2 – KING OF THE SHIBIS
Pg 11- Only after hundreds of hardships did
the Lord Buddha obtain the Dharma for our benefit.
Knowing this, we should listen to the Teachings
with deep respect and close attention.
Pg 11- Once when the Buddha was still a Bodhisattva, the vast store of meritorious actions amassed in many previous lives caused him to take birth as a king of the Shibis. Respectful toward the elders from earliest childhood and modest in his behavior, he was deeply loved by all his subjects.
Blessed with boundless energy, discretion, majesty, and power, knowledgeable in many sciences, and favored by fortune, he ruled his subjects as if they were his children. In the Bodhisattva, all the finest qualities, both spiritual and worldly, blended harmoniously despite their contrasts. Glory, which mocks those who win high rank by wrong means, glory, which brings calamity to fools and intoxicates the feeble-minded, had found a true dwelling place within him.
Overflowing with compassion even greater than his wealth, this best of kings was happiest when granting the wishes of beggars and when seeing their delighted faces.
Pg 12 – Throughout his realm, he had alms-halls constructed and stocked with all kinds of goods, provisions, and grains, fare to fulfill all hopes. Humbly and with great pleasure, he was forever pouring forth gifts like timely rain. Every mendicant was supplied according to his need, with courtesy and dispatch. Food was provided for the hungry, and drink for the thirsty. In like manner, couches, dwellings, clothing, perfumes, wreaths, silver and gold were given to whoever wished, them, whatever was requested was provided. Word of the king’s great charity spread far and wide, so that people from remote lands travelled to his land with joyful hearts-surprised and delighted at his largess. As single-minded as wild elephants approaching a great lake, they had no thought to search for alms from any other.
The king always welcomed the beggars, though their outward appearance was anything but inviting, and their thoughts were only of gain. He welcomed them as if they were long-lost friends returned from abroad; his eyes wide with joy, he listened to their requests as if they were the happiest news. The beggars’ delight was surpassed only by that of the king, and they spread the word of his sweet generosity throughout the countryside, thus reducing the pride of neighboring kings.
One day the king, on a tour of his alms-halls, noticed the small number of supplicants staying there and grew uneasy. The beggars’ thirst for gifts was easily quenched, but not so the king’s thirst for giving. “Soon there will be few left to give to,” he thought. “If only they would ask for more! Blessed are those from whom the mendicants ask anything, even their limbs! Of me they ask only my wealth, as if afraid I might refuse a bolder request.”
Pg 13 – As he made this statement, the earth, aware of his peerless non-attachment to even his own body, trembled with love like that of a wife for her husband. So powerful was the trembling that even the lord of mountains, sparkling with jewels, began to waver, and Shakra, Lord of the Gods, was moved to inquire the cause. Told in reply that the king of the Shibis had given up all attachment to his own flesh, he thought in amazement:
“How can this be? Does the king’s mind soar so high, does he rejoice so greatly in giving, that he would even part with his own limbs? I will put him to the test.”
The king was seated on a throne in the midst of his assembly, listening as usual to those in need. Stores of wealth–silver, gold and jewels, open chests filled with clothing, as well as carriages drawn by well-trained beasts-stood revealed by the treasurer. From all directions beggars crowded in-and among them, Shakra, Lord of the Gods, in the shape of an old, blind brahman.
The decrepit brahman caught the king’s eye immediately; the king’s calm compassionate gaze seemed to embrace the frail beggar. The royal attendants requested the brahman to state his needs, but ignoring them, he drew near the king.
“I, a blind old man, have come from a great distance, O Highest of Rulers, humbly wishing the gift of one of your eyes. Surely one eye is sufficient for ruling the world, O Lotus-eyed King, Lord of the World.”
The Bodhisattva experienced a surge of joy: His heart’s de-sire had been realized. Or was his wish so intense that he had merely imagined it? Hoping to hear the request again, he asked: “Who sent you, Illustrious Brahman, to ask for one of my eyes? How could you think that anyone would even
Pg 14 – consider parting with such a thing? Who could believe that I would do so?”
Knowing the intention of the king, the disguised Shakra replied: “Shakra told me. A statue of the god spoke to me, and told me to come here and ask you. Prove him right and fulfill my deepest hope: Give me one of your eyes.”
Hearing the name of Shakra, the king thought: “Surely divine power will help this brahman regain his sight.” So in a clear and joyous voice he said: “Brahman, I shall fulfill your wish. You ask but for one eye? I shall give you both! And after your face has been adorned with these two bright lotuses, go your way; let this miracle amaze everyone you encounter!”
The king’s counselors were aghast and terribly disturbed that he would even consider giving away his eyes. “Your Majesty,” they said, “your generosity has led to misjudgment bordering on madness! You can’t give up your eyesight! For the sake of one twice-born man, do not forsake us all! You will become a burning sorrow to us when previously you were a source of comfort and prosperity.
“Money, brilliant jewels, cattle, carriages, vigorous ele-phants of graceful beauty, dwellings fit for all seasons and echoing with the sounds of dancers-such gifts are proper. Give these, but do not give your eyes, you who are the only eye of the world!
“And consider this: Only through the intervention of divine power can the eyes of one man be put into the face of another. But even if this could come to pass, why should it be your eyes? And of what use is eyesight to a poor man, to one who can only witness the abundance of others? Give him money, by all means, but do not commit this desperate act!”
Pg 15 – In reply, the king addressed his ministers in terms soft and conciliatory: “He who promises to give, and then withholds the gift, gains only the bonds of attachment he once cast off. He who promises to give, and yet, driven by avarice, does not keep his promise, must be held in the greatest contempt. He who raises the hopes of mendicants, and then rewards them with the harsh deception of refusal, deserves nothing but despair.
“As for the ability of divine power to bring sight to the transplanted eyes, know this: Even a god depends on certain circumstances to achieve a certain effect. Who among us can say what means are proper for what ends? No, do not at-tempt to obstruct my determination. I will give him my eyes.”
The ministers replied: “We have not tried to induce Your Majesty to do anything wicked! We have merely observed that a gift of goods or grain or gold would be more appropriate than a gift of your sight.”
“Whatever is asked for must be what is given,” replied the king. “A gift not desired does not give pleasure. Of what use is water to one drowning in a stream? I shall give this man exactly what he requested.”
In response, the first minister, who was more intimate with the king than the others, overstepped the bounds of propriety because of his love for the king, saying: “Do not do it: It takes great austerities and meditations to gain a kingdom such as this; your generosity has won you glory and a place among the gods. Your kingdom rivals in richness the enjoyments of Indra yet you would give it up! And now you are willing to give up both your eyes-for what reason? Never on earth has such a thing been done! The crowns of “kings ornament your feet; your sacrifices place you among the
Pg 16 – gods; your fame shines far and wide. What desire goads you to give up your eyes?”
The king replied with affection: “I crave neither dominion ,over the earth nor glory; I do not crave liberation or the heavenly realms. I undertake this act to give meaning to the beggar’s request, with the intention of becoming the Refuge of the World.”
Upon saying this, the king ordered one of his eyes to be removed by the physicians, gradually and intact. With su-preme gladness he handed this single orb, bright as the bluest of lotus petals, to the beggar. Shakra, Lord of the Gods, then miraculously made the eye fill the empty socket of the old brahman, so that the king and all assembled saw the one opened eye. His heart filled with pure delight, the king then offered the brahman his other eye as well.
The king’s face was now like a lotus pond bereft of flowers yet his visage shone with joy-a joy not felt by the others, who saw only that the king was blind and that the brahman had the eyes of the king. From the inner rooms of
the palace to the farthest reaches of the city, tears of sorrow flowed, but Shakra was transported with awe, having wit-nessed the king’s unshaken intention to attain supreme enlightenment.
“What constancy!” he thought. “What goodness and desire to help all beings! What compassion! Although I saw it, I can scarcely believe it! It is not right that such virtue should endure this hardship long! I will soon show him the way to restore his sight.”
When time had healed the wounds of the operation, and had almost lulled the sorrow of the people of the palace and
the citizens of the land, the king, wishing solitude, went one
Pg 17 – day to his garden and sat down cross-legged by a pool of lotuses. All around him the fair trees bent low with the weight of their flowers, and swarms of bees hummed. A gentle wind blew, fresh and sweet-smelling.
Suddenly, the king felt a presence. “Who is there?” he asked. “Shakra, Lord of the Gods,” was the reply. Bidding Shakra welcome, the king asked what he could do for him. And Shakra replied: “I have come to grant your fondest wish. What do you desire, Holy Prince? Tell me and it is yours.”
The king was astonished, for he was accustomed to giving. not to receiving. “I already have great wealth, Shakra, and my army is large and strong. My blindness, however, makes it impossible for me to see the joyful faces of the mendicants after I have supplied their wants. And so death would be most welcome to me now. Death is what I crave.”
“Do not even think such a thing!” said Shakra. “Rather, tell me what you truly feel, O King, what you actually think of beggars, since they are the cause of your suffering. Come, speak! Tell me what is in your mind, and you may find immediate ease.”
The king replied: “Why do you believe that merely regain-ing my sight would satisfy me? Hear this, however, if you must: As surely as the pleas of beggars are like blessings to my ears, so surely do I wish to regain one eye!”
No sooner had the king pronounced these words than, through the power of his truthfulness and merit, one eye reappeared, a lotus petal surrounded by a sapphire circle. Rejoicing, the king continued: “And as surely as I knew the utmost delight in giving both my eyes to the one who asked : for only one, so surely may I obtain once more my other eye.”
Pg 18 – Once again, he had scarcely uttered these words before another eye appeared, rival to the first in beauty. Mountains trembled; oceans roared, and the beat of celestial drums sounded deep and rhythmically. The sky became clear and bright with autumn sunshine while myriad flowers and sandalwood powder rained down. Gods of all sorts rushed to the spot, eyes wide with amazement, and the hearts of all living beings were filled with joy.
From all the ten directions, songs of praise arose from crowds of beings endowed with magical power. With joy and exultation they sang: “How wonderful is his compassion! How lofty and pure his mind! How little he cares for his own happiness! Hail to thee, steadfast Hero! Just as your shining lotus eyes have been renewed, so has the world now recovered its protector! After much too long a time, Virtue is victorious!”
“Well done! Well done!” Shakra applauded. “Because your true feelings were known to me, 0 King of Pure Heart, I have returned your eyes to you. And with these eyes you will now be able to see great distances in all directions, unhindered even by mountains.” Then Shakra disappeared on the spot.
The Bodhisattva, accompanied by his officials who were speechless with astonishment, went in procession to his palace. There the citizens waved flags and banners as if for the finest festival, and the brahmans blessed their monarch with thousands of benedictions. Seating himself in the assembly hall before a great crowd of ministers, brahmans, elders, and folk from town and country, the Bodhisattva taught the Dharma from his own experience:
“Who among you will now be slow to practice charity? For you have seen my eyes with the power of the gods
Pg 19 – come from the merit of giving. With these eyes I can see everything for thousands of miles; I can see through the highest mountains, as distinctly as I can see this room. What better prescription for bliss than charity, compassion, and self-discipline? By renouncing my human eyes, I have attained divine vision.
“Understanding this, my Shibis, multiply your riches by using them rightly. Such is the path to glory and happiness both in this world and the next. Wealth is worthless in itself, vet it has one virtue: It can be given away to benefit others. Only in this manner does it become a treasure; withheld, it is barren.”
From this story one can see how the Buddha acquired the Dharma through the practice of many austerities, and how important it is to listen to the Dharma with respect. Seeing the greatness of the Tathagata and the results of his lifetimes of merit, one praises the qualities of compassion and generates respect. Thus, one accumulates merit, and can in this very lifetime obtain something of the blossoms of great power and the stream of glory.