Once upon a time, in Benares in northern India, the Enlightenment Being was born into the royal family. When he became king he was called Goodness the Great. He had earned this title by trying to do good all the time, even when the results might not benefit him. For example, he spent much of the royal treasury on the building and running of six houses of charity. In these houses good and aid were given freely to all the poor and needy who came along, even to unknown travellers. Soon King Goodness the Great became famous for his patience, loving-kindness and compassion. It was said that he loved all beings just like a father loves his young children.
Of course King Goodness observed the holy days by not eating. And naturally he practiced the ‘Five Training Steps’, giving up the five unwholesome actions. These are: destroying life, taking what is not given, doing wrong in sexual ways, speaking falsely, and losing one’s mind from alcohol. So his gentle kindness became more and more pure.
Since he wished to harm no one, King Goodness the Great even refused to imprison or injure wrongdoers. Knowing this, one of his highest ministers tried to take advantage of him. He cooked up a scheme to cheat some of the women in the royal harem. Afterwards it became known by all and was reported to the king.
He called the bad minister before him and said, ‘I have investigated and found that you have done a criminal act. Word of it has spread and you have dishonoured yourself here in Benares. So it would be better for you to go and live somewhere else. You may take all your wealth and your family. Go wherever you like and live happily there. Learn from this lesson.’
Then the minister took his family and al his belongings to the city of Kosala. Since he was very clever indeed, he worked his way up and became a minister of the king. In time he became the most trusted adviser to the King of Kosala. One day he said, ‘My lord, I came here from Benares. The city of Benares is like a beehive where the bees have no stingers! The ruling king is very tender and weak. With only a very small army you can easily conquer the city and make it yours.’
The king doubted this, so he said, “You are my minister, but you talk like a spy who is leading me into a trap!’ He replied “No my lord. If you don’t believe me, send your best spies to examine what I say. I am not lying. When robbers are brought to the King of Benares, he gives them money, advises them not to take what is not given, and then lets them go free,”
The king decided to find out if this was true. So he sent some robbers to raid a remote border village belonging to Benares. The villagers caught the looters and brought them to King Goodness the Great. He asked them, “Why do you want to do this type of crime?”
The robbers answered, “Your worship, we are poor people. There is no way to live without money. As your kingdom has plenty of workers, there is no work for us to do. So we had to loot the country in order to survive.” Hearing this, the king gave them gifts of money, advised them to change their ways, and let them go free.
When the King of Kosala was told of this, he sent another gang of bandits to the streets of Benares itself. They too looted the shops and even killed some of the people. When they were captured and brought to king Goodness, he treated them just the same as the first robbers.
Learning of this, the King of Kosala began marching his troops and elephants towards Benares.
In those days the King of Benares had a mighty army which included very brave elephants. There were many ordinary soldiers, and also some that were as big as giants. It was known that they were capable of conquering all India.
The giant soldiers told King Goodness about the small invading army from Kosala. They asked permission to attack and kill them all.
But King Goodness the Great would not send them into battle. He said, “My children, do not fight just so I may remain king. If we destroy the lives of others we also destroy our own peace of mind. Why should we kill others? Let them have the kingdom if they want it so badly. I do not wish to fight.”
The royal ministers said, “Our Lord, we will fight them ourselves. Don’t worry yourself. Only give us the order.” But again he prevented them.
Meanwhile the King of Kosala sent him a warning, telling him to give up the kingdom or fight. King Goodness the Great sent this reply: “I do not want you to fight with me, and you do not want me to fight with you. If you want the country, you can have it. Why should we kill people just to decide the name of the king? What does it matter even the name of the country itself?”
Hearing this, the ministers came forward and pleaded, “Our Lord, let us go out with our mighty army. We will beat them with our weapons and capture them all. We are much stronger than they are. We would not have to kill any of them. And besides, if we surrender the city, the enemy army would surely kill us all!”
But King Goodness would not be moved. He refused to cause harm to anyone. He replied, “Even if you do not wish to kill, by fighting many will be injured. By accident some may die. No one knows the future – whether our attackers will kill us or not. But we do know whether our present actions are right or wrong. Therefore I will not harm, or cause others to harm, any living being!”
Then King Goodness ordered the city gates be opened up for the invaders. He took his ministers to the top floor of the palace and advised them, “Say nothing and try to remain calm.”
The King of Kosala entered the city of Benares and saw that no one was against him. So he and his soldiers entered and went up to the top floor. They capture the innocent King Goodness the Great. The soldiers tied the hands of the defeated king and all of his ministers.
Then they were taken to the cemetery outside the city. They were buried up to their necks, standing straight up, with only their heads above ground. But even while the dirt was being trampled down around his neck, the Great Being remained without anger in his mind and said nothing.
Their discipline and obedience to King Goodness were so great that not a single minister spoke a word against anyone. But the King of Kosala had no mercy. He said roughly, “Come night time, let the jackals do as they please!”
And so it came to pass that, at midnight, a large band of jackals wandered into the cemetery. They could smell a feast of human flesh waiting for them.
Seeing them coming, King Goodness and his ministers shouted all at once and scared the jackals away. Twice more this happened. Then the clever jackals realised, “These men must have been put here for us to kill and eat.” No longer afraid, they ignored the shouts. The jackal king walked right up to the face of King Goodness.
The king offered his throat to the beast. But before he could bite into him, the king grabbed the jackal’s chin with his teeth. No harming him, King Goodness gripped him tightly so the jackal king howled in fear. This frightened his followers and they all ran away.
Meanwhile the jackal king thrashed back and forth, trying madly to free himself from the might jaws of the human king. In so doing, he loosened the dirt packed around the king’s neck and shoulders. Then King Goodness released the screaming jackal. He was able to wiggle himself free from the loosened earth and pull himself up onto the ground. Then he freed all his frightened ministers.
Nearby there was a dead body. It just so happened that it was lying on the border of the territories claimed by two rival demons. They were arguing over the division of the body, insulting each other in ways that only demons can.
Then one demon said to the other, “Why should we continue quarrelling instead of eating? Right over there is King Goodness the Great of Benares. He is famous in all worlds for his righteousness. He will divide the dead body for us.
They dragged the body to the king and asked him to divide it between them fairly. He said, ‘My friends, I would be glad to divide this for you. But I am filthy and dirty, I must clean myself first.”
The two demons used their magic powers to bring scented water, perfume, clothing, ornaments and flowers from the king’s own palace in Benares. He bathed, perfumed himself, dressed, and covered himself with ornaments and flower garlands.
The demons asked King Goodness if there was anything else they could do. He replied that he was hungry. So, again by their magic powers, the demons brought the most delicious flavoured rice in a golden bowl and perfumed drinking water in a golden cup — also from the royal palace in Benders.
When he was satisfied, king Goodness asked them to bring him the sword of state from the pillow of the King of Kosala, who was sleeping in the palace in Benares. With magic that too was easily done. Then the king used the sword to cut the dead boy into two halves, right down the spine. He washed the sword of state and strapped it to his side.
The hungry demons happily gobbled up the fairly divided dead body. Then they gratefully said to King Goodness, “Now that our bellies are full, is there anything else we can do to please you?”
He replied, “By your magic, set me in my own bedroom in the palace next to the King of Kosala. In addition, put all these my ministers back in their homes.” Without a word, the demons did exactly as the king had asked.
At that moment the King of Kosala was fast asleep in the royal bedchamber. King Goodness the Great gently touched the belly of the sleeping king with the sword of state. The king awoke in great surprise. In the dim lamplight he was frightened to see King Goodness leaning over him with sword in hand. He had to rub his eyes to make sure he was not having a nightmare!”
Then he asked the great king, “My lord how did you come here in spite of all my guards? You were buried up to your neck in the cemetery – how is it you are spotlessly clean, sweet smelling, dressed in your own royal robes, and decorated with fine jewellery and the loveliest flowers?”
King Goodness told him the story of his escape from the band of jackals. He told of the two demons that came to him to settle their quarrel. And he told how they gratefully helped him with their magic powers.
On hearing this, the king of Kasala was overcome by his own shame. He bowed his head to King Goodness the Great and cried, “Oh great king, the stupid ferocious demons, who live by eating the flesh and drinking the blood of dead bodies – they recognised your supreme goodness. But I, who was lucky enough to be born as an intelligent and civilised human being – I have been too foolish to see how wonderful your pure goodness is.
“I promise never again to plot against you, my lord – you who have gained such perfect harmlessness. And I promise to serve you forever as the truest of friends. Please forgive me, great king.” Then, as if he were a servant, the King of Kosala laid King Goodness the Great down on the royal bed, while he himself lay on a small couch.
The next day the King of Kosala called all his soldiers into the palace courtyard. There he publicly praised the king of Benares and asked his forgiveness once again. He gave back the kingdom and promised that he would always protect King Goodness. Then he punished his adviser, the criminal minister, and returned to Kosala with all his troops and elephants.
King Goodness the Great was sitting majestically on his golden throne, with its legs like those of a gazelle. He was shaded from the sun by the pure white royal umbrella. He taught his loyal subjects saying, “People of Benares wholesomeness begins with giving up the five unwholesome actions once and for all. The highest qualities of the good person, whether ruler or subject, are loving-kindness and compassion. Filled with these qualities, one cannot harm another – no matter what the reason or the cost. No matter how dangerous the threat, one must persevere until the greatness of the good heart wins in the end.”
Throughout the rest of his reign, the people of Benares lived peacefully and happily. King Goodness the Great continued performing wholesome works. Eventually he died and was reborn as he deserved.