Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part II

by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(26) How patience was exercised by Khantivadi, a great hermit

At one time in the ancient days, during the reign of King Kalabu in the city of Benares, the Bodhisatta, born of a high caste Brahmin, was a multimillionaire possessing eighty crores of rupees. When his parents died leaving behind all their wealth and properties, it had occurred to him that his parents were unable to take along with them what they physically owned on their demise, though they were able to accumulate immense wealth. On his part, considering that he should take them with him on his death, he generously gave away all his possessions in charity to those who deserved. Thereafter, he went into a retreat in one of the forested areas of the Himalayas assuming the role of a hermit. He lived only on fruits which were available in the forest. There was however, no salt for consumption. In order, therefore, to have proper and adequate nourishment, he made his way to villages where there were people, to procure salt and sour fruits for his own personal consumption. Eventually, he reached the city of Benares. When going round for alms in the city, the Commander-in-Chief of they finding him worthy of reverence, respectfully invited him to his residence to accept the offer of meals. Later, he was requested to reside in the pleasance of the king’s royal garden. This request was accepted by him. He continued to stay in that royal garden as his place of retreat.

While he was so residing on one day, King Kalabu visited the royal garden in the company of his queen and maids-of-honour together with a large retinue to hold a ceremonious function. The ceremony was held comprising a series of performances of music, ballet, etc., on a magnificent and spacious marble slab within the precincts of the royal garden. The king enjoyed the festivities watching the display of music, songs and dances after taking a lying posture with his head resting on the thigh of a damsel whom he adored. Merry-making including the dance with accompanying music formed part of the celebrations taken part by professional artistes and maids-of-honour from the royal palace. While listening to the soft music, the sweet melody had lulled the king to sleep. Finding the king in deep slumber, the troupe of female singers and dancers stopped playing music for a moment and roamed about the garden sight-seeing. While thus making a rambling excursion, they came across the great hermit, the Bodhisatta. They then approached him wishing to listen to the preaching which he might be inclined to give. At their request, the great hermit delivered a sermon appropriate to the occasion.

At that time the maid-of-honour on whose thigh the king had rested his royal head, manoeuvred her limbs to wake up the king. The king when aroused from his sleep found none of his retinue and maids near him. When inquired as to where they had gone to, the maid whose thigh had served as a cushion for the king’s head, answered that the whole crowd had gone to the great hermit. On hearing the news, the royal monarch became furious with jealousy. He then picked up his sword and hurried his way to the hermit, uttering with an uncontrollable anger that he would give the hermit a good lesson.

Seeing the king raging with anger, one of the maids-of-honour close to him caught hold of his sword and tried to calm him down. However, King Kalabu’s anger remained, uncontrollable, he asked the hermit what was the Doctrine which he, the hermit, professed. The great hermit replied that his tenet was the Doctrine of khanti (patience), saying that tolerance, exercised by one without feeling angry against those who provoked, railed and raved, is called “patience”. The king then telling the hermit that he would put him to a crucial test to find out if he was really accomplished with patience, ordered his servant, the Executioner, in this manner. “You better pull down this villainous thief, the hermit, lay him prostrate on the ground and punish him with two-thousand lashes by whipping with a twisted cane fixed with sharp-pointed pins, on all four sides of his body.”

The executioner gave the hermit two-thousand lashes as ordered by the king. Ordinarily, a person would surely succumb to the injuries received if he has to undergo a penalty of 2,000 lashes. Curiously, the great hermit was found still alive, possibly because of his noble qualities of khanti or of relaxed or slack force put in at the time of whipping – no one can say. However, the thick outer and inner thin layer of skin covering the flesh of the entire body of the hermit was grievously torn. Flesh was also torn to bits. Blood flowed out profusely. Just imagine how severe the pain and suffering would be that the said hermit had to undergo. In spite of this ferocious ill-treatment, the great noble hermit harboured no anger, ill-will or grudge either against the king or the executioner. This is the cruel punishment imposed without rhyme or reason or fault whatsoever. Ordinarily, such a treatment would induce anger and malicious feeling. This kind of patience indeed calls for the spirit of emulation from Yogis who are developing metta.

Finding the great hermit still alive, the king asked him what doctrine he was practising. Thereupon, the Reverend Hermit replied, “I firmly hold the Doctrine of Patience 0, King, do you think that this ‘patience’ (khanti) can be traced in the skin of my body? It is not underneath the layers of the skin. ‘Patience’ resides in my heart of hearts and never runs out. Infuriated by this mental attitude, King KaIabu ordered that two hands of the hermit be cut off and also that the lower extremities – the two feet, the ears, and the nose be sliced off. The Executioner strictly complied with the king’s orders and cruelly cut off those bodily limbs with an axe. Every time a limb was severed, a question was put as to what was the kind of Doctrine accepted by the hermit. The reply given by the great hermit repeatedly to the questions, was the same as before, that he had held firmly to the doctrine of patience which found its abode in his heart. Eventually, the king after uttering in disgust as: “You cunning hermit. Better live on invoking or hoisting your own khanti foully kicked the hermit in the breast with his foot and then departed. After his departure, when he reached the gate of the royal garden, this King Kalabu was swallowed down by the earth. It has been mentioned in the Atthakatha (Commentary) that this wicked king was dragged down to Avici – hell, enveloped in burning flames.

Thereafter, the Commander-in-Chief of the army came over to the great hermit and tendered his apology not to feel angry and bear malice against the State (country). Thereupon, the Reverend Hermit gave his reply as follows:

“Yo me hatthey ca pad ca, kanna nasal ca cheddar.
Ciram jivatu so raja, na hi kujjhanti madisa.”

Senapati – Oh, Commander-in-Chief ! Yo – He who is King Kalabu, (has caused), me – my, hatthey ca – hands and pade ca feet, kanna nasan ca – the ears and the nose, chedayi to be cut off. So raja – This King Kalabu, ciramjivatu – may live long. Hi – For being able to develop metta without getting angry, madisa – noble and virtuous persons like me, na kujjhanti – are not used to getting angry; nay, are able to develop metta with best wishes and goodwill and not being accustomed to getting angry.

0, dear Yogi who is developing metta through meditation in accordance with the teachings of the Lord Buddha! Your enemy who has done wrong to you will not be as bad as King Kalabu. Isn’t it then proper for you to be patient without getting angry just as the great Khantivadi hermit was able to endure, with patience and with no anger, the afflictions of the heinous crime committed by King Kalabu?