Ja 282 Seyyajātaka
The Story about the Best (3s)

In the present an innocent courtier is thrown into prison, but later released and honoured by the king. The Buddha tells a story of how a man intrigued in the palace in Benares, was exiled and enticed a foreign king to attack his former country. The king of Benares, rather than cause the deaths of others, allowed himself to be captured, and the conqueror, seeing his virtue, relented and set him free.

The Bodhisatta = the king of Benares (Bārāṇasirājā),
Ānanda = the king of the thieves (corarājā).

Present Source: Ja 282 Seyya,
Quoted at: Ja 303 Ekarāja, Ja 351 Maṇikuṇḍala,
Present Compare: Ja 355 Ghata.

Keywords: Patience, Righteousness.

“It is best that you should know.” [2.273] This tale the Teacher told at Jetavana, about a courtier of the king of Kosala. This man was very useful to the king, we are told, and did everything that had to be done. Because he was very useful, the king did him great honour. The others were jealous, and concocted a slander, and calumniated him. The king believed their saying, and without enquiring into his guilt, bound him in chains, though virtuous and innocent, and cast him into prison. There he dwelt all alone; but, by reason of his virtue, he had peace of mind, and with mind at peace he understood the conditions of existence, and attained the fruition of the First Path. By and by the king found that he was guiltless, and broke his chains and gave him honour more than before.

The man wished to pay his respects to the Teacher; and taking flowers and perfumes, he went to the monastery, and did reverence to the Tathāgata, and sat respectfully aside. The Teacher talked graciously with him. “We have heard that ill fortune befell you,” said he. “Yes, sir, but I made my ill fortune into good; and as I sat in prison, I produced the fruition of the First Path.” “Good friend,” said the Teacher, “you are not the only one who has turned evil into good; for wise men in the olden time turned evil into good just as you did.” And he told a story of the past.

In the past, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as the son of his queen consort. He grew up and was educated at Taxila; and on his father’s death he became king, and kept the ten royal rules: he gave alms, practised virtue, {2.401} and observed the sacred day.

Now one of his courtiers intrigued among the king’s wives. The servants noticed it, and told the king that so and so was carrying on an intrigue. The king found out the very truth of the matter, and sent for him. “Never show yourself before me again,” said he, and banished him. The man went off to the court of a neighbouring king, and then all happened as described above in the Mahāsīlavajātaka [Ja 51].

Driven thus from the realm, that minister left the Kāsi country, and, entering the service of the king of Kosala, gradually rose to be that monarch’s confidential adviser. One day he said to the king of Kosala, “Sire, the kingdom of Benares is like a goodly honeycomb untainted by flies; its king is feebleness itself; and a trifling force would suffice to conquer the whole country.”

Hereon, the king of Kosala reflected that the kingdom of Benares was large, and, considering this in connection with the advice that a trifling force could conquer it, he grew suspicious that his adviser was a hireling instigated to lead him into a trap. “Traitor,” he cried, “you are paid to say this!”

“Indeed I am not,” answered the other, “I do but speak the truth. If you doubt me, send men to massacre a village over his border, and see whether, when they are caught and brought before him, the king does not let them off scot-free and even load them with gifts.”

“He shows a very bold front in making his assertion,” thought the king, “I will test his counsel without delay.” And accordingly he sent some of his creatures to harry a village across the Benares border. The ruffians were captured and brought before the king of Benares, who asked them, saying: “My children, why have you killed my villagers?”

“Because we could not make a living,” said they.

“Then why did you not come to me?” said the king. “See that you do not do the like again.”

And he gave them presents and sent them away. Back they went and told this to the king of Kosala. But this evidence was not enough to nerve him to the expedition; and a second band was sent to massacre another village, this time in the heart of the kingdom. These too were likewise sent away with presents by the king of Benares. But even this evidence was not deemed strong enough; and a third party was sent to plunder the very streets of Benares! And these, like their forerunners, were sent away with presents!

Having thrice tested him, the king, believing the word of the courtier came with a great army before Benares with intent to take it. When this was known to the chief warriors of the king of Benares, five hundred in number, they said to the king, “Such and such a king has come here, wasting the country, with intent to take Benares – here, let us go and capture him!”

“I want no kingdom that must be kept by doing harm,” said the king. “Do nothing at all.” [2.274]

The marauding king surrounded the city. Again the courtiers approached the king, and said: “My lord, be advised – let us capture him!”

“Nothing can be done,” said the king. “Open the city gates.” Then, surrounded by his court, he sat down in state upon the great dais.

The marauder entered the town, felling the men at the four gates and ascended the terrace. There he took prisoner the king with all his court, threw chains upon them and cast them into prison. The king, as he sat in prison, pitied the marauder, and an Absorption based on loving-kindness was stirred in him. By reason of this pity, the other king felt great torment in his body; he burnt all through as though with a twofold flame; and smitten with great pain, he asked what the matter was.

They replied, “You have cast a righteous king into prison, that is why this is come upon you.”

He went and craved pardon of the Bodhisatta, and restored his kingdom, saying: “Your kingdom be your own. {2.402} Henceforward leave your enemies for me to deal with.” He punished the evil counsellor, and returned to his own city.

The Bodhisatta sat in state upon his high dais, in festal array, with his court around him; and addressing them repeated the first two verses:

1. “ ’Tis best that you should know, the better part
Is evermore the better thing to do.
By treating one with kindliness of heart,
I saved a hundred men from death their due.

2. Therefore to all the world I bid you show
The grace of kindliness and friendship dear;
And then alone to heaven you shall not go.
O people of the Kāsi country, hear!”

Thus the Great Being praised virtue in the way of pitying the great multitude; and leaving the white umbrella in the great city of Benares, twelve leagues in extent, retired to the Himālayas, and embraced the ascetic life. {2.403}

The Teacher, after Fully Awakening, repeated the third verse:

3. “These are the words that I, king Kaṁsa, said,
I the great ruler of Benares town.
I laid my bow, I laid my quiver down,
And my self-mastery I perfected.”

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ānanda was the marauding king, but the king of Benares was I myself.”