Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part IV by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(58) The Story of Sihabahu

Ceylonese history refers to a story of a man by the name of Sihabahu, born of a princess with her conjugal relationship with a lion. On attaining the age of sixteen, this young man asked his mother, “Why is it that you, mother, are different in race from my father?”. The mother recounted what had happened as: “I’m the daughter of the King of the Country of Vanga. At one time, on my way to the State of Magadha together with other travellers, we all came upon this great lion. The whole crowd of travellers except me fled in fear. I was however unable to lift my feet and run away for my life, exactly as was once formerly predicted by an astrologer that I would have my conjugal relationship with a lion. The prophecy was confirmed by a miraculous event in this way.

While I remained at a standstill with fright, this great lion carried me on his back and took me away into a cave where he lived. Sihabahu then inquired why she continued to remain in the cave without returning to the palace where her own kith and kin were residing. She told her son that she was unable to leave the cave because the mouth of the cave was blocked up with a huge massive rock. Thereupon, Sihabahu removed this huge rock and left the place carrying his mother and sister on his shoulder.

On return to his den, the great lion not seeing his wife and children felt dejected and went out in search of them. He attacked all people living in the outskirts of the villages where he set his foot. On receipt of complaint from the people concerned about the ravages done by the lion, the King of Vanga issued a royal proclamation that any person who could suppress this enemy, the lion, would be offered a reward of three thousand kyats. Sihabahu came forward to undertake the task of killing the lion. His mother twice prevented her son from doing harm to the lion, his own father. On the third time, without the knowledge of his mother, Sihabahu accepted the award. On his arrival before the King, the latter promised that he would surrender his Kingdom to Sihabahu, if Sihabahu could quell the danger brought about by this great lion. He therefore left the palace and proceeded to where the lion could be traced. The great lion, being greatly touched with an instinctive paternal love, on seeing his son, was developing his lovingkindness. The arrows which were shot at the lion by Sihabahu had no effect on the lion, and these arrows were said to have rebounded and dropped before him near his foot by virtue of metta that had been developed and radiated towards the son. Three attempts were made to kill the lion in the like manner, but in all his attempts, all arrows bounded back to Sihabahu and dropped on the earth before him. Because of repeated attacks by his son, a feeling of anger and bitterness had arisen in the great lion. Hence, the arrow which was shot on the fourth occasion hit the lion and pierced through its body. Judging from this incident, it is to be borne in mind that this three arrows had failed to hit and pierce through the lion’s body because of the father’s love towards the son and not just merely because of ordinary loving-kindness.