Brahmavihara Dhamma

Part II

by Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw

(27) The Story of Dhammapala, the young lad

At one time in the past old days, Mahapatapa was the ruling monarch in the country of Benares. At that time Bodhisatta entered the womb of the chief queen Canda Devi who later gave birth to a son. Bodhisatta, the newly born baby was given the name of Dhammapala. When this young prince Dhammapala was seven months old, his mother, the queen, after bathing her child and dressing him with fine costumes, was caressing and jovially playing with the infant with love. At that moment, the queen whose joyous thoughts were momentarily riveted on her bonny son, being so delighted that she failed to get up and pay respect to her husband, the king, who had by then come over to the place where the mother was molly-coddling the child.

The king on seeing the mother fondling her son, imagined, “Even now this woman is becoming swell headed and conceited, relying on her son. When the child become a grown-up, it is almost certain that she will surely neglect me. Perhaps, it would be better to get rid of the son now.” With a feeling of disappointment which had reflected on his facial expression, he left the place and proceeded to his royal chamber where the throne had stood. He immediately sent for the Executioner and gave orders that the infant child be brought before his presence. Judging from his looks from the very outset, the queen knew that her husband, the king, had entertained his resentment against her. Realising this unhappy state of affairs, the queen was shedding tears while folding the baby to her breasts.

While she was thus weeping, the Executioner appeared and snatched away the child Dhammapala from her. She followed from behind the Executioner with a pensive mood. On their arrival before the king, the child was put on a wooden slab. Orders were immediately given by the king to chop off the hands of the poor little unfortunate child. The queen Canda Devi entreated the king that the child was innocent and that only she had the fault. She pleaded repeatedly that her hands be cut off instead of the hands of her innocent soil but to no avail. The Executioner had to obey and execute the orders of the king. The hands of the seven months’ old infant Dhammapala were therefore cruelly chopped off with an axe. The two small tender hands were dismembered as if a delicate sprout of a bamboo plant is severed. The young infant, Bodhisatta, however, did not flinch or cry but remained still with patience. Hence, the commentary goes to say:

So – This young child Dhammapala, hatthesu chijjamanesu – when cut off his hands, i.e. while his hands were chopped off, nevarodi – neither uttered a cry, na parideyi – nor wailed or lamented, khantinca – exercising the spirit of patience, and, mettinca – wishing happiness to the other, purecarikam katva – guided by the thoughts of lovingkindness, adhivasesi endured the pain and suffering by resigning himself to the situation (fate).

The mother – queen Canda Devi after picking up the soft tiny hands that had been severed, folded them close to her bosom and was bitterly sobbing. Thereafter, the father Mahapatapa king again ordered the Executioner to out off the two feet and then, the head of the child. The queen went on retreating her husband to pardon the innocent child but to no purpose. The Executioner then severed the child’s head as ordered by the king and even tossed up the little delicate body of the child in the air and on falling down, caught it up with the sharp-pointed sword and played with it as if it were a wreath of flowers. It is almost unbelievable that there was such. kind of foolish, wicked and heartless father without a tinge of mercy in him. However, there is every possibility of finding such a merciless man from among the worldly people when one becomes a slave to “Anger”. Because of this possibility, the case of this wicked King Mahapatapa, father of Dhammapala, has been cited as an example. The queen died of a broken-heart on the spot while weeping and wailing. By a curious coincidence, King Mahapatapa also fell down from his throne and dropped on to the floor first, and eventually reached the level of the earth below where he was swallowed down to death. It was stated that he had gone down to avici hell, one of the eight Narakas.

As for the young child Dhammapala, it was stated that he passed away peacefully while exercising patience without any anger which had not arisen till the time of his death. Considering this episode, it might be possible for a Yogi who is developing metta to endure pain and suffering without being angry, just as the young child Dhammapala had practised forbearance.