by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words
This page describes Maha Paduma Jataka of Dvadassa Nipata contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Buddha’s Seventh Vassa. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).
Once upon a time, King Brahmadatta ruled the country of Bārāṇasī, when the Bodhisatta took conception in the womb of the queen. When he was born, he was named Prince Mahā Paduma, as his face resembled a newly blossomed lily of paduma species.
When he came of age, he was sent to Takkasīla to learn the arts and crafts; and on completion of his studies, he returned to his country and found that his mother had passed away and that his father had made another woman his chief queen. He was formally declared as the Crown Prince, the sole heir to the throne.
Sometime later, the King had to go to the border areas to suppress insurrections. He told the queen: “Chief Queen.... I am going to the border areas to suppress insurrections and you shall remain in this royal palace with ease and comfort.” Whereupon, the Queen said: “I do not like to stay behind, I would like to accompany you to the front line.” The King explained to her the dangers of battlefields: “Chief Queen... you had better stay in the royal palace until my return without any feeling of melancholy through lonesomeness; I will leave instructions with the Crown Prince to attend on you with due diligence.” The King then went to the disturbed areas, and returned after driving away the rebels, and rehabilitation of the effected areas, but he did not immediately enter the city on arrival instead, he stayed in a temporary accommodation outside the City for a time.
When the Bodhisatta, Crown Prince Mahā Paduma heard of the news of his father’s return, he made arrangements to welcome his father by decorating the city and setting the palace in order. Having done all this, he entered the apartment of the Chief Queen all alone. On seeing the amazing beauty of the Prince, the Chief Queen felt an intense attraction towards him. The Prince paid his respect to the Queen and asked: “O Royal mother... how can I be of help to you?” The Queen replied: “Don't you call me ‘mother’,” and so saying she got up and held the prince by the hands and ordered him ‘to get up on to the bed.’ “The two of us will enjoy sexual pleasure to the full before the King returns.”
As one who treasured his morality, the Prince gave a stiff reply:—
“O! Royal Queen mother... you have become my mother ever since the demise of my mother. You are a married woman, I have never in all my life looked at a woman with a legal husband with concupiscence, and how would a self-restrained person like me commit such a hideous crime in collusion with you?”
After making three or four vain attempts to make the Prince yield to her temptations, the Queen resorted to threatening him, asking: “Won't you obey my order?” “Yes.... I won't,” replied the Prince boldly and bluntly. Whereupon, she made it plain to him: “I will lodge a false allegation against you with the King, so that he will break your head into pieces.” “You may slander me as you like but I won't yield to your temptations,” he left her chamber after putting her to shame.
The Queen, being conscious of her own guilt, made up her mind to save her own skin by lodging a false allegation against the Prince with the King without delay, as her life was at stake, lest the prince might reveal her secrets before she could see the King. She got her body scratched all over with her own fingers and lay on her bed without taking any food, feigning illness. She instructed her attendants how they should answer the King when he asked them about her, in due course.
The King entered the City after circumambulating the city and sat on the throne. When he could not see his Queen, he enquired about her and her attendant reported that she was not well. He went to her chamber and asked: “Darling Queen.... what ails you?” She pretended not to hear his words for two or three times and, at last, she made this reply: “O King what has made you to press for an answer that I loathed to give. Please keep silent to save me from shame. My case is quite different from those of the other married women.” On hearing such an insinuation, the King asked her: “Do tell me at once who has done wrong to you and I will break the head of the criminal,” in a severe tone. In response to the King, she asked this question: “O King.... under whose charge was this city kept when you left?” “It was left under the charge of my son, the Crown Prince,” replied the King. The Queen then started to tell her fabricated story to calumniate the Crown Prince: “Your Majesty... the very person you had left in charge of the city, Prince Paduma, entered my room all alone and tried to make me yield to his temptations, and when I beseeched him meekly not to offend his mother, he retorted rudely: ‘Is there any other King than myself.... I will keep you in house and enjoy sexual pleasure to the full with you.’ When I refused to yield to him, he pulled me by my hair, beat me all over my body and then throwing me down on the floor, he outraged me and left my chamber.”
The King ordered The Execution of Prince Mahā Paduma
The King lost his sense of reasoning through anger, like a venomous cobra, and ordered the execution of the Prince. The executioners entered the residence of the Prince, beat him most severely, bound his hands at the back and brought him out of his house with a ring of red-primrose round his neck, like a prisoner given the life sentence.
The Prince knew that the Queen was responsible for the whole affair. He followed the executioners complaining: “O executors... I have done nothing against the King, I am innocent.” The whole city was shocked and tensed with fear, and the citizens exchanged views among themselves: “The King has misunderstood Prince Mahā Paduma, and ordered his execution on the strength of his wife’s false allegation.” They rallied round at the feet of the Prince, crying and sobbing aloud: “O Crown Prince... the kind of sentence passed upon you is not just and reasonable.” They kept on weeping and crying at the top of their voices around him.
When the executioners had brought the Prince before him, the King, in a fit of temper, at once ordered the execution of the Prince, by throwing him into a steep chasm (usual place where robbers were usually thrown down) with his head down. In passing the order, the King remarked that, the Prince, though his own son, was guilty of impersonating him and offending the Queen. Whereupon, the Crown Prince protested: “Royal father... I am not guilty of such allegations... please do not cause my destruction on the strength of your wife’s allegation.” But his appeal fell on the deaf ears of the King.
The citizens were not alone to weep over the fate of the prince but sixteen thousand courtiers, also wept muttering: “Darling son.... Mahā Paduma.... it is a great pity that such a punishment has been meted on you for no fault of yours.” All the princes, princesses, ministers, brahmins, rich men, all rank and file made joint appeal to the King: “O Your Majesty.... Mahā Paduma has peerless character, is a righteous heir to the throne, both by right and by tradition, do not cause the destruction of the heir to the throne on the strength of your wife’s allegation, without investigating into the matter in the name of justice, is our prayer.”
Their appeal was made in seven stanzas as follows:—
Noble King.... a Ruler should not order the destruction of life and limbs of an accused without personal knowledge; without investigation into the allegation against the accused.
(N.B. In the time of Malta Samata (One raised to the status of a Supreme Ruler by the people) there was no order or penalty exacting more than one hundred pieces of money; no penalty demanding the destruction of life and limbs beyond corporeal punishment or banishment. Punishment of more severe forms were adopted by cruel rulers at later times. Therefore, the ministers had made the above appeal with reference to the said precedence.)
A noble King, who happened to cause the destruction of life and limbs of an accused without proper investigation being made into the allegation, is likened to a person born blind who had swallowed a fly contaminated, unwholesome food with attendant troubles; such an act is tantamount to partaking of food enmeshed with thorns.
A King who happened to punish an innocent person who does not deserve any punishment, and has allowed a guilty person to escape unpunished, through power-intoxication, is considered to have taken an uneven path full of dangers, like a person, born blind. He has no discrimination between the even path of ten meritoriousness and the uneven path of demeritoriousness and is destined to be punished in the plane of misery.
4) Yo ca etāni tṭhānāni
sa ve voharitumarahati.
A King, who examines cases according to correct procedure, and adjudge or adjudicate the guilt or otherwise of cases, trivial or great, in the name of justice, is a ruler invested with qualification expected of a king fit to rule over a domain of territory.
Noble King... it is not possible for anyone to remain forever in a position of responsibility by always exercising extreme measures, either soft or rough. A ruler needs a careful balance of judgement to discriminate between what requires gentle handling and what demands stern treatment.
Noble King... one, who governs his people with kindly disposition, constantly is open to contempt and disrespect by his subjects. On the other hand, a ruler, who governs his subjects harshly oppressively, is liable to provoke hostility and hatred in the people he governed. A King should be able to discriminate between the two extremes and resort to the middle course in the interest of peace and tranquillity.
O Noble King.... one who is inflamed by passion may speak in many different ways; one who is inflamed by malice may also speak in many different ways. Therefore, there is no justification in causing the death of the Crown Prince without proper consideration and mainly on the strength of false accusation by a woman acting under the influence of burning passion and malice.
The minister’s submissions and solicitations failed to move the King. Prince Paduma himself tried several times for the revocation of the Royal order in different ways, but to no avail. The King stood firm on his judgement and ordered: “Go ye all to the chasm and throw down this ignorant blunderer forthwith.”
All the citizens took sides with the man of standing, the Crown Prince, and my Chief Queen is all alone, and in the circumstances, I will take side with the Queen. Go ye all to the chasm and get the traitor, Prince Paduma, thrown into the ‘Robbers’ pit forthwith.
Upon hearing this summary order, none of the female members of the crowd could not help crying. All the people raised their arms in protest and shouted slogans as they followed the Prince with their hair spreading over their bodies in distress. The foolish King was under the impression that the people would stand in the way of throwing the prince into the pit; so he went along with the weeping crowd under escort right up to the pit. He caused the Prince to be borne with his head down and the feet up and flung cruelly into the pit in his very presence.
Power of Bodhisatta’s Mettā
Under the influence of the Bodhisatta’s mettā, the guardian deity of the mountain made himself visible and consoled the prince: “Prince Paduma.... don't you worry,” and he held him in his arms close to his chest, so that the Prince might be comforted by the pervading warmth of a deity. He then descended the cliff and placed the Prince on the expanded hood of a dragon king who was dwelling at the foot of the mountain.
The dragon king took the Prince to the Kingdom of dragons and shared with him the ease and comfort in the country of the dragons. Having stayed in the company of dragons for a whole year, the Bodhisatta intimated his desire to leave: “I am going to the world of humans.” The dragon king asked: “To which place you intend going?” “To the Himalayas,” was the reply. The dragon king took the Prince to the Himalayas and after providing him with the requisites of hermits and bhikkhus, he returned to his country. The Bodhisatta as a recluse spent his days developing jhāna-abhiññās and living on herbs, fruits and roots.
After some time, a hunter of the City of Bārāṇasī came upon the abode of the hermit and recognized that he was the Crown Prince. He asked the hermit: “O noble Prince.... are you not Prince Mahā Paduma?” “Yes, I am.... my dear man,” was the reply. The hunter paid homage to the Bodhisatta and stayed with him for a few days before he returned to the city of Bārāṇasī: On arrival, he went to the King and reported: “O your Majesty.... your son, Prince Mahā Paduma is living in the forest of Himalayas as a hermit. I have seen him and stayed with him for a few days.” Whereupon, the King asked: “Have you seen him personally?” “Yes, your Majesty.... I have,” was the hunter’s response.
The King proceeded to that place in the company of a great number of army personnel and stayed at the edge of the forest in a temporary shed hoping to seeing his son. When he met face to face with the hermit sitting in front of his hut, like a golden image, he paid respect and sat in a suitable spot. The ministers exchanged greetings with the hermit. The Bodhisatta presented the King with fruits and exchanged greetings in an amicable manner.
The King began to ask, by means of a verse: “Dear son... I had caused you to be thrown into a precipice named Corapapata with your head down and I wonder how you managed to keep yourself alive?”
9) Anekatāle narake
gambhīre ca suduttare
kena tum tattha nāmari.
Dear son... how did you manage to survive after you had been thrown upside down into a precipice with a depth of several lengths of palm-trees, that was difficult of escape?
Then a dialogue between the father and the son ensured:-
10) Nāgo jātaphano tattha
paccaggahi mam bhogehi
tenāham tattha nāmariṃ
Royal father... a powerful dragon that sprang into being on the sides of mountain valleys received me on its expanded hood from the hands of a guardian deity of that locality. That was the reason why I escape from the danger of being smashed to death after I had been thrown into that precipice of unfathomable depth.
The royal father was greatly delighted by the Bodhisatta’s reply and said solemnly: “I am a vile person to have offended a righteous son like you at the instigation of my wife. I humbly plead for favour of your pardon for my blundering offence against you,” with his head bent at the feet of the Bodhisatta. Whereupon, the Bodhisatta convinced his father: “Your Majesty... please do get up... I forbear all your offences, and my sincere wish is that you avoid becoming such a person again, behaving blindly without consideration and investigation.”
The King said in reply: “Dear son... your acceptance of kingship with all its glories over the territories alone will signify your forbearance towards me.”
My Royal son, Prince Mahā Paduma... I am taking you back as the rightful heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Bārāṇasī. May you reign with glory and greatness. I pray thee to accept the Kingship and sovereignty over the domains: how could you promote the welfare and prosperity of the citizens in such a wilderness cut off from civilization! The following is the Prince’s reply in verse:-
O King father... just like a man who had accidently swallowed a hook brought it out with all the blood immediately before it had gone far enough to reach the vital heart, so that he might keep his mind and body in a state of peace and tranquillity. So I see myself as a person who had accidentally swallowed a hook but had taken it out in time to live in peace and tranquillity.
13) Kiṇ nu tuṃ baḷisaṃ byūsi
kiṃ tum lyusi salohitam
kin nu tum ubbhataṃ vyusi
tam me akkhāhi pucchito
Dear son... what do you mean by hook? What do you mean by blood? What do you mean by immediate vomiting? I beseech you to enlighten me by answering these questions for me!
O Royal father... I have seen, by reason of wisdom, the five sensual pleasures as hook; the worldly wealth or possessions, such as elephants horses, chariots, etc., as blood; renunciation of the five sensual pleasures, as immediate vomiting; you may try to understand these things discriminately by contemplative knowledge.
After he had given the above answer, he continued to give his father an instruction for guidance in administering justice: “Noble King...as already mentioned above, I have nothing to do whatsoever with the kingship of the Bārāṇasī, and what I wish to commend to you is to rule by strict adherence to the ten codes of conduct for a ruling monarch, without the influence of four wrong courses of actions.
The King returned to The Country and punished His Queen
The King, after several vain attempts to persuade his son to return to his country, made his way back to his capital, crying and weeping all along the route. In the course of his journey, he questioned his ministers: “Who is responsible for the severance of my son from me?” They all unanimously replied: “You have sustained the loss of such a worthy and honourable son through your Chief Queen.” On his arrival at the city, he immediately caused the Queen to be flung over the precipice upside down before he entered the royal palace. He ruled over the country and the people wisely and justly ever after.
The Buddha, after preaching the above discourse, proceeded to say: “Bhikkhus, in this manner Cincamana had decried Me by abusive language in a previous existence”:
Bhikkhus.... Cincamana was then the Queen, the stepmother, the brother-in-law Devadatta was then the king, Ānanda was then the wise dragon, Sāriputta was then the guardian deity of the mountain, and I was then Mahā Paduma. The Jātaka was brought to a close by this last verse.
End of Mahā Paduma Jātaka
Footnotes and references:
Ten codes of conduct of a king: alms giving, morality, liberality, straightness, gentleness, selfrestraint, non-anger, forbearance, austerity and non-opposition.
Wrong Courses of action: those dominated by desire, by ill-will, by delusion and by fear.