Life of the Buddha

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(Part Two) 15. King Pasenadi Learns to See True Character (2)

One evening, when King Kosala was talking to the Buddha, there passed by on the road a band of ascetics with knotted hair, hairy bodies and long nails. They walked past slowly, with heads bent low. At once the king got up and knelt down to worship them, uttering his own name three times.

The king came back to the Buddha and said, “Sir, there were saints among those ascetics. Just see how calmly they walked with heads bent down.” With his divine eyes the Buddha saw that those men were not saints, but spies who were sent out to gather information.

“Your Majesty,” said the Buddha, “by mere appearances alone it is not possible for one who leads a life of comfort to know the real nature of another. If we want to understand a person’s real nature, his good and bad qualities, we must associate with him for some time. We must be wise and have sharpness of mind.”

“We can know a person’s purity by conversing with him, observe his courage in the face of misfortune and understand his wisdom during discussions. The bad people, O king, sometimes pretend to be good and it is difficult for you to judge their state of morality.”