided it.” The King, being impartial, sent back the same message.

6. “The black ball.” There was a certain man who was called Goḷakāḷa. Now he got the name gola (ball) from his small size, and kāḷa (dark) from his black color. He worked in a merchant’s house for seven years and obtained a wife. She was named Dīghatālā. One day he said to her, “Wife, cook some sweetmeats and food. We will pay a visit to your parents.” At first she opposed the plan, saying, “What do I have to do with parents now?” but after the third time he asked, he persuaded her to cook some cakes. And having taken some provisions and a present, he set out on the journey with her.

In the course of the journey he came to a stream that was not really deep, but because both of them were afraid of water, they were afraid to cross it. They just stood on the bank.

Now a poor man named Dīghapiṭṭhi came to that place as he walked along the bank. When they saw him they asked him whether the river was deep or shallow. Seeing that they were afraid of the water, he told them that it was very deep and full of ferocious fish.

“How then will you get across it?” they asked.

“I have struck up a friendship with the crocodiles and monsters that live here so they do not hurt me.”

“Please take us with you,” they said.

When he agreed, they gave him some food to eat. When he finished his meal he asked them who he should take over first. “Take my wife first and then take me,” said Goḷakaḷā. Then the man placed her on his shoulders. He took the provisions and the present and went down into the stream.

When he had gone a short way, he crouched down and walked along in a bent posture. Goḷakāḷa, as he stood on the bank, thought to himself, “This stream must be very deep. If it is so difficult for even such a man as Dīghapiṭṭhi, it must be impassable for me.” When the other man had carried the woman to the middle of the stream, he said to her, “Lady, I will cherish you, and you will live richly clothed with fine dresses and ornaments, and you will have men servants and maidservants. What will that poor dwarf do for you? Listen to what I tell you.”

She listened to his words and ceased loving her husband. And being infatuated with the stranger, she agreed, saying, “If you will be faithful to me, I will do as you say.”

So when they reached the opposite bank, they amused themselves. They left Goḷakāḷa behind, telling him to stay where he was. While he stood there looking on, they ate all the food and then they left. When he saw what was happening, he exclaimed, “They have struck up a friendship and are running away, leaving me here.” As he ran backwards and forwards he went a little way into the water but then he went back again in fear. Then in his anger at what they had done to him, he made a desperate leap, saying, “Let me live or die.” When he went into the water, he discovered how shallow it was.

So he crossed it and ran after them shouting, “You wicked thief, where are you taking my wife?”

The other man replied, “How is she your wife? She is mine.” And he grabbed him by the neck and spun him around and threw him down. Still he held on to Dīghatālā's hand and shouted, “Stop. Where are you going? You are my wife who I got after working for seven years in a house.” And as the argument ensued they came near the hall.

A great crowd collected. The Great Being asked what the noise was about. He sent for them, and he heard what each one had to say. He asked whether they would abide by his decision. On their both agreeing to do so, he sent for Dīghapiṭṭhi and asked him his name. Then he asked his wife’s name. But he did not know, and he gave the wrong name.

Then he asked him the names of his parents, and he told them. But when he asked him the names of his wife’s parents, he did not know, and he said the wrong names. The Great Being put his story together and had him removed.

Then he sent for the other man and asked him the names of all in the same way. He, knowing the truth, gave them correctly.

Then he had him removed and sent for Dīghatālā. He asked her what her name was and she gave it. Then he asked for her husband’s name and she, not knowing, gave the wrong name. Then he asked for her parents’ names, and she gave them correctly. But when he asked her the names of her husband’s parents’, she hemmed and hawed and gave the wrong names.

Then the sage sent for the two men. He asked the crowd, “Does the woman’s story agree with Dīghapiṭṭhi or Goḷakāḷa.”

They replied, “With Goḷakāḷa.”

Then he pronounced his sentence, “This man is her husband. The other is a thief.” And when he asked him, he confessed that he had acted as the thief.

This matter was reported to the King, with the usual response.

7. “The chariot.” There was a man who was sitting in a chariot. He dismounted from it to wash his face. At that moment Sakka, as he observed the sage, resolved that he would make known Mahosadha’s power and wisdom. So he came down from the heaven in the form of a man, and he grabbed on to the chariot from behind. The man who sat in the chariot asked, “Why have you come?” He replied, “To serve you.” The man agreed to this.

He dismounted from the chariot and went aside to relieve himself. Immediately Sakka got in the chariot and took off. The owner of the chariot, his business done, returned, and when he saw Sakka hurrying away with the chariot, he ran quickly behind, crying, “Stop! Stop! Where are you taking my chariot?” Sakka replied, “This is not your chariot. This one is mine.”

As they argued they came to the gate of the hall. The sage asked, “What is going on?” and sent for them. As Sakka came, the sage knew that this was Sakka by his fearlessness and his eyes which did not blink. He also knew that the other man was the owner.

Nevertheless he asked for the cause of the argument. He asked them, “Will you abide by my decision?” They said, “Yes.” He went on, “I will have the chariot driven, and you must both hold on from behind. The owner will not let go, and the thief will.” Then he told a man to drive the chariot. He did so while they both held on from behind. The owner held on for a while, but eventually he was unable to run any further, and he let go. But Sakka went on running with the chariot.

When he had called for the chariot to return, the sage said to the people, “This man ran a little way and let go. The other ran out with the chariot and came back with it. Yet there is not a drop of sweat on his body, no panting, he is fearless, and his eyes do not blink. This is Sakka, King of the gods.”

Then he asked, “Are you King of the gods?”

“Yes.”

“Why did you come here?”

“To spread the fame of your wisdom, oh sage!”

“Then,” he said, “do not do this kind of thing again.”

Now Sakka revealed his power by standing poised in the air. He praised the sage, saying, “This is a wise judgment!” Then he went back to his own realm.

Then the minister went to the King and said, “Oh great King, this is how the chariot question was resolved. Even Sakka was subdued by him. Why don’t you recognize his greatness?”

The King asked Senaka, “What do you say you, Senaka, shall we bring the sage here?”

Senaka replied, “That is not all that makes a sage. Wait awhile. I will test him and find out.”

8. “The pole.” So one day, in order to test the sage, they got an acacia (a tree native to the tropics and sub-tropics) pole. And cutting off about a span (a distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger, about ¾ of a foot), they had it smoothed by a wood turner. They sent it to the East Town with this message, “The people of the East Town have a reputation for wisdom. Let them determine which end is the top and which is the root of this stick. If they cannot, there will be a fine of 1,000 coins.”

The people gathered together but could not figure it out. They said to their leader, “Perhaps Mahosadha the sage would know. Send for him and ask him.” The foreman sent for the sage from his playground and told him what was going on. The sage thought to himself, “The King can gain nothing from knowing which is the top and which is the root. There is no doubt this was sent to test me.” He said, “Bring it here, my friends, I will figure it out.”

Holding it in his hand, he knew which was the top and which the root. Yet to please the hearts of the people, he sent for a pot of water, and he tied a string around the middle of the stick. Then holding it by the end of the string, he put it down on the surface of the water. Because the root is heavier, that end sank first. Then he asked the people, “Is the root of a tree heavier, or is the top heavier?”

“The root, wise sir!”

“See then, this part sinks first, and this is therefore the root.”

He marked the end that was the root. The people sent it back to the King. The King was pleased, and he asked who had figured it out? They said, “The sage Mahosadha, son of foreman Sirivaddhi.”

“Senaka, shall we send for him?” he asked.

“Wait, my lord, Senaka replied. “Let us test him in another way.”

9. “The head.” One day, two heads were sent to the village. One was a woman’s and one was a man’s. The villagers were told that if they could not determine which head was a man’s head and which one was a woman’s head, there would be a fine of 1,000 coins. The villagers could not decide, and they asked the Great Being. He recognized them immediately because, they say, the plates in the skull of a man’s head are straight and in a woman’s head they are crooked. He marked which was which, and they sent them back to the King. The rest is as before.

10. “The snake.” One day a male and a female snake were sent to the villagers to decide which was which. They asked the sage, and he knew at once when he saw them because the tail of the male snake is thick and that of the female is thin. The male snake’s head is thick and the female’s is long. The eyes of the male are big and the eyes of the female are small. The head of the male is rounded and that of the female is cut short. By these signs he distinguished the male from the female. The rest is as before.

11. “The cock.” One day a message was sent to the people of the East Town to this effect: “Send us a white bull with horns on his legs and a hump on his head who bellows three times unfailingly. Otherwise there will be a fine of 1,000 coins.” Not knowing what to do, they asked the sage. He said, “The King means you should send him a cock. This creature has horns on his feet, which are the spurs. It has a hump on his head, which is the crest. And it crows three times unfailingly. So send him a cock such as he requested.” They sent one.

12. “The gem.” Sakka gave a gem to King Vedeha that was octagonal. Its thread was broken, and no one could remove the old thread and put in a new one. One day they sent this gem to the village with instructions to take out the old thread and to put in a new one. The villagers could do neither one, and in their difficulty they told the sage about the problem. He told them not to fear and asked for some honey. With this he smeared the two holes in the gem with the honey. Then he took a thread of wool and smeared the end of this with honey as well. Then he pushed it a little way into the hole. Next he put it in a place where there were some ants. The ants smelled the honey and came out of their hole. They started eating away the old thread. They also bit hold of the end of the woolen thread and pulled it out at the other end. When he saw that it had passed through, he told them to present it to the King. He was pleased when he heard how the thread had been put in. The rest is as before.

13. “The calving.” The royal bull was fed well for some months so that his belly swelled out. His horns were washed, he was anointed with oil and bathed with turmeric, and then they sent him to the East Town with this message: “You have a reputation for wisdom. Here is the King’s royal bull. He is pregnant. Deliver him and send him back with the calf or else there will be a fine of 1,000 coins.” The villagers, perplexed about what to do, went to the sage

He thought it would be proper to meet one question with another. He asked, “Can you find a man who is bold enough to speak to the King?”

“That is not a problem,” they replied. So they summoned him, and the Great Being said, “Go, my good man. Let your hair down loose over your shoulders and go to the palace gate weeping and lamenting. Refuse to speak to anyone but the King. If the King sends for you to ask why you are crying, say, “For seven days my son has been in labor and he cannot give birth. Oh help me! Tell me how I may deliver the baby!”

Then the King will say, “What madness! This is impossible. Men do not bear children.” Then you must say, “If that is true, how can the people of the East Town deliver a calf from your royal bull”

He did as he was instructed. The King asked who thought of that witty response. On hearing that it was the sage Mahosadha, he was pleased.

14. “The boiled rice.” On another day, to test the sage this message was sent, “The people of the East Town must send us some boiled rice cooked under eight conditions. These are 1) without rice, 2) without water, 3) without a pot, 4) without an oven, 5) without fire, 6) without firewood, 7) without being sent along a road either by a woman 8) and without being sent along a road by a man. If they cannot do this, there will be a fine of 1,000 coins.”

The perplexed people went to the sage. He said, “Do not be troubled. Take some broken rice, for that is not rice. Cook with snow, for that is not water. Use an earthen bowl, which is not a pot. Chop up some wood blocks, because they are not an oven. Make a fire by rubbing, instead of using a proper fire. Use leaves instead of firewood. Finally, cook the rice, put it in a new vessel, press it well down, and put it on the head of a eunuch, who is neither man nor woman. Leave the main road and go along a footpath and take it to the King.”

They did so, and the King was pleased when he heard who had solved the riddle.

15. “The sand.” On another day, to test the sage they sent this message to the villagers, “The King wishes to amuse himself in a swing. The old rope is broken. You are to make a rope of sand or else pay a fine of 1,000 coins.” They did not know what to do and appealed to the sage. He saw that this was the place for a counter question.

He reassured the people and sent for two or three clever speakers. He told them go tell the King, “My lord, the villagers do not know whether the sand rope is to be thick or thin. Send them a bit of the old rope, a span of four or five fingers. Then they can twist a rope of the same size.”

If the King replies, “There has never been any sand rope in my house,” they should reply, “If your majesty cannot make a sand rope, how can the villagers do so?” They did this, and the King was pleased to hear that the sage had thought of this clever response.

16. “The pool.” On another day, the message was, “The King wants to entertain himself in the water. You must send a new pool from the forest covered with water lilies of all five kinds, otherwise there will be a fine of 1,000 coins.” They told the sage, who saw that a counter question was appropriate. He sent for several men who were clever at speaking. He said to them, “Go and play in the water until your eyes are red. Then go to the palace door with wet hair and wet clothes and your bodies covered with mud. Hold ropes, staves, and clods of dirt in your hands. Send word to the King that you are coming. When you are admitted say to him, Sire, inasmuch as your majesty has ordered the people of the East Town to send you a pool, we brought a great pool to suit your taste. But she is used to a life in the forest. When she saw the town with its walls, moats, and watchtowers, then she became frightened. She broke the ropes and went back into the forest. We pelted her with stones and beat her with sticks but could not make her come back. Give us the old pool that your majesty is said to have brought from the forest. Then we will tie them together and bring the other one back. The King will say, “I never had a pool brought in from the forest, and I never send a pool there to be yoked and bring in another!” Then you must say, “If that is so, how can the villagers send you a pool?” They did so, and the King was pleased to hear that the sage had thought of this.

17. “The park.” One day the King sent a message: “I wish to entertain myself in the park, and my park is old. The people of the East Town must send me a new park, one that is filled with trees and flowers.” The sage reassured them as before, and sent men to speak in the same manner as above.

18. “The more excellent horse.” The King was pleased. He said to Senaka, “Well, Senaka, shall we send for the sage?” But he, grudging the other’s prosperity, said, “That is not all that makes a sage. Wait.” On hearing this the King thought, “The sage Mahosadha is wise even as a child. As a result, he gained my favor. In all these mysterious tests and counter questions he has given answers like a Buddha. Yet the wise man Senaka will not let me summon him to my side. Why do I care what Senaka thinks? I will bring the man here.” So with a great following he set out for the village mounted on his royal horse. But as he traveled the horse stepped into a hole and broke his leg, so the King turned back. Then Senaka went to him and said, “Sire, did you go to the East Town to bring the sage back?”

“Yes, sir,” said the King.

“Sire,” said Senaka, “you treat me as someone who is of no account. I begged you to wait. But off you went in a hurry, and at the outset your royal horse broke his leg.”

The King said nothing.

On another day he asked Senaka, “Shall we send for the sage, Senaka?”

“If so, your majesty, don’t go yourself. Send a messenger. Tell him to say, ‘Oh sage! As I was on my way to fetch you my horse broke his leg. Send us a better horse and a more excellent one. If he takes the first choice, he will come himself. If he takes the second choice, he will send his father. Then we will test him with a riddle.”

The King sent a messenger with this message. The sage on hearing it understood that the King wanted to see him and his father. So he went to his father. Greeting him, he said, “Father, the King wishes to see you and me. You go first with 1,000 merchants. Take a sandalwood casket filled with fresh ghee. The King will speak kindly to you. He will offer you a householder’s seat. Take it and sit down. When you are seated, I will come. The King will speak kindly to me and offer me another seat. Then I will look at you. Take this as a cue. Get up from your seat and say, ‘Son Mahosadha the wise, take this seat.’ Then the riddle will be ripe for solution.”

He did so. On arriving at the palace door, his arrival was announced to the King. On the King’s invitation, he entered, greeted the King, and stood to one side. The King spoke to him kindly, and asked where was his son, the wise Mahosadha. “Coming after me, my lord.” The King was pleased to hear he was coming and told the father to sit in a suitable place. He found a place and sat there.

Meanwhile the Great Being dressed himself in all his splendor. Attended by the 1,000 youths, he came in a magnificent chariot. As he entered the town, he saw a donkey by the side of a ditch. He told some stout fellows to bind the mouth of the donkey so that it would not make any noise, and to put him in a bag and carry him on their shoulders. They did so.

The Bodhisatta entered the city with his great following. The people could not praise him enough. “This,” they cried, “is the wise Mahosadha, the merchant Sirivaḍḍhaka’s son. They say it was he who was born holding the herb of virtue in his hand. It is he who knew the answers to so many problems set to test him.” On arriving before the palace, he sent word of his coming. The King was pleased to hear it and said, “Let the wise Mahosadha make haste to come in.”

So with his attendants, he entered the palace. He saluted the King and stood on one side. The King was delighted to see him. He spoke to him very sweetly and asked him to find an appropriate seat and sit down. He looked at his father, and his father - at this cue – got up from his seat and invited him to sit there, which he did. The foolish men who were there, Senaka, Pukkusa, Kāvinda, Devinda, and others, seeing him sit there, clapped their hands and laughed loudly and cried, “This is the blind fool they call wise! He has made his father rise from his seat, and he sits there himself! He should surely not be called wise.”

The King also was crestfallen. Then the Great Being said, “Why, my lord, are you sad?”

“Yes, wise sir, I am sad. I was glad to hear of you, but to see you I am not glad.”

“Why so?”

“Because you made your father rise from his seat, and you sit there yourself.”

“What, my lord! Do you think that in all cases the father is better than the sons?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did you not send word to me to bring you the better horse and the more excellent horse?”

He rose up and, looking towards the young fellows, he said, “Bring in the donkey.” Placing this donkey before the King he went on, “Sire, what is the price of this donkey?” The King said, “If is serviceable, it is worth eight rupees.”

“But if you breed this donkey with a thoroughbred Sindh mare, what would the price of the offspring?”

“It would be priceless.”

“Why do you say that, my lord? Didn’t you just say that in all cases the father is better than the sons? If that is true, then the donkey is worth more than the colt. Now your wise men clapped their hands and laughed at me because they did not know that. What wisdom is there in your wise men! Where did you get them?!”

And in contempt for all four of them he addressed the King in this stanza:

If you think that the father is always better than the son,

Oh, excellent King,

Then is the colt better than the donkey

When the donkey is the father?

He went on, “My lord, if the father is better than the son, take my father into your service. If the son is better than the father, take me.”

The King was delighted. The whole assembly cried out, applauding and praising a thousand times, “Well, indeed the wise man answered the riddle.” There was the snapping of fingers and the waving of a thousand scarves. And the four advisers were crestfallen.

Figure: The More Excellent Sage

Figure: The More Excellent Sage

Now no one knows better than the Bodhisatta the value of parents. If one asks, then, why he did this, it was not to throw contempt on his father. But when the King sent the message, “Send the better horse or the more excellent horse,” he did this to solve this riddle, to make his wisdom recognized, and to take the shine out of the four sages.

The King was pleased. Taking the golden vase filled with scented water, he poured the water on the merchant’s hand (this is how deals were consummated), saying, “Enjoy the East Town as a gift from the King. Let the other merchants,” he went on, “be subordinate to him.” This done he sent all kinds of ornaments to the mother of the Bodhisatta. He was so delighted at the Bodhisatta’s solution to the Donkey Question, he wanted to make the Bodhisatta his own son. He said to the father, “Good sir, give me the Great Being to be my son.”

He replied, "Sire, he is still very young. His mouth still smells of milk. But when he is old, he can be with you.”

The King said however, “Good sir, you must give up your attachment to the boy. From this day he is my son. I can support my son, so go your way.” Then he told him to leave. Sirivaḍḍhaka paid homage to the King and embraced his son. Throwing his arms around him, he kissed him on the head and gave him some final words of advice. The boy said farewell to his father, begged him not to be dismayed, and sent him away.

The King then asked the sage whether he would prefer to eat his meals inside the palace or outside of it. Thinking that with such a large following it would be best to have his meals outside the palace, he replied to that effect. Then the King gave him a suitable house. He providing for the maintenance of the 1,000 youths and all. The King gave him anything that he needed. From that time on the sage served the King.

19. “The jewel’s reflection.” Now it was the King who wanted to test the sage. At that time there was a precious jewel in a crow’s nest in a palm tree. It stood on the bank of a lake near the southern gate. The image of this jewel could be seen reflected on the lake. They told the King that there was a jewel in the lake. He sent for Senaka, saying, “They tell me there is a jewel in the lake. How are we going to get it?”

Senaka said, “The best way is to drain out the water.” The King instructed him to do so. He gathered together many men. They drained out the water and dug up the soil at the bottom, but he could not see any jewel. But when the lake was full again, they could see the reflection of the jewel once more. Again Senaka drained the lake, and again he did not find any jewel.

Then the King sent for the sage. He said, “A jewel has been seen in the lake. Senaka drained out the water and dug up the earth without finding it. But no sooner was the lake full than it appeared again. Can you get hold of it?”

He replied, “That is no problem, sire. I will get it for you.”

The King was pleased at this promise. With a great following he went to the lake, ready to see the might of the sage’s wisdom.

The Great Being stood on the bank and looked. He saw that the jewel was not in the lake, but that it must be in the tree. He said aloud, “Sire, there is no jewel in the lake.”

“What! Is it not visible in the water?”

So he sent for a pail of water, and said, “Now my lord, see? Isn’t the jewel visible both in the pail and the lake?”

“Then where can the jewel be?”

“Sire, it is the reflection of the jewel that is visible both in the lake and in the pail. But the jewel is in a crow’s nest in this palm tree. Send someone up the tree and have it brought down.”

The King did so. The man brought down the jewel, and the sage put it into the King’s hand. All the people applauded the sage and mocked Senaka. “Here’s a precious jewel in a crow’s nest up a tree, and Senaka makes strong men drain out the lake! Surely a wise man should be like Mahosadha.”

Thus they praised the Great Being. And the King was so delighted with him that he gave him a necklace of pearls from his own neck. And he gave strings of pearls to the 1,000 boys, and to him and his retinue he granted the right to wait upon him without ceremony (i.e., to see the King without having an appointment).

Thus ends the story of the 19 questions.


One day the King went with the sage into the park. A chameleon who lived on the top of the arched gateway saw the King approach. He came down and lay flat on the ground. Seeing this, the King asked, “What is he doing, wise sir?”

“Paying respect to you, sire.”

“If so, let his respect be rewarded. Give him a gift.”

“Sire, a gift is of no use to him. All he wants is something to eat.”

“And what does he eat?”

“Meat, sire.”

“How much does he need?”

“A single coin’s worth, sire.”

“A single coin is a simple gift from a king,” said the King. So he sent a man with orders to regularly give the chameleon a single coin’s worth of meat. But on a fast day, when there is no killing, the man could not find any meat. So he bored a hole through the coin, strung it on a thread, and tied it around the chameleon’s neck. This made the creature proud. That day the King went once more into the park. When the chameleon saw the King draw near, his pride in his wealth make him think that he was equal to the King. “You may be very rich, Oh, King, but so am I.” So he did not come down, but lay still on the archway, stroking his head.

The King saw this and said, “Wise sir, this creature does not come down today as usual. Why is that?” and he recited this stanza:

The chameleon did not used to stay up on the archway.

Explain, Mahosadha,

Why the chameleon has become so high and mighty.

The sage realized that the man must have been unable to find meat on this fast day when there was no killing, and that the creature must have become proud because of the coin hung about his neck. So he recited this stanza:

The chameleon has what he has never had before,

A single coin.

Hence he disregards King Vedeha, lord of Mithilā.

Figure: The Chameleon Discovers Vanity

Figure: The Chameleon Discovers Vanity

The King sent for the man and questioned him, and he affirmed what had happened. Then he was even more pleased with the sage, who - it seemed - knew the mind of the chameleon, with a wisdom like the supreme wisdom of a Buddha. So he gave him the revenue taken at the four gates. The King was also angry with the chameleon, and he thought of ending the gift. But the sage told him that it was unfitting and persuaded him to continue it.

Thus ends the story of the chameleon.


Now there was a boy named “Piṇguttara” who lived in Mithilā. He went to Takkasilā University and studied under a famous teacher. He soon completed his education. Then after diligent study he proposed to his teacher that it was time for him to leave. But in this teacher’s family there was a custom that if there was a daughter who was ready for marriage, she should be given to the eldest pupil. This teacher had such a daughter. She was as beautiful as a divine nymph. So he said, “My son, I will give you my daughter, and you will take her with you.”

Now this young man was unfortunate and unlucky, but the girl was very lucky. When he saw her, he did not care for her. However, he did not want to disregard his master’s request, so he agreed, and the brahmin married the daughter to him.

When night came, he got into bed. When she got into the bed, he started groaning and laid down on the floor. She got out and lay next to him. Then he got up and went to bed again. When she got back into the bed again, he got out, for bad luck cannot mate with good luck. So the girl stayed in bed, and he stayed on the ground. They spent seven days like this. Then he took leave of his teacher and departed, taking her with him.

When they were on the road, not a single word was spoken between them. Both unhappy, they arrived in Mithilā. Not far from the town, Piṇguttara saw a fig tree covered with fruit. He was hungry, so he climbed up and ate some of the figs. The girl was also hungry. She went to the foot of the tree and called out, “Throw some fruit down for me, too.”

“What!” he said. “Don’t you have hands and feet? Climb up and get it yourself.”

She climbed up also and ate. No sooner did he see that she had climbed up the tree than he climbed quickly down. He piled thorns around the tree and walked off saying to himself, “I have gotten rid of that miserable woman at last.” She could not get down but remained sitting where she was.

Now the King, who had been amusing himself in the forest, was going back to town on his elephant in the evening when he saw her. He immediately fell in love with her. So he sent someone to ask if she had a husband. She replied, “Yes, I have a husband to whom my family gave me. But he has abandoned me and left me here alone.”

The courtier told this story to the King who said, “This treasure trove belongs to the Crown.” She was brought down and placed on the elephant and taken to the palace where she was sprinkled with the water of consecration as his Queen consort. She was very dear to him. He gave her the name “Udumbarā” or “Queen Fig” because he first saw her in a fig tree.

One day after this, the people who lived by the city gate were cleaning the road for the King for a trip into his park. Piṇguttara, who had to earn his living, was part of that crew. He tucked up his clothes and set to work clearing the road with a hoe. Before the road was clean the King and Queen Udumbarā came along in a chariot. When the Queen saw the wretch clearing the road she could not restrain gloating.

The King was angry to see her smile, and he asked her why she did so. “My lord,” she said, “that road cleaner is my former husband, the one who made me climb up the fig tree and then piled thorns around it and abandoned me. When I saw him, I felt triumphant at my good fortune, and I smiled to see the wretch there.”

The King said, “You lie. You laughed at someone else, and I will kill you!” And he drew his sword. She was alarmed and said, “Sire, please ask your wise men!”

The King asked Senaka whether he believed her. “No, my lord, I do not,” said Senaka, “for who would leave such a beautiful woman if he possessed her?” When she heard this, she was more frightened than ever. But the King thought, “What does Senaka know about this? I will ask the sage,” and he asked him reciting this stanza:

Should a woman be virtuous and fair,

And a man not desire her?

Do you believe it Mahosadha?

The sage replied:

“Oh King, I do believe it. The man would be an unlucky wretch. Good luck and bad luck can never mate together.”

These words subdued the King’s anger. His heart was calmed. Pleased he said, “Oh wise man! If you had not been here, I would have trusted the words of that fool Senaka and lost this precious woman. You have saved me my Queen.” He compensated the sage with 1,000 pieces of gold. Then the Queen said to the King respectfully, “Sire, it is because of this wise man that my life has been saved. Grant me a boon. Let me treat him as my youngest brother.”

“Yes, my Queen, I consent, the boon is granted.”

“Then, my lord, from this day I will eat no delicacies without my brother. From this day in season and out of season my door shall be open to send him sweet food. This is the boon I desire.”

“You may have this boon also, my lady,” The King said. Here ends The Question of Good and Bad Luck.


On another day, the King was walking after breakfast. Through a doorway he saw a goat and a dog befriending each other. Now this goat was in the habit of eating the grass thrown to the elephants next to their stable before they were able to get to it. The elephant keepers beat the goat and drove it away. As it ran away bleating, one man ran after it and beat it on the back with a stick. The goat’s back humped in pain. He went and lay down by the great wall of the palace on a bench.

Now there was a dog which fed upon the bones, skin, and refuse of the royal kitchen. That same day the cook had finished preparing the food and had dished it up. While he was wiping the sweat off his body, the dog could no longer bear the smell of the meat and fish. He went into the kitchen, pushed off the pot cover, and began eating the meat. But the cook heard the noise of the dishes. He ran in and saw the dog. he slammed through to the door and beat the dog with sticks and stones. The dog dropped the meat from his mouth and ran off yelping. The cook ran after him and hit him on the back with a stick. The dog humped his back and limped off. He ended up at the place where the goat was lying.

Then the goat said, “Friend, why do you hump your back? Are you suffering from colic?”

The dog replied, “You are humping your back too. Do you have an attack of colic?”

He told his tale. Then the goat added, “Well, can you ever go to the kitchen again?”

“No, it is not worth jeopardizing my life. Can you go to the stable again?”

“No more than you can go back to the kitchen. It is not worth jeopardizing my life.”

Well, they began to wonder how they could live. Then the goat said, “If we could work together I have an idea.”

“Please tell me.”

“Well, sir, you can go to the stable. The elephant keepers will take no notice of you, for they know that you do not eat grass. And you must bring me my grass. Then I will go to the kitchen. The cook will take no notice of me, knowing that I do not eat meat, so I will bring you your meat.”

“That's a good plan,” said the dog, and they made their bargain. The dog went to the stable. He brought a bundle of grass in his teeth and laid it beside the great wall. The goat went to the kitchen and brought a great lump of meat in his mouth to the same place. The dog ate the meat and the goat ate the grass. And so in this way they lived together in harmony by the great wall.

When the King saw their friendship he thought, “I have never seen anything like this before. Here are two natural enemies living in friendship together. I will put this in the form of a riddle to my wise men. I will banish those who cannot solve it from the realm. And if anyone guesses it, I will declare him an incomparable sage and show him honor. There is no time today, but when they come to wait on me tomorrow, I will ask them to solve this riddle. So the next day when the wise men came to wait on him, he put his riddle to them with these words:

Two natural enemies, who never before in the world could come within seven paces of each other, have become friends and go inseparable. What is the reason?

After this he added another stanza:

If you cannot answer this question on this day before noon, I will banish you all. I have no need of ignorant men.

Now Senaka was sitting in the first seat. The sage was in the last seat. The sage thought to himself, “This King is not clever enough to have thought of this question himself. He must have seen something. If I can get one day’s grace, I will be able to solve the riddle. And Senaka is sure to find some way to postpone it for a day.”

And the other four wise men could not solve the riddle, being like men in a dark room. Senaka looked at the Bodhisatta to see what he would do. The Bodhisatta looked at Senaka. By the way Mahosadha looked, Senaka understood his state of mind. He saw that even this wise man did not understand the riddle. He cannot answer it today but wants a day’s grace. He would fulfill this wish.

So he laughed loudly in a reassuring manner and said, “Sire, you will banish us all if we cannot answer your question?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ah, you know that it is a difficult question, and that we cannot solve it. But give us some time. A difficult question cannot be solved in a crowd. We will think it over, and then we will explain it to you. So let us have a chance.” Then he recited these stanzas:

In a great crowd, where a great din of people is assembled,

Our minds are distracted, our thoughts cannot concentrate,

And we cannot solve the question. But alone, calm in

Thought, apart we will go and ponder the matter, in solitude

Grappling with it firmly, then we will solve it for you,

Oh lord of men.

The King was exasperated at his speech. He threatened them, saying, “Very well. Think it over and tell me. If you do not, I will banish you.”

The four wise men left the palace. Senaka said to the others, “Friends, the King has posed a difficult question. If we cannot solve it, we will be in great trouble. So eat a good meal and reflect carefully.” After this they all went home. The sage, however, sought out Queen Udumbarā. He said to her, “Oh Queen, where was the King most of today and yesterday?”

“Walking up and down the long walk, good sir, and looking out of the window.”

“Ah,” the Bodhisatta thought. “He must have seen something there.” So he went to the place and looked out and saw what the goat and the dog were doing.

“The King’s question is solved!” he exclaimed, and home he went. The three others discovered nothing. They went to Senaka, who asked, “Have you solved the riddle?”

“No, master.”

“If that is so, the King will banish you. What will you do?”

“But you have you figured it out?”

“Indeed no, I. have not.”

“If you cannot find it out, how can we? We roared like lions before the King. We said, ‘Let us think and we will solve it.’ And now if we cannot, he will be angry. What are we going to do?”

“This riddle is not for us to solve. There is no doubt that the sage has solved it.”

“Then let us go to him.”

So all four of them went to see the Bodhisatta. They entered his home and spoke politely to him. Then they asked the Great Being, “Well, sir, have you discovered the answer to the riddle?”

“If I have not, who will? Of course, I have.”

“Then tell us too.”

He thought to himself, “If I do not tell them, the King will banish them, and he will honor me with the seven precious things (gold, silver, pearl, coral, catseye, ruby, and diamond). But I will not let these fools perish. I will tell them.”

So he had them sit down on low seats and to bow in salutation. And without telling them what the King had seen, he composed four stanzas. He taught each one of them one stanza in the Pāli language and told them to recite their verse when the King asked them the question. Then he sent them away.

On the next day they went to wait on the King. They sat where they were told to sit. The King asked Senaka, “Have you solved the question, Senaka?”

“Sire, if I have not then who can?’

“Tell me, then.”

“Listen, my lord,” and he recited a stanza as he had been taught:

Young beggars and young princes like and delight in ram’s flesh; But they do not eat a dog’s flesh. Yet there might be friendship between the ram and the dog.

Although Senaka recited the stanza he did not know what it meant. But the King did because he had seen the thing. “Senaka has figured it out,” he thought. He then turned to Pukkusa and asked him. “What? am I not a wise man?” asked Pukkusa, and he recited his stanza as he had been taught:

They take off a goatskin to cover a horse’s back, but they do not use a dogskin for covering. Yet there might be friendship between ram and dog.

He did not understand what that meant, either. But the King thought he did because he had seen the thing. Then he asked Kāvinda, and he also recited his stanza:

A ram has twisted horns; the dog has none at all. One eats grass, one flesh. Yet there might be friendship between a ram and a dog.

He has figured it out too,” thought the King and proceeded to ask Devinda. He recited his stanza as he had been taught:

The ram eats both grass and leaves, the dog eats neither grass nor leaves. The dog would attack a rabbit or a cat. Yet there might be friendship between a ram and a dog.

Next the King questioned the sage, “My son, do you understand this question?”

“Sire, who else can understand it from Avīci (the lowest hell) to Bhavagga (the highest heaven), from the lowest hell to the highest heaven?”

“Tell me, then.”

“Listen, sire.” And he made his knowledge clear by reciting these stanzas:

The ram, with eight half-feet on his four feet, and eight hooves, unobserved, brings meat for the other, and the other brings grass for him. The King Videha, the lord of men, on his terrace saw with his own eyes the exchange of food given by each to the other, between bow-wow and full-mouth.

The King, not knowing that the others had their knowledge through the Bodhisatta, was delighted to think that all five had solved the riddle each by his own wisdom, and he recited this stanza:

It is no small gain that I have men so wise in my house.

They have penetrated a profound and subtle matter

With noble speech, these clever men!

So he said to them, “One good turn deserves another” and announced his gift in the following stanza:

To each I give a chariot and a she-mule,

To each a rich village, very choice.

These I give to all the wise men,

Delighted at their noble speech.

He gave all this.

Here ends The Question of the Goat.


But Queen Udumbarā knew that the others had gotten their answer to the riddle through the sage. She thought, “The King has given the same reward to all five, like a man who makes no difference between peas and beans. Surely my brother should have had a special reward.” So she went to the King and asked him, “Who solved the riddle for you, sir?”

“The five wise men, madam.”

“But my lord, through whom did the four get their knowledge?”

“I do not know, madam.”

“Sire, what do those men know! It was the sage who wished that these fools should not be ruined through him. He taught them the solution. Then you gave the same reward to all of them. That is not right. You should make a distinction for the sage.”

The King was pleased that the sage had not revealed that they had their knowledge through him. He wanted to give him an exceptional reward. He thought, “Never mind. I will ask my son another question. And when he replies, I will give him a great reward.” Thinking of this he hit on the Question of Poor and Rich.

One day, when the five wise men had come to wait on him, and when they were comfortably seated, the King said, “Senaka, I will ask a question.”

“Do, sire.” Then he recited the first stanza in the Question of Poor and Rich:

Endowed with wisdom but without wealth,

Or wealthy and without wisdom.

I ask you this question, Senaka.

Which of these two clever men do you call the better?

Now this question had been handed down from generation to generation in Senaka’s family, so he replied at once:

Truly, Oh King, wise men and fools,

Men educated or uneducated,

Do service to the wealthy.

Even though they are high-born and he is low-born.

Beholding this I say:

The wise is inferior, and the wealthy is better.

The King listened to this answer. Then without asking the other three, he said to the sage Mahosadha:

Lofty in wisdom, Mahosadha, who knows all the Law.

I ask you the same question:

A fool with wealth or a wise man with little.

Which of the two do clever men call the better?

Then the Great Being replied, “Hear, Oh King”:

The fool commits unskillful acts.

He thinks “In this world I am superior.”

He looks at this life and not at the next,

And he gets the worst of it in both.

Knowing this I say:

The wise man is better than the wealthy fool.

This said, the King looked at Senaka and said, “Well, you see Mahosadha says the wise man is the best.”

Senaka said, “Your majesty, Mahosadha is a child. Even now his mouth smells of milk. What can he know?” And he recited this stanza:

Science does not give riches,

Nor does family or personal beauty.

Look at that idiot Gorimanda greatly prospering,

Because good fortune favors the wretch.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is inferior, the wealthy is better.”

(Gorimanda was a rich man who was very ugly. He was not married and he had no children. When he spoke, saliva flowed from his mouth. But because he was wealthy, he had two beautiful women who attended to him. They wiped the saliva from his mouth with blue lilies.)

Hearing this the King said, “What now, Mahosadha my son?”

He answered, “My lord, what does Senaka know? He is like a crow where rice is scattered, like a dog trying to lap up milk. He sees himself but does not see the stick that is ready to fall on his head. Listen, my lord,” and he recited this stanza:

He who is small of wit, when he gets wealth, is intoxicated.

When he is struck by misfortune he becomes stupefied.

Whether he is struck by bad luck or good luck,

He writhes like a fish in the hot sun.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is better than the wealthy fool.”

On hearing this the King said, “Now then, master!” Senaka said, “My lord, what does he know? The birds go after the fine tree full of fruit.” And he recited this stanza:

As in the forest,

The birds gather from all quarters

To the tree which has sweet fruit.

So crowds flock to the rich man who has treasure

For their profit.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is inferior, the wealthy is the better.”

“Well, my son, what now?” the King asked. The sage answered, “What does that pot-belly know? Listen, my lord,” and he recited this stanza:

The powerful fool tries to win treasure by violence.

But no matter how loud he roars,

They drag the simpleton off to hell.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is better than the wealthy fool.”

Again the King said, “Well, Senaka?” to which Senaka replied:

Whatever streams pour themselves into the Ganges,

All these lose their name and kind.

The Ganges falling into the sea

Is no longer distinguishable.

So the world is devoted to wealth.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is inferior, the rich is better.”

Again the King said, “Well, sage?” and he answered, “Hear, Oh King!”:

This mighty ocean of which he spoke,

Into which innumerable rivers flow,

This sea beating incessantly on the shore can never overcome it,

No matter how mighty the ocean is.

So it is with the chatterings of the fool.

His prosperity cannot overpass the wise.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is better than the prosperous fool.”

“Well, Senaka?” said the King. "Hear, Oh King!" he said, and he recited this stanza:

A wealthy man in a high position may lack intelligence,

But if he says anything to others,

His word has weight in the midst of his family.

But wisdom has no effect for the man without wealth.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is inferior, the rich is better.”

"Well, my son?" said the King again. “Listen, sire! What does that stupid Senaka know?” And he recited this stanza:

For another’s sake or his own

The fool and small of wit speaks falsely.

He is put to shame in the midst of company,

And in the hereafter he goes to misery.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is better than the wealthy fool.”

Then Senaka recited a stanza:

Even if one is wise, without rice or grain and needy,

If he says anything,

His word has no weight in the midst of his family.

Prosperity does not come to a man for his knowledge.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is inferior, the rich is better.”

Again the King said, “What say you to that, my son?” And the sage replied, “What does Senaka know? he looks at this world and not the next,” and he recited this stanza:

Not for his own sake or another’s

Does the man of great wisdom speak a lie.

He is honored in the midst of the assembly,

And in the hereafter he is reborn in happiness.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is better than the wealthy fool.”

Then Senaka recited a stanza:

Elephants, money, horses, jeweled earrings, and women,

Are found in rich families.

These all are for the enjoyment of the rich man

Without supernatural power.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is inferior, the rich is better.”

The sage said, “What does he know?” and continued to explain the matter with this stanza:

The fool, who does thoughtless acts

And speaks foolish words is cast off by fortune

As a snake casts off the old skin.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is better than the wealthy fool.”

“What now?” asked the King. Senaka said, “My lord, what can this little boy know? Listen!” and he recited this stanza, thinking that he would silence the sage:

We are five wise men, venerable sir,

All waiting upon you, our King with gestures of respect.

You are our lord and master,

Like Sakka, lord of all creatures, King of the gods.

Beholding this I say, “The wise is inferior, the rich is better.”

When the King heard this he thought, “That was neatly said by Senaka. I wonder whether my son will be able to refute it and to say something else.” So he asked him, “Well, wise sir, what now?” But this argument of Senaka’s could only be refuted by the Bodhisatta. So the Great Being said, “Sire, what does this fool know? He only looks at himself. He does not know the excellence of wisdom. Listen, sire,” and he recited this stanza:

The wealthy fool is the slave of a wise man.

When questions like this arise,

When the sage solves it cleverly,

Then the fool is simply confused.

Beholding this I say,

“The wise is better than the wealthy fool.”

As if he drew golden sand from the foot of Mount Sineru, as though he brought the full moon up in the sky, so did he set forth this argument. In this way the Great Being showed his wisdom. Then the King said to Senaka, “Well, Senaka, cap that if you can!” But like one who had used up all the corn in his granary, he sat silently, disturbed and grieving.

If he could have produced another argument, even a thousand stanzas would not have finished this debate. But when he remained without an answer, the Great Being went on with this stanza in praise of wisdom, as though he poured out a deep flood:

Truly wisdom is esteemed by the good.

Wealth is beloved because men are addicted

To pleasures of the senses.

The knowledge of the Buddhas is incomparable,

And wealth never surpasses wisdom.

Hearing this the King was so pleased with the Great Being’s answer to the question that he showered him with riches, and he recited this stanza:

Whatever I asked he has answered me,

Mahosadha, the only preacher of the law.

I give you a thousand coins,

A bull and an elephant,

Ten chariots drawn by thoroughbreds,

And sixteen excellent villages,

Because I am pleased with your answer to the question.”

Here ends the Question of Rich and Poor.

 


From that day on the Bodhisatta’s glory was great, and Queen Udumbarā managed it all. When he was 16 she thought, “My young brother has grown up, and his glory is great. We must find a wife for him.” She said this to the King, and the King was pleased. “Very well, he said. “Tell him.”

She told him, and he agreed. She said, “Then let us find you a bride, my son.” The Great Being thought, “I will never be satisfied if they choose a wife for me. I will find one for myself.” So he said, “Madam, do not tell the King for a few days, and I will go look for a wife to suit my taste.”

“Do so, my brother,” she replied.

He left the Queen, went to his house, and told his friends. Then he got a new outfit from a tailor and went out alone by the northern gate into North Town.

Now in that place there was an ancient merchant family who had fallen on hard times. There was a daughter in this family, the lady Amarā. She was a beautiful girl, wise, and with all the marks of good luck. Early that morning this girl had gone to the place where her father was plowing. She brought him rice gruel that she had cooked. It so happened that she went by the same road as the Bodhisatta. When the Great Being saw her coming he thought, “A woman with all the lucky marks! If she is not married she must be my wife.”

Likewise, when she saw him she thought, “If I could live in the house of such a man, I might restore my family.” The Great Being thought, “I do not know if she is married or not. I will ask her by gesturing with my hands, and if she is wise she will understand.” So standing far off he clenched his fist. She understood that he was asking whether she had a husband. So she spread out her hand.

Then he went up to her and asked her name. She said, “My name is that which neither is nor was nor ever shall be.”

“Madam, there is nothing in the world that is immortal. Your name must be Amarā, the Immortal.”

“It is so, master.”

“For whom, madam, do you carry that gruel?”

“For the god of old time.”

“Gods of old time are one’s parents. No doubt you mean your father.”

“So it is, master.”

“What does your father do?”

“He makes two out of one.” Now making two out of one is plowing. “He is plowing, madam.”

“It is so, master.”

“And where is your father plowing?”

“Where those who go do not come out again.”

“The place where those who go do not come out again is the cemetery. He is plowing then near a cemetery.”

“It is so, master.”

“Will you come again today, madam?”

“If it comes I will not come, if it does not come I will come.”

“I think your father, madam, is plowing by a riverside. And if the flood comes, you will not come. If it does not come, you will.”

After this exchange, the lady Amarā offered him some of the gruel. The Great Being, thinking it would be ungracious to refuse, said he would like some. Then she put down the jar of gruel. The Great Being thought, “If she offers it to me without first washing the pot and giving me water to wash my hands, I will leave her and go.” But she washed the pot and offered him water for washing. Then she placed the empty pot empty on the ground, stirred up the gruel in the jar, and filled the pot with it. But there was not much rice in it, and the Great Being said, “Why, madam, there is very little rice here!”

“We have had no water, master.”

“You mean when your crops were growing, there was no water for them.”

“It is so, master.”

So she kept some gruel for her father and gave some to the Bodhisatta. He drank and gargled his mouth and said, “Madam, I will go to your house. Kindly show me the way.” She did so by reciting this stanza:

By the way of the cakes and gruel, and the tree in flower,

By the hand with which I eat, I point the way,

Not using the hand with which I do not eat.

That is the way to the market town,

You must find the secret path.

Here ends the Question of the Secret Path.


He reached the house by the way she had indicated. Amarā’s mother saw him and offered him a seat. “May I offer you some gruel, master?” she asked. “Thank you, mother. Sister Amarā gave me a little.” She recognized at once that he must have come because of her daughter.

When he saw how poor they were the Great Being said, “Mother, I am a tailor. Do you have you anything that you need mended?”

“Yes, master, but I do not have any money with which to pay you.”

“There is no need to pay me, mother. Bring the things that need to be repaired, and I will mend them.”

She brought him some old clothes, and the Bodhisatta mended them. Then he said, “Go tell the people in the village.” She spread the word of his skill as a tailor throughout the village, and in one day the Great Being earned 1,000 pieces of gold by his tailoring. The old woman cooked him a midday meal, and in the evening she asked how much she should cook. “Enough, mother, for everyone in this house.” Because of his good fortune, she was able to cook a large quantity of rice with some curry and condiments.

Now Amarā came back in the evening from the forest. She brought a bundle of wood that she carried on her head. She threw down the wood in front of the house and came in through the back door. Her father returned later. The Great Being ate the tasty meal. The girl served her parents before eating herself. She washed their feet and the Bodhisatta’s feet. For several days he lived there observing her.

Then one day he decided to test her. He said, “My dear Amarā, take half a measure of rice and make me some gruel, a cake, and some boiled rice.” She agreed at once. She husked the rice. With the big grains she made gruel, she boiled the medium size grains, and she made a cake with the little ones, adding suitable condiments. She gave the gruel with its condiments to the Great Being. He took a mouthful of it, and he instantly was thrilled with its wonderful flavor.

Nevertheless, in order to test her he said, “Madam, if you don’t know how to cook, why did you spoil my rice?” and he spat it out on the ground. But she was not angry. She only gave him the cake, saying, “If you do not like the gruel, eat the cake.”

He did the same thing with the cake, and likewise rejected the boiled rice. He said, “If you don’t know how to cook, why did you waste my property?” Pretending to be angry, he mixed all three together and smeared them all over her body from the head downwards and told her to sit at the door. “Very well, master,” she said. She was not angry at all. Seeing that there was no pride in her he said, “Come here, madam.” At the first word she came.

Figure: The Patience of a Saint

Figure: The Patience of a Saint

When the Great Being had first arrived, he brought with him 1,000 rupees, and he also had a dress in his bag. Now he took out this dress and placed it in her hands, saying, “Madam, bathe with your friends and put on this dress and come to me.” She did so. The sage gave her parents all the money he had brought or earned. He reassured and comforted them, and then he took her back to the town.

There he tested her once more. He made her sit down in the gatekeeper’s house. Telling the gatekeeper’s wife of his plans, he went to his own house and changed into his royal clothes. Then he sent for some of his friends. He said, “I left a woman at the gatekeeper’s house. Take 1,000 coins with you and test her.” (Presumably they were to offer her money for sex.) He gave them the money and sent them away.

They did as they were told. She refused, saying, “That is not worth the dust on my master’s feet.” The men came back and reported the result. He sent them again, and then a third time. On the fourth time he told them to drag her away by force and take her to the Great Being.

They did so, and when she saw the Great Being in all his glory, she did not recognize him. Then she smiled and wept at the same time as she looked at him. He asked her why she did this. She replied, “Master, I smiled when I saw your magnificence. I thought that this magnificence was given to you for some good deed that you did in a former life. I thought, ‘It is the fruit of goodness!’ and I smiled. But then I wept to think that now you will commit an offense against another man’s woman, and then you will go to hell. From compassion for that, I wept.” After this test he knew her fidelity, and he sent her back to the gatekeeper’s house. Putting on his tailor’s disguise, he went back to her and spent the night there.

On the next morning, he went to the palace and told Queen Udumbarā what had happened, and she in turn told the King. They got Amarā and adorned her with all kinds of ornaments. They seated her in a great chariot, and with great honor they brought her to the Great Being’s house for a gala day. There the Great Being revealed his true identity.

The King sent the Bodhisatta a gift worth 1,000 pieces of gold. All the people of the town sent gifts, from the doorkeepers onwards. Lady Amarā divided the gifts sent by the King into halves. She sent one portion back to the King. In the same way she divided all the gifts sent to her by the citizens and returned half of them. With this act of kindness and generosity, she won the hearts of the people. And from that time on, the Great Being lived with her in happiness, and he instructed the King in worldly affairs as well as religious ones.

One day Senaka said to the other three wise men, “Friends, we are no match for this common man’s son Mahosadha. And now he has gotten himself a wife who is even more clever than he is. Can we find a way to cause a rift between him and the King?”

“What do we know, sir teacher. You must decide.”

“Well, there is a way. I will steal the jewel from the royal crest. You, Pukkusa, take the King’s golden necklace. You, Kāvinda, take his woolen robe. And you, Devinda, take his golden slipper.”

All four of them were able to do these things. Then Senaka said, “We must now get them into the fellow’s house without his knowing.”

So Senaka put the jewel in a pot of dates and had it delivered to Mahosadha by a slave girl. He said to her, “If anyone else wants to have this pot of dates, refuse, but give it - pot and all - to the people in Mahosadha’s house.”

She took the pot of dates to the sage’s house and walked in front of it crying out, “Do you want some dates?” The lady Amarā was standing by the door. She noticed that the girl did not go to any other house. She deduced that there must be something going on. She signaled her servants to go inside the house, then she cried to the girl, “Come here, girl, I will take the dates.” When she came, the mistress called for her servants, but none answered. So she sent the girl inside to get them.

While she was gone, Amarā put her hand into the pot and found the jewel. When the girl returned Amarā asked her, “Whose servant are you, girl?”

“I am Paṇḍita Senaka’s maid.”

Then she asked what her name was and her mother’s name and said, “Well, give me some dates.”

“If you want it, mother, take it pot and all. I do not want any payment.”

“You may go, then,” said Amarā, and she sent her away.

Then she wrote down on a leaf, “On this day of this month the teacher Senaka sent a jewel from the King’s crest for a present by the hand of such and such a girl.”

Pukkusa sent the golden necklace hidden in a casket of jasmine flowers. Kāvinda sent the robe in a basket of vegetables. And Devinda sent the golden slipper in a bundle of straw. She received them all and wrote down the names and details of the exchanges on a leaf. She put the leaf away and told the Great Being about what had happened.

The four wise men then went to the palace, and said, “Why, my lord! Please wear your jeweled crest.”

“I will. Go fetch it,” said the King.

But they could not find the jewel or the other things. Then the four said, “My lord, your ornaments are in Mahosadha’s house, and he uses them. That common man’s son is your enemy!”

And so they slandered him. Mahosadha’s friends told him what had happened. And he said, “I will go to the King.”

He went to see the King. But the King was angry and said, “I do not know him! What does he want here?”

He would not grant Mahosadha an audience. When the sage learned that the King was angry, he returned home. The King sent men to seize him. When the sage heard about this from his friends, he told Amarā that he should leave.

So he escaped out of the city in disguise to South Town where he worked as a potter’s assistant. The city was full of the news that he had run away. When Senaka and the other three heard that he was gone, each - unknown to the rest - sent a letter to the lady Amarā. The letters said in effect, “Never mind about Mahosadha. We are also wise men.”

She answered all four letters, telling them to come to her at the same time. When they came, she had them shaved with razors (this was a form of humiliation) and threw them into the outhouses. She tormented them, wrapped them up in rolls of matting, and sent word to the King.

Taking them and the four precious things together, she went to the King’s courtyard. There she greeted him, saying: “My lord, the wise Mahosadha is no thief. Here are the thieves. Senaka stole the jewel. Pukkusa stole the golden necklace. Kāvinda stole the robe. And Devinda stole the golden slipper. By the hands of their slave girls, these four were sent as presents. Look at this leaf and you will have your proof. Take what is yours and banish these thieves.”

She ridiculed these four men and then returned home. But the King did not know what to do since the Bodhisatta had gone and there were no other wise men. So he did nothing. He just told them to bathe and go home.

Now there was a deity (a deva) that lived in the royal parasol. She no longer heard the Bodhisatta’s discourses and wondered why. When she found out what happened, she determined to bring the sage back.

So at night she appeared through a hole in the parasol. She challenged the King to solve four riddles that are found in the Questions of the Goddess:

  1. He strikes with hands and feet and beats the face. And yet, Oh King, he is dear and grows dearer than a husband.
  2. She abuses him roundly, yet wishes him to be near. And he, Oh King, is dearer than a husband.
  3. She reviles him without cause and without reason. She reproaches him without reason. Yet he, Oh King, is dearer than a husband.
  4. They take our food and drink, clothes and lodging. Yet they, Oh King, are dearer than a husband.

The King did not know the answers to these riddles, and he said so. But he said that he would ask his wise men and asked for a day’s delay.

On the next day he sent a message summoning them. But they replied, “We are ashamed to show ourselves in the street, shaven as we are.” So he sent them four skullcaps to wear on their heads. Then they came and sat where they were instructed. The King said, “Senaka, last night the deity that lives in my parasol asked me to solve four riddles. I did not know the answers, but said I would ask my wise men. Please solve them for me.” And then he recited the first stanza:

He strikes with hands and feet and beats the face. And yet,

Oh King, he is dear and grows dearer than a husband.

Senaka stammered out whatever came first, “Strikes how, strikes whom?” He could not make heads or tails of it. Likewise, the others were all dumb. The King was full of distress. When the deity asked him that night whether he had solved the riddles, he said, “I asked my four wise men, and even they could not do so.”

She replied, “What do they know? Except for wise Mahosadha there is no one who can solve them. If you do not send for him and get him to solve these riddles, I will split your head open with this fiery blade.”

After suitably scaring him she went on: “Oh King, when you want fire, don’t blow on a firefly, and when you want milk don’t milk the cow’s horn.” Then she posed the Firefly Question:

When light is extinguished, who goes searching for fire

Thinking that a firefly is fire if he sees one at night?

If he puts it on cow dung and grass, it is a foolish idea.

He cannot make them burn.

You cannot solve a problem by foolish means.

If you milk a cow by the horn, milk will not flow.

By many means people obtain benefit by

Punishing their enemies and being kind to friends.

By winning over the chiefs of the army,

And by the counsel of friends,

The lords of the earth possess the earth

And all of its fullness.

“But they are not like you, blowing at a firefly in the belief that it is a fire. You are like one blowing on a firefly when fire is right in front of you. You are like someone who weighs something while pressing his hand down on the scale. You are like one who wants milk and milks the cow’s horn when you ask deep questions of Senaka and the like of him. What do they know? They are like fireflies while the great flaming fire is Mahosadha. He is blazing with wisdom. If you do not solve these riddles, you are a dead man.” Having thus terrified the King, she disappeared.

(Never mess with a deva!)

Now on the next day, the King, overwhelmed with fear, sent out four courtiers. He ordered each of them to mount a chariot and to set out from the four gates of the city. If they should find his son, the wise Mahosadha, they should show him great respect and quickly bring him back. Three of them did not find the sage. But the one who went out by south gate found the Great Being in the South Town.

On that day, the sage gathered some clay for his master and worked at turning his master’s wheel. Then he sat smeared all over with clay on a bundle of straw eating balls of rice dipped in a little soup.

Now the reason he was working as a potter’s assistant was that he thought that the King might suspect him of trying to grab the sovereign power. But if he heard that he was living as a potter’s assistant, this suspicion would be put away.

When he saw the courtier he knew that the man had come for him. He understood that his prosperity and good name would be restored, and that he would eat all kinds of wonderful food prepared by the lady Amarā. So he dropped the ball of rice, stood up, and rinsed his mouth. At that moment the courtier arrived.

Now this courtier was one of Senaka’s faction, so he addressed him rudely. “Wise Teacher, what Senaka said was true. Your prosperity is gone, and all of your wisdom was useless. And now you sit there covered with clay on a pile of straw, eating food like that!” (This is in reference to the debate on whether wisdom or wealth is better.) And he recited this stanza from the Bhūripañha, the Question of Wisdom:

Is it true, as they say, that you are one of profound wisdom?

So great prosperity, cleverness, and intelligence

Does not serve you, thus brought to insignificance,

While you eat a little soup like that.

Then the Great Being said, “Blind fool! By power of my wisdom, when I want to restore my prosperity, I will do it.” And he recited these stanzas.

I make prosperity ripen by trial.

I discriminate between seasonable and unseasonable times.

I hide by my own will.

I unlock the doors of profit.

So I am content with boiled rice.

When I determine the time for effort,

I will do so by my own will.

Then I will proceed valiantly like a lion,

And by that mighty power you will see me again.

Then the courtier said, “Wise sir, the deity who lives in the parasol has given a riddle to the King. The King asked the four wise men, but none of them could solve it! Therefore, the King has sent me to find you.”

“In that case,” the Great Being said, “Don’t you see the power of wisdom? In a case like this, prosperity is useless. The only useful quality is wisdom.”

The courtier gave him the 1,000 pieces of gold. Then he gave the Great Being the suit of clothes provided by the King so that he could bathe and dress. The potter was terrified to think that Mahosadha the sage had been his workman. But the Great Being consoled him, saying, “Do not be afraid, my master. You have been a great help to me.”

Then he gave the potter the 1,000 pieces of gold, and with the mud stains still on him, he mounted the chariot and went to town. The courtier told the King of his arrival. “Where did you find the sage, my son?”

“My lord, he was earning his livelihood as a potter’s assistant in the South Town. But as soon as he heard that you had sent for him, without bathing, the mud still staining his body, he came.”

The King thought, “If he were my enemy he would have come with great fanfare and a large following. He is not my enemy.”

Then he gave orders to take him to his house, bathe him and adorn him, and to have him come back with the fanfare that he deserved.

He returned, entered, and greeted the King with deference and respect. The King spoke kindly to him. Then to test him, he said this stanza:

Some do no wrong because they are rich,

But others do no wrong for fear of blame.

You are able, if your mind desires to have great wealth.

Why do you not do me harm?

The Bodhisatta said:

Wise men do no wrong

To protect the pleasure that wealth gives.

But good men,

Even though struck by misfortune and brought low,

Will do no wrong either for friendship or from anger.

Again the King recited this stanza, the mysterious saying of a Khattiya (a member of the ruling caste):

He who for any cause, small or great,

Should lift himself up from a low place,

Will thereafter walk in righteousness.

And the Great Being recited this stanza with an illustration of a tree:

If a man finds rest and shade beneath a tree,

It would be treachery to lop off a branch.

We detest false friends.

Then he went on, “Sire, if it is treachery to lop a branch from a tree, what are we to say of one who kills a man? Your majesty has given my father great wealth, and you have shown me great favor. How could I be so treacherous as to injure you?” Thus, having demonstrated his loyalty, he reproached the King for his fault:

When any man has demonstrated his virtue,

Has cleared any doubts,

The other becomes his protection and refuge.

A wise man will not destroy this friendship.

Now admonishing the King, he said these stanzas:

I detest the idle self-indulgent layman,

The false ascetic is an admitted rogue.

A bad king will decide a case without hearing it out.

Malice in a sage can never be justified.

The warrior prince considers carefully,

and gives a fair verdict.

When kings use good judgment, their fame lives forever.

When he had said this, the King instructed the Great Being to sit on the royal throne under the white parasol. He himself sat on a low seat and said, “Wise sir, the deity who lives in the white parasol asked me four riddles. I consulted the four wise men and they could not answer them. Solve the riddles, my son!”

“Sire, whether it is the deity of the parasol, the Four Great Kings, or whoever it might be, let anyone ask a question, and I will answer it.” (The Four Great Kings rule the heaven adjacent to the human realm.)

 So the King posed the riddle as the deity had done:

He strikes with hands and feet and beats the face. And yet,

Oh King, he is dear, and grows dearer than a husband.

When the Great Being heard the riddle, the meaning was as clear as though the moon had risen in the sky. “Listen, Oh King!” he said, “When a child is on the mother’s lap, happy and playful, he beats his mother with hands and feet, pulls her hair, beats her face with his fist, and she says, ‘Little rogue, why do you beat me?’ And in love she presses him close to her breast unable to restrain her affection, and she kisses him. And at such a time he is dearer to her than his father.”

Thus did he solve this riddle as though he made the sun rise in the sky. And hearing this the goddess showed half her body from the aperture in the royal parasol and said in a sweet voice, “The riddle is well solved!” Then she presented the Great Being with a precious casket full of divine perfumes and flowers and disappeared. The King also presented him with flowers and gifts and posed the second riddle, reciting the stanza:

She abuses him roundly, yet wishes him to be near.

And he, Oh King, is dearer than a husband.

The Great Being said, “Sire, the child who is seven years old can now do as his mother asks. But when he is told to go to the field or to the bazaar, he says, ‘If you give me a treat, then I will go.’ She says, ‘Here my son, and she gives him a treat.’ Then he eats it and says, ‘Yes, you sit in the cool shade of the house while I have to go out on your business!’ He grimaces and mocks her and refuses to go. She is angry. She picks up a stick and cries, ‘You eat what I give you and then won’t do anything for me in the field!’ He is frightened and runs off at full speed. She cannot follow and yells, ‘Get out. May the thieves chop you up into little bits!’ So she abuses him roundly as much as she can. But despite what she says, she does not mean it. She wants him to be near. He plays all day long, and in the evening he is afraid to go home so he goes to the house of a friend. The mother watches and waits for his return. Her heart is full of pain. There are tears streaming from her eyes. She searches the houses of her friends and neighbors. When she finds her son, she hugs and kisses him and squeezes him tight with both arms, and loves him more than ever as she cries, ‘Did you think that I meant what I said?’ Thus, sire, a mother loves her son even more in the hour of anger.”

Thus he answered the second riddle. The goddess gave him the same offering as before as did the King. Then the King posed the third riddle in another stanza:

She reviles him without cause and without reason.

She reproaches him without reason.

Yet he, Oh King, is dearer than a husband.

The Great Being said, “Sire, a pair of lovers are enjoying their love’s delights. And one says to the other, ‘You don’t care for me. Your heart is elsewhere I know!’ It is without reason. They chide and reproach one another, then they grow dearer to each other. That is the meaning of the riddle.”

The goddess made the same offering as before, as did the King. The King then posed the final riddle, reciting the fourth stanza:

They take our food and drink, clothes and lodging,

Yet they, Oh King, are dearer than a husband.

He replied, “Sire, this question refers to humble beggars. Pious families that believe in this world and the next give to them and delight in that giving. When they see such people receiving what is given and eating it, they think, ‘They came to us to beg. When they eat our food, that increases our affection towards them. Thus they take these things, and wearing the clothing that we give to them, they become dear.”

When this riddle was answered the goddess expressed her approval with the same gift as before. She laid a casket full of the seven precious things before the Great Being’s feet, asking him to accept it. The delighted King made him Commander in Chief. From then on the Great Being experienced great glory.

Here ends the Question of the Goddess.


Once again the four wise men said, “This common fellow has even more fame and power than before. What are we to do?”

Senaka said to them, “All right, I have a plan. Let us go to Mahosadha and ask him, ‘To whom is it all right to tell a secret?’ If he says, ‘No one,’ then we will tell the King that he is a traitor.”

So the four men went to the sage’s house. They greeted him and said, “Wise sir, we want to ask you a question.”

“Ask away,” he said.

Senaka said, “Wise sir, what quality should a man hold most dear?”

“The truth.”

“That done, what is the next thing to do?”

“He must make wealth.”

“What after that?”

“He must learn wisdom.”

“After that what next?”

“He must tell no man his own secret.”

“Thank you, sir,” they said and went away happy, thinking, “Today we will see him get his punishment!”

Then they entered the King’s presence and said to him, “Sire, the fellow is a traitor to you!”

The King replied, “I do not believe you. He would never be a traitor to me.”

“Believe it, sire, for it is true! But if you do not believe us, then ask him to whom a secret ought to be told. If he is not a traitor, he will say, ‘A secret should be told to such and such kind of a person.’ But if he is a traitor he will say, ‘A secret should never be told to anyone.’ Then believe us, and you will no longer be suspicious.”

Accordingly, one day when they were all seated together, he recited the first stanza of the Wise Man’s Question:

The five wise men are now together,

And a question occurs to me. Hear me.

To whom should a secret be revealed,

whether the secret is good or bad?

This said, Senaka, thinking to get the King on his side, repeated this stanza:

Declare your thoughts, Oh lord of the earth!

You are our supporter. You bear our burdens.

The five clever men will understand your wish and pleasure.

Then we will speak, Oh master of men!

Then the King in his human weakness recited this stanza:

If a woman is virtuous and faithful,

Respectful and affectionate to her husband,

A secret should be told - whether good or bad - to the wife.

“Now the King is on my side!” Senaka thought. Feeling pleased with himself, he repeated a stanza, explaining his own course of conduct:

He who protects a sick man in distress

And who is his refuge and support,

May reveal a secret to his friend, whether it is good or bad.

Then the King asked Pukkusa, “What do you think, Pukkusa? To whom can a secret be told?” And Pukkusa recited this stanza:

Old or young or in between,

If a brother is virtuous and trustworthy,

To such a brother a secret may be told,

Whether it is good or bad.

Next the King asked Kāvinda, and he recited this stanza:

When a son is obedient to his father’s heart,

A true son, of lofty wisdom,

To that son a secret may be revealed

Whether it is good or bad.

And then the King asked Devinda, who recited this stanza:

Oh lord of men!

If a mother cherishes her son with loving fondness,

To his mother he may reveal a secret

Whether it is good or bad.

After asking them, the King asked Mahosadha, “How do you look at this, wise sir?” And Mahosadha recited this stanza:

The secrecy of a secret is a good thing,

Revealing a secret is not to be praised.

The wise man should keep it to himself

As long as it is not known.

But after it is revealed

He may speak as he wishes.

When the sage said this, the King was not pleased. Then the King looked at Senaka, and Senaka looked at the King. Then the Bodhisatta remembered that these four had previously slandered him to the King. He realized that this question was meant to test him.

Now while they were talking, the sun had set, and lamps had been lit. “The life of a king is hard,” he thought. “No one can tell what will happen. I better leave as quickly as possible.”

So he got up from his seat, saluted the King, and left. He thought, “Of these four men, one said a secret should be told to a friend, one to a brother, one to a son, and one to a mother. Something must have happened to each one of them to make them say this. Or perhaps they heard a story from someone else. Well, well. I will find out what is going on.”

Now it was the custom of the four councilors to sit on a trough at the palace door after they left waiting on the King. There they would talk before going home. So the sage thought that if he could hide under that trough, he might learn their secrets. He lifted up the trough, put a rug underneath it, and crawled in. He told his men to come get him once the four men left. The men promised and went off.

Meanwhile Senaka was saying to the King, "Sire, you did not believe us. Now what do you think?” The King accepted the word of these mischief-makers without further investigation. The King asked in terror, “What are we to do now, wise Senaka?”

“Sire, without delay, without a word to anyone, he must be killed.”

“Oh Senaka, you are the only one who truly cares for my interests. Take your friends with you, and in the morning, wait at the door. When the fellow comes to wait on me, split his head open with a sword.”

He even gave them his own precious sword.

“Very good, my lord, fear nothing. We will kill him.”

They left the palace, saying, “We have seen the back of our enemy!” and they sat down on the trough. Then Senaka said, “Friends, who should kill him?”

The others said, “You, our teacher,” assigning the task to him.

Then Senaka said, “You said, friends, that a secret should be told to certain people. Was this because of something that happened to you?”

“Never mind that, teacher. When you said that a secret might be told to a friend, was that because of something that happened to you?”

“That doesn’t really matter.” he said.

“Please tell us, teacher,” they insisted.

He said, “If the King found out my secret, I would be a dead man.”

“Don’t worry, teacher. There is no one here to betray your secret. Tell us.”

Then, tapping on the trough, Senaka said, “What if that yokel is under this trough!”

“Oh teacher! The fellow would not crawl in his finest clothes into a place like this! He is intoxicated with his status. Come, tell us.”

Senaka said, “Do you know such and such a harlot in this city?”

“Yes, teacher.”

“Have you seen her lately?”

“No, teacher.”

“I had a tryst with her in the sāl grove, and then I killed her to get her jewelry. I tied the jewels up in a bundle and took it to my house where I hung it up on an elephant’s tusk in an upstairs room. But I can’t use the jewelry until the matter has blown over. I told a friend about this crime, and he has not told a soul. That is why I said a secret may be told to a friend.”

Then Pukkusa told his secret. “I have s spot of leprosy on my thigh. In the morning my young brother washes it, puts salve and a bandage on it, and he never tells a soul. When the King’s heart is soft, he cries, ‘Come here, Pukkusa,’ and he often lays his head on that thigh. But if he knew about the leprosy, he would kill me. No one knows this except my young brother, and that is why I said, ‘A secret may be told to a brother.’”

Kāvinda then told his secret. “As for me, every two weeks – on the day of fasting – when it is dark, a goblin named Naradeva possesses me, and I bark like a mad dog. I told my son about this. When he sees me being possessed, he ties me up indoors. Then he leaves me locked in a room. To hide the noise I make, he holds a loud party. That is why I said that a secret might be told to a son.”

Then they asked Devinda, and he told his secret. “I am the inspector of the King’s jewels, and I stole a wonderful lucky gem. It was the gift of Sakka to King Vedeha. I gave it to my mother for safe-keeping. When I go to the palace she gives it to me without saying a word to anyone. And because of that gem, I am pervaded with the spirit of good fortune when I enter the palace. The King always speaks to me first before any of you, and each day he gives me eight rupees to spend, or sixteen, or thirty-two, or sixty-four. If the King found out that I am hiding that gem, I’m a dead man! That is why I said that a secret can be told to a mother.”

The Great Being took careful note of all their secrets. But they, after telling their secrets as if they had exposed their bellies and let the entrails out, rose up from the seat and left, saying, “Be sure to come early, and we will kill the scoundrel.”

When they were gone, the sage’s men came, lifted up the trough, and took the Great Being home. He washed and dressed and ate. He knew that his sister Queen Udumbarī would probably send him a message once she found out what was going on, so he placed a trustworthy man to be on the look-out. He told him to send anyone coming from the palace in at once. Then he went to lay down.

At the same moment the King was also lying on his bed. He was remembering the virtue of the sage. “The sage Mahosadha has served me since he was seven years old, and he has never done me wrong. When the goddess asked me her questions, if it was not for the sage, I would be a dead man. I should never have accepted the words of revengeful enemies, much less give them a sword and tell them to kill a peerless sage. After tomorrow I will never see him again!”

He grieved and sweat poured from his body. He was overcome with pain. His heart had no peace. Queen Udumbarī, who was with him on his couch, saw him in this frame of mind and asked, “Have I committed any offense against you, or has something else caused grief to my lord?” Then she repeated this stanza:

Why are you so unsettled, Oh King?

We do not hear the voice of the lord of men!

What has you so downcast?

There is no offense from me, my lord.

Then the King repeated a stanza:

They said, “The wise Mahosadha must be killed.”

And I condemned the wise one to death.

As I now consider this, I am downcast.

There is no fault in you, my Queen.

When she heard this, grief crushed her like a rock. She thought, “I know a plan to console the King. When he goes to sleep, I will send a message to my brother.”

Then she said to him, “Sire, it is your doing that the common man’s son was raised to great power. You made him commander-in-chief. Now they say that he is your enemy. No enemy is insignificant. If he must be killed, then do not grieve.”

In this way she consoled the King. His grief passed, and he fell asleep.

Then the Queen got up and went to her chamber. She wrote a letter to this effect: “Mahosadha, the four wise men have slandered you. The King is angry, and he has ordered you to be killed at the gate. Do not come to the palace tomorrow morning. But if you do come, come with the power to hold the city in your hand.” (with soldiers under his command)

She put the letter inside of a sweetmeat and tied it up with a thread. She put that in a jar, perfumed it, sealed it up, and gave it to a handmaid, saying, “Take this sweetmeat and give it to my brother.”

You may be wondering how she got out at night. (Indian cities had a strict curfew.) But the King had given this privilege to the Queen. Therefore no one stopped her. The Bodhisatta received the present and dismissed the woman, who returned and reported that she had delivered it. Then the Queen went back to bed. The Bodhisatta opened the sweetmeat. He read the letter, and after deliberating what to do, he went to sleep.

Early in the morning, the other four wise men stood by the gate, sword in hand. But they did not see the sage. They became downcast. They went in to see the King. “Well,” he said, “is the yokel dead?”

They replied, “We have not seen him, sire.”

Meanwhile, at sunrise the Great Being got the whole city under his control. He set guards everywhere. He went to the palace gates in a chariot with a great host of men.

The King stood looking out of an open window. Then the Great Being got down from his chariot and saluted him. The King thought, “If he were my enemy, he would not salute me.”

Then the King sent for him, and he sat on his throne. The Great Being came in and sat on one side. The four wise men also sat down. Then the King pretended to know nothing and said, “My son, yesterday you abandoned us. Now today you do not arrive at the appointed time. Why do you treat me so disrespectfully?” And he repeated this stanza:

Last evening you left early, now you come late.

What have you heard? What are you afraid of?

Come. We are listening for the word. Tell me.

The Great Being replied, “Sire, you listened to the four wise men, and you ordered my death. That is why I did not come earlier.” And reproaching him, he repeated this stanza:

“The wise Mahosadha must be slain.”

If you told this last night secretly to your wife,

Your secret was disclosed and I heard it.

When the King heard this he looked angrily at his wife thinking that she must have sent word to him. Seeing this the Great Being said, “Why are you angry with the Queen, my lord? I know the past, the present, and the future. Suppose the Queen did tell your secret? Then who told me the secrets of master Senaka, and Pukkusa, and the rest of them? But I know all their secrets.” And he told Senaka’s secret in this stanza:

Senaka did a sinful and wicked deed in the sāl grove.

He told this to a friend in secret.

That secret has been revealed, and I have heard it.

Looking at Senaka, the King asked, “Is it true?”

“Sire, it is true,” he replied, and the King ordered him to be thrown into prison. Then the sage told Pukkusa’s secret in this stanza:

In the man Pukkusa, Oh King of men,

There is a disease unfit for the King’s touching.

He told it in secret to his brother.

That secret has been revealed, and I have heard it.

The King looked at Pukkusa and asked, “Is it true?”

“Yes, my lord,” he said, and the King also sent him to prison. Then the sage told Kāvinda’s secret in this stanza:

He is a diseased man, of evil nature.

Naradeva possesses him.

He told this secret to his son.

This secret has been revealed, and I have heard it.

“Is it true, Kāvinda?” the King asked, and he answered, “It is true.” Then the King sent him to prison. The sage now told Devinda’s secret in this stanza:

The noble and precious gem of eight facets,

Which Sakka gave to your grandfather,

That is now in Devinda’s hands.

He told this to his mother in secret.

That secret has been revealed, and I have heard it.

“Is it true, Devinda?” the King asked, and he answered, “It is true.” So the King sent him to prison as well.

Thus those who had plotted to kill the Bodhisatta were all in prison. And the Bodhisatta said, “This is why I say, a man should tell his secret to no one. Those who said that a secret ought to be told have all come to utter ruin.” And he recited these stanzas, proclaiming a higher doctrine:

The secrecy of a secret is always good.

It is never good to tell a secret.

When a secret is not known,

The wise man should keep it to himself.

Once a secret is revealed, let him speak as he will.

One should not disclose a secret thing,

But should guard it like a treasure.

For a secret is not revealed by the prudent.

Not to a wife would the wise man tell a secret,

Not to an enemy,

Nor to one who can be enticed by self-interest,

Or for the sake of affection.

One who discloses a secret,

Through fear of broken confidence

He must always be the other’s slave.

As many as know a man’s secret,

That is how many worries he has.

Therefore one should not disclose a secret.

If you tell a secret by day, or by night in a soft whisper,

Listeners hear the words, and the words soon come out.

When the King heard the Great Being speak he was angry, and he thought, “These men were traitors to their King, but they tried to convince me that the wise man is a traitor to me!”

Then he said, “Take them to the edge of the town and impale them or split their heads open!”

They bound their hands behind them. At every street corner they were beaten. But as they were dragged along, the sage said, “My lord, these are your ancient ministers. Please pardon them for their crimes!”

The King consented and ordered that they should be slaves. Then the King said, “Well, they will not live in my domain.” He ordered them to be banished. But the sage begged him to pardon their blind folly and persuaded him to restore their positions. The King was very pleased with the sage. If he was this kind to his enemies, what must it be like for others! And from then on, the four wise men, like snakes with their teeth drawn and their poison gone, could not find a word to say, we are told.

Here ends the Question of the Five Wise Men, and likewise the Story of Slander.


After this the Great Being instructed the King in things worldly and spiritual. He thought, “I am indeed the King’s white parasol (the symbol of royal authority). I am the one who manages the kingdom. Therefore, I must be vigilant.”

He had a great wall built to protect the city. Along the wall were watchtowers at the gates. Between the watchtowers he dug three moats: a water moat, a mud moat, and a dry moat. Inside the city he had all the old houses restored. Large tanks were dug and turned into reservoirs for water. All the storehouses were filled with grain. The priests brought mud and edible lily seeds from Himavat (the Himalayas). The water ducts were cleaned out, and the old houses outside of the city were also restored. This was done as a defense against future dangers. Merchants who came from one place or another were asked where they came from. Then they were asked what their king liked. They were treated with kindness before traveling on. In this way the Great Being learned about all of the other cities in India.

Then he sent for 101 soldiers. He said to them, “My men, take these gifts to the 101 royal cities and give them to their Kings. Put yourselves in their service. Listen to their actions and plans and report back to me. I will take care of your wives and children.”

And he sent them with earrings for some, golden slippers for others, and golden necklaces for others. They all had inscriptions engraved on them. His plan was to reveal the inscriptions when it suited his purpose. The men went off and gave these gifts to the kings, saying that they had come to live in their service. When asked where they came from, they gave the names of cities other than that from which they had really come. Their offers were accepted. They put themselves in service to the 101 kings and they gained the trust of the kings.

Now in the kingdom of Ekabala there was a King named Saṃkhapāla. He was collecting arms and assembling an army. The man who had gone to him sent a message back to the sage, saying, “This is the news here. But I do not know what he intends to do. See if you can find out what is going on.”

Then the Great Being called a parrot and said, “Friend, go and find out what King Saṃkhapāla is doing in Ekabala. Then continue to travel over all India and bring me the news.”

He fed it with honey and grain and gave it sweet water to drink. He rubbed the joints of the wings with the purest oil. Then he stood by the eastern window and let it go.

The parrot went to Ekabala and discovered the truth. On his way back through India, he went to the city of Uttarapañcāla in the kingdom of Kampilla. The King there was named “Cūḷani-Brahmadatta.” He had a brahmin named “Kevaṭṭa” who was his adviser. Kevaṭṭa was clever and learned.

(From here on King Cūḷani-Brahmadatta will be called by his more common name, “King Cūḷani.”)

One morning the Kevaṭṭa woke up at dawn. By the light of a lamp he looked around his magnificent chamber. As he regarded its splendor, he thought, “To whom does this splendor belong? To no one but to Cūḷani. A King who gives splendor like this ought to be the chief King in all India, and I should be his chief priest.”

So early in the morning he went to the King. After asking him if he had slept well, he said, “My lord, there is something I wish to say.”

"Say it, teacher.”

“My lord, a secret cannot be told in the town. Let us go into the park.”

“Very well, teacher.”

The King went to the park with him. He left his retinue behind. He posted a guard, entered the park with the brahmin, and sat down upon the royal seat.

The parrot, seeing this, thought that something must be up. “Today I will hear something that must be sent to my wise master.” So he flew into the park and perched on the leaves of the royal sāl tree.

The King said, "Speak up, teacher.”

He said, "Sire, lean in this way. This is a plan for four ears only. If, sire, you do as I advise, I will make you the chief King in all India.”

The King heard him greedily and answered, “Tell me, my teacher, and I will do it.”

“My lord, let us raise an army and surround a small city. Then I will enter the city by a side gate, and I will say to the King, ‘Sire, there is no point in your fighting. All you have to do is agree to be our ally. If you do that, you can keep your kingdom. However, if you choose to fight our mighty force, you will be completely destroyed.’”

“If he agrees to become our ally, we will accept him. If not, we will fight and kill him. In either case, we can then take the two armies and go and take another city, and then another, and in this way we will gain control over all India, and we will drink the cup of victory. Then we will bring all 101 kings to our city. We will set up a bar in the park, seat them there, and give them poisoned liquor. We will kill them all and throw them into the Ganges. Thus we will get the 101 royal cities into our hands, and you will become chief King of all India.”

“Very well, my teacher,” said he, “I will do so.”

“Sire, this plan is for four ears only. No one else must know about it. Do not delay. Set off at once.”

The King was pleased with this advice and resolved to execute the plan. The parrot, meanwhile, had overheard their conversation. He let a lump of dung fall on Kevaṭṭa's head. He made it seem as if it had dropped from a twig.

“What's that?” he cried, looking upwards with his mouth wide open. Whereupon the bird dropped another lump of dung into his mouth. He flew off crying out, “Cree cree! Oh Kevaṭṭa, you think your plan is for four ears only, but now it is for six. Soon it will be for eight ears and for hundreds of them!”

“Catch him, catch him!” they cried. But as swift as the wind the parrot flew to Mithilā and entered the wise man’s house.

Now the parrot’s custom was that if he had news that was for the sage only, he would perch on his shoulder. If Queen Amarā was also to hear it, he perched on his lap. If anyone could hear it, he perched on the ground.

This time he perched on the shoulder. When those present saw that, they left the room, knowing that it was a secret. The sage took him up to the top story of the house and asked him, “Well, my friend, what have you seen? What have you heard?”

He said, “My lord, I have not seen a threat from any other king in India except for one. In the city of Uttarapañcāla, Kevaṭṭa, who is the chief priest, took his King into the park and told him a plan for their four ears only. I was sitting in the branches and dropped a ball of dung in his mouth, and here I am!”

Then he told the sage everything that he had seen and heard.

“Did the King agree to it?” he asked.

“Yes, he did,” the parrot said.

So the sage tended to the bird as was fitting. He put him in his golden cage strewn with soft rugs. He thought to himself, “Kevaṭṭa does not know that I am the wise Mahosadha. I will not allow him to accomplish his plan.”

Then he gathered all the people from the kingdom, the country side, and the suburb villages, and settled them inside the city, and he gathered great quantities of grain.

And Cūḷani did as Kevaṭṭa had proposed. He went with his army and laid siege to a city. Kevaṭṭa, as he had suggested, went into the city and explained matters to the King and won him over. They joined the two armies, and Cūḷani followed Kevaṭṭa’s advice and went on to another kingdom. Eventually he brought all the Kings of India under his power except for King Vedeha.

The Bodhisatta’s agents kept sending messages reporting, “Cūḷani-Brahmadatta has taken such and such a town. Be on your guard.”

He would replied, “I am on my guard here. Be careful yourselves without a moment’s negligence.”

It took Cūḷani seven years and seven months and seven days to gain possession of all India except for King Vedeha. Then he said to Kevaṭṭa, “Teacher, let us seize the empire of Vedeha at Mithilā!”

“Sire,” he said, “we will never be able to conquer the city where wise Mahosadha lives. He is very skillful and very clever.”

Then he spoke at great length on the virtue of the Great Being, as though he drew it on the face of the moon.

Now he was himself very skillful, so he said, “The kingdom of Mithilā is very small, and the dominion of all India is enough for us.” Thus he consoled the King. But the other princes said, “No, we will take the kingdom of Mithilā and drink the cup of victory!”

Kevaṭṭa tried to restrain them, saying, “What good will it be to take Vedeha’s kingdom? That King is no threat to us. Leave him be.”

Such was his advice. They listened to him and turned their great army back. The Great Being’s men sent him word that Cūḷani with a 101 kings had been on his way to Mithilā, but he turned back and returned to his own city. He sent back word that they were to observe what he did.

Now Cūḷani and Kevaṭṭa discussed what to do next. Hoping to drink the cup of victory, they decorated the park. They told the servants to set out wine in thousands of jars and to prepare fish and meat of all sorts. The sage’s men also reported this to him.

Now they did not know about the plan to poison the kings, but the Great Being knew it from what the parrot had told him. He sent a message to his agents saying that they should let him know when the festival was to be held. Then he thought, “It is not right that so many kings should be killed while a wise man like myself lives. I will help them.”

He sent for 10,000 warriors and said to them, “Friends, on a certain day Cūḷani, they tell me, is going to decorate his park and drink wine with the 101 kings. Go there, and before anyone sits on the seats provided for the kings, take possession of the seat of honor next to Cūḷani. Say, ‘This is for our King.’ When they ask whose men you are, tell them King Vedeha’s. They will make a great outcry and say, ‘What! For seven years and seven months and seven days we have been conquering kingdoms, and not once did we see your King Vedeha! Go find him a seat at the end!’ You must then squabble and say, ‘Except, Cūḷani, no king is above our King! If we cannot get a seat for our King, we will not let you eat or drink now!’ Then jump up and shout and create an uproar. Terrify them with the noise, break all the pots with your great clubs, scatter the food and make it unfit to eat. Run around in the crowd as fast as you can. Make a ruckus like titans invading the city of the gods, shouting out, ‘We are the wise Mahosadha’s men of Mithilā city. Catch us if you can!’ Create a riot, and then return to me.”

(This is really good work if you can get it.)

They promised to obey and took their leave. And armed with the five weapons (sword, spear, battle-axe, bow, and mace), they set off.

They entered the decorated park. It was like Nandana Grove (a celestial park). It was magnificent. The seats were placed for the 101 kings. The white parasols were spread out, and everything was ready. They did as they had been directed by the Great Being. And after causing havoc, they returned to Mithilā.

King Cūḷani’s men told him what had happened. He was angry that the fine plan to poison the princes had failed. The princes were angry because they had been deprived of the cup of victory. And the soldiers were angry because they had lost the chance for free drinks. So Cūḷani said to the princes, “Come, friends. Let us go to Mithilā and cut off King Vedeha’s head with the sword and trample it underfoot, and then we will come back and drink the cup of victory! Go tell your armies to get ready.”

Then pulling Kevaṭṭa aside, he told him about it, saying, “See, we will capture the enemy who has ruined this fine plan. With the 101 princes and their 18 complete armies we will attack that town. Come, my teacher!”

But the brahmin was wise enough to know that they could never capture the sage Mahosadha, that all they would get would be disgrace. He tried to dissuade the King. He said, “Sire! This King Vedeha is weak. But his kingdom is in the hands of the sage Mahosadha, and he is very powerful. As long as Mithilā is under his protection, as a lion guards his den, it can be taken by no one. We will only be disgraced. Do not go.”

But the King, mad with a soldier’s pride and the intoxication of conquest, cried out, “What can he do!” and departed, with the 101 princes and the 18 complete armies. Kevaṭṭa, unable to persuade him to take his advice and thinking that there was no point trying to stop him, went with him.

The Bodhisatta’s agents sent him word that Cūḷani was on his way with the 101 kings to take King Vedeha, and that he must be vigilant. The messages came in a steady stream. “Today he is in such a place, today in such a place, today he will reach the city.” On hearing this, the Great Being redoubled his efforts. And King Vedeha heard it constantly that Cūḷani was on his way to take the city.

In the early evening King Cūḷani surrounded the city by the light of 100,000 torches. He surrounded it with fences of elephants and of chariots and of horses. At regular intervals he placed a mass of soldiers. The men stood there shouting, snapping their fingers, roaring, dancing, crying aloud. With the light of the torches and the sheen of armor the whole city of Mithilā was one blaze of light. The noise of elephants and horses and chariots and men made the very earth shake.

The four wise men, hearing the waves of sound and not knowing what it was, went to the King and said, “Sire, there is a great din, and we do not know what it is. Will you find out what it is?”

The King thought, “No doubt Cūḷani has come.” He opened a window and looked out. When he saw that Cūḷani had indeed arrived, the King was dismayed. He said to them, “We are dead men! Tomorrow he will undoubtedly kill us all!”

So they sat talking together.

But when the Great Being saw that Cūḷani had arrived, as fearless as a lion he set guards in all the city. Then he went up into the palace to encourage the King. Greeting him, he stood on one side (this is a sign of respect). The King was encouraged to see him and thought, “There is no one who can save me from this trouble except the wise Mahosadha!” and he addressed him as follows:

“Cūḷani of Uttarapañcāla has come with all his host. His army is infinite, Oh Mahosadha! Men with burdens on their backs (carpenters, a.k.a. the engineers), foot soldiers, men skilled in battle, men ready to destroy, a great din, the noise of drums and conchs, great swordsmen. Here are banners and cavalrymen in armor, accomplished warriors and heroes! Ten sages are here, profound in wisdom, expert in strategy, and an eleventh, the mother of the King (the King’s mother was supposed to be even more wise than the sages) who is encouraging the ruler of Uttarapañcāla. There are 101 warrior princes, their kingdoms taken from them, terror-stricken and overcome by the men of Uttarapañcāla. They side with Uttarapañcāla, being in his power. Mithilā the royal city is surrounded by this host arrayed with three intervals (one between each of the encircling bands and the wall), digging in on all sides. We are surrounded as if by the stars on all sides. Think, Mahosadha! How can we be delivered from this?”

When the Great Being heard this, he thought, “This King is in fear for his life. The sick man’s refuge is the physician, the hungry man’s is food, and drink is the refuge of the thirsty man. But I and I alone am his refuge. I will comfort him.”

Then, like a lion roaring upon the Vermilion uplands (the Himalayas), he said, “Do not be afraid, sire. Enjoy your royal power. As I would scare a crow with a rock or a monkey with a bow, I will scatter that mighty host and leave them not so much as a pair of underwear.” And he recited this stanza:

Stretch out your feet, eat, and be merry.

Cūḷani will abandon the army of Uttarapañcāla

And he will run away.

After encouraging the King, the sage ordered the drums of festival to beat about the city. They issued this proclamation, “Have no fear. Go get your garlands, scents, and perfumes, food and drink, and celebrate a great festival for seven days. Drink deeply, sing and dance and make merry. Shout and cheer and snap your fingers. All will be paid for by me. I am the wise Mahosadha. Behold my power!”

In this way he encouraged the townsfolk.

They did so, and those besieging the city heard the sounds of singing and music. Some of the enemy soldiers snuck in by the side gate. Now it was not the custom in the city to arrest strangers unless it was a known criminal, so the access was not closed. These men were able to see the people enjoying their festival. And Cūḷani heard the noise in the town and said to his courtiers, “We have surrounded this city with 18 great armies, and the people show no fear whatsoever. They are full of joy and happiness. They snap their fingers, they make merry, they leap and sing. What is going on?”

Then the Great Being’s agents said to the King, “My lord, we entered the city by the side gate. Seeing the people celebrating, we asked, ‘Why are you having a festival when all the Kings of India are here besieging your city?’ And they replied, ‘When our King was a boy, he made a wish to have a festival when all the Kings of India were besieging the city. And now that wish is fulfilled.’ He made a proclamation, and he is celebrating the festival in the palace.”

This made King Cūḷani angry. He sent out a division of his army with these orders: “Disperse everyone in the city. Fill up the trenches, break down the walls, destroy the gate towers, enter the city. Use the people’s heads like pumpkins cast on a cart and bring me the head of King Vedeha.”

Then the mighty warriors, armed with all kinds of weapons, marched up to the gate. They had red-hot missiles, showers of mud, and stones thrown down on them. When they were in the ditch trying to destroy the wall, the men in the gate towers showered them with arrows, javelins, and spears. The sage’s men mocked and jeered Cūḷani’s men with rude gestures. They cried, “If you can't take us, have a bite to eat or perhaps a little supper!” They held out bowls of liquor and skewers with meat or fish, which they ate and drank themselves and strolled casually along the top of the walls.

The humiliated soldiers returned to Cūḷani and said, “My lord, no one but a magician could get into that city.”

The King spent the next four or five days trying to come up with a plan to take the city. Then he said to Kevaṭṭa, “Teacher, we cannot take the city. No one can get near it! What can we do?”

“Don’t worry, your majesty. The city gets water from the outside. We will cut off the water and then take the city. They will be worn out for lack of water, and they will open the gates.”

“That is the plan,” the King said.

After that, they did everything they could to keep the people from getting near the water.

The wise man’s spies sent reports by writing them on leaves. They fastened these to arrows and shot them into the city. He had already given orders that if anyone saw a leaf fastened to an arrow, they should bring it to him. A man saw one and took it to the sage, who read the message. “He does not know that I am the sage Mahosadha,” he thought.

Mahosadha had his men get bamboo poles 30 meters long. He had them split in two, the knots removed, and then joined together again, covered with leather, and smeared with mud. He then sent for the soil and lily seed brought from Himavat by the hermits. He planted the seed in the mud by the edge of the tank, placed the bamboo over it, and filled it with water. In one night the lilies grew up and flowered, rising two meters above the top of the bamboo.

Then they pulled the bamboo up. They rolled up the stalk and threw it over the wall, crying out, “Ho servants of Cūḷani! Don’t starve for lack of food. Here you are. Wear the flower and fill your bellies with the stalks!”

One of the wise man’s spies picked up some of the stalks and brought them to the King. He said, “See, your majesty, the stalk of this lily. I have never seen a stalk this long before!”

The King asked, “Where did that grow?”

He replied with a story he made up. “One day, my lord, being thirsty for a little toddy, I went into the city by the side gate. I saw the great pools made for the people to play in. There were a number of people in a boat picking flowers. That was where this grew by the edge of the pool. But there were those that grew in the deep water. They were 50 meters high!”

Hearing this the King said to Kevaṭṭa, “Teacher, we cannot defeat them by cutting off the water. Put an end to this.”

“Well,” he said, “then we will cut off their food. The city gets its food from outside.”

“Very well, teacher.”

The sage learned about this as usual. He thought, “He does not know that I am the sage Mahosadha!”

Along the rampart he laid mud and planted rice there. Now the wishes of the Bodhisattas always succeed. In one night the rice sprang up and draped over the top of the rampart. Cūḷani saw this and asked, “Friend, what is that green thing that drapes over the rampart?”

One of the sage’s agents replied, “My lord, Mahosadha the farmer’s son anticipated the coming danger. He collected food from all over the realm. He filled the granaries with grain, throwing the excess out over the ramparts. This rice, warmed with the heat and soaked in the rain, grew up there into plants. I myself went into the city by the side gate one day and picked up a handful of this rice from a heap on the rampart. I dropped some of it in the street. The people laughed at me and cried, “You must be hungry! Tie up some of it in the corner of your robe, take it home and cook it and eat it.”

Hearing this, the King said to Kevaṭṭa, “Teacher, we will not defeat them by cutting off their food supply. That simply won’t work.”

“Then, my lord, we will take the city by cutting off the supply of wood.”

“So be it, teacher.”

The Bodhisatta learned of this plan as he had before. He built a huge pile of firewood that showed above the rice on the ramparts. The people laughed at Cūḷani’s men. They said, “If you are hungry, here is something to cook your food with.” They threw down great logs of wood as they said it. The King asked, “What is this firewood showing above the rampart?”

The agents said, “The farmer’s son, seeing danger to come, collected firewood and stored it in the sheds behind the houses. He stacked the excess next to the ramparts.” Then the King said to Kevaṭṭa, “Teacher, we cannot take the place by cutting off the wood. Enough of that plan.”

“Don’t worry, sire. I have another plan.”

“What is that plan, teacher? I see no end to your plans. We cannot defeat King Videha. Let us go back to our city.”

“My lord, if people say that Cūḷani and 101 princes could not take King Videha, we will be disgraced. Mahosadha is not the only clever man. I am another. I have a scheme.”

“What scheme, teacher?”

“We will have a Battle of the Law.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Sire, no army will fight. The two sages of the two Kings will meet, and whichever one pays homage to the other will be conquered. Mahosadha will not know this is the plan. I am older and he is younger so when he sees me, he will bow to me. Thus we will defeat King Vedeha, and then we will return home. That is what is meant by a Battle of the Law.”

Cūḷani said, “This is a marvelous plan!” He wrote a letter and sent it to King Vedeha by the side gate. It said, “Tomorrow there will be a Battle of the Law between the two sages. If either one refuses to fight, they will automatically be defeated.”

But the Bodhisatta learned about this plan just as he had before. “If I let Kevaṭṭa beat me,” he thought, “then I am no sage.”

When King Vedeha got the message he sent for the sage and told him what was about to happen. The sage answered, “Good, my lord. Give orders to prepare a place for the Battle of the Law by the western gate and have everyone assemble there.”

So the King gave a response to the messenger, and on the next day they prepared the place for the Battle of the Law.

But the 101 princes, not knowing what to expect, surrounded Kevaṭṭa to protect him. These princes went to the place on their guard along with the sage Kevaṭṭa. They stood looking towards the east.

Likewise, early in the morning, the Bodhisatta bathed in sweet-scented water. He dressed himself in a Kāsi robe worth 100,000 pieces of gold and adorned himself fully. And after an exquisite breakfast, he went with a great following to the palace gate.

He greeted King Vedeha and sat down on one side. “Well, sage Mahosadha?” said the King. “I am going to the place of the Battle. Do you need anything from me?”

“My lord, I wish to conquer Kevaṭṭa with a gem. I must have the eight-sided gem.”

“Take it, my son.”

He took it and took his leave. And surrounded by 1,000 warriors, he mounted a noble chariot drawn by a team of white thoroughbreds. Each steed was worth 90,000 pieces of gold. Finally, at the time of the midday meal he went to the gate.

Kevaṭṭa stood watching for his arrival. He said, “Here he comes. Here he comes.” He stretched his neck to see the sage until it actually appeared to get longer. He was sweating in the heat of the sun.

The Great Being, with his following like an overflowing sea, was like a roused lion, fearless and unruffled. He ordered the gate to be opened and went forth from the city. He descended from his chariot like a lion aroused and went forward.

The 101 princes beheld his majesty and praised him with thousands of cries, “Here is the sage Mahosadha, son of Sirivaḍḍhaka, who has no peer for wisdom in all India!”

Just like (the god) Sakka surrounded with his troop of gods, he was unparalleled in glory and grandeur. He held the gem in his hand as he stood before Kevaṭṭa.

When Kevaṭṭa saw him he reflexively moved forward to meet him. He said, “Sage Mahosadha, we are both sages. Yet even though I have been living near you for a long time, you have never yet sent me a gift. Why is this?”

The Great Being said, “Wise sir, I was looking for a gift that would be worthy of you, and today I have found this gem. Please take it. There is nothing else like in the world.”

Kevaṭṭa responded, “Give it me then,” and he held out his hand.

“Take it,” said the Great Being. Just as Kevaṭṭa reached out, the Bodhisatta dropped it on the ground. The brahmin bent down to the Bodhisatta’s feet in order to pick it up. Then the Great Being pushed down on his shoulder blades to keep him from getting up. He cried out, “Rise teacher, rise! I am younger than you, young enough to be your grandson. Do not pay homage to me.”

As he said this again and again, he rubbed Kevaṭṭa’s face into the ground until it was all bloody. Then he whispered, “Blind fool. Did you think that I would pay homage to you?” He caught him by the throat, grabbed his thigh and threw him up in the air. He fell ten meters away. Then Kevaṭṭa got up and ran away.

As the Great Being’s men picked up the gem, the echo of the Bodhisatta’s words, “Rise up, rise, do not pay homage to me!” rose above the noise of the crowd. All the people shouted aloud with one voice, “Brahmin Kevaṭṭa bowed down at the sage’s feet!” King Vedeha, Cūḷani, and everyone had seen Kevaṭṭa bow before the feet of the Great Being.

“Our sage,” they thought, “has paid homage to the Great Being. Now we have been defeated! He will destroy us all.” They mounted their horses and began to run away to Uttarapañcāla. The Bodhisatta’s men saw them running off and cried out, “Cūḷani is running away with his 101 princes!”

Hearing this, the princes were terrified even more. They ran away. The great army scattered. Meanwhile the Bodhisatta’s men, shouting and yelling, made an even louder uproar. The Great Being with his followers returned to the city, while Cūḷani’s army ran in rout for 15 kilometers.

Kevaṭṭa mounted a horse and ran up to the army wiping off the blood from his forehead. He cried, “Ho there, do not run! I did not bow to that wretch! Stop, stop!” But the army would not stop. They mocked Kevaṭṭa, reviling him. “Man of folly! Villain brahmin! You would call a Battle of the Law and then bow before a punk young enough to be your grandson! This is the worst thing you could have done!”

They would not listen to him and continued on. He dashed on into the army and cried, "Ho you, you must believe me! I did not bow to him! He tricked me with a gem!”

So by one means or another, he finally convinced the princes and made them believe him, and he rallied the broken army.

Now the army was so large that if each of them had taken a handful of earth and thrown it into the moat, they could have filled the moat and made a hill as high as the rampart. But we know that the intentions of the Bodhisattas are always fulfilled. There was not one person who threw a handful of earth towards the city. They all returned back to their original positions.

Then the King asked Kevaṭṭa, “Now what are we going to do?”

“My lord, do not let anyone come out from the side gate. Cut off all access to the city. When the people are not able to come out, they will be discouraged and will open the gate. Then we will enter the city and capture our enemies.”

The sage was informed of this as before. He thought, “If they stay here very long we will have no peace. I need to find a way to get rid of them. I will come up with a plan to make them go.”

So he searched for a man who was very clever. He found one named “Anukevaṭṭa.” He said to him, “I have something that I want you to do for me.”

“What would you like me to do, wise sir? Tell me.”

“Go stand on the rampart. When you see that our men are not paying close attention, throw down cakes, fish, meat, and other food to Cūḷani’s men. Call out, ‘Here, eat this and this. Don’t be downhearted. Try to stay here as long as you can. It won’t be long before the people will be like hens in a coop, and they will open the gate. Then you will be able to capture King Vedeha and that villain of a farmer’s son.’ When our men hear you saying this, they will tie you up in the sight of Cūḷani’s army. They will pretend to beat you with bamboo and knock you down and tie your hair in knots. They will cover you with brick dust, put a garland of oleander (oleander is poisonous) on you, beat you soundly until sores arise on your back. Then they will take you up on the rampart and let you down by a rope to Cūḷani’s men crying out, ‘Go, traitor!’”

“Then you will be taken to Cūḷani. He will ask what you did. You will say to him, ‘Great King, I was once held in great esteem. But the farmer’s son denounced me to my King as a traitor and he robbed me of all my possessions. I wanted to make the man shorter by a head because he ruined me. And in pity for the plight of your men, I gave them food and drink. For that, with the old grudge in his heart, he brought this destruction upon me. Your own men, Oh King, saw it all.’”

“In this way you will win the King’s trust. Then say to him, ‘Sire, now you have me. Your troubles are over. King Vedeha and the farmer’s son are dead men! I know the strong places and the weak places of the ramparts in this city. I know where crocodiles are in the moat and where they are not. Before long I will bring the city into your hands.’”

The King will believe you, and he will honor you. He will place the army under your command. Then you must bring the army into the places infested by snakes and crocodiles. When they see the crocodiles, the army will refuse to go down. You must then say to the King, ‘Your army, my lord, has been bribed by the farmer’s son. There is no one, not even the teacher Kevaṭṭa and the princes, who has not been bribed. They are all the creatures of the farmer’s son, and I alone am your man. If you do not believe me, order the kings to come before you in full dress. Then examine their dresses, their ornaments, their swords. You will see that they all have been given something by the farmer’s son that is inscribed with his name.’”

“He will do this, and in fear will dismiss the princes. Then he will ask you what is to be done? You must reply, ‘My lord, the farmer’s son is very resourceful. If you stay here even a few days he will gain control over the army and capture you. Make no delay. Tonight in the middle watch let us take horses and leave so that we will not die in the enemy’s hands.’ He will follow your advice, and when he runs away you must return and tell my agents.”

Thereupon Anukevaṭṭa replied, “Good, wise sir, I will do as you ask.”

Then after showing all respect to Anukevaṭṭa’s family, he had him roughed up as planned and handed him over to Cūḷani’s men. The King tested him and trusted him. He honored him and put him in charge of the army. Anukevaṭṭa brought the army down to the places that were infested by snakes and crocodiles. The men were terrified by the crocodiles. They were wounded by arrows, spears, and lances cast by soldiers who stood upon the battlements. Many men died. After this, none of the men were brave enough to approach the ramparts.

Then Anukevaṭṭa approached the King and said to him, “Oh great King, there is not a single man who will fight for you. They have all been bribed. If you do not believe me, send for the princes and see the inscriptions on their garments and accoutrements.”

The King did this. He saw the inscriptions on all their garments and accoutrements. He felt sure that indeed they had taken bribes. “Teacher,” he said, “what should we do now?”

“My lord, there’s nothing to be done. If you delay, the farmer’s son will capture you. Sire, even the teacher Kevaṭṭa has taken a bribe. He accepted that precious gem and made you run in rout for 15 kilometers. Then he won your confidence again and made you return. He is a traitor! I would not obey him a single moment. You should escape tonight in the middle watch. The only friend you have is me.”

“Then get my horse and chariot ready yourself.”

Now that the King was definitely going to escape, he encouraged him and told him not to be afraid. Then he went out and told the agents that the King was going to escape that night, and they should not plan on sleeping. He next prepared the King’s horse. He arranged the reins so that the more he pulled on them the faster the horse would go. At midnight he said, “My lord, your horse is ready. See? It is time.” The King mounted the horse and ran off. Anukevaṭṭa also got on horseback pretending to go with him. But after they had traveled a short distance, he turned back. And the King’s horse, because of the arrangement of its reins, ran on, no matter how hard the King pulled on the reins.

Then Anukevaṭṭa went to the army and shouted with a loud voice, “Cūḷani has fled!” The scouts and their attendants cried out too. The other princes, hearing the noise, were terrified. “Sage Mahosadha must have opened the gate and come out. We will all be dead men!”

Giving but a glance at all their weapons and equipment, they ran away. The men shouted even louder, “The princes are running away!” Hearing the noise, all the others who stood at the gate and on the towers shouted and clapped their hands. Then the whole city within and without was one great roar, as though the earth had split apart, or the mighty oceans had broken up. The innumerable men of that mighty army were in mortal terror, without refuge or defense. They cried out, “Cūḷani and the 101 kings have been defeated by Mahosadha!” Away they ran, throwing away their clothes. The camp was empty. Cūḷani entered his own city with the 101 chiefs.

On the next morning, the soldiers opened the city gates and went out. Seeing the great bounty, they reported it to the Great Being, asking what they were to do. He said, “Everything that they have left is ours. Give our King everything that belonged to the princes. Bring everything that belonged to Kevaṭṭa to me. Let the people of the city have everything else.”

It took half a month to retrieve the valuable jewels and goods, four months for everything else. The Great Being bestowed great honor to Anukevaṭṭa. And from that day on, the citizens of Mithilā had plenty of gold.

Now Cūḷani and those kings had been back in the city of Uttarapañcālā for a year when one day Kevaṭṭa, looking at his face in a mirror, saw the scar on his forehead and thought, “That is the doing of the farmer’s son. He made me a laughingstock before all those kings!” He became very angry. “How can I manage to get my revenge?” he thought. “Ah, I have a plan. Our King’s daughter, Pañcālacaṇḍī is peerless in beauty. She is like a divine nymph. I will offer her to King Vedeha. He will be trapped by desire like a fish that has swallowed the hook. I will trap him along with Mahosadha. I will kill them both and drink the cup of victory!”

With this resolve, he approached the King. “My lord,” he said, "I have an idea.”

“Well, teacher, your ideas left me once without a rag to cover me. What will you do now? I think that maybe you should hold your peace.”

“Sire, there never was a plan as good as this.”

“Tell me, then.”

“Sire, we two must be alone.”

“So be it.”

The brahmin took him into an upper story of the palace and said, “Great King! I will trap King Vedeha by desire, bring him here, and kill him.”

“A good plan, teacher, but how are we to arouse his desire?”

“Sire, your daughter Pañcālacaṇḍī is peerless in beauty. We will have her charms and accomplishments celebrated in verse by poets and have those poems sung in Mithilā. When we find that he is saying to himself, ‘If the mighty monarch King Vedeha cannot get this pearl of maidens, what good is his kingdom to him?’ Then he will be consumed by that idea. I will arrange a day on which he will come, like a fish that has swallowed the hook. The farmer’s son will come with him. Then we will kill them.”

This pleased the King, and he agreed. “That is a fine plan, my teacher! so we will do it.”

But a myna bird who was watching the King’s bed heard everything.

And so the King sent for clever poets. He showed them his daughter and asked them to write a poem about her beauty. They composed songs of great sweetness and recited them to the King. He rewarded them richly. Musicians learned these songs from the poets. They sang them in public, and thus they were spread abroad.

Once they had been spread abroad, the King sent for singers. He said, “My children, climb into the trees by night with some birds. Sit there and sing, and in the morning tie bells about their necks. Let them fly down.” He did this so that people would think that the very gods sing the beauty of the King of Uttarapañcāla’s daughter.

A second time the King sent for these poets. He said to them, “My children, make poems that say that such a princess is not for any King in all India except for Vedeha, King of Mithilā. Praise the King’s majesty and the girl’s beauty.”

They did so, and the King paid them well. He told them to go to Mithilā and sing just as they had before. So they went to Mithilā, singing these songs on the way, and there they sang them in public. Crowds of people heard the songs. They applauded enthusiastically, and they paid them well. At night they climbed into the trees and sang. And in the morning, they tied bells around the birds’ necks before they flew down. People heard the sound of the bells in the air, and all the city rang with the news that the very gods were singing the beauty of the King of Uttarapañcāla’s daughter.

King Vedeha heard about all of this. He sent for the poets and granted them an audience in his palace. He was encouraged to think that they wanted to give him the peerless daughter of King Cūḷani. So he paid them well.

They went back and told Cūḷani. Then Kevaṭṭa said to him, “Now, sire, this is the time for us to arrange the day.”

“Very good, teacher. What must you take with you?”

“A little present.”

He gave him one. Accompanied by a large following, Kevaṭṭa set off to Vedeha’s kingdom. When he arrived, the whole city was in an uproar. “King Cūḷani and Vedeha, they say, will strike a friendship. Cūḷani will give his daughter to our King, and Kevaṭṭa, they say, is coming to arrange the day.”

King Vedeha also heard this, and the Great Being heard it as well. He thought, “I do not like his coming here. I must find out what is really going on.”

So he sent word to his spies who lived with Cūḷani. They replied, “We do not know what is going on. The King and Kevaṭṭa were sitting and talking in the royal bedchamber. But the myna bird that watches the bedchamber will know what they said.”

On hearing this, the Great Being thought, “When they come into our city, I want them to see and learn as little as possible. So I will divide up the whole city and assign people to decorate it. These decorations will hide what we do not want Kevaṭṭa to see." So from the city gate to the palace, and from the palace to his own house, on both sides of the road he erected lattice-work. It was covered with mats and pictures. There were flowers scattered on the ground. They set out jars full of water. They hung flags and banners.

As Kevaṭṭa entered the city he thought the King had decorated it for his sake. He did not understand that it had been done so that he would see as little as possible. When he went before the King, he offered his gift, and with a courteous greeting sat down on one side. Then after an honorable reception, he recited these stanzas to announce the reason for his arrival:

A King who wishes for your friendship

Sends these precious things.

Now let worthy sweet-spoken ambassadors

Come from that place.

Let them utter gentle words

That will please you.

And let the people of Uttarapañcāla and Mithilā be one.

“Sire,” he went on, “he would have sent someone else in my place, but he sent me, feeling sure that no else could tell the tale as pleasantly as I can. ‘Go, teacher,’ he said, ‘win the King’s friendship and bring him back with you.’ Now, sire, accept an excellent and beautiful princess and there will be friendship between our King and you.”

The King was pleased with this proposal. He was excited that he would marry a princess of peerless beauty. He replied, “Teacher, there was a quarrel between you and the wise Mahosadha at the Battle of the Law. Go and see him. You two wise men must reconcile your differences. After you talk together, come back.”

Kevaṭṭa promised to go and see the sage, and he went.

Now the Great Being was determined to avoid talking with this wicked man. So in the morning he drank a little ghee (for medicinal purposes). They smeared the floor with wet cow dung and smeared the pillars with oil. They removed all the chairs and seats except for one narrow couch on which he lay. To his servants he gave this order, “When the brahmin begins to talk, say, ‘brahmin, do not talk with the sage. He has taken a dose of ghee today.’ And when I start to talk to him, stop me, saying, ‘My lord, you have taken a dose of ghee. Do not talk.’”

(The implication is that the ghee affects the ability to speak.)

After these instructions the Great Being put on a red robe and lay down on the couch. He posted men at the seven gate-towers. Kevaṭṭa, reaching the first gate, asked where the wise man was? The servants answered, “Brahmin, do not make any noise. If you want to go in, go in silently. The sage has taken a dose of ghee today, and he cannot stand any noise.”

At the other gates they told him the same thing. When he got to the seventh gate, he entered the presence of the sage, and the sage began to speak. But as instructed, his servants said, “My lord, do not talk. you have taken a strong dose of ghee. You should not talk to this wicked brahmin.”

So they stopped him from speaking.

The brahmin came in, but he could not find where to sit. There was not even a place for him to stand by the couch. He walked over the wet cow dung and stood. Then one servant looked at him and rubbed his eyes. Another one lifted his eyebrow. One scratched his elbow. When he saw this, he was annoyed, and said, “Wise sir, I am going.”

Another servant said, “Ha, wretched brahmin, don't make any noise! If you do, I’ll break your bones!”

Terrified he looked back, just as a servant hit him on the back with a bamboo stick. Another one grabbed him by the throat and pushed him. Another hit him on the back. He ran off in fear, like a fawn from a panther’s mouth, and returned to the palace.

Now the King thought, “Today my son will be pleased to hear the news. What a great discussion there will be between the two wise men about the Law! Today they will reconcile with each other, and I will benefit from it.”

So when he saw Kevaṭṭa, he recited a stanza, asking about their conversation together:

How did your meeting with Mahosadha come off, Kevaṭṭa?

Please tell me.

Did you reconcile with Mahosadha?

Was he pleased?

Kevaṭṭa replied, “Sire, you think that is a wise man, but there is not a more wicked man,” and he recited this stanza:

He is a dishonorable man, lord of men!

He is disagreeable, obstinate, and wicked,

Like one dumb or deaf, he did not say a word.

The King was not pleased about this.

He provided Kevaṭṭa and his attendants with everything they needed. He gave them a house to live in and told him to go and rest. After he sent him away the King thought to himself, “My son is wise, and he knows well how to be courteous. Yet he was rude to this man and did not want to see him. He must have some reason for being wary of him!” and he composed a stanza of his own:

Truly, this is very hard to understand.

Some danger has been foreseen by this wise man.

Therefore my body is shaken.

Who will lose his freedom

And fall into the hands of his enemy?

“No doubt my son saw something devious in the brahmin’s visit. He may have come here for some nefarious reason. He may want to trap me by desire, make me go to his city and capture me there. The sage must have seen this danger.”

As he was turning these thoughts over in his mind with alarm, the four wise men came in. The King said to Senaka, “Well, Senaka, do you think I ought to go to the city of Uttarapañcāla and marry King Cūḷani’s daughter?”

He replied, “Oh sire, what are you saying! When luck comes your way, who would drive it off? If you go there and marry her, you will have no equal except for King Cūḷani in all India. You will have married the daughter of the chief King. The King knows that the other princes are under his control, and that King Vedeha alone is his equal. This is why he wants to give you his peerless daughter. Do as he says, and we will also receive many gifts.”

When the King asked the others, they all agreed with this. And as they were having this discussion, the brahmin Kevaṭṭa came from his house to take his leave of the King and go back to his city. He said, “Sire, I cannot stay here any longer. It is time for me to go, prince of men!”

The King showed him respect and let him go.

When the Great Being heard that the brahmin had left, he bathed and dressed and went to wait on the King. Saluting him, he sat down on one side. The King thought, “Wise Mahosadha my son is great and resourceful. He understands the past and the present, and he knows the future. He will know whether I should go or not.”

Yet he was overcome with passion. He lost his reason and asked his question in a stanza:

All have one opinion,

And they are sages who are supreme in wisdom.

Should I go or not?

Mahosadha, tell me your opinion also.

At this the sage thought, “This King is overcome with desire. He is blind and foolish. He listens to the words of these four. I will tell him the danger in going and dissuade him.”

So he repeated these stanzas:

Do you know, great King,

King Cūḷani is mighty and strong.

He wants to kill you, as a hunter catches the deer by decoy.

As a fish greedy for food does not recognize

The hook hidden in the bait, or a mortal his death.

So you, Oh King, overcome with desire,

Do not recognize Cūḷani's daughter

Will be your own death.

If you go to Uttarapañcāla, you will soon destroy yourself,

As a deer caught on the road comes into great danger.

At this strong rebuke, the King was angry. “The man thinks that I am his slave,” he thought. “He forgets that I am the King. He knows that the chief King has offered me his daughter. He does not say a word of good wishes. He only says that I will be caught and killed like a silly deer or a fish that swallows the hook or a deer caught on the road!”

He recited this stanza:

I was foolish, I was an idiot to consult you on high matters.

How can you understand things like other men

When you grew up hanging on to a plow-tail?

With these abusive words, he said, "This yokel is hindering my good fortune! Away with him!”

And to get rid of him he uttered this stanza:

Take this fellow by the neck and rid my kingdom of him,

He who speaks to hinder my getting a jewel.

The sage saw the King’s anger. He thought, “If anyone grabs me by the hand or by the neck or even touches me by order of this King, I will be disgraced to my dying day. Therefore, I will quickly leave.”

So he saluted the King and went to his house.

Now the King had merely spoken out of anger. But he respected the Bodhisatta and did not follow through on his threat. Meanwhile the Great Being thought, “This King is a fool. He does not know what is to his benefit and what is harmful. He is infatuated and determined to get that princess. He does not see the danger to come. He will go to his ruin. But I will not let his angry words bother me. He is my great benefactor, and he has done me honor. I must have confidence in him. I will send the parrot and find out what is really going on.”

He said to his messenger, Māṭhara, the clever parrot, “Come, my green parrot, do a service for me. The King of Uttarapañcāla has a myna that watches over his bed. Talk to him, for he knows all of the secrets of the King and the Queen.”

The clever parrot Māṭhara listened and went to see the myna bird. Then this clever parrot Māṭhara sweet talked the myna in her fine cage. “Is all well with you in your fine cage? Are you happy, Oh Vessā? Do they give you parched honey-grain in your fine cage?”

“All is well with me, sir, indeed, all is happy. They do give me parched honey-grain, Oh clever parrot. Why have you come, sir and why were you sent? I have never seen you before.”

On hearing this, the parrot thought, “If I say that I am from Mithilā, she will never trust me. But on my way here I noticed a town called Ariṭṭhapura in the kingdom of Sivi. So I will tell her that the King of Sivi has sent me here.” He said, “I was King Sivi’s attendant in his palace.”

Then the myna gave him some of the honey-grain and some honey-water from her golden dish. She said, “Sir, you have come a long way. Why did you come here?”

He made up a story because he wanted to learn her secrets. He said, “I once had a wife who was a sweet-voiced myna, and a hawk killed her right before my eyes.”

Then she asked, “How did the hawk kill your wife?”

He told her this story. “One day our King invited me to join him at a swimming party. My wife and I went with him. In the evening we returned with him to the palace. To dry our feathers, my wife and I flew out of a window and sat on the top of a pinnacle. At that moment a hawk swooped down to catch us as we were just about to leave the pinnacle. I flew swiftly off. But she was pregnant and could not fly very fast. So before my eyes he killed her and carried her off. The King saw me weeping and asked me why I was crying. On hearing what had happened, he said, ‘Enough, friend. Do not cry. You should look for another wife.’”

I replied, “My lord, why do I need to marry again? She might prove to be wicked and vicious. It is better to live alone.”

He said, “Friend, I know a bird who is as virtuous as your wife. King Cūḷani has a myna like her. Go and ask her. If she likes you come and tell me. Then I or my Queen will go with great fanfare and bring her back.”

With these words he sent me, and that is why I have come.

And he said, “Full of love for her I have come to you. If you agree then we might live together.”

She was exceedingly flattered by these words. But she did not want to appear anxious, so she pretended to be unwilling:

“Parrot should love parrot, and myna myna. How can there be love between a parrot and a myna?”

The parrot thought, “She does not reject me. She is only teasing me. There is no doubt that she loves me. I will say something to make her trust me.”

So he said, “Whoever a lover loves, even if it is a low servant, all are alike. In love there is no distinction. The mother of the King of Sivi is named Jambāvatī, and she was the beloved queen consort of Vāsudeva.”

Now the King of Sivi’s mother was Jambāvatī. She was from a low caste. She was the beloved queen consort of King Vāsudeva. The story goes that one day he went out from Dvāravatī into the park. On his way he saw a very beautiful girl as she was traveling from her village to the town. He fell in love with her and asked about her birth (her caste). When she said that she was from a low caste, he was very upset. Nonetheless, when he found out that she was not married, he turned back at once and took her home. He surrounded her with precious things and made her his chief Queen. She gave birth to a son who they named “Sivi.” Sivi became the King of Dvāravatī at his father’s death.

After giving this example, he went on, “So even a prince married a low caste woman. So what is the difference, even if we are from the animal kingdom? If we would like to mate together, there is no more to be said.” And he gave another example as follows:

“Rathavatī also loved Vaccha, and the man loved the fairy. In love there is no distinction.”

“Vaccha was a hermit. In times gone by, a brahmin, who had seen the danger in passion, left a life of great wealth to follow the ascetic life. He lived in Himavat in a hut of leaves that he built for himself. Not far from this hut there lived some fairies in a cave. A spider lived in that same cave. This spider used to spin his web and catch the fairies in it. Then he would crack their heads open and drink their blood.”

“Now the fairies were weak and timid. The spider was mighty and very poisonous. They could do nothing to stop him. So they went to the hermit. They saluted him and told him how the spider was destroying them, and that they could see no way to overcome him. They begged the hermit to kill the spider and save them. But the ascetic drove them away, saying, ‘Men like me do not kill!’”

“One of the female fairies was named Rahavatī, and she was not married. They brought her finely arrayed to the hermit and said, ‘She can be your maiden if you kill our enemy.’ When the hermit saw her, he fell in love with her. So he stayed with her in the cave and waited for the spider. When the spider came out for food, the hermit killed him with a club. So he lived with the fairy. They had sons and daughters together, and then he died. Thus she loved him.”

The parrot, having given this example, said, “Vaccha the hermit, even though he was a man, lived with a fairy who belonged to the animal world. Why should we not do the same, we who are both birds?”

She said, “My lord, the heart is not always the same. I do not want to be separated from my beloved.” But he, being wise and versed in the deceits of romance, further tested her with this stanza:

If that is the case, then I shall go away,

Oh sweet-voiced myna.

This is your refusal; no doubt you despise me.

She felt as though her heart would break. But now she acted as though she was burning with a newly awakened love, and she recited this stanza:

There is no good fortune for those who are too hasty,

Oh wise parrot Māṭhara.

Stay here until you can see the King.

Hear the sound of drums and see the splendor of our King.

So they lived in friendship and pleasure and delight. Then the parrot thought, “Now the time is ripe. She will not keep her secrets from me. I must find out what she knows and go back.”

“Myna,” he said.

“What is it, my lord?”

“I want to ask you something. Is that all right?”

“Say it, my lord.”

“Oh, on second thought, today is a festival day. I will ask on another day.’

“If it is suitable to say on a festival day, go ahead and say it.”

“Indeed, this is a thing fit for a festival day.”

“Then speak.”

“If you will listen, I will speak.”

Then he asked the secret in a stanza:

This sound is proclaimed throughout the countryside:

The daughter of the King of Uttarapañcāla, bright as a star

Is to be given to King Videha; soon it will be their wedding!

When she heard this she said, “My lord! On this festival day you have raised a matter of great misfortune!”

“I say it is good fortune. You say it is misfortune. How can this be?”

“I cannot tell you, my lord.”

“Madam, if you refuse to tell me your secret, our happy union will end.”

Convinced of his sincerity she replied, “Then, my lord, listen.”

“You should not let even your worst enemies have a wedding like the one that is about to happen between Kings of Uttarapañcāla and Mithilā, Māṭhara.”

Then he asked, “Why do you say such a thing, madam?”

She replied, “Listen now, and I will tell you about the conspiracy,” and she repeated another stanza:

The mighty King of Uttarapañcāla will entice Videha,

And then he will kill him; she shall not be his wife.

So she told the whole secret to the wise parrot. In turn, the wise parrot, praised Kevaṭṭa. “This teacher is very resourceful. It is a clever plan. But it will not have any effect on us. It is best if we say nothing.”

With this, he completed the purpose of his journey. After passing the night with her, he said, “Lady, I must go to Sivi and tell the King that I have found a loving wife.” He left with these parting words: “Now I will leave for seven nights so I can tell the mighty King of Sivi how I have started a new life with a myna.”

The myna did not want him to leave, but she was unable to deny him. She recited this stanza:

Now I give you leave for seven nights.

If you do not return to me after seven nights,

I see myself going into the grave.

I shall be dead when you return.

The parrot said, “Lady, don’t say that! If I never see you again after seven days, how can I live?”

So he spoke with his lips. But he thought in his heart, “Live or die. What do I care?”

He got up, and after flying for a short distance towards the Sivi country, he turned and headed to Mithilā. He landed on the wise man’s shoulder. The Great Being took him to the upper story where they would not be disturbed. He asked the parrot what news he brought, and the parrot told him everything. The Great Being paid him great honor just as he had before.

The Great Being thought, “If the King goes, he will be destroyed. This King has been very generous to me. If I do not help him because I hold a grudge, I will be disgraced. If I am really wise, why should he be killed? I will go to Uttarapañcāla before their King. I will see King Cūḷani, and I will make all the arrangements. I will build a fortified compound for King Vedeha. I will dig a small escape tunnel 1.5 kilometers long, and a larger tunnel 8 kilometers long. Even if we are surrounded by King Cūḷani and the 101 kings and their 18 armies, our King will marry in the safety of the compound. I will save our King just as the moon is saved from the jaws of Rāhu (Rāhu is the astronomical body that causes eclipses in Indian mythology and astrology), and we will bring him home. His safe return is in my hands.”

As he thought about this plan, joy pervaded his body, and by the power of this joy he exclaimed, “A man should always work for the interest of the house in which he is fed.”

He bathed and dressed appropriately, and then he went to the palace. Saluting the King, he stood on one side. “My lord,” he asked, “are you going to Uttarapañcāla?”

“Yes, my son. If I do not go to Pañcālacaṇḍī what meaning would my kingdom have to me? Do not abandon me. Please come with me. There are two benefits to going there. I shall gain the most precious of women, and I will establish a friendship with their King.”

Then the wise man said, “Well, my lord, let me go on ahead and build a suitable place for you to live. When it is ready, I will send word and you can come.” Then he said these stanzas:

I will go first, lord of men, to the city of Uttarapañcāla’s King,

To build dwellings for the glorious Vedeha.

When I have built dwellings for the glorious Vedeha,

Come, mighty warrior, when I send word.

On hearing this the King was pleased that Mahosadha was not going to desert him. He said, “My son, if you go on ahead, what will you need?”

“An army, sire.”

“Take as many men as you wish, my son.”

Mahosadha went on, “My lord, have the four prisons opened. Break the chains that bind the robbers, and let me also take them with me.”

“Do as you wish, my son,” he replied.

The Great Being had the prisons opened. He asked if there were mighty heroes who were willing to do their duty wherever they would be sent. He showed great favor to those who volunteered. He took 18 companies of men, masons, blacksmiths, carpenters, painters, men skilled in all sorts of arts and crafts. They brought their axes, spades, hoes, and many other tools. So with a great company, he left the city.

The Master explained it by this stanza:

Mahosadha went ahead,

To the good town of Uttarapañcāla,

To build dwellings for Vedeha the glorious.

Along the way, the Great Being built a village every 13 kilometers. He left a courtier in charge of each village. He gave them these instructions: “For the King’s return with Pañcālacaṇḍī you are to prepare elephants, horses, and chariots to fight off his enemies and to get him back to Mithilā as quickly as possible.”

When he arrived at the Ganges River, he called Ānandakumāra, and said to him, “Ānanda, take 300 shipwrights. Go to the Upper Ganges. Get choice timber and build 300 ships. Have them cut wood for the town. Fill the ships with the wood and come back as soon as you can.”

He crossed the Ganges in a ship, and from his landing place he paced out the distances, thinking, “This is 4 kilometers. This is where the great tunnel will be. Here is where we will build the fortress for our King. From this place to the palace it is 1.5 kilometers. This is where we will build the small tunnel.”

So he laid everything out, and then he entered the city.

When King Cūḷani heard of the Bodhisatta’s arrival, he was very pleased. He thought, “Now my heart’s desire will be fulfilled. Now that he is here, it will not be long before Vedeha arrives. Then will I kill them both, and there will only be one kingdom in all India.”

The whole city was in a frenzy. “This, they say, is the wise Mahosadha, who defeated the 101 kings as a crow is scared off by a stone!”

The Great Being proceeded to the palace gates while the citizens gazed at his beauty. Dismounting from the chariot, he sent word to the King. “Let him come,” the King said. He entered, greeted the King, and sat down on one side. Then the King spoke politely to him. He asked, “My son, when will your King arrive?”

“When I send for him, my lord.”

“But why have you come, then?”

“To build a place for our King to live in, my lord.”

“Good, my son.”

He made provisions for the escort, and showed great honor to the Great Being by providing a house for him. He said, “My son, until your King arrives, live here. And do what whatever you think is necessary.”

As he left the palace, he stood at the foot of the stairs, thinking, “Here would be a good place for the door of the small tunnel.” And then he thought, “The King told me to do whatever I thought necessary. I must be careful that this stairway does not collapse when we dig the tunnel.”

So he went to the King and said, “My lord, as I was leaving, I saw a fault in the great staircase. If it is all right, let me have some of my workers fix it for you.”

“Very well, my son. Do it.”

He looked over the place carefully and determined where the exit of the tunnel should be. Then he removed the staircase and arranged to have a wooden platform installed so that it would not collapse. The King unwittingly thought that this was being done as an act of goodwill.

Mahosadha spent the day overseeing the repairs. The next day he said to the King, “My lord, if you could let me know where our King is going to live, I will have it prepared for him.”

“Very well, wise sir. Choose any house you like in the city except for my palace.”

“Sire, we are strangers. You have many friends here. If we take their houses, your soldiers will fight with us. What are we to do?”

“Wise sir, do not listen to them. Choose any house you want.”

“My lord, they will come to you over and over again with complaints, and you are going to get tired of that. But if you please, let me put our men on guard instead of yours. Then you will not be bothered with complaints.”

The King agreed. The Great Being placed his own guards at the foot and head of the stairway, at the great gate, everywhere, giving orders that no one was to pass by. Then he ordered his men to go to the Queen Mother’s house and to pretend that they were going to tear it down. When they began to remove bricks and mud from the gates and walls, the Queen Mother saw what was happening and asked, “You fellows, why are you tearing down my house?”

“Mahosadha the sage wants to tear it down in order to build a palace for his King.”

“If that is so, you may live in this house. You do not have to tear it down and build a new one.”

“Our King’s retinue is very large. This place is not big enough. We need to build a larger house for him.”

“You do not know who I am. I am the Queen Mother, and now I am going to go see my son and we shall see about this.”

“We are acting on the King’s orders. Stop us if you can!”

She grew angry and said, “Now I will see what is to be done with you!” and she proceeded to the palace gate. But the soldiers would not let her go in. “Fellows, I am the King’s mother!”

“Oh, we know who you are. But the King has ordered us not to let anyone go in. Go away!”

Unable to get into the palace, she went back to her house. Then one of the men said, “What are you doing here? Go away.”

He grabbed her by the throat and threw her on the ground. She thought, “It must be the King’s command. Otherwise they would never be able to do this. I will visit the sage.”

She asked him, "Son Mahosadha, why are you tearing down my house?” He would not speak to her, but a bystander said, “What did you say, madam?”

“My son, why is the sage tearing down my house?”

“To build a dwelling for King Vedeha.”

“Why, my son! What? In this entire great city he can’t find another place to live? Take this bribe, 100,000 pieces of gold and let him build elsewhere.”

“Very well, madam. We will leave your house alone. But do not tell anyone that you have given us this bribe. We do not want people to know that they can bribe us to spare their houses.”

“My son! If anyone knew that the Queen Mother needed to bribe someone, the shame would be mine! I will not tell anyone.”

The man agreed. He took the 100,000 pieces of gold and left the house. Then he went to Kevaṭṭa’s house. Kevaṭṭa had gone to the palace gate. But when he tried to enter the palace, he was beaten on his back with bamboo sticks. He also gave 100,000 pieces of gold to keep his house from being torn down. In this way, by seizing houses all over the city and procuring bribes, they got 90 million gold pieces.

After this the Great Being went across the city and returned to the palace. The King asked him whether he had found a suitable place. “Sire,” he said, “they are all willing to give, but as soon as we take possession they are grief stricken. We do not want to be the cause of their pain. But outside the city, about 1.5 kilometers away, between the city and the Ganges, there is a place where we could build a palace for our King.”

When the King heard this, he was pleased. He thought, “Fighting inside the city is dangerous. It is impossible to tell the difference between our men and theirs. But outside the city it is easy to fight. Outside the city I will attack and kill them.”

Then he said, “Very well, my son. Build in the place that you have chosen.”

“We will, sire. But make sure that your people do not come to the place where we are building in search of firewood or food or things like that. If they do, there is sure to be trouble, and this will not be good for either of us.”

“Very well, my son. Forbid all access to that area.”

“My lord, our elephants like to splash in the water. If the water becomes muddy, the people will complain that since Mahosadha came they do not have clean water. You will have to put up with it.”

The King replied, “I understand. Let your elephants play.”

Then he proclaimed by beat of the drum, “Whoever goes to the place where the sage Mahosadha is building shall be fined 1,000 coins.”

Then the Great Being took leave of the King. With his attendants, he went out of the city. They began to build the compound on the spot he had chosen. On the other side of the Ganges he built a village called “Gaggali.” He stationed his elephants, horses, chariots, cattle, and oxen there. He organized the work and assigned everyone their tasks.

Having distributed the work for the fortified compound, he set about making the great tunnel. The mouth of the tunnel was on the bank of the Ganges. Sixty thousand warriors started digging the great tunnel. They removed the earth in leather sacks and dropped it in the river. Whenever the earth was dropped, the elephants trampled it. This made the Ganges muddy. The citizens complained that, since Mahosadha had come, they could not get clean water to drink. But the wise man’s spies told them that Mahosadha’s elephants were playing in the water and stirring up the mud, and that was why it ran muddy.

The entrance to the smaller tunnel was in the city. Seven hundred men were digging it. They brought out their earth in leather sacks and dropped in the city. As they dropped each load, they mixed it with water and used it to build a wall and other public works.

The end of the larger tunnel was also in the city. The tunnel was built up with bricks and covered with stucco. It was roofed over with planks, covered with cement, and plastered. In all there were 80 great doors and 64 small doors. The main entrance was two meters high. It was fitted with machinery so that if you pressed one peg, all of the doors opened, and if you pressed another peg, all of the doors closed. On each side there were hundreds of niches that contained lamps. They were also fitted with machinery so that when one was opened, they all opened, and when one was shut, they would all shut.

On each side of the tunnel there were 101 chambers for 101 warriors. In each chamber there were beds of various colors. Each room had a great couch shaded by a white sunshade. Each had a throne near the great couch. They all had a statue of a beautiful woman. The statues were so exquisitely executed that without touching them no one could tell whether they were human or not.

Also, in the tunnel, talented painters painted many different kinds of scenes: the splendor of (the god) Sakka, the zones of Mount Sineru, the sea and the ocean, the four continents, Himavat (the Himalayas), Lake Anotatta (a lake in the Himalayas), the Vermilion Mountain (presumably a mountain in the Himalayas), the Sun and the Moon, the heaven of the Four Great Kings with the six heavens of sense and their divisions. They could all be seen in the tunnel. The floor was covered with sand as white as a silver plate, and there were lotus flowers on the ceiling. Here and there garlands of flowers and scented blooms hung. Thus they decorated the tunnel until it was like the divine hall of Sudhamma. (Sudhamma is the city in which a previous Buddha – Sobhita – was born.)

Now those 300 wrights, having built 300 ships, loaded them with many articles that they had made. They brought them down the river and informed the sage. He used them in the city. Then he had them hide the ships in a secret place so they could be brought out when he gave the word.

In the compound, the water moat, the wall, the gate and tower, living quarters for the King and his people, the elephant stables and the water tanks were all finished. So the great tunnel, the small tunnel, and the fortified compound were finished in four months.

Now that the work was complete, the Great Being sent a messenger to the King telling him come.

When the King got the message, he was pleased. The King set out with innumerable chariots and an army in four divisions to visit the prosperous city of Uttarapañcāla.

In due time he arrived at the Ganges. The Great Being went out to meet him. He took him to the compound that he had built. The King entered the palace and ate a rich meal. And after resting a little, in the evening he sent a messenger to King Cūḷani to say that he had arrived. The message said, “Mighty King, I have come to salute your feet. Now give me that most beautiful woman - full of grace, attended by her handmaidens - in marriage.”

King Cūḷani was very excited to get the message. He thought, “My enemy has no way out now. I will cut off both their heads and drink the cup of victory!” But all he showed to the messenger was joy. He paid him respects and recited the following stanza:

Tell King Vedeha that he is welcome here.

It is good that he has arrived!

Ask for a lucky hour when we can meet,

And I will give you my daughter,

Full of grace, attended by her handmaidens.

The messenger now went back to Vedeha and said, “My lord, the King says that you should ‘select a time that is suitable for this auspicious event, and I will give you my daughter.’” He sent the man right back with the message, “This very day is a lucky hour!” And King Cūḷani responded, “I will now give you that most beautiful woman - full of grace, attended by her handmaidens - to marry.”

But in saying “I will send her now, even now,” he lied. He gave the word to the 101 kings, “Get ready for battle with your 18 mighty hosts. We will split open the heads of our two enemies and drink the cup of victory!”

He sent his mother Queen Talatā, his consort Queen Nandā, his son Pañcālacaṇḍa, and his daughter Pañcālacaṇḍī with her handmaidens to the palace to keep them safe.

The Bodhisatta treated the great army that came with King Vedeha very hospitably. Some were drinking spirits, some were eating fish and meat, and some were resting, tired from their long march. But King Vedeha along with Senaka and the other wise men sat in their seats of honor with the courtiers.

But King Cūḷani surrounded the compound in four rings with three intervals. They lit several hundred thousand torches. Then they got into position, ready to attack at sunrise.

The Great Being found out what they were doing. He gave orders to 300 of his own warriors: “Go through the small tunnel and bring the King’s mother, consort, son, and daughter out by that tunnel. Then take them into the great tunnel. But do not let them out of the great tunnel. Keep them safe there until we come. When we arrive, bring them out of the tunnel and into the compound.”

When they had received these commands, they went along the smaller tunnel. They pushed up the platform underneath the staircase. They seized all of King Cūḷani’s men and humpbacks and all the others they found there. They bound them hand and foot, gagged them, and hid them away. They ate some of the food prepared for the King, destroyed the rest, and went up to the terrace.

Now that day Queen Talatā, uncertain what might happen, had made Queen Nandā and the son and daughter stay with her in one room. The warriors stood at the door of the chamber and called to them. She came out and said, “What is it, my children?”

They said, “Madam, the King has killed Vedeha and Mahosadha. He has unified all of India. Surrounded by the 101 princes he is drinking deeply of this great glory. He has sent us to bring the four of you to him.”

They all went down to the foot of the staircase. When the men took them into the tunnel, they said, “All this time we have lived here, and we have never been here before.”

The men replied, “People do not go here every day. This is a place reserved for rejoicing, and because this is a day of rejoicing, the King told us to bring you this way.” And they believed it.

Some of the men escorted the four members of the royal family into the tunnel. Others returned to the palace where they broke open the treasury and carried off all the precious things they wanted. The four continued on through the great tunnel. It seemed to them that they were in the glorious hall of the gods. They thought that it had been built for the King. Then they were brought to a place not far from the river and placed in a fine room inside the tunnel. Some soldiers kept watch over them while others went and told the Bodhisatta that they had arrived.

“Now,” the Bodhisatta thought, “my heart’s desire shall he fulfilled.” Highly pleased, he went into the presence of King Vedeha and stood on one side. The King was anxious with desire. The King was thinking, “Now he will send his daughter, now, now.” He got up and looked out of the window. The city was one blaze of light from the thousands of torches. He was surrounded by a great army! In fear and suspicion, he cried, “What is this?” and he recited a stanza to his wise men:

Elephants, horses, chariots, footmen,

A host in armor stands there.

Torches are blazing with light,

What does this mean, wise sirs?

Senaka replied, “Do not be troubled, sire. Large numbers of torches are blazing. I presume that the King is bringing his daughter to you.”

And Pukkusa said, “No doubt he wants to show honor at your visit, and therefore he has come with a guard.”

They told him whatever they liked. But the King heard the soldiers’ commands: “Put a detachment here, set a guard there, be vigilant!” He saw the armed soldiers. He was frightened to death and desperate to hear some word from the Great Being. He recited another stanza:

Elephants, horses, chariots, footmen,

A host in armor stands there.

Torches ablaze with light.

What will they do, wise sir?

Then the Great Being thought, “I will first frighten this blind fool for a little. Then I will show my power and save him.” So he said, “Sire, the mighty Cūḷani is watching you. He is a traitor. He will kill you in the morning.”

On hearing this they were all frightened to death. The King’s throat was parched, his mouth dried up, and his body burned with fear. Frightened to death and whimpering he these stanzas:

My heart throbs, my mouth is parched, I cannot rest.

I am like one burned in the fire and then put in the sun.

As a fire that burns inwardly and is not seen outside,

So my heart burns within me and is not seen outside.

When the Great Being heard this lament, he thought, “This blind fool would not do listen to me. I will punish him still more,” and he said, “Warrior, you are careless. You do not listen to wise advice. Now let your clever advisers save you. A King who will not listen to a wise and faithful counsellor, being seduced by his own greed, is like a deer caught in a trap. Like a fish who is greedy for the bait, he does not notice the hook hidden in the meat which is wrapped around it. He does not recognize its own death. Just like you, Oh King, greedy with lust, like the fish you did not recognize Cūḷani’s daughter as your own death. ‘If you go to Uttarapañcāla,’ I said, ‘you will quickly lose your happiness.’ As a deer caught on the highway, you fell into danger. A bad man, my lord, bites like a snake in your lap. No wise man should make friends with him. Any association with a wicked man will only bring harm. Any man, my lord, who is virtuous and wise is the man with whom to be friends. Association with a good man will bring good fortune and happiness.”

Then to drive home the reproach that a good man should not be treated so badly, he recalled the words that the King had once said, and went on, “You are foolish, Oh King, deaf and dumb. You rebuked me for my good advice, asking how I could know what was good - like you people of privilege do - because I had grown up behind a plow. ‘Take that man by the neck,’ you said, ‘and cast him out of my kingdom. He is trying to keep me from getting a precious thing!’”

Having said this, he continued, “Sire, how could I, a mere yokel, know what is good like Senaka and the other wise men? That is not my calling. I only know the yokel’s trade. But this matter is known to Senaka and his peers. They are wise gentlemen. So now today let them save you from the 18 mighty armies that have you surrounded. Follow through on your threat and have them take me by the throat and cast me out. Why do you ask my advice now?”

Thus he berated him mercilessly. When the King heard all this, he thought, “The sage is reciting everything that I have done wrong. He knew long ago that this was dangerous. That is why he is rebuking me so bitterly. But I know him. He did not spend all this time doing nothing. He must have been doing something to keep me safe.”

So to reproach the sage, he recited these stanzas:

Mahosadha, the wise do not throw the past in someone’s face.

Why do you prod me like a horse who is tied up?

If you see a way to deliver me to safety, then comfort me.

But do not throw the past up against me.

Then the Great Being thought, “This King is very blind and foolish. He has poor judgment when it comes to the differences between men. I will torment him some more, and then I will save him.”

He said, “It is too late to do anything, too hard and too difficult. I cannot save you. You must figure this out yourself. There are magical, glorious elephants who can fly through the air. If you have anything like that then you can fly away on them. There are magical, glorious, horses who can fly through the air. Perhaps you could fly away on one of them. Or you might fly away with the birds, or perhaps some goblins. But it is too late to do anything, too hard and too difficult. I cannot save you, and you must figure this out for yourself.”

The King sat still without saying a word. Senaka was thinking, “There is no one who can help the King and us except for the sage. But the King is too afraid to ask him. So I will ask him.” And he made his request with these stanzas:

A man who cannot see the shore in the mighty ocean,

When he does find a place to land is full of joy.

To us and the King you, Mahosadha,

Are firm ground on which to stand.

You are the best of councilors.

Deliver us from despair.

The Great Being reproached him in this stanza:

It is too late for men to act, too hard and difficult.

I cannot save you.

You must figure this out for yourself, Senaka.

The King, unable to see a way out and terrified for his life, could not say a word to the Great Being. But thinking that perhaps Senaka had a plan, he asked him in this stanza:

Hear me. You see this great danger,

And now Senaka, I ask you,

What do you think we should do?

Senaka thought, “The King is asking for a plan, whether it is good or bad. I will give him one,” and he recited this stanza:

Let us set fire to the door.

Then let each of us take a sword,

Let us kill one another

Let’s not let Cūḷani kill us by a slow death.

The King fell into despair. Then he asked Pukkusa and the rest, who also spoke foolishly:

“Hear me. You see this great danger. Pukkusa. What do you think we should do?”

“We should all take poison and die. But do not let Cūḷani kill us by a slow and painful death.”

“Now I ask Kāvinda.”

“Let us make a noose and hang ourselves. But do not let Cūḷani kill us by a slow death.”

“Now I ask Devinda.”

“I agree with Senaka. Let us set fire to the door. Then let each of us take a sword and kill each other. I cannot save us, but I think that Mahosadha can do so easily.”

Devinda thought, “What is the King doing? Here is fire, and he is blowing on a firefly! Except Mahosadha, there is no one who can save us. Yet he stops asking him and asks us! What do we know?”

Not seeing any way out, he repeated the plan proposed by Senaka and praised the Great Being in these stanzas:

This is what I think, sire.

Let us all ask the sage.

And if despite our pleading Mahosadha will not save us,

Then let us follow Senaka’s advice.

This reminded the King of how badly he had treated the Bodhisatta. He was ashamed and unable to speak to him. He lamented, “As one that searches for sap in the plantain tree or the silk cotton tree and does not find any, so we searched for an answer to our dilemma and have not found one. Our compound is in a bad place, like elephants in a place where there is no water. I am with worthless men and fools that know nothing. My heart aches, my mouth is parched, I cannot rest. I am like someone burned in the fire and then put out in the sun. As the fire that burns inwardly and is not seen outside, so my heart burns inside and is not seen outside.”

Then the sage thought, “The King is quite upset. If I do not console him, his heart will break and he will die.”

Then the wise sage Mahosadha, knowing what is good, when he saw how miserable King Vedeha was, he said to him. “Fear not, Oh King, fear not, lord of chariots. I will set you free like the moon when it is caught by Rāhu or the sun when it is caught by Rāhu. Like an elephant stuck in the mud, like a snake shut up in a basket, like a fish caught in a net, I will set you free with your chariots and your army. I will scare away Uttarapañcāla just as a crow is scared off by a stone. What good would I be if I cannot set you free when you are in trouble?”

When he heard this, The King was comforted. “Now my life is safe!” he thought. All of them were elated when the Bodhisatta spoke out like a lion. Then Senaka asked, “Wise sir, how will we get away?”

“By a magnificent tunnel,” he said. “Get ready.”

He turned and gave word to his men to open the tunnel.

“Come, men. Open up the entrance. The King and his court are ready to go through the tunnel.”

They rose up and opened the door of the tunnel. The inside of the tunnel shone in a blaze of light like the decorated hall of the gods.

He said to the King, “Quickly, my lord! Come down from the terrace." The King came down. Senaka took off his headdress and loosened his gown. The Great Being asked him why he did that. He replied, “Wise sir, when a man goes through a tunnel, he must take off his turban and wrap his clothes tightly around him.”

The Great Being replied, “Senaka, do not assume that you must crawl through the tunnel on your knees. If you wish to go in on an elephant, then mount your elephant. Our tunnel is huge. It is tall. It has a wide door. Dress however you want and go in front of the King.”

Then the Bodhisatta made Senaka go into the tunnel first. He went last and the King was in the middle. The reason they did this was that the tunnel was full of food and drink. The men wanted to stop and eat and drink as they gazed at the marvelous tunnel.” But the Great Being went behind urging the King to press on.

Now when the men in the tunnel saw the King coming, they gathered the other King’s mother, wife, son, and daughter. When these four saw the King and the sage, they were frightened to death. They shrieked in fear, “We are in the hands of our enemies! It must have been the wise man’s soldiers who came for us!” Then they were taken out of the tunnel and into the great courtyard of the compound. The King and the Bodhisatta followed them out.

Meanwhile King Cūḷani heard their outcry in the quiet of the night. He wanted to say, “It sounds like the voice of Queen Nandā!” But he was afraid that he might be laughed at for thinking such a thing, so he said nothing.

The Great Being placed Princess Pañcālacaṇḍi on a pile of treasure and administered the ceremonial sprinkling as he said, “Sire, here is the woman for whom you came. Let her be your Queen!”

They brought the 300 ships out from their hiding place. The King went from the wide courtyard and boarded a ship that was richly decorated. The four went on board with him.

Mahosadha thus encouraged him: “This is your father-in-law (It was actually his new brother-in-law. The brother takes the place of the absent father-in-law.), my lord. This is your mother-in-law, oh master of men. As you would treat your mother, so treat your mother-in-law. As a brother by the same father and mother, so protect Pañcālacaṇḍa, oh lord of chariots. Pañcālacaṇḍī is a royal princess. She was desired by many. Now she is your wife, oh lord of chariots.”

The King consented. But why did the Great Being say nothing about the Queen mother? Because she was an old woman. (It is not clear what this means. Perhaps as an old woman she was automatically entitled to be kept safe and treated with respect.)

Now the Bodhisatta said all this while he was still standing on the bank. The King, having been delivered from the great danger, wanted to set off as quickly as possible in the ship. He said, “My son, you are standing on the shore,” and he recited this stanza:

Come aboard quickly.

Why do you stand on the bank?

We have been delivered from danger and trouble.

Now, Mahosadha, let us go.

The Great Being replied, “My lord, it is not fitting that I, the leader of an army, should desert my army. I will bring out the army that is left in the town, and I will bring them away with the consent of King Cūḷani.”

“Among our soldiers, some are sleeping because they are exhausted from their long journey, some are eating and drinking. Some are sick because they worked so hard for me for four months, and there are many of my assistants. I cannot go if I leave a single man behind. No, I will return only with that army. And I will bring it with Cūḷani‘s consent, without any fighting. But you, sire, should go as quickly as possible. Do not linger anywhere. I have stationed relays of elephants and horses and chariots along the road so that you may leave behind those that are tired. And with fresh animals you may return quickly to Mithilā.”

Then the King recited a stanza:

A small army against a great one,

How will you prevail?

The weak will be destroyed by the strong, wise sir!

Then the Bodhisatta recited a stanza:

A small army with wise counsel

Conquers a large army that has none.

One King conquers many,

Just as the rising sun conquers the darkness.

With these words, the Great Being saluted the King and sent him away. The King remembering how he had been delivered from the hands of enemies, and by winning the princess had attained his heart’s desire, reflected on the Bodhisatta’s virtues. He described in joy and delight the wise man’s virtues to Senaka in this stanza:

Happiness truly comes, Oh Senaka, by living with the wise.

As birds from a closed cage, as fish from a net,

Mahosadha set us free

When we were in the hands of my enemies.

To this Senaka replied with another stanza, also praising the sage:

Even so, sire, there is happiness among the wise.

As birds from a closed cage, as fish from a net,

Mahosadha set us free

When we were in the hands of our enemies.

Then King Vedeha crossed over the river. 5.5 kilometers away he found the village that the Bodhisatta had prepared. The men posted by the Bodhisatta were waiting with fresh elephants and horses and chariots. They gave them food and drink. Then they went on to the next village. In this way the King made the journey of 550 kilometers, and by the next morning he was in Mithilā.

At the same time the Bodhisatta went back to the great tunnel. He drew his sword, which was slung over his shoulder, and buried it in the sand. Then he bathed in scented water and ate a wonderful meal and retired to his couch. He was pleased that the desire of his heart had been fulfilled.

The mighty Cūḷani watched all night, and at sunrise he approached the compound. Mounting his noble elephant, Cūḷani, mighty King of Uttarapañcāla, addressed his army. He was fully armed and wore a jeweled harness. He had an arrow in his hand. There were men mounted on elephants, charioteers, footmen, men skilled in archery, bowmen, all gathered together.

Now the King commanded them to take Vedeha alive:

“Send the mighty, tusked elephants. Let them trample down the city that Vedeha built. Let the arrows fly this way and that way. Propelled by the bow, arrows like the teeth of calves, sharp-pointed, will pierce their bones. Let heroes come forth clad in armor, with weapons finely decorated, bold and heroic, ready to face an elephant. Spears bathed in oil, their points glittering like fire, stand gleaming like the constellation of a hundred stars. With such heroes, with mighty weapons, clad in mail and armor, men who never run away, how shall Vedeha escape even if he can fly like a bird? My 39,000 warriors, all hand-picked men, whose like has never been seen before, are my mighty host. See the mighty, decorated, tusked elephants on whose backs are the brilliant and good princes. They are like the gods in Nandana (paradise), with glorious ornaments, glorious dress and robes. Their swords are the color of the sheat-fish (Silurus Boalis), well oiled, glittering, held fast by mighty men, well-finished, very sharp, shining, spotless, made of steel, strong. The swords are held by mighty men who strike and strike again. In golden trappings and blood-red belts they gleam as they turn like lightning in a thick cloud. Mailed heroes with banners waving, skilled in the use of sword and shield, grasping the hilt, accomplished soldiers, mighty fighters on elephant-back. Surrounded by men like this there is no escape. I see no power by which Vedeha can escape.”

Thus he threatened Vedeha, thinking to capture him then and there. Goading his elephant, he ordered the army to seize and strike and kill. King Cūḷani came like a flood to King Vedeha’s fortified compound.

Then the Great Being’s men thought, “Who knows what will happen?” and they surrounded him in order to protect him. Just then the Bodhisatta rose from his bed and attended to his bodily needs. After breakfast he adorned and dressed himself, putting on his kāsi robe worth 100,000 pieces of gold. With his red robe over one shoulder and holding his ceremonial staff inlaid with the seven precious jewels, with golden sandals on his feet, and being fanned with an oxtail fan like some divine nymph richly arrayed, he went up on the terrace.

He opened a window so that King Cūḷani could see him. He walked back and forth with the grace of the king of the gods. And King Cūḷani, seeing his beauty, was disturbed to see him there. He drove his elephant quickly thinking that he should take him now. The sage thought, “He has hurried here expecting to catch Vedeha. He does not know that his own children have been taken and that our King is gone. I will show my face like a golden mirror and speak to him.”

So standing at the window, he uttered these words in a voice as sweet as honey, “Why have you driven your elephant up in such a hurry? You come with a happy look. You think that you have gotten what you want. Throw down that bow, put away that arrow, take off that shining armor set with jewels and coral.”

When he heard the man’s voice, he thought, “That yokel is making fun of me. But today I will do with him as I wish.” Then he threatened him, saying, “You look pleased with yourself. You speak with a smile. It is only in the hour of death that such beauty is seen.”

As they talked together, the soldiers noticed the Great Being’s beauty. “Our King,” they said, “is talking with wise Mahosadha. I wonder what they are talking about? Let us move in closer so we can hear what they are saying.”

So they moved in closer to the King. But the sage, when the King had finished speaking, replied, “You do not know that I am the wise Mahosadha. I will not let you kill me. Your plan has failed. The plan that you and Kevaṭṭa devised has not come to pass.” And he explained this by saying, “Your blustering is in vain, Oh King! Your plan has failed, man of war! My King is as hard for you to catch as a thoroughbred horse. Our King crossed the Ganges yesterday with his courtiers and attendants. You will be like a crow trying to chase the royal goose.”

Again, like a maned lion without fear, he gave an illustration in these words:

“Jackals in the night time see the Judas tree in flower and think the flowers are lumps of meat. They gather in troops, these vilest of beasts. When the watches of the night are past and the sun has risen, they see the Judas tree in flower and lose their wish, those vilest of beasts. Even so you, Oh King, for all that you have surrounded Vedeha, shall lose your wish and go, just as the jackals abandon the Judas tree.”

When the King heard his fearless words, he thought, “That yokel is bold in his speech. There can be no doubt that Vedeha has escaped.”

He was very angry. “Long ago,” he thought, “through this yokel I barely had a rag to cover me. Now my enemy was in my hands, but because of him, he has escaped. Truly he has caused me a great deal of suffering, and I will get revenge on him for what he has done.”

Then he gave orders as follows:

“This man delivered my enemy Vedeha from my hands. Cut off his hands and feet, ears and nose. Cut off his flesh and cook it on skewers. As a bull’s hide is spread out on the ground, or a lion’s or tiger’s fastened flat with pegs, so I will peg him out and stab him with spikes, for he delivered my enemy Vedeha from my hands.”

The Great Being smiled when he heard this. He thought, “This King does not know that his Queen and family are in Mithilā. He is giving all these orders about me. But in his anger, he might shoot me with an arrow or do something else to make him feel better. I must overwhelm him with pain and sorrow. I will make him faint on his elephant’s back when I tell him what has happened.”

So he said, “If you cut off my hands and feet, my ears and nose, King Vedeha will do the same to Pañcālacaṇḍa, Pañcālacaṇḍī, and Queen Nandā, your wife and children. If you cut off my flesh and cook it on skewers, so King Vedeha will cook the flesh of Pañcālacaṇḍa, Pañcālacaṇḍī, and Queen Nandā, your wife and children. If you peg me out and pierce me with spikes, King Vedeha will do the same to Pañcālacaṇḍa, Pañcālacaṇḍi, and Queen Nandā, your wife and children. King Vedeha and I made this arrangement before he left. This arrangement is like as a leather shield with a hundred layers, carefully wrought by the leather workers. It is a defense to keep off your arrows. In this way I have brought happiness and prevented sorrow for glorious King Vedeha, and I fend off your hostility as a shield keeps off an arrow.”

Hearing this, the King thought, “What is this yokel talking about? As I do to him, King Vedeha will do likewise to my family? He does not know that I put a guard on my family. He is only threatening me to prevent his instant death. I don't believe what he says.”

The Great Being could tell that the King was speaking from fear. So he explained the situation.

“Come, sire. See that your inner apartments are empty. Your wife, children, and mother, oh warrior, were carried through a tunnel and put under the control of King Vedeha.”

The King thought, “The sage speaks with a lot of self-assurance. Last night I did hear the voice of Queen Nandā coming from the Ganges. The sage is very clever. Perhaps he is telling the truth!”

He was overcome with grief. But not succumbing to his grief, he gathered up all of his courage. He sent a messenger to check the apartments. He said to him, “Go. Enter my inner apartments and see whether the man’s words are true.”

The messenger went with his attendants. They opened the door and entered. There he discovered the sentries of the inner apartments along with the dwarfs and hunchbacks. They had their hands and feet bound. They had gags in their mouths and were hanging from pegs. There were broken vessels, food, and drink scattered about. The doors of the treasury were broken open and the treasure had been plundered. A tribe of crows had come in by the open windows. It was like a deserted village or a graveyard. The palace was a mess.

He went back and reported this news to the King. He said, “Sire, just as Mahosadha told you, the inner palace is empty, like a waterside village inhabited by crows.”

The King trembled with grief at the loss of his four dear ones. He said, “This catastrophe is the fault of this yokel!” Like a snake that has been hit with a stick, he was exceedingly angry with the Bodhisatta. When the Great Being saw him, he thought, “This King is very powerful. If he gets anger enough, from a warrior’s pride he might hurt me. Suppose I describe to him the beauty of Queen Nandā, as if he has seen her. Then he will remember her. Then he will understand that he will never get this precious woman back if he kills me. Then out of love for her, he will not harm me.”

So standing there in the upper story, he removed his hand from beneath his red robe and pointed in the direction in which she went. He described her beauties in this way:

“It was this way, sire, where your beautiful woman went. Her lips are like plates of gold. Her voice sounds like the music of the wild goose. She was taken this way, sire, the woman who is beautiful in every limb, dressed in silk, dark, with a sash of gold. Her feet are fair to see, with ornaments of gold and jewels. She has lips the color of bimba fruit (also called ‘scarlet gourd’). She has a slender waist like a vine. Her hair is long, black, and a little curled at the end. She is well-born, like a fawn, like a flame of fire in winter time. She is a river hidden in the chasm of a mountain under the low reeds. Her nose is petite and beautiful. She is peerless, with breasts like the tindook fruit (persimmon).”

As the Great Being praised her grace, it was as if King had never really seen her before. He felt a great longing for his Queen and wife. The Great Being sensed this and said, “If you are willing for Nandā to die, glorious King, then she and I will go before Yama (the god of death) together.”

In his speech the Great Being praised Nandā and no one else. The reason for this is that people never love someone else as much as they do a beloved wife. He only praised her, because he thought that if the King remembered her, he would also remember his children. When the wise Great Being praised her in this honeyed voice, Queen Nandā seemed to stand there right in front of the King.

Then the King thought, “No one but Mahosadha can bring back my wife and give her to me.” As he remembered her, he was overcome with sorrow. Then the Great Being said, “Do not worry, sire. Your Queen and son and mother shall all come back. You only have to ensure that I return safely. Rest assured, your majesty!”

The King said, “I watched and guarded my own city so carefully. I surrounded this compound with such a vast army. Yet this wise man managed to take my guarded Queen and son and mother out of the city and hand them over to Vedeha! All this happened while we were besieging the compound. He did this without a single person finding out. And then he sent Vedeha away with his army and all of his equipment! Does he know magic or how to fool the eyes?”

And he put this question to him:

“Do you study magic or have you bewitched my eyes. Is this how you delivered my enemy Vedeha from my hands?”

On hearing this, the Great Being said, “Sire, I do know magic, for wise men who know magic can save themselves and others when danger comes. I have young men who are clever at breaking barriers. The passage that they built for me is how Vedeha escaped to Mithilā.”

This implied that Vedeha had gone through a tunnel, so the King said, “Where is this passage?” and he said that he wanted to see it. The Great Being offered to show it to him.

“Come see, Oh King, a tunnel that is well made. It is big enough for elephants or horses, chariots, or foot soldiers. It is brightly lit, a tunnel well built.”

Then he went on, “Sire, come see the tunnel that was made from my plan. It is as bright as though both the sun and moon rose inside of it, decorated. There are 80 large doors and 64 small ones. There are 101 bedchambers and many hundreds of lamp niches. Come with me in joy and delight and enter the compound with your guard.”

With these words he had the city gate thrown open. The King with his 101 princes came in. The Great Being descended from the upper story and saluted the King. He led him and his retinue into the tunnel. When the King saw this tunnel like a decorated city of the gods, he spoke in praise of the Bodhisatta.

“It is a great gain for Vedeha to have in his house or kingdom men as wise as you are, Mahosadha!”

The King went into the tunnel first. The wise man went after him, and then the soldiers entered the tunnel. The Great Being showed him the 101 bedchambers. He showed him how opening one door opened all of the doors.

When the King emerged from the tunnel, the Great Being kept the rest of them from coming out by shutting and locking the tunnel door. This caused the 80 large doors and the 64 small ones and the doors of the 101 bedchambers and the doors of the hundreds of lamp niches to all shut together. The whole tunnel became as dark as hell. All of the people who were trapped in the tunnel were terrified.

Now the Great Being took the sword that he had hidden yesterday. He leaped high into the air, and when he landed he brought the sword down on the King’s arm. The he swung the sword around, frightening the King. He cried, “Sire, to whom do all the kingdoms of India belong?”

“They are yours, wise sir! Spare me!” He replied.

“Have no fear, sire. I did not take up my sword to kill you. I did it only to show my wisdom.”

Then he handed his sword to the King. When he had taken it, the Great Being said, “If you want to kill me, sire, kill me now with that sword. But if you want to spare me, spare me.”

“Wise sir,” he replied. “I promise you safety. Have no fear.”

And as he held the sword, they both struck up a sincere friendship.

Then the King said to the Bodhisatta, “Wise sir, with your wisdom, why don’t you just take over the kingdom?”

“Sire, if I wanted to, I could take over all of the kingdoms of India, and I could kill all of the kings. But it is not wise for a man to gain glory by killing others.”

“Wise sir, many people are stuck in the tunnel. Because they cannot get out, they are in great fear. Please open the tunnel door and spare their lives.”

He opened the door. The entire tunnel became a blaze of light. The people were greatly relieved. All of the kings and their courtiers came out and approached the sage. He was standing in the wide courtyard with the King. Then those Kings said, “Wise sir, you have spared our lives. If the door had remained shut for just a little while longer, we would have all died there.”

“My lords, this is not the first time your lives have been saved by me.”

"What do you mean, wise sir?”

“Do you remember when all of the kingdoms of India had been conquered except for our city and you went to the park of Uttarapañcāla ready to drink the cup of victory?”

“Yes, wise sir.”

“Then this King with Kevaṭṭa with evil intentions poisoned the drink and the food. He intended to murder you. But I did not want you to die such a foul death. So I sent in my men. They broke all the vessels and sabotaged their plan, giving you your lives.”

Fearfully they asked Cūḷani, “Is this true, sire?”

“Indeed. What I did was because of Kevaṭṭa’s advice. The sage speaks the truth.”

Then they all embraced the Great Being and said, “Wise sir, you have saved us all. You have saved our lives.”

They showered him with gifts out of gratitude. The sage said to the King, “Do not worry, sire. This is the fault of a wicked friend. Ask the kings to forgive you.”

The King said, “I did this because of the advice of a wicked man. It was my fault for listening to him. Please forgive me. I will never do such a terrible thing again.”

The kings forgave him. They confessed their faults to each other, and they all became friends. Then the King sent for food, perfumes, and garlands, and for seven days they celebrated in the great tunnel. Then they went back into the city and honored the Great Being. The King sat on his great throne surrounded by the 101 princes. He wanted to keep the sage in his court as his adviser. He said, “I will support and honor you. I will double your allowance of food and money. I will give you many great boons. Now enjoy our food and hospitality. But please, do not return to King Vedeha. What can he do for you?”

But the sage declined with these words:

“When one deserts a patron, sire, for the sake of gain, it is a disgrace to both oneself and the patron. While King Vedeha lives, I could not be in service to another man. While King Vedeha remains, I could not live in another’s kingdom.”

Then the King said to him, “Well, sir, when your King passes on to his next life, promise me to come here then.”

“If I live that long, sire, I will come.”

So the King held a festival in his honor for seven days. After that, as he prepared to leave the King said, “I give you 1,000 gold coins, 80 villages in Kāsi, 400 female slaves, and 100 wives. Take your army and go in peace, Mahosadha.”

He replied, “Sire, do not worry about your family. When my King went back to his country, I told him to treat Queen Nandā as he would his own mother and Pañcālacaṇḍa as his younger brother, and I married your daughter to him with the ceremonial sprinkling. I will soon send your mother, wife, and son back to you.”

“Good!” said the King. He gave him a dowry for his daughter to give to King Vedeha. This included men slaves and women slaves, fine clothing and ornaments, gold and precious metal, decorated elephants and horses and chariots. Then he gave orders for the army to execute: “Provide them with double rations for the elephants and horses and provide food and drink for the charioteers and footmen.”

Then he dismissed the sage with these words, “Go, wise sir. Take the elephants, horses, chariots, and footmen and go to King Vedeha in Mithilā.”

Saying this he dismissed the sage with great honor. And the 101 kings honored the Great Being and gave him rich gifts. The spies who had been on service with the Kings surrounded the sage, and with this great company he set out. While he was traveling he sent out men to collect the revenues of the villages that King Cūḷani had given him. Then he arrived at the kingdom of King Vedeha.

Now Senaka had ordered a man to keep watch in case King Cūḷani was on his way. He saw the Great Being when he was 15 kilometers from the city. He reported this news to the palace. The King also saw the great host from the top story of the palace. He was frightened. “The Great Being’s company is small, but this following is very large. Is this King Cūḷani on his way? Elephants, horses, chariots, footmen. There is a great army with four divisions. It looks quite menacing. What does this mean, wise sirs?”

Senaka replied, “What you are seeing, sire, is a cause for great joy. Mahosadha is safe, and he is returning with all of his men.”

The King replied, “But Senaka, the wise man’s army is small, this is a very large entourage.”

“Sire, King Cūḷani must have been pleased with him and given him all that you see.”

Then the King proclaimed throughout the city by the beat of the drum, “Let the city be decorated to welcome the return of the wise man.”

The townspeople obeyed. The wise man entered the city and went to the King’s palace. The King rose and embraced him. Returning to his throne he spoke pleasantly to him, “As four men leave a corpse in the cemetery, so we left you in Uttarapañcāla. Yet you returned. How did you manage this?!”

The Great Being replied, “By determination, King Vedeha, I overcame them. I outdid their plan with my plan, oh warrior, and I surrounded the King just as the ocean surrounds India.”

The King was pleased. Then Mahosadha told him about the gift that King Cūḷani had given him. “He gave me 1,000 gold coins, 80 villages in Kāsi, 400 slave women, and 100 wives. And I have returned with the entire army safe and intact.”

Then the King, exceedingly pleased and overjoyed, uttered this pious hymn in praise of the Great Being’s merit, “Happiness truly comes by living with the wise. As birds from a closed cage, as fish from a net, so Mahosadha set us free when we were in the hands of our enemies.”

Senaka responded, “Even so, sire, there is happiness with a wise man. As birds from a closed cage, as fish from the net, so Mahosadha set us free when we were in the hands of our enemies.”

Then the King ordered that the drum of festival should be beaten around the city. “Let there be a festival for seven days, and let all who have goodwill toward me pay homage to the wise man. Let them sound the lutes, drums, and flutes, sound the trumpets, and merrily roll the kettledrums.”

The townsfolk and countryfolk were eager to honor to the sage. When they heard the proclamation, they celebrated enthusiastically. Women and maids, low-born and brahmin wives brought food and drink to the sage. Elephant drivers, lifeguardsmen, charioteers, footmen, all did likewise, and so did all the people from the country and villages. Everyone was glad to see the sage had returned safely, and at his reception they waved banners in the air.

At the end of the festival, the Great Being went to the palace and said, “Sire, King Cūḷani’s mother, wife, and son should be sent back at once.”

“Very well, my son. Send them back.”

So he showed respect to those three. He also entertained everyone who had come with them. He sent the three back with his own men, plus the 100 wives and the 400 slave women whom the King had given to him.

When this great company reached the city of Uttarapañcāla, the King asked his mother, “Did King Vedeha treat you well, my mother?”

“My son, what are you saying? He treated me with the same honor as if I had been a goddess.”

Then she told him how Queen Nandā had been treated as a mother and Pañcālacaṇḍa as a younger brother. This pleased the King very much. He sent King Vedeha a rich gift, and from that time forward they lived in friendship and harmony.

Pañcālacaṇḍī was very dear and precious to King Vedeha. In the second year she gave birth to a son. Then ten years later King Vedeha died. The Bodhisatta raised the royal parasol for the son (his coronation) and asked his permission to go to his grandfather, King Cūḷani. The boy said, “Wise sir, do not leave me while I am still so young. I will honor you as a father.”

And Pañcālacaṇḍī said, “Wise sir, there will be no one to protect us if you go. Please do not go.”

But he replied, “I have given my word. I must go.”

So amidst the sadness of the people, he left with his servants and went to Uttarapañcāla.

The King heard of his arrival and went out to greet him. He led him into the city with great fanfare. He gave him a great house. In addition to the 80 villages he had already given him, he gave him an additional gift. And Mahosadha served that King.


At that time there was a religious woman named “Bherī.” She would often eat her meals at the palace. She was wise and learned. She had never seen the Great Being before. She heard that the wise Mahosadha was now serving the King. He had also never seen her before, but he heard that a religious woman named “Bherī” often ate at the palace.

Now Queen Nandā still harbored a grudge against the Bodhisatta because he had separated her from her husband and caused her hardship. So she sent for five women whom she trusted. She said to them, “Watch for any fault in the wise man. Let us try to create a rift between him and the King.”

So they set about trying to find fault with him.

One day this religious woman was just leaving the palace after her meal. She saw the Bodhisatta in the courtyard. He was on his way to see the King. He saluted her and stood still. She thought, “They say this is a wise man. I will see whether he is wise or not.”

So she asked him a question by gesturing with her hand. Looking towards the Bodhisatta, she opened her hand. This was her way of asking whether the King took good care of him. When the Bodhisatta saw that she was asking him a question by gesturing, he answered it by opening his fist. This meant that the King brought me here in fulfillment of a promise, and now he keeps his promise and takes good care of me.”

She understood. Then she stretched out her hand as she rubbed her head. This was to say, “Wise sir, why don’t you become an ascetic like me?”

At this the Great Being stroked his stomach. This meant that there were many people that he had to support, and that is why he did not become an ascetic.”

After this questioning she returned to her home, and the Great Being went to see the King.

Now the Queen’s confidantes saw all this from a window. They went to the King and said, “My lord, Mahosadha is plotting with Bherī to seize your kingdom. He is your enemy.”

“What have you heard or seen?” the King asked.

They said, "Sire, as the ascetic was going out after her meal, she saw the Great Being. She opened her hand as if to say, ‘Cannot you crush the King flat like the palm of the hand or a threshing floor and seize the kingdom for yourself?’ And Mahosadha opened his fist as though he were taking up a sword, as if to say, ‘In a few days I will take the city into my power.’ She signaled back, ‘Cut off his head,’ by rubbing her own head with her hand. The Great Being signaled, ‘I will cut him in two,’ by rubbing his belly. Be vigilant, sire! Mahosadha should be put to death.”

The King thought, “I cannot hurt this wise man. I will question the ascetic.”

On the next day at the time of her meal, he went to her and asked, “Madam, have you seen wise Mahosadha?”

“Yes, sire. I saw him yesterday as I was leaving after my meal.”

“Did you talk to him?”

“No. But I had heard about his wisdom, and in order to test him I used gestures to ask whether the King was generous with him or stingy. Did he treat him with kindness or not. He opened his fist, implying that his master had made him come here in fulfilment of a promise, and now he keeps his promise. Then I rubbed my head to ask why he did not become an ascetic. He stroked his belly meaning that there were many people for him to feed, many bellies to fill, and therefore he did not become an ascetic.’

“And is Mahosadha a wise man?”

“Yes, indeed, sire. In all the earth there is not anyone like him for wisdom.”

After hearing her account, the King dismissed her. After she left, the sage went to wait upon the King. The King asked him, “Have you seen, sir, the ascetic Bherī?”

“Yes, sire. I saw her yesterday on her way out. She asked me a question by gesturing with her hands, and I answered her at once.”

And he told the story as she had done. The King in his pleasure that day made him the commander-in-chief of the army. He put him in sole charge. His power was great. It was second only to the King’s. But he thought, “The King suddenly gave me this great power. This is often what kings do even when they wish to kill someone. Suppose I test the King to see whether he has goodwill towards me or not. The only one who can find this out is the ascetic Bherī. She is very wise, and she will find a way.”

So he took some flowers and perfumes and went to the ascetic. After saluting her, he said, “Madam, ever since you told the King of my merits, the King has overwhelmed me with splendid gifts. But I am not sure if he is sincere or not. It would help me greatly if you can find out what the King’s true intentions are.”

She promised to do so. And on the next day as she was going to the palace, the Question of Dakarakkhasa the Water Demon popped into her mind. Then she thought, “I must not act like a spy, but I must find an opportunity to ask the question and discover whether the King has good intentions toward the wise man.”

After her meal, the King saluted her and sat down on one side. Then she thought, “If the King bears ill will to the sage, when he is asked the question, if he declares his ill will in the presence of a number of people, that will not do. I will ask him privately.”

She said, “Sire, I wish to speak to you in private.”

The King sent his attendants away. She said, “I want to ask your majesty a question.”

“Ask, madam, and if I can answer it then I will reply.”

Then she recited the first stanza in the Question of Dakarakkhasa:

“If there were seven of you sailing on the ocean and a demon who was looking for a human sacrifice seized the ship, in what order would you give them up and save yourself from the water demon?”

The King answered, “First I would give my mother, next my wife, next my brother, fourth my friend, fifth my brahmin, and sixth myself. But I would not give up Mahosadha.”

In this way the ascetic discovered the goodwill of the King towards the Great Being. But his merit was not acknowledged publicly, so she thought of something else, “When there are many people gathered, I will praise the merits of the six, and the King will praise the wise man’s merit instead. This will make the wise man’s merit as clear as the moon shining in the sky.”

So she collected all the people in the inner palace and asked the same question and received the same answer. Then she said, “Sire, you say that you would give up your mother first. But a mother is of great merit, and your mother is not like other mothers. She is very useful.” And she recited her merits in a couple of stanzas:

She reared you and she gave birth to you,

And for a long time was kind to you.

When Chambhī tried to kill you

She was wise and did what was for your good,

And by putting an imposter in your place

She saved you from harm.

Such a mother, who gave you life,

Your own mother who bore you in her womb,

For what fault could you give her to the water demon?

(King Cūḷani’s father was named “MahāCūḷani.” When the child was young, the mother committed adultery with the priest Chambhī, then poisoned her husband and made Chambī the King in his place.

As the boy grew older, Chambī was afraid that he was too clever, and that the boy might take the kingdom away from him. He told the Queen that he was going to kill the boy. The Queen plotted to have the cook and the cook’s son - who was Cūḷani’s best friend - burn down the kitchen and run away. They left behind three piles of goat bones that she hoped people would think were the cook, his son, and Cūḷani.

The plan worked, and Cūḷani was raised safely in another kingdom.)

To this the King replied, “My mother has many virtues, and I acknowledge my debt to her,” and then he described her faults in a couple of stanzas:

Like a young girl she wears jewelry that she should not use,

She ruthlessly mocks the doorkeepers and guards,

She sends secret messages to rival kings,

And for these faults I would give her to the water demon.

“So be it, sire. Yet your wife also has much merit,” and she declared her merit in this way,

She is chief among all the women in the kingdom,

She is gracious in her speech, devoted and virtuous.

She clings to you like your shadow.

She is not given to anger,

She is prudent and wise,

She sees the good in you

For what fault would you give her to the water-demon?

He described her faults:

By her beauty she has made me subject to evil influence.

She asks for too much for her sons.

In my passion I give her too many gifts.

I give her what is very hard to give,

And afterwards I am bitterly sorry.

For that fault I would give my wife to the water demon.

The ascetic said, “Be it so. But your younger brother, Prince Tikhiṇamantī, is useful to you. For what fault would you give him up?”

He gave prosperity to the people,

And when you were living in foreign lands

He brought you back home.

He could not be corrupted by great wealth

He is a peerless bowman and hero, Tikhiṇamantī.

For what fault would you give him to the water demon?

(Tikhiṇamantī was born while his mother was living with the brahmin. One day the brahmin gave him a sword and told him to use the sword to “stand by him.”

Tikhiṇamantī thought that the brahmin was his father. But one of the courtiers told him that King MahāCūḷani was his real father. He was angry, and he determined to find a way to kill the brahmin.

One day he conspired with a servant to pretend to argue over who owned the sword. When the brahmin tried to intervene in the dispute, Tikhiṇamantī used the sword to cut off the brahmin’s head. This made Tikhiṇamantī King. But then his mother told him how prince Cūḷani was hiding in another kingdom, whereupon the prince went there with an army and brought back his brother and made him King.)

The King described his fault:

He thinks, “I gave prosperity to the people,

And I brought him back home when he was living in exile.

Great wealth cannot corrupt me.

I am a peerless bowman and a hero,

I give wise counsel, and because of me he was made King."

But he does not come to wait on me, madam, as he used to.

For that fault I would give him to the water demon.

The ascetic said, “So much for your brother’s fault. But your friend Prince Dhanusekhavā is devoted in his love for you, and he is very useful.” And she described his merit:

You and Dhanusekhavā were born on the same night.

You have been friends and companions all your life.

He has followed you, your joy and pain were his.

He has served you tirelessly night and day

For what fault would you give him to the water demon?

Then the King described his fault:

Madam, through all my life he used to make merry with me,

And now he takes liberties with our friendship.

If I talk in secret with my wife,

He comes in uninvited and unannounced.

Give him a chance and an opening,

And he acts shamelessly and disrespectfully.

For that fault I would give him to the water demon.

The ascetic said, “So much for his fault. But the priest is very useful to you,” and she described his merit:

He is clever, he knows all omens and sounds,

He is skilled in signs and dreams, comings and goings.

He understands the meaning in the earth and air and stars.

For what fault would you give him to the water demon?

The King explained his fault:

Even in company he stares at me with open eyes.

For this fault I would give this rascal

With his puckered brows to the water demon.

(Apparently it is not polite to stare at the King!)

Then the ascetic said, “Sire, you say you would give these five to the water demon and that you would give your own life for the wise Mahosadha. Why would you do this?” and she recited these stanzas:

Sire, you live with your courtiers

In a great continent surrounded by the sea,

With the ocean like an encircling wall.

You are the lord of the earth, with a mighty empire,

Victorious, sole emperor, your glory is great.

You have 16,000 women dressed in jewels and ornaments,

Women of all nations, resplendent like divine maidens.

You have been provided for every need,

Every desire is fulfilled,

You have lived long in happiness and bliss.

Then by what reason or what cause

Do you sacrifice your precious life to protect the sage?

On hearing this, he recited the following stanzas in praise of the wise man’s merit:

Since Mahosadha, madam, came to me,

I have not seen him do the most trifling wrong.

If I should die before him at any time,

He would bring happiness to my sons and grandsons.

He knows all things, past or future.

This man is without fault.

I would not give him to the water demon.

Then the ascetic thought, “This is not enough to show the wise man’s merits. I will make them known to all of the people in the city, like one who spreads scented oil over the surface of the sea.”

So she took the King with her, and they left the palace. She prepared a seat in the palace courtyard and had him sit there. She gathered the people together, and once again she asked the King the Question of the Water Demon. And when he had answered it as described above, she addressed the people in this way, “People of Uttarapañcāla, hear what King Cūḷani has said. To protect the wise man, he would sacrifice his mother’s life, his wife’s, his brother’s, his friend’s life, and his own. The power of wisdom is so marvelous, so clever and so intelligent for good in this world and for happiness in the next.”

So like one that places the topmost ornament on a heap of treasure, she put the crowning jewel on her demonstration of the Great Being’s merit.

Here ends the Question of the Water Demon, and here also ends the tale of the Great Tunnel.


His lesson ended, the Master identified the birth by saying, “Uppalavaṇṇī was Bherī, Suddhodana (the Buddha’s father) was the wise man’s father, Mahāmāyā his mother (the Buddha’s biological mother), the beautiful Bimbā was Amarā, Ānanda was the parrot, and Sāriputta was Cūḷani-Brahmadatta. Devadatta (the Buddha’s nemesis) was Kevaṭṭa, Cullanandikā was Talatā, Sundarī (the Buddha’s half-sister) was Pañcālacaṇḍī, Yasassikā was the Queen, Ambaṭṭha (a brahmin who is the subject of the Ambaṭṭha Sutta, DN 3) was Kāvinda, Poṭṭhapāda (another brahmin who is the subject of the Poṭṭapāda Sutta, DN 9) was Pukkusa, Pilotika (probably the monk who is the subject of the Cūḷahatthipadopama Sutta, MN 27) was Devinda, Saccaka (a Jain who is the subject of the Maha-Saccaka Sutta, MN 36, and the Cūla-Saccaka Sutta, MN 35) was Senaka, Diṭṭhamangalikā was Queen Udumbarā, Kuṇḍalī was the myna bird, and Lāḷudāyī (an elder monk) was Vedeha, and I was the sage Mahosadha.”