31 – Sutasoma

31 – SUTASOMA

Even a chance meeting with a virtuous person promotes well-being. For this reason alone, those who long for awareness and balance in their lives should seek out the virtuous.

Once the Bodhisattva was born into the illustrious royal family of the Kauravas, into a dynasty known the world over for its glory. It was a family held in deep affection by the people; even their proud neighbors had become their vassals, partly because of the sheer splendor of the Kauravas’ power, but also because of the purity of the family’s intentions.

Because the Bodhisattva was blessed with a face that reflected his hundreds of virtues, he was named Sutasoma, ‘Lovely as the Moon’. And like the moon in the bright half of the month, his glory and grace increased every day. Having attained supreme knowledge of the sacred texts, as well as a thorough understanding of the worldly arts and sciences, he came to be known as the kinsman of virtue, and as such was esteemed and loved by all the people. Indeed, he had become the greatest partisan of virtue ― his regard for virtues ever increasing, his preservation of virtues assured by self-restraint.

His virtues, like the sixteen phases of the moon, were his many aspects ― good conduct and learning, charity and compassion, humility and clarity, forbearance, wisdom and firmness, love, modesty, civility and purity, strength, self control and pureness of mind ― all these and more proliferated within his being. The loftiness of his personality, his high aspirations, and the greatness of his nature were further embellished by his youth. For all these reasons and more, his father the king judged him capable of ruling the people, and so designated him heir-apparent.

Fond of learning as he was, the prince particularly enjoyed hearing spiritual ideas aptly expressed. And, indeed, he paid quite a princely sum to hear those who could recite such maxims.

One spring the month of flowers brought forth lavish foliage that decorated the parks of the capital. The young shoots of shrubs and trees burst forth in soft brilliance, and the opening blossoms seemed full of heady laughter. Fresh grass smoothly carpeted the grounds and meadows; pools and ponds with water of purest blue were covered with dazzling white lotus petals. Humming bees roamed here and there, while crowds of bold cuckoos and brazen peacocks displayed their beauty. Mild breezes, fragrant and cool, refreshed the air. The splendor of the gardens brought happiness to all who came near.

The Great Being, escorted by his personal guards, often went forth to these pleasure gardens in order to divert him-self. The garden groves, resounding with the chants of cuckoos, were gracefully bedecked with artfully arranged arbors, and beautiful trees bent under the weight of their flowers.

Wandering through these groves in the company of his wives, the Bodhisattva resembled a god enjoying the fruits of bliss in the garden of Nandana. He listened raptly to the women’s songs which blended sweetly with their soft-toned instruments, watched their coquettish and graceful dances, and enjoyed their amorous play, made more intoxicating by the beauty of the gardens.

Now while he was deeply enjoying himself, a certain brahman who was known as a fine spiritual aphorist came to call. Received with due respect, the brahman approached the prince, and was immediately struck by the Bodhisattva’s great beauty. The Great Being, in turn, rejoiced at the presence of the holy man, although he postponed the business of the holy man’s visit until he should finish with the sport appropriate to his age and due his merits.

But before this came to pass, a loud and confused noise erupted, a noise which cut short the sound of song and music and the joyous play. The commotion provoked great fear and trembling in the women, and destroyed in an instant the merriment of the company. Quietly the prince bade the guardians of the harem to investigate. Just then, the gate-keepers hurried up in confusion and alarm, their faces marking their terror as they cried: “Your Majesty, it is the man-eater Kalmashapada, the son of Sudasa, whose cruelty exceeds even that of the rakshasas!

“He is like the God of Death himself, destroying hundreds of men at a time; he is the Terror of the World embodied! His strength is superhuman, and his insolence outrageous. At this very moment he is approaching! The guards have run off; terror has sapped the courage of the warriors! The chariots, the horses and elephants have fled in total disarray. Your Majesty, you must be on guard for your own defense. Pray advise us ― what is to be done?”

The Bodhisattva, although he knew full well, asked: “Who is this man you speak of as the son of Sudasa?” Quickly the gatekeepers replied: “You must know, Your Majesty, that years ago a king, Sudasa, was carried away by a runaway horse to the very heart of the forest, where he took up with a lioness. The child she conceived and delivered was human, more or less, and male.

“He was later discovered by some foresters, and was carried to Sudasa, who raised him as his son. Sudasa then left him as successor when he went to the realm of the gods. In this manner Kalmashapada legitimately achieved royal status, but his craving for raw meat, his mother’s legacy, would not be forgotten. Once he tasted human flesh, desire for it overwhelmed him, and he has fallen to killing and eating the people of his own capital.

“The townspeople prepared to put him to death, but Kalmashapada swore an oath to the demons who enjoy offerings of human flesh and blood, promising them one hundred royal princes as sacrifice if he were saved. The demons saved him, and he has already carried off many, many royal princes, and now he comes for you. Your Majesty, what are we to do?”

Now the Bodhisattva, who, in truth, already knew of Kalmashapada’s obsession, felt only compassion for him. Indeed, he had already thought of a way to cure him. He knew he had the power to destroy the monster’s evil habit, so to hear that Sudasa’s son drew near was like hearing welcome news ― news bringing happiness. And so he said:

“This fondness for human flesh has rendered the man lunatic. Unable to govern even himself, how could he fulfill his royal duties? He has destroyed his good repute and all his merit. Such a person is in need of the utmost sympathy. I could never use force against such a person, never feel fear at his coming. In a peaceful manner, without force or violence, I will utterly destroy his obsession.

“Look how he has come to the very place I reside. It is my duty to show him hospitality, as the virtuous would to any guest. Go, each of you, and resume your posts.”

The prince then turned to his female bodyguards, who, eyes rolling with fright, throats choked with terror, were preparing to bar the path of the monster. With comforting words he asked them to step back. Walking calmly toward the terrible noise, he suddenly saw his army in full flight, pursued by the son of Sudasa, whose appearance was indeed dreadful.

Stinking garments hung loose around his waist, and a diadem of bark crowned his filthy, dust-covered hair, which hung matted around his face. A thick and disheveled beard shrouded his face like darkness. His eyes were swollen with tremendous and awesome wrath, as he brandished his sword and shield.

The prince, wholly unafraid, called out: “Hail, son of Sudasa! Here I am! Sutasoma! Why are you tormenting those poor people? Come here!” Hearing this challenge, Kalmashapada, like a proud lion, reared and turned to see the Bodhisattva standing alone, unarmed, and with a gaze remarkably calm.

Feverishly, Kalmashapada dashed up the hill to the young prince. “You are the very man I seek!” he thundered, and threw the prince over his shoulder to carry him off. Realizing that the creature-having just put so many royal forces to flight ― was still bloated with violence and arrogance, the Bodhisattva thought it not the proper time for admonition and so said nothing. The son of Sudasa, on the other hand, was ecstatic with his success, and greatly rejoiced as he entered his stronghold.

The stronghold where the monster lived was as dreadful as a cemetery full of dancing demons ― a source of horror to all who caught a glimpse of it. Bones of slain men lay tossed on the stinking ground still wet with blood. The frightful cries of jackals sounded everywhere; vultures and crows perched on the nearby trees whose leaves were tinged dark red by the smoke of funeral pyres.

Putting down his captive, the monster sat for a moment, staring intently at the face of the prince, transfixed by his extraordinary beauty. But the Bodhisattva was recalling the poor brahman still waiting at his residence: “Alas!” he thought. “That brahman came from a great distance hoping to be rewarded for his elegant sayings. What will he do now when he hears of my capture? His mind will burn with misery. He is sighing in sympathy for my fate or bemoaning his own destiny. Either way he is surely despairing at his misfortune.”

While the Bodhisattva was reflecting in this manner, his eyes welled with tears of compassion for the suffering of the brahman. Seeing the tears, the son of Sudasa laughed out loud and shouted: “Stop your crying! You are renowned the world over for your many virtues, and yet as soon as you are in my power you begin to cry! How true it is: ‘Constancy collapses in the face of calamity! In sorrow learning is of no use! No creature can be found that does not tremble when stricken! ”

“Tell me now, what are you crying about? Your precious dear life? Your wealth which is the instrument of your pleasures? Your relatives? Your lost royalty and your rule over men? Or do you weep for your poor father who loves his son? Or for your pretty children who right now are crying for you? Come, tell me what makes these tears gush from your eyes.”

The Bodhisattva replied: “I am not mourning for my life, or for my parents, my children, relatives, or wives. Nor am I mourning for the pleasures of royalty, or for the joys of power. What moved me to tears was thinking of a brahman who came to me hopeful that his well-turned phrases might bring him some reward.

“He must have been quite overcome with despair when he heard that I was carried off. This thought makes me weep. For this reason you should free me ― that I might ease his misery by pouring the cool water of due reward upon his burning heart ― and too, that I may receive from him the nectar of his holy words.

“After paying my debt to the brahman, I will return, bringing joy to your eyes and repaying my debt to you. Do not think that this is a contrivance to escape you, Oh king. People such as I have no fear. We follow a different path from that which most others walk.”

“Do you expect me to believe such nonsense?” asked the monster. “It goes beyond belief! Who, once released from the jaws of Death, would willingly return there? Once free from the Lord of Death so difficult to escape, once you are safe in your joyful palace again, what reason in the world would induce you to return?”

“You must know what would cause me to return,” replied the Bodhisattva. “Have I not given you my promise? Do not suspect me, for when you do so, you think me no better than a villain. And am I not Sutasoma?

“Perhaps there are some who, out of fear and greed, would forsake the truth as easily as if it were a straw. But Truth is the sole possession of the virtuous, their very life; even in distress, they would not forsake it. For neither life nor all the pleasures of this world can save those who forsake the truth from the lower realms. Truth is a mine of praise, glory, and happiness; who would give these up for the sake of a few worldly objects?

“I suppose that to the deceitful ― those unconcerned with the holy life, those on the road of wrong action ― truthful action is hard to believe. But how could you suspect me of fear? If I had been truly afraid, or attached to my pleasures, or if my heart had been devoid of compassion, don’t you think I would have met an adversary so famous and fierce as you in full armor, prepared to fight as becomes one proud of his valor?

“But in truth, I desired conversation with you. And so I still do. After satisfying my visitor, I shall return. One such as I never lies.”

The Bodhisattva’s words greatly irritated the son of Sudasa, who took them to be mere artifice. Nevertheless, he thought: “Certainly he boasts of his truthfulness and righteousness. Well, then, I will see this love of truth and virtue! And really, whether he returns or not is no matter. For I have already subdued by the strength of my own arm the hundred princes I require. With these princes I can perform my sacrifice to the demons.”

Speaking to the Bodhisattva, he said: “Well, then, go ahead. We will see your great truthfulness in action, we will see how you keep your promises. We will see your great righteousness. Having done whatever you intend for that brahman, return quickly! Meanwhile I will prepare your funeral pyre.”

Promising again that he would return, Sutasoma set out for his palace, where he was greeted with ecstatic joy by his household. Immediately he sent for the brahman, and learned from him four verses of beautiful sayings. Praising the brahman with kind words and great marks of honor, he also gave the brahman one thousand pieces of gold for each verse, the wealth which the brahman so desired.

Sutasoma’s father, thinking to halt such extravagance, scolded his son in a friendly way: “My dearest son,” he said, “should there not be a limit to the offering given for such verses? You have a large retinue to maintain, and the splendor of kings depends on their treasury. Rewarding a pretty proverb with one hundred gold pieces is too much already; to give more is pure folly.

“No matter how wealthy you may be, if you are too liberal you will not retain your riches long. Wealth is the chief and most effective instrument for success, and you can achieve nothing without it. That is why they say fortune is like a harlot ― she disregards even the most glorious king if he lacks wealth.”

The Bodhisattva replied: “If it were actually possible to set a value on moral sayings, Your Majesty, I could give my royal rank as the reward and not incur your displeasure. For sayings such as these bestow faith and calmness of mind, strengthen love of enlightenment, and dispel the darkness of ignorance. Ought they not to be bought even at the price of one’s own flesh?

“Sacred texts are a shining light destroying the veils of ignorance. They are the highest wealth, beyond the reach of the craftiest thieves; the finest weapon against the enemy delusion; the best counselor and advisor of conduct; the truest friend in times of distress; the surest medicine against the disease called sorrow; the strongest army against vice; the highest treasure of glory and bliss.

“Sacred learning is the best teacher of eloquent speech. When meeting with virtuous beings, sacred learning affords the opportunity to make a gift of great value. In assemblies such learning gives pleasure to the wise. Sacred learning casts light as bright as the sun on the murkiest disputes, and destroys the arrogance of jealous adversaries. Such verses bring delight to the eyes and faces of even the most common people; rapt with amazement, they applaud with vigor when such words are spoken. One can use sacred learning to teach clearly, and to demonstrate with proofs; holy words from scriptures are a wonderful means to give teachings.

“The loveliness of eloquent and cultured speech gleaned from sacred books is like a string of un-faded garlands, or like the blazing luster of a shining lamp which constantly gains glory for its owner. Making use of sacred texts is a most pleasant way to gain renown.

“What is more, those who hear such words grow eager to walk the road of propriety and virtue which never contradicts the Teachings. Following the sacred learning, adapting their behavior to these sacred precepts, they easily cross the most dangerous passage through their lives.

“For so many wonderful qualities are the sacred texts rightly renowned. Having received them like a present, how could I not honor my benefactor in return? But how can I transgress your order? And therefore I now must return to the son of Sudasa. I do not need the royal duties I would fulfill by compromising my virtue and senselessly entering the path of error.”

These last words much alarmed the prince’s father, who, moved by earnest affection, replied: “It was for your own good, my son, that I spoke. There is no need to take offense. May your enemies come under the power of the son of Sudasa! Although you promised to return, and, desiring to guard your honor, intend to fulfill that promise, I cannot allow it. No wickedness will come from following a path of untruth, if in so doing one may save one’s own life or benefit one’s parents or other venerable persons. This very precept is found in the most sacred texts; why should you ignore it?

“Furthermore, those skilled in the science of politics have often said that an attachment to Dharma in cases where it causes damage to material interest or pleasure is nothing but mismanagement, an evil habit in kings. No more of that, then! Do not grieve me; stop ignoring your own interests!

“I know you will object that this is dishonorable and a contradiction to truth, that it is not right to break your promise. But, listen to me! You need not break your promise. I have prepared an army to go to your rescue: a great cavalry, elephants, chariots, foot soldiers, a dreadful force, an army of heroes who have distinguished themselves in many battles. You can go to him surrounded by this army, and bring him to submission or to death. In this way you can fulfill your promise and save your life as well.”

But the Bodhisattva replied: “Your Majesty, I am not able to promise one thing and do another. Nor can I strike one who deserves only pity, who is immersed in the mire of wicked habits and who is falling headlong into hell. Both friend and family have abandoned him, and he has no one left to protect him. Moreover, that man-eater did something generous and noble in releasing me from his power, relying solely on my good faith. And thanks to him I received those holy stanzas, father, and for this reason he is my benefactor, particularly entitled to my support.

“Your Majesty, pray, think no more of any misfortune threatening me. How could he be capable of harming me when I return just as I went?” With these sweet words the Great Being persuaded his father to let him go. Putting aside the pleas of friends and his faithful army, he set out for the dwelling of Sudasa’s son. Alone and free from fear ― for he was keeping his faith ― he went joyfully, in order to help Sudasa’s son and to provide benefit for all sentient beings.

When Kalmashapada saw the Great Being coming from afar, his astonishment was great, and his esteem for the prince was magnified. Not even his cruel nature, however deeply rooted in his defiled mind, could prevent him from thinking: “Ah! Ah! Wonder of wonders! Truly a miracle! The truthfulness of this prince exceeds the most that could be expected of gods or kings. To me, a man as cruel as Death, he returns of his own free will, without fear or anxiety. What constancy!

“Rightly has his renown for speaking the truth spread throughout the world! Now he has even given up his life and kingdom just to keep a promise!”

When the Bodhisattva drew near, he saw the monster clearly affected with amazement and admiration, and said: “I have received a great treasure of holy learning from that wandering brahman. I experienced much happiness, thanks to you. Now I have returned. Eat me, if you wish, or use me as a victim in your sacrifice.”

The son of Sudasa replied: “I am in no hurry to eat you. What’s more, this funeral pyre is still smoking, and flesh isn’t worth eating unless it’s roasted on a smokeless fire. Tell me some of what you heard.”

“Of what use would it be to you,” asked the prince, “to hear such sacred words, you who adopted this merciless mode of living solely for the sake of your belly? The words I heard praised righteousness. The Dharma does not mix with unholiness. You follow the wicked manner of life of rakshasas and have given up the path of the virtuous. You possess no truth, still less any virtue. What would you do with holy words?” Such contempt roused the impatience of the man-eater. “How can you say such things? Show me the king who does not kill for sport the mates of the hinds in the forest! So I kill men for my livelihood; what is the difference between me and the killers of deer?”

The Bodhisattva replied: “I would never say that those who aim their arrows at frightened and fleeing deer stand in Virtue. But an eater of men is infinitely more reprehensible. Human beings occupy by birth the highest station in the circle of life; they should never serve as food.”

Now, although the Bodhisattva had spoken harshly to the son of Sudasa, his loveliness outweighed the other’s temper. Therefore the beast merely laughed and said: “Tell me, Sutasoma: After I released you, you went home to your resplendent royal palace, to your royal enjoyments ― yet you came back! Do you know nothing of the science of politics?”

The Bodhisattva replied: “On the contrary, I am much skilled in its ways, and therefore have no desire to put them into effect. What is the value of being adept in an art which, properly executed, brings about certain fall from virtue without producing happiness? Do not the wise in the ways of politics most often find disaster after death? Therefore I have avoided the crooked paths of politics, and that is why I kept my faith, returning to you here.

“You may indeed say that it is I who am truly skilled in politics. Forsaking falsehood, I delight in the truth, and thus win what everyone agrees are the fruits of a well-managed action: good repute, satisfaction, and true benefit.”

“Whose interest have you gained by holding to truth?” asked the son of Sudasa. “You have sacrificed your life, your family (who shed great tears at your departure), and all the pleasures the world can offer. What did you gain in return for the truth when you returned to me?”

“Many kinds of virtues rest on truth,” said the prince. “Listen to but a small account of them. Truth surpasses the most splendid garlands by its grace, every sweet flavor by its sweetness. A moment of truth can produce merit effortlessly and without toil or troublesome pilgrimage ― it is better far than any kind of penance. Truth increases glory among men; it is the way to pass from the three worlds, it is the entrance to the celestial abodes, and the bridge to cross the swamp of samsara.”

“Very good! Very good!” exclaimed the son of Sudasa, praising and gazing admiringly on the Bodhisattva. “Every other man who has come into my power was paralyzed by fear, completely robbed of courage. Yet you are unperturbed. I suppose death does not frighten you, my prince?”

“Of what use is cowardly fear, the most useless of all means of prevention, against that which cannot be avoided even with great effort? People are well aware of this natural course of events, and yet they fear death; because they have done wicked actions, they are full of repentance. Because they neglected to perform good actions, because they tremble at the suffering that lies ahead, they are full of anxiety.

“But I do not recollect ever having done anything but pure actions. These are, indeed, ingrained in my nature. Who, abiding in Virtue, can fear death? I cannot recall one gift made to a mendicant which did not procure happiness for both the mendicant and myself. Who, having obtained this kind of contentment, could fear death? Indeed, even after reflecting for a long time, I cannot recall ever having taken one step toward evil, not even in my thoughts. The path to enlightenment is clear for me; why should I fear death?

“I have bestowed much wealth on brahmans, on family and friends, on the poor, on ascetics who are the ornaments of hermitages, on each according to their worthiness and need. I have built hundreds of magnificent temples, hospitals, hermitages, ponds and halls. With such satisfaction, I have no fear of death. So prepare me for your sacrifice and eat me now!”

On hearing these words, the son of Sudasa was moved to tears. The hairs of his body stood on end; the darkness of his wicked nature vanished. Looking with reverence on the Bodhisattva, he exclaimed: “Beware! May evil be averted! Oh foremost of princes, may those who wish evil on beings such as you willfully swallow the poison of Halahala! May they eat venomous serpents and drink flaming iron! May their heads and hearts explode into a hundred pieces!

“Oh prince, I have been touched by your words like a rain of flowers; pray tell me also those holy verses. Having seen the ugliness of my conduct in the mirror of Truth, moved by the deepest emotion, may I not perhaps be a person who yearns to hear the Dharma? Tell me now those sacred teachings you heard recently!”

Now the Bodhisattva, knowing the urgency with which the son of Sudasa desired to hear the Dharma, knew the monster to be a fit vessel for his words. “Well then,” he said. “If you wish to hear these Teachings, you must listen in the proper attitude.

“Sit upon a lower seat, symbolizing modesty; enjoy the sweetness of the sacred words with eyes full of happiness as if you were drinking in the nectar of the Teachings; bend your mind, calm and pure, to the finest attention. This is the way to listen to the preaching of the Dharma: as a sick patient heeds the doctor.”

Quickly the son of Sudasa threw his upper garment over a slab of stone. Offering this higher seat to the Bodhisattva, he sat beneath on the cold earth in front of the Great Being. Keeping his eyes fixed on the face of the Bodhisattva, he requested the Great Being to speak.

And the Bodhisattva consented, filling the entire forest with a voice deep and resonant, like the lovely sound of a newly formed rain cloud:

“One chance meeting with a virtuous man needs no further assurance To assure friendship forever.”

“Well said, well said!” the son of Sudasa cried out. Nodding his head and waving his hand, he urged the Bodhisattva: “Go on, go on!” The Bodhisattva then gave the second verse:

“Always stay close to holy men, offering them what services you can. Let the sweet essence of virtuous men rub off on your being like pollen.”

“Indeed, you have used your wealth well in rewarding such beautiful sentiments; your effort has been well-spent!” said the son of Sudasa. “Please tell me more of these verses!” And so the Bodhisattva continued:

“With jewels and gold the royal chariot gleams, but like the king itself its luster fades with age. Yet virtue conquers time’s decay; So holy men attach themselves to virtue’s way.”

Again Kalmashapada cried out: “A shower of ambrosia! Oh, how great the satisfaction you give me with these noble words. Pray say more!” The Bodhisattva spoke again:

“How distant the low earth from heaven high, How far from sunset the eastern sky. The distance between the ocean’s shores Marks the gap between evil and sacred lore.”

Then the son of Sudasa as a result of his faith and wonder became full of affection and reverence for the Bodhisattva, and said: “Lovely are these sayings you give me, the elegance of their words surpassed only by the brilliance of their content. By reciting them you have given me much happiness. Let me honor you in return and grant you four requests. Choose whatever you want, and it shall be yours.”

Astonished at this offering, yet valuing its motivation, the Bodhisattva asked: “Who are you that you can grant wishes? Dominated by a passion for evil, you have no power even over yourself. What could you possibly give to another, you whose heart avoids all virtuous behavior?

“Were I to declare my wish, you might be averse to granting it. Who, being compassionate, would wish such a calamity on you? Enough. You have done enough for me already.”

But the son of Sudasa grew ashamed. Lowering his eyes, he murmured: “I beg Your Honor not to hold such a mean opinion of me, I swear I will give you what you ask, even if it costs my life. Tell me what you want, Oh Prince, whatever it may be that will please you.”

“Well then,” said the Bodhisattva, “grant me these four things. First, take a vow of truth; second, give up injury to all living beings; third, release your prisoners, every one; and fourth, never again eat human flesh, Oh hero among men!”

“I grant you the first three,” said the son of Sudasa. “But pray choose a different fourth. Don’t you understand I cannot keep from eating human flesh?”

“There you are! Did I not say it? Who are you to grant wishes? Moreover, how can you keep a vow of truth and refrain from injuring others, Oh king, if you do not give up eating human flesh? Did you not just now swear you were willing to grant these wishes even at the risk of your own life? Yet already you act quite otherwise. And how could you refrain from injuring and killing to obtain human flesh? Therefore of what value are the three without the fourth?”

The son of Sudasa replied: “How can I give up eating human flesh? For the sake of that addiction I renounced my kingdom, endured hardships in the wilderness, and forced myself to kill virtue and truth, murdering my own reputation.”

“For these very reasons you should give it up,” said the Bodhisattva. “Why do you wish to remain in a state which caused you to lose your virtue, your royal power, your pleasures and your good repute among men? Why cling to such a mass of misfortune? Consider further: Only the vilest among men retract their gifts. Is it right to let this meanness of mind subdue a person like you? Stir yourself and cease your wicked actions. Are you not the son of Sudasa?

“Much good meat prepared by skillful cooks is at your disposal, for you may partake of the flesh of domestic and wild animals, and fish. Satisfy yourself with these, and desist from eating human flesh.

“Hounded by your wretched need, you stay in the wilderness, separated from your friends, your children, your family and attendants, all once much beloved. Do you not miss them? Do you not miss the sweet songs of the night, the rumbling sound of the royal drums?

“How can you allow yourself to be so dominated by your desire? Follow instead the path of conduct compatible with virtue and true self-interest. Singlehanded you have vanquished kings and great armies. Do not now be a coward in this battle with your desire!

“Keep in mind as well the next world, Oh Lord of Men. Do not cherish what is bad because it pleases you to do so. Pursue instead the way most favorable to your good reputation, the way of virtue. Accept this for your own good, though you do not like it; swallow it like medicine!”

The son of Sudasa was moved to tears, which caught at his throat with emotion. He threw himself before the Bodhisattva and embracing his feet, exclaimed:

“Justly your fame has pervaded the world in all directions, carrying with it the seeds of your virtue and the perfume of your merit. Who but you alone would have compassion for an evildoer such as I, who have become a messenger of death?

“You are my master, my teacher, my very god! I will honor your words and accept them all with bowed head. Never again will I feed on human flesh. Everything you have told me to do, I will do.

“Now, those princes I have brought here to be victims of my sacrifice, who have, by their imprisonment, lost their splendor, whose faces show their mind overwhelmed with grief, let us release them all, none excepted.”

The Bodhisattva promised to help him in this, and together they went to the prison where the royalty were confined. No sooner did the princes see Sutasoma than they knew they would be released. Filled with utmost joy, their faces grew radiant. Laughter beyond measure burst forth from their throats as vibrantly as water-lilies burst open at the onset of autumn, invigorated by moonbeams.

The Bodhisattva spoke comforting and kind words to them, and obtained from them a vow that they would bring no harm to the son of Sudasa. Then, having released them all, he set out for his kingdom, followed by Kalmashapada and the other princes. There a reception was held for all, according to rank, after which the Bodhisattva reestablished each of the princes on their royal thrones.

In this way one can see how meeting with the virtuous, in whatever way it may have been occasioned, promotes salvation. Thus considering, he who longs for salvation must strive for association with the virtuous.

This story may also be recounted when praising the qualities of the Tathagata: So the Buddha, always intent on doing good, was a friend even to strangers in his previous existences.

Likewise this story is to be told when discoursing on listening with attention to the preaching of the excellent Dharma, to show how hearing the Dharma diminishes wickedness and increases virtues. It also shows the many advantages to sacred learning. Likewise it is to be told when discoursing on veracity, to show how speaking the truth is guarded by the virtuous and procures great merit. This account is also relevant when glorifying veracity, to express how the virtuous keep faith without regard for their life, pleasures, or status, and also when praising the qualities of holy beings.

 

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