- February 10, 2022
Once upon a time, there reigned a king Suruci in Mithila. This king, having a son born to him, gave him the name of Suruci-Kumara, or Prince Splendid. When he grew up he determined to study at Takkasila; so there he went, and sat down in a hall at the city gate. Now the son of the king of Benares also, whose name was Prince Brahmadatta, went to the same place, and took his seat on the same bench where Prince Suruci sat. They entered into converse together, and became friends, and went both together to the teacher. They paid the fee, and studied, and education was complete. Then they took leave of their teacher, and went on their road together.
After travelling thus a short distance, they came to a stop at a place where the road parted. Then they embraced, and in order to keep their friendship alive they made a compact together: “If I have a son and you a daughter, or if you have a son and I a daughter, we will make a match of it between them.”
When they were on the throne, a son was born to king Suruci, and named as Prince Suruci. Brahmadatta had a daughter, and she was named as Sumedha, the Wise Lady. Prince Suruci went to Takkasila for his education. He returned after education. Then his father, wishing to mark out his son for king by the ceremonial sprinkling, thought to himself, “My friend the king of Benares has a daughter, so they say: I will make her my son’s consort.” For this purpose he sent an ambassade with rich gifts.
But before they had yet had come, the king of Benares asked his queen this question: “Lady, what is the worst misery for a woman?” “To quarrel with her fellow-wives.” “Then, my lady, to save our only daughter the Princess Sumedha from this misery, we will give her to none but him that will have her and no other.” So when the ambassadors came, and named the name of his daughter, he told them, “Good friends, indeed it is true I promised my daughter to my old friend long ago. But we have no wish to cast her into the midst of a crowd of women, and we will give her only to one who will wed her and no other.” This message they brought back to the king. But the king was displeased. He said, “Ours is a great kingdom. The city of Mithila covers seven leagues, the measure of the whole kingdom is three hundred leagues. Such a king should have sixteen thousand women at the least.” But Prince Suruci, hearing the great beauty of Sumedha, fell in love from hearing of it only. So he sent word to his parents, saying, “I will take her and no other. What do I want with a multitude of women? Let her be brought.” They did not thwart his desire, but sent a rich present and a great ambassade to bring her home. Then she was made his queen consort, and they were both together consecrated by sprinkling.
He became king Suruci, and ruling in justice lived a life of high happiness with his queen. But although she dwelt in his palace for ten thousand years, never son nor daughter she had of him.
Then all the townsfolk gathered together in the palace courtyard. They advised the king to marry as many women as he likes to get a son or daughter. King Suruci said, “Dear friends! I gave my word I would take no other but one, and on those terms I got her. I cannot lie, no host of women for me.” So he refused their request, and they departed. But Sumedha heard what was said. She thought, “The king refuses to choose him concubines for his truth’s sake. well, I will find him some one.” Playing the part of mother and wife to the king, she chose at her own will four thousand maidens from four castes and delivered them to him. And all these dwelt in the palace for ten thousand years, and never a son or daughter they brought between them. In this way she did three times brought four thousand maidens but they had neither son nor daughter. Thus she brought him sixteen thousand wives in all. Forty thousand years went by. Then the townsfolk again gathered together with reproaches.
“What is it now?” the king asked. “My lord, command your women to pray for a son.” The king was not unwilling, and commanded so to pray. Thenceforward praying for a son, they worship all manner of deities and offer all kinds of vows; yet no son appeared. Then the king commanded Sumedha to pray for a son. She consented. On the fast of the fifteenth day of the month, she took upon her the eightfold Sabbath vows, and sat meditating upon the virtues in a magnificent room upon a pleasant couch. The others were in the park, vowing to do sacrifice with goats or kine. By the glory of Sumedha’s virtue Sakka’s dwelling place began to tremble. Sakka pondered, and understood that Sumedha prayed for a son. Sakka thought, “I cannot give her this or that son indifferently; I will search for one which shall be suitable.” Then he saw a young god called Nalakara, the Basket-weaver. He with his son lived in the world. They gave food to a Pacceka Buddha and made a hut for living. Throughout the winter they made the monk to live there and fed them. After winter they gave three robes and send the monk to his place.
The process was repeated for seven times. That is why, after death, they were sent to heaven. They were desirous of winning to the upper god-world. Sakka perceiving that one of them would be the Tathagat, said, “Sir, you must go into the world of men.” But Nalakara said, “O king, the world of men is hateful and loathsome; they who dwell there do good and give alms longing for the world of the gods. What shall I do when I get there?” “Sir, you shall enjoy in perfection all that can be enjoyed in that world; you shall dwell in a palace made with stones of price, five and twenty leagues in height. Do accept.” He consented.
When Sakka had received his promise, in the guise of a sage he descended into the king’s park. Sakka asked the ladies, “I will give a son to the virtuous. What is your virtue, what your life and conversation?” They drew down their uplifted hands, saying, “If you would reward virtue, go seek Sumedha.” He went his ways through the air, and stayed at the window of her bedchamber. Then they went and told her, saying, “See! My lady! king of the gods stands at your bedchamber window, offering you the boon of a son to a virtuous woman?” “It is, and so I do.” “Then grant it to me.” “What is your virtue, tell me; and if you please me, I grant you the boon.” Then declaring her virtue she said:
“I am king Ruci’s consort-queen, the first he ever wed;
I never lightly held his wish, nor deemed him mean or base.
Indeed or thought or word, behind his back, nor to his face.
The parents of my husband dear, so long as they held sway.
And while they lived, would ever give me training in the Way.
My passion was to hurt no life, and willingly do right:
I served them with extremest care unwearied day and night.
No less than sixteen thousand dames my fellow-wives have been.
Yet, brahmin, never jealousy nor anger came between.
At their good fortune I rejoice; each one of them Is dear;
My heart is soft to all these wives as though myself it were.
Slaves, messengers, and servants all, and all about the place,
I give them food, I treat them well, wit hcheerful pleasant face.
Ascetics, Brahmins, any man who begging here is seen,
I comfort all with food and drink, my hands all washed clean.
The eighth of either fortnight, the fourteenth, fifteenth days,
And the especial fast I keep, I walk in holy ways.
If this be true, O holy one, so may that son be given:
But if my lips are speaking lies, then burst my head in seven.”
Then Sakka said, “Abundant and marvelous are your virtues;” then in her praise he replied:
“All these great virtues, glorious dame, O daughter of a king,
Are found in thee, which of thyself, O lady, thou dost sing.
A warrior, born of noble blood, all glorious and wise,
Videha’s righteous emperor, thy son, shall soon arise.”
When these words she heard, in great joy she puts question to him:
“Unkempt, with dust and dirt begrimed, high-poised in the sky,
Thou speakest in a lovely voice that pricks me to the heart.
Art thou a mighty god, O sage and dwelled in heaven on high?
O tell me whence thou comest here, O tell me who thou art!”
Sakka told her:
“Sakka the Hundred-eyed thou seest, for so the gods me call
When they are wont to assemble in the heavenly judgement hall.
When women virtuous, wise, and good here in the world are found,
True wives, to husband’s mother kind even as in duty bound,
When such a woman wise of heart and good in deed they know,
To her, though woman, they divine, the gods themselves will go.
So lady, thou, through worthy life, through store of good deeds done,
A princess born, all happiness the heart can wish, hast won.
So thou dost reap thy deeds, princess, by glory on the earth,
And after in the world of gods a new and heavenly birth.
O wise, O blessed! so live on, preserve thy conduct right;
Now I to heaven must return, delighted with thy sight.
I have business to do in the world of gods. Therefore I go; but do thou be vigilant.” With this advice he departed.
In the morning time, the god Nalakara was conceived within her womb. When she discovered it, she told the king, and he was happy. At the end of ten months she gave birth a son, and they named him as Maha-panada. All the people of the two countries came crying out, “My lord, we bring this for the boy’s milk-money,” and each dropped a coin in the king’s courtyard. The king did not wish to accept this, but they would not take the money back, but said as they departed, “When the boy grows up, my lord, it will pay for his keep.”
The lad was brought up amid great magnificence; and when he grew young he was perfect in all accomplishments. The king said to the queen, “My lady, when the time comes for the ceremonial sprinkling of our son, let us make him a fine palace for that occasion.” She was quite willing. The king sent for those who had skill in divining the lucky place for a building, and said to them. “Get a master-mason, and build me a palace not far from my own. This is for my son, whom we are about to consecrate as my successor.” They said it was well, and proceeded to examine the surface of the ground. At that moment Sakka’s throne became hot. Perceiving this, he at once summoned Vissakamma, and said, “Go! Make a great palace for Prince Maha-panada.”
Vissakamma took on the shape of a mason, and approaching the workmen said, “Go and eat your breakfast, then return.” Having thus got rid of the men, he struck on the earth with his staff; in that instant up rose a palace, seven storeys high, of the aforesaid size. Now for Maha-panada these three ceremonies were done together; the ceremony for consecration the palace, the ceremony for spreading above him the royal umbrella, the ceremony of his marriage. At the time of the ceremony all the people of both countries gathered together, and spent seven years a – feasting, nor did the king dismiss them; their clothes, their ornaments, their food and their drink and all the rest of it, these things were all provided by the royal family. At the seven years’ end they began to grumble, and king Suruci asked why. “O king,” they said, “While we have been reveling at this feast seven years have gone by. When will the feast come to an end?” he answered, “My good friends, all this while my son has never once laughed. So soon as he shall laugh, we will disperse again.” Then the crowd went beating the drum and gathered the tumblers and jugglers together.
Thousands of tumblers were gathered, and they divided themselves into seven bands and danced; but they could not make the prince laugh. Of course he that had seen the dancing of dancers divine could not care for such dancers as these. Then came two clever jugglers, Bhandu-kanna and Pandu-kanna, Crop-ear and Yellow-ear, and say they, “We will make the prince laugh.” Bhandu-kanna made a great mango tree, which he called Sanspareil, grow before the palace door; then he threw up a ball of string, and made it catch on a branch of the tree, and then up he climbed into the Mango Sanspareil. Now the Mango Sanspareil they say is Vessavana’s mango. And the slaves of Vessavana took him, as usual, chopped him up limb-meal and threw down the bits. The other jugglers joined the pieces together, and poured water upon them. The man donned upper and under garments of flowers, and rose up and began dancing again. Even the sight of this did not make the prince laugh. Then Pandu-kanna had some fire-wood piled in the court-yard and went into the fire with his troop.
When the fire was burnt out, the people sprinkled the pile with water. Pandu-kanna with his troop rose up dancing with upper and under garments of flowers. When the people found they could not make him laugh, they grew angry. Sakka, perceiving this, sent down a divine dancer, bidding him make prince Maha-panda laugh. Then he came and remained poised in the air above the royal courtyard, and performed what is called the Half-body dance; one hand, one foot, one eye, one tooth, go a dancing, throbbing, flickering to and from all the rest stone still. Maha–panada, when he saw this, gave a little smile. But the crowd roared and roared with laughter, could not cease laughing, laughed themselves out of their wits, lost control of their limbs, rolled over and over in the royal courtyard. That was the end of the festival.
King Maha-panada did good and gave alms, and at his life’s end went to the world of gods.