The Prince and the She-devils (Chap. 1. Five Meals in the Forest)
Once upon a time King Brahmadatta was ruling in Benares, in northern India. The Enlightenment Being was born as the last of his 100 sons and grew up to be a wise young man.
In those days there were Silent Buddhas who came to the palace to receive alms food. They were called Buddhas because they were enlightened – they knew the Truth and experienced life as it really is, in every present moment. They were called Silent because they did not preach the Truth. This was because they knew it was a time when no one would be able to understand it. However, being filled with sympathy for the unhappiness of all beings, the Silent Buddhas wished to help anyone who asked them.
One day the young prince was thinking about his 99 older brothers and wondering if he had any chance to become King of Benares. He decided to ask the Silent Buddhas about it.
The next day the Silent Buddhas came as usual to collect alms food in the palace. The prince brought purified water and washed their feet. When they had sat down he gave them appetizers to eat. Before giving the next course he said to them, “I am 100th in line to the throne. What are the odds that I will become King of Benares?”
They replied, “Oh prince, with so many older brothers there is almost no chance you will ever be king here. However, you might become King of Takkasila. If you can get there in seven days you can become king. But on your way there is a dangerous forest. You must take the road passing through it, since it would take twice as long to go around it.
“That forest is known as ‘Devils Woods’. because it is filled with all kinds of devils – he-devils, she-devils, and even little children-devils! The she-devils spend most of their time by the roadside. They use magic to make buildings and entire cities appear along the way.
“The buildings have ceilings decorated with stars, and gorgeous rich couches surrounded by silk curtains of many colors. Sitting on these couches, the she-devils make themselves look like the sweetest, most pleasant of goddesses. With words dripping with honey they attract travelers saying, ‘You look tired. Come in, sit down, have something to drink and then be on your way.’
“Those who are persuaded to come in are invited to sit down. Then the she-devils use their beautiful physical appearance to trap their visitors with their own burning desires. After giving in to their desires. the strangers are killed by the she-devils and eaten while their blood is still hot!
“In this way those who are attracted by sight are trapped by the physical forms of women. Those who are attracted by sound are trapped by their singing voices and music. Those attracted by smell are trapped by the divine perfumes they wear. Those attracted by taste are trapped by the heavenly tasting delicacies they offer. Those attracted by touch are trapped by their soft luxurious beds and velvet couches.
“But if you, fair prince, can control all five senses, and force yourself to avoid looking at those beautiful enticing she-devils, only then can you become King of Takkasila in seven days.”
The grateful Bodhisatta replied, “Thank-you venerable ones, I will follow your advice. After hearing such warnings, how could I take the chance of looking at them?”
Then he asked the Silent Buddhas to give him special charms to protect him on his dangerous journey through Devils Woods. So they chanted protective blessings onto a string and some sand. He accepted the charms and paid his farewell respects to them, and then to his royal parents.
Returning to his own home he announced to his household servants, “I am going to Takkasila to win the kingship. You are to remain here.” But five of them said, “We also wish to go with you.” “No,” said he, “you can’t come with me. I have been warned that on the way there are beautiful she-devils who trap people who can’t resist the desires coming from their own five senses. Then they kill their victims and eat them while their blood is still hot. It is far too dangerous for you. I will rely only on myself and travel alone.”
But the five would not listen. They said, “If we go with you, oh prince, we will force ourselves to keep from looking at those beautiful she-devils. We will accompany you to Takkasila.” “If you insist, then so be it,” said the prince, ‘but keep your determination strong.”
The she-devils were waiting for them in Devils Woods. They had already magically formed beautiful villages and cities with lovely houses and palaces along the way.
It just so happened that one of the prince’s five servants was easily enchanted by the sight of the curves and figures of the bodies of women. So he began to fall behind in order to admire them. The worried prince asked. ‘Why do you delay, my friend?” “My feet ache,” said the man, “let me sit and rest a while in one of these mansions. Then I will catch up with you.” “My good friend,” said the prince, “those are she-devils. Don’t chase after them!”
Nevertheless, blinded by the temptation of the sense of sight, the man replied, “My lord, I can’t turn away. Whatever will happen, let it happen!” Giving him one last warning. the prince continued on with the other four.
The one who remained behind went closer to the beautiful looking forms he was so attracted to. After pleasing themselves fully with the man, the she-devils killed him and ate him on the spot!
Then they went farther into Devils Woods and created another mirage of a beautiful mansion. They sat inside and began singing the sweetest melodies, accompanied by the lovely sounds of all kinds of musical instruments. One of the prince’s followers was enchanted by the sound of beautiful music. So he too fell behind and was gobbled up by the still hungry she-devils.
Farther down the road they created another magic mansion filled with the scents of all kinds of divine perfumes. This time the man who loved sweet smells fell behind and was eaten as well.
Next the she-devils created a fabulous restaurant filled with foods having the most heavenly flavors. Here the lover of the tastes of the finest delicacies wandered in and was devoured in turn.
Then the she-devils went still farther down the road, created soft luxurious beds and velvet couches, and sat on them. The last of the prince’s followers was one who loved the touch of the softest fabrics and the most luxurious comfort. So he too fell behind and met his death, and was quickly eaten by the ravenous she-devils.
These events left the Enlightenment Being all alone in Devils Woods. A certain she-devil thought, “Aha! This one is very strong-minded indeed. But I am even more determined. I will not stop until I have tasted his flesh!” So she alone stubbornly followed him, even though the other devils gave up the chase.
As she got closer to the edge of Devils Woods, some woodsmen saw her and asked. “Lovely lady, who is it that walks on ahead of you?” ‘We are newlyweds,” replied the lying demon, “he is my too pure husband, who ran away from me on our wedding night. That’s why I’m chasing after him.”
The woodsmen caught up to the prince and asked, “Noble sir, this delicate flower-like golden-skinned young maiden has left her family to live with you. Why don’t you walk with her, instead of making her chase after you?”
The prince replied, “Good people, she is not my wife. She is a devil. She killed the five men who followed me and ate them while their blood was still hot!”
Whereupon the lovely looking devil said, “See how it is, gentlemen, anger can make husbands call their own wives devils and hungry ghosts! Such is the way of the world.”
Continuing to follow the prince, the determined she-devil magically made herself look pregnant. Then she seemed to be a first-time mother carrying her make-believe baby on her hip. Whoever saw the pair questioned them just as the woodsmen had. Each time the Bodhisatta repeated, “She is not my wife. She is a devil. She killed the five men who followed me and ate them while their blood was still hot!”