Ja 303 Ekarājajātaka
The Story about (the King) Ekarājā (4s)
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 Kosala) Dubbhisena.
Present Source: Ja 282 Seyya,
Quoted at: Ja 303 Ekarāja, Ja 351 Maṇikuṇḍala,
Present Compare: Ja 355 Ghata,
Past Compare: Cp. 34, Ekarājacariya.
Keywords: Loving-Kindness, Patience, Righteousness.
“O monarch that once.”
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.”
On this occasion the Teacher said: “You are not the only one who got good out of evil: wise men of old also got good out of evil.” And he told a story about the past.
In the past a minister in attendance on the king of Benares misconducted himself in the royal harem. The king after witnessing his offence with his own eyes banished him from the kingdom. How he took service with the king of Kosala, named Dabbasena, is all told in the Mahāsīlavajātaka [Ja 51].
Now one of the king’s ministers had dealt treacherously in the king’s harem, and this became matter of common talk. The ministers reported it to the king. Examining into the matter himself, the king found the minister’s guilt to be clear. So he sent for the culprit, and said: “O blinded by folly! You have sinned, and are not worthy to dwell in my kingdom; take your substance and your wife and family, and go hence.” 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! Satisfied at last that the king of Benares was an entirely good king, the king of Kosala resolved to seize on his kingdom, and set out against him with troops and elephants.
Now in these days the king of Benares had a thousand gallant warriors, who would face the charge even of a rut elephant – whom the launched thunderbolt of Sakka could not terrify – a matchless band of invincible heroes ready at the king’s command to reduce all Jambudīpa to his sway! These, hearing the king of Kosala was coming to take Benares, came to their sovereign with the news, and prayed that they might be dispatched against the invader. “We will defeat and capture him, sire,” they said, “before he can set foot over the border.”
“Not so, my children,” said the king. “None shall suffer because of me. Let those who covet kingdoms seize mine, if they will.” And he refused to allow them to march against the invader.
Then the king of Kosala crossed the border and came to the middle-country; and again the ministers went to the king with renewed entreaty. But still the king refused. And now the king of Kosala appeared outside the city, and sent a message to the king bidding him either yield up the kingdom or give battle. “I fight not,” was the message of the king of Benares in reply, “let him seize my kingdom.”
Yet a third time the king’s ministers came to him and besought him not to allow the king of Kosala to enter, but to permit them to overthrow and capture him before the city. Still refusing, the king bade the city-gates be opened, and seated himself in state aloft upon his royal throne with his thousand ministers round him.
But in the present story Dabbasena had the king of Benares seized while sitting on the dais in the midst of his councillors, and fastening him by a cord on the lintel of the door suspended him head downwards. The king cultivated feelings of generosity towards the rebel prince, and by a process of focusing on the Meditation Object entered upon a state of Absorption, and bursting his bonds sat cross-legged in the air. The rebel prince was attacked with a burning pain in the body, and with a cry of, “I burn, I burn,” he rolled over and over on the ground. When he asked the reason of it, his courtiers replied, “It is because the king whom you suspend head downwards from the lintel of the door is such an innocent and holy man.” Then said he, “Go quickly and release him.” His servants went and found the king sitting cross-legged in the air, and came back and told Dabbasena.
1. “O monarch that once in your kingdom did dwell,
Enjoying such bliss as few mortals have seen,
How is it that lying midst tortures of hell
You still are so calm and so gracious of mien?”
On hearing this the Bodhisatta repeated the rest of the verses:
2. “Of yore ’twas my one earnest prayer unto heaven
From the ranks of ascetics no more to be barred,
But now that such glory to me has been given,
O why should the form of my visage be marred?
3. The end is accomplished, my task is now done,
The prince once my foe is no longer estranged,
But now that the fame I so envied is won,
O why should the form of my visage be changed?
4. When Compare Lord Houghton’s poem, “Pleasure and Pain.” See the Fakeer as he swings on his iron, See the thin Hermit that starves in the wild; Think ye no pleasures the penance environ, And hope the sole bliss by which pain is beguiled? No! In the kingdoms those spirits are reaching, Vain are our words the emotions to tell; Vain the distinctions our senses are teaching, For Pain has its Heaven and Pleasure its Hell! joy turns to sorrow, and weal becomes woe,
Patient souls even pleasure may wring from their pain,
But no such distinction of feeling they know,
When the calm of Nibbāna poor mortals attain.”
On hearing this Dabbasena asked forgiveness of the Bodhisatta and said: “Rule over your own people and I will drive out the rebels from amongst you.” And after punishing that wicked councillor he went his way. But the Bodhisatta handed over the kingdom to his ministers, and adopting the ascetic life of a seer he became destined to birth in the Brahmā Realm.
When the Teacher had finished this discourse, he identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ānanda was Dabbasena, and I myself was the king of Benares.”
last updated: November 2021