Buddhist Tales for Young and Old

Volume 2 - King Fruitful

The Wisdom of Queen Tenderhearted [Lust]

Once upon a time, the Enlightenment Being was born into a rich high-class family in Kasi, in northern India. He grew to young manhood and completed his education. Then he gave up ordinary desires and left the everyday world. He became a holy man and went to live by himself in the Himalayan forests. He meditated for a long time, developed high mental powers, and was filled with inner happiness.

Having run out of salt, one day he came down to the city of Benares. He spent the night in the royal garden. In the morning he washed himself, tied his tangled hair knot on top of his head, and dressed in a black antelope skin. He folded up the robe made of red bark, which he usually wore. Then he went to the city to collect almsfood.

When he arrived at the palace gate, King Brahmadatta was walking back and forth on his terrace. When he saw the humble looking holy man, he thought. There is such a thing as perfect calm, this man must have found it!” He had his servants bring him into the palace.

The holy man was seated on a luxurious couch and was fed the very best foods. He thanked the king. The king said, “You are welcome to live in my royal garden permanently. I will provide the ‘Four Necessities’ — food, clothing, shelter and medicine. In so doing I may gain merit leading to rebirth in a heaven world.”

The holy man accepted this kind offer. He spent the next sixteen years living in the royal garden of Benares. During that time he taught all in the king’s family, and received the Four Necessities from the king.

One day King Brahmadatta decided he must go to a frontier area and put down a revolt. Before leaving he ordered his queen to care for the needs of the holy man. Her name was Queen Tenderhearted.

She prepared food every day for the holy man. Then one day he was late in arriving for his meal. While waiting, Queen Tenderhearted refreshed herself in a perfumed bath, dressed in fine clothes and jewellery, and lay down on the couch.

Meanwhile the Enlightenment Being had been meditating in a particularly joyful mental state. When he realised what time it was, he used the power of his mental purity to fly through the air to the palace.

When Queen Tenderhearted heard the rustling sound made by his bark robe, she rose up suddenly from her couch. In so doing, her blouse accidentally slipped down for a moment — and the holy man glimpsed her from the window as he entered. He was surprised by the unusual sight of the queen’s great beauty.

Desire, which had been subdued but not erased, rose within him. It was just like a cobra rises, spreading his hood, from the basket in which it is kept. His desire lost its purity. He was wounded, like a crow with a broken wing.

The holy man could not eat his food. He took it back to his temple dwelling in the royal garden, and put it under his bed. His mind was enslaved by the sight of the beauty of Queen Tenderhearted. His heart was burning with desire. He remained on his bed, without eating or drinking, for the next seven days.

Finally the king arrived home again. He circled the city and then went directly to see the holy man in the garden temple. Seeing him lying in bed, he thought he was sick. He cleaned out the temple and sat down next to him. He began massaging his feet, and asked, “Reverend sir, what happened to you? Are you sick?”

The holy man replied, “Oh great king, my sickness is that I am caught in the chains of desire.” “What is it you desire?” asked the king. “Queen Tenderhearted, my lord.” “Your reverence,” said the king, “I will give Tenderhearted to you. Come with me.”

When they arrived at the palace, King Brahmadatta had his queen dressed in her finest clothing and jewellery. Then he secretly told her to help the unfortunate holy man regain his purity. She replied. “I know what to do, my lord, I will save him.” Then the king gave her away and she left the palace with the holy man.

After they passed through the main gate she said, “We must have a house to live in. Go back and ask the king for one.” He returned and asked the king for a house. The king gave them a tiny run-down hut that people used as an outhouse.

The holy man took the queen to their new home, but she refused to go inside. He asked her why. She said, “Because it’s filthy! Go back to the king and get a shovel and basket.” He obeyed and when he returned she ordered him to do all the cleaning. He even had to plaster the walls and floor with fresh cow dung!

Then she commanded him to go to the palace and get her a bed. Then a chair. Then a lamp, bed linen, a cooking pot, a water pot. She ordered him to get all these things one at a time, and he obeyed dutifully. She sent him to get water for her bath and many other things. He set out the water for her bath and then made up the bed. Finally they sat down next to each other on the bed. Suddenly she grabbed him by the whiskers, shook him back and forth, pulled him towards her and said, “Don’t you remember that you are a holy man and a priest?”

Only then was he shocked out of his mad infatuation and made to realise who he was. Having regained his self-awareness, he thought, “Oh what a pitiful state I have fallen into. I have been blinded by my desire into becoming a slave. Beginning with only the sight of a woman, this mad craving could lead me into a hell world. My body was burning, as if I’d been shot in the heart with an arrow of desire. But there was no bleeding wound! Not seeing her body as it really was, my own foolishness caused all my suffering!”

Then he spoke out loudly, “On this very day I will return the wise Queen Tenderhearted to the noble King Brahmadatta. Then I will fly back to my forest home!”

After taking her back, he said to the king, “I don’t want your queen anymore. Before I had her, she was my one desire. After I got her, one desire led to another endlessly, leading only to hell.”

The wise Queen Tenderhearted, by using her intelligence and knowledge of life, had given a great gift to the holy man. Rather than taking advantage of his weakness, she had restored his purity.

In perfect calm the Enlightenment Being rose into the air, preached to the king, and then magically flew to the Himalayan forests. He never again returned to the ordinary world. After meditating for years in peace and joy, he died and was reborn in a high heaven world.

The moral is: Desire enslaves, wisdom liberates.