|Structure of the Tipitaka|
Source: Adapted from Archaic translation by Robert ChalmersEdit
JATAKA No. 50
"A thousand evil-doers."--This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana monastery, about actions done for the world's good, as will be explained in the Twelfth Book in the Maha-Kanha-jataka (*1).
Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisattva was reborn in the womb of the Queen wife. When he was born, he was named Prince Brahmadatta on his name-day. By sixteen years of age he had been well educated at Taxila, had learned the Three Vedas by heart, and was versed in the Eighteen Branches of Knowledge. And his father made him a Viceroy.
Now in those days the Benares folk were much given to festivals to 'gods,' and used to show honour to 'gods.' It was their habitual action to massacre numbers of sheep, goats, poultry, swine, and other living creatures, and perform their rites not merely with flowers and perfumes but with gory carcasses. Thought the destined Lord of Mercy to himself, "Led astray by superstition, men now arbitrarily sacrifice life; the people are for the most part given up to immorality: but when at my father's death I succeed to my inheritance, I will find means to end such destruction of life. I will devise some clever plan by which the evil shall be stopped without harming a single human being." In this mood the prince one day mounted his chariot and drove out of the city. On the way he saw a crowd gathered together at a holy banyan-tree, praying to the fairy who had been reborn in that tree, to grant them sons and daughters, honour and wealth, each according to his. heart's desire. Descending from his chariot the Bodhisattva came near to the tree and behaved as a worshipper so far as to make offerings of perfumes and flowers, sprinkling the tree with water, and pacing respectfully round its trunk. Then mounting his chariot again, he went his way back into the city.
From then on the prince made like journeys from time to time to the tree , and worshipped it like a true believer in 'gods.'
In due course, when his father died, the Bodhisattva ruled in his stead. Shunning the four evil courses, and practising the ten royal virtues, he ruled his people in righteousness. And now that his desire had come to pass and he was king, the Bodhisattva set himself to fulfil his former resolve. So he called together his ministers, the brahmins, the gentry, and the other ranks of the people, and asked the assembly whether they knew how he had made himself king. But no man could tell.
"Have you ever seen me respectfully worshipping a banyan-tree with perfumes and the like, and bowing down before it?"
"Sire, we have," said they.
"Well, I was making a vow; and the vow was that, if ever I became king, I would offer a sacrifice to that tree. And now that by help of the god(angel) I have come to be king, I will offer my promised sacrifice. So prepare it with all speed."
"But what are we to make it of?"
"My vow," said the king, "was this:-All such as are addicted to the Five Sins, to do the slaughter of living creatures and so on, and all such as walk in the Ten Paths of Unrighteousness, them will I kill, and with their flesh and their blood, with their entrails and their vitals, I will make my offering. So proclaim by beat of drum that our lord the king in the days of his viceroyalty vowed that if ever he became king he would kill, and offer up in a sacrifice, all such of his subjects as break the Commandments. And now the king wills to kill one thousand of such as are addicted to the Five Sins or walk in the Ten Paths of Unrighteousness; with the hearts and the flesh of the thousand shall a sacrifice be made in the god's(angel's) honour. Proclaim this that all may know throughout the city. Of those that transgress after this date," added the king, "will I kill a thousand, and offer them as a sacrifice to the god in fulfilment of my vow." And to make his meaning clear the king uttered this stanza:-
A thousand evil-doers once I vowed In pious gratitude to kill; And evil-doers form so huge a crowd, That I will now my vow fulfil.
Obedient to the king's commands, the ministers had proclamation made by beat of drum accordingly throughout the length and breadth of Benares. Such was the effect of the proclamation on the townsfolk that not a soul persisted in the old wickedness. And throughout the Bodhisattva's reign not a man was convicted of doing wrong. Thus, without harming a single one of his subjects, the Bodhisattva made them observe the Commandments. And at the close of a life of alms-giving and other good works he passed away with his followers to crowd the city of the Devas(Angels).
Said the Master, "This is not the first time, Brethren(Monks), that the Buddha has acted for the world's good; he acted in like manner in past times as well." His lesson ended, he explained the relation and identified the Birth by saying, "The Buddha's disciples were the ministers of those days, and I myself was the King of Benares."