A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents
Collected and Adapted by Sarah Conover
Once, some monks who could not stop quarreling came to the Buddha to ask his advice. “Brothers” the Buddha calmly replied, “ I have told you many times that fight and quarrels solve no problems – yet you continue. Remember, even some kings with great and powerful armies have learned gentleness. So much the more that you, living the holy life without possessions, should be like light in the world, known far and wide for kindness. Listen now to this story of a noble prince, who became a true hero in the world”.
Once upon a time, two kingdoms lay side by side. One kingdom belonged to the King of Kasi: a powerful ruler who possessed a great army and treasures nursing with gold. But in the nearby kings of Kosala lived a much poorer king. He led a meager army, possessed little gold, and held sway over a modest territory. And just as you might guess, the powerful King of Kasi eyed the small kingdom of Kosala and decided he should conquer it.
When the King of Kosala heard that a large garrison was headed his way, he knew he didn’t stand a chance. To avoid any bloodshed, he counseled with his ministers and decided to immediately surrender his army. As the attacking warriors approached, the King of Kosala slipped away to the city’s edge – he and the queen disguised as humble potters.
After time concealed among the common folk, the queen gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He was secretly named and crowned, Prince Dighavu. They so loved their new son, that the king and queens only concern became his safety. The king feared that somehow – at some time in the future – the royal family would be recognized. He felt it was only a matter of time; a spy would see through their disguises and kill them all. So with heartfelt loss, the King and Queen of Kosala sent their young prince away to be raised in the countryside.
Alas, a dozend years later, events occurred exactly as the king had feared. The present barber of the king of Kasi had once been the barber to the poorer king. And one day, in the hubbub of the busy marketplace, the barber recognized the disguised king. He easily saw through the king’s charade. The barber fell back into the crowd and secretly pursued the king to discover where he now lived. Then the barber reported right away to the King of Kasi, knowing that he would be richly rewarded for the information. “I have news that right within the walls of this city live both the King and Queen of Kosala! I, who know the king’s face better than any, saw it with my own eyes – they live in a potter’s shed and are disguised as beggars!”
When the King of Kasi heard this report, he feared that if the old king and queen were yet alive, they had a hundred reasons to seek his own death and the return of their kingdom. Disguised or not, he anticipate they would find an opportunity to kill him. So he commanded his guards, “Go now to the potters’ sheds near the outskirts of town. Arrest the old king and queen! When you find them, it will be their last hour! Bind their arms, shave their heads, bring them outside the gates of the city and destroy them!” And thus the guards were dispatched to the capture the couple.
But very early this same day, the young Prince Dighavu awoke full of longing to be with his parents. Now old enough to travel from village alone, he reasoned, “It’s been months since I’ve seen my parents. I would so much like to visit them today! I will make them a present of ripened fruit and delicious cheese from the country.” And so the prince cheerfully gathered a few gifts, packed some clothing and money, and set out of the city.
By this time, however, the guards had found the royal couple – just exactly where the barber had betrayed them to be. They bound their arms tightly with thick rope and dragged them roughly through the streets. But the king and queen walked with dignity, even as they reached the city gates where they knew they would soon die.
And so it came to pass that just as Prince Dighavu was entering the city, he witnessed his parents being led to their deaths. In desperation, he made his way to the front of the surrounding crowd. Just sat the moment he spied his parents, they too, saw him amidst the mob. When the prince neared within earshot, his father shouted, “Dear Dighavu, do not look long! Do not look short! For hatred is not stopped by more hatted! No, dear one, hatred ends only by love!”
The soldiers thought the old know had lost his mind. “Who is this Dighavu? What gibberish you speak!”
But the king cautioned Dighavu twice more in the same way, finishing, “He that is intelligent will understand my meaning!” There were the king’s last words. As swords fell upon his parents’ heads, the anguished prince said a silent farewell so as not to reveal his own identity.
Prince Dighavu went to the nearby forest and fell to the ground. In agony he wept and wept until he could weep no more. Under the empty night sky, he considered the terrible murder of his parents and devised a plan to recover his family’s honor.
First, he returned to the city, and purchased some liquor for the soldiers standing guard over his parents. When the guards cucumber to the alcohol and fell asleep, the prince performed a funeral by the city gates. But at that same, exact moment, from the atop the splendid place tower, the King of Kasi happened to see the prince paying his respects to the murdered king and queen. “Alas!” Said the king in great alarm. “What misfortune will happen now? I will still have no safety or peace of mind while someone who cares for them wishes to reverse their deaths!”
And so it came to pass that the very next day Prince Dighavu embarked on such a plan. He went to the king’s elephant stable and asked that the elephant trainer teach him his art. The trainer agreed to take on the eager apprentice. As part of the prince’s secret plan, he rose each day at dawn to play the lute and sing to the entire palace compound. His lovely songs were haunting and captivating. Just as the prince has hoped, the King of Kasi, standing on his palace balcony, heard the enchanting voice and asked his attendants from whence it came. “Your Majesty,” they replied, “it is the elephant trainer’s new apprentice”.
“Bring him to me,” commanded the king. “I must meet the one who possesses such a gift.”
All was proceeding exactly in accord with Prince Dighavu’s Plan. He came before the king, strummed the lute even more beautifully, and sang his most soothing melodies. The king was utterly charmed. “Young man”, said the king, “such a voice comes only from one with the finest sensibilities and depth of feeling. I would like you to have the honor of being my manservant.” So Prince Dighavu – still unknown for his identity – became the king’s personal attendant. He rose before the king, preparing the king’s affairs; he retired at night long after the king’s affairs; and he obeyed the king’s every command in between. And in due time, the king appointed Prince Dighavu as Councilor and Confidant – just as the prince had hoped.
But Prince Dighavu’s secret and grand scheme was far from complete. A year or so later, the prince had the chance he had worked and waited for. It so happened that one balmy, spring day, the king wished to go for a chariot ride. To Prince Dighavu he requested,”Harness the chariot, my best man; I wish to go hunting in the forest and I want you alone to drive me.”
“Yes, your majesty, right away!” Obeyed the prince. A magnificent chariot of gold and lapis was harnessed to two steeds. The prince firmly held the reins and hurried the chariot towards the city’s perimeter. As the city’s gates opened wide for the royal chariot, Prince Dighavu saw the king’s army go in the direction of the eastern forest; the prince steered the chariot towards the west. “I believe the hunting will be better in these quieter woods sir,” he assured the king.
“Very well, my man. Let us try it out,” replied the king.
The day was cloudless, and after an hour of travel, the heat oppressive. The sultry, midday sun made the king grow drowsy. “My man, unharness the chariot,” he mumbled. “ I am tired and I wish to lie down in the shade of some trees.”
“Yes, your majesty,” complied the prince. The prince watered and hobbled the horses, then rested beside the king under a large Banyan tree. The king placed his trusting head in the prince’s lap and fell immediately to sleep.
With the king’s safety resting utterly in the hands of Prince Dighavu, the prince’s plan was nearly complete. As the prince looked upon the sleeping king, he thought to himself, “The king of Kasi has done me as much harm as any man could. He has murdered my mother and father! He has robbed our kingdom of its treasury and territory! He has destroyed the honor of the Kingdom of Kosala! Now is the time for me to avenge my hatred!”
Ever so quietly, the prince unsheathed his sword. But as he raised his sword over the king, ready to inflict his punishment, his father’s last words seemed to shout within him: Dighavu, hatred is not stopped by more hatred! No, dear one, hatred ends only by love! Prince Dighavu could not disobey his father’s dying words. He could not kill this unsuspecting king. The prince slowly sheathed his sword. But then the same thought of revenge – the thought that had been his mission since the day of his parents’ deaths – rose in him more strongly! He had waited years for this moment! Again, he unsheathed his sword. But alas, he stopped himself once more; he could not act against his father’s last wish; he could not end his hatred with another murder.
Suddenly, the king awoke and sat bolt upright – pale and terrified! The prince’s internal struggle abruptly ended. “Your Majesty!” Said the prince, “what ever had occurred? Why did you wake so alarmed?”
The king gasped, “Right now, in my dream, the son of the King of Kosala – the heir and prince – wanted to kill me by sword. He was going to sever my head! I thought I was about to die!”
Then Prince Dighavu, gently touching the neck of the king with his left hand and drawing his sword with the other, told him the truth. “I, your majesty, am that prince! I am Prince Dighavu, son of the King of Kosala! You have robbed my people of food, territory, and treasure. You have even killed my own mother and father! This would indeed be the time to show my hatred and exact my revenge!”
At that admission, the king fell upon his knees at the feet of the prince and begged for forgiveness. “ Grant me my life, dear Dighavu ! Grant me my life!” Wept the king.
In his heart, Prince Dighavu now realized what his father had meant for him to learn. He told the king of his father’s forgiving words – his last words – and how they stopped the prince from ending the king’s life. The prince proclaimed that he would no longer carry this terrible hatred. “Although I have the power to grant you your life at this moment,” said the prince to the king, “you also have the power to grant me my life: for you can assure my safety in your kingdom!”
“This is very true,” agreed the king. “Grant me my life now and I’ll forever grant you yours. We will no longer be enemies, but vow to live in peace.” At that, the prince and king swore an oath never to harm one another and to protect each other’s well being.
Peaceful now, with a warm feeling of forgiveness, the two men harnessed the horses remounted the chariot, and leisurely made their way back to the palace. When the king returned to his court, he gathered all his ministers and councilors together. “Tell me sirs,” asked the king, “if it happened that you laid eyes upon Prince Dighavu, son of the King of Kosala, what would you do?”
A minister immediately spoke up, “ Your majesty, we would kill him on the spot!”
“Yes!” Shouted another. “We would chop off his head and cut him to pieces!” Many voices rose in a cacophony of agreement.
But the king said, “Hush! Sirs, in front of you is Prince Dighavu, son of the King of Kosala.” A great, astonished silence filled the hall. The king continued, “ You may not harm him. He has granted me my life and I have granted him his.” The king turned to the prince; “I would like you to tell them, young prince, the marvelous meaning of your father’s last words.”
All eyes in the court turned to the prince. He looked at his audience with courage and forgiveness. “When my father said to me in his hour of death, ‘Look not long dear Dighavu’ what he meant was, ‘Do not hold on to hatred, do not nurture it.’ When, Your Majesty, my father spoke, ‘Look not short,’ what he meant was, ‘Do not lose friends easily – be the most loyal of friends.’ When my father said, ‘Hatred is not stopped by more hatred!’ What he wanted me to learn was this: the king has had my mother and father killed. Were I to kill Your Majesty, your people wold want to kill me, and my people would want to kill those who had harmed me. Hatred would not end by further hatred. On and on it would go, with many lives lost and many hearts broken. But now,” continued the prince, turning towards the king, “ Your Majesty had given me my life ad safety, and I have done the same for you. So by love and forgiveness we have stopped this terrible cycle of hatred.”
The king blessed the prince, “Oh, councilors! Is it not remarkable how deeply the prince understands his father’s brief words!” And thus the king returned to Prince Dighavu the army, territory, and treasure that rightfully belonged to the Kingdom of Kosala. The prince and the king’s own daughter were soon married, and they all lived in peace, two kingdoms side by side, happily ever after.
“And so I say to you,” declared the Buddha to the monks, “enough of fighting! This is my advice, good brothers.” And the Buddha returned to the solace of his meditation.
The moral is : For never in this world Do hatreds cease through hatred; Through love alone do they end. This is the ancient and eternal law.
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