17 – The Jar
Drink is the source of many ills. Knowing this, the virtuous attempt to influence others against drinking even more so do they deter themselves.
Once the Bodhisattva manifested as Shakra, Lord of the Gods. Compassion having purified his mind, every one of his actions was directed toward fostering the happiness and good of others, through deeds of giving, morality, and self-restraint. Although he deeply enjoyed all the sensual pleasures which were due the gods, not once did he relax his exertions for the benefit of the world.
As a rule, those who drink deeply of the strong liquor of glory lose their alertness and forget even their own interests. They are like those gone mad. Shakra, however, did not let the intoxication of power go to his head. On the contrary, his interest in the welfare of all others increased ― for knowing his own nature well, he never forgot the interests of others. And his love for all beings was so great that he considered even the most miserable creature a kinsman.
[missing text] love and compassion, focused on a king named Sarvamitra. ‘Friend of All’. This king, by keeping company with non virtuous folk, had developed an attachment to strong liquor, in which he .indulged both with various citizens and with his retinue. Realizing that this king saw nothing wrong with drinking, the Great Being reflected with compassion: “What a great misery afflicts this people! Alas! A sweet delight at first, drinking leads to darkness and great destruction. It is a twisted path that looks enticing, but leads far from enlightenment; those who follow the lure of liquor never recognize the evils they embrace. But what can I do?”
After pondering deeply, Shakra soon saw what action to take. “Why, it is clear. It is the nature of people to imitate the foremost among them. The king, therefore, is the person to be cured, since it is from him that all the good and evil of his people flows forth.”
And so the Great Being took the shape of a majestic brahman. Shining like pure gold, he nonetheless affected a stern demeanor, his hair matted and twisted, his body covered with the ascetic’s austere bark-garment and deerskin.
While King Sarvamitra sat with his friends arguing the virtues of this or that liquor, Shakra appeared before them, standing in mid-air, a jar of moderate size hanging from his left side. Filled with surprise and veneration, the assembly rose from their seats and folded their palms with respect.
With a deep voice rumbling like a giant thundercloud. Shakra sang:
“Look at this vessel filled to the brim, flowers laughing around its neck! Hand engraved with splendid trim! Who will buy this tempting gem?
“This beautiful jar, wreathed with lovely flowers ― how proudly it wears its graceful foliage. Come! Which of you wishes to buy it?”
Astonished at such an apparition, the king fixed his eyes on the Brahman with reverence. Raising his joined palms, he replied: “You appear as bright as the sun, as graceful as the moon ― yet like a great Muni. What name are you known by in this world? You manifest such disparate qualities that we are uncertain.”
Shakra replied: “Just buy this jug. Afterwards you will know me. Buy, if you are not afraid of the sufferings in the next world, or the calamities still to come in this.”
The king replied: “I have never before heard anything sold in such a way. Ordinarily merchants praise the value of their wares, all the while concealing their faults. Your way becomes you, for holy beings abhor falsehood. They say the virtuous never forsake the truth, even in distress.
“Tell us, then, Eminent One, what is in your jar? And what would a mighty being like yourself desire in return?”
Shakra replied: “Listen carefully, Mighty Sovereign. This jar does not hold water ― not rainwater from the clouds nor water drawn from holy streams. It holds no fragrant honey gathered from the filaments of flowers; no clarified butter; not even milk the color of moonbeams that open kumuda flowers on cloudless nights. No, this jar is filled to the brim with pure mischief
“And now, if you please, I will list the virtues of this drink:
“If you drink from this jug all self-control will leave you. Memory will forsake you, and you will stumble even on smooth ground. Confused and dull-witted, you will not care if what you eat is edible or not such is the liquid held in this jug. Pray buy this foulest of jars!
“Take leave of your senses, and act without heed! Be like an animal, thoughtlessly rambling, while your enemies laugh as you dance in their midst, dancing to the drum-beat of your own senseless speech. Please buy this jug! It is devoid of all good!
“When they drink from this jug, even the bashful lose all decorum and throw off their clothes to prance in the streets. Such is the liquor contained in this jar, and now it is offered to you!
Drink and lie senseless, covered with vomit, dogs brazenly licking your face. What pleasure to buy what is found in this jar!
“Drink and drink madness held in this jar!
Beat your parents unto death, and kill the Lord of Wealth! Pour your life down the drain, drink your mind away! Like the brothers Andhakas and Vrishnayas, take to each other with clubs.
Such is the madness found in this jug.
“If you desire what is held in this jar, you will lose your position, your dignity gone, you will lose your good name.
Your wealth and your home lost, your family in ruin in this jar is dissolution for sale! Weeping and laughing with sudden abandon eyes heavy and dull as if demons possessed one, reduced to an object of utter contempt ― your muddled mind is found in this jug!
“Drink lays waste the minds of the aged; it weakens the wish to do good for oneself. Clear thinking forgotten, rash actions then follow. Here in this vessel is all that and more!
“Because of this liquor the old gods grew careless, and were shorn of their glory by the king of the gods, and drowned in the ocean while seeking relief. Such is the havoc wreaked by this jar!
“Speaking falsehood as if it were truth, losing all sense of the right and the wrong of it you knowingly do what you know shouldn’t be done. Here in this vessel are curses incarnate! The mother of sin, and of folly and pain, the source of all evil, the path of all madness here in this jar is dreadful darkness of mind!
“I offer this purchase for the great king to buy! Let him lose all his senses and kill the ascetics without thought for the future and kill his own parents as well!
“Oh Lord of Men, known as a god in this world, such is this liquor. Let whoever is no friend of virtue buy it here.
“Whoever depends on this substance will grow accustomed to wrongdoing. He will fall headlong into hell, or into the state of animal or preta. Who then would even look at this jar?
“Even drinking a little has its effect on the path of existence, by slowly destroying good conduct and understanding, pointing one to the state of a beast or a specter, or to the doors of hell, there to burn in blazing fire.
“In short, drinking deadens good conduct, kills good reputation, banishes shame, and defiles the mind. Oh King, knowing all this, how can you allow yourself to drink?”
These powerful words and strong arguments persuaded the king of the destructiveness of liquor. Casting off all desire to drink, the king said to Shakra:
“You have affected me as surely as a loving father affects his son, or as a teacher moves his devoted pupil. You teach as if you were a Muni who knows the proper way. Your kindness has brought me great benefit; pray then accept from me something in return.
“I will give you five villages, one hundred slaves, five hundred cows, and ten chariots drawn by the finest horses: This and anything else you may wish is your due as my teacher. Whatever else you may ask for henceforth, Your Reverence, please accept as my gift.”
Shakra replied: “I do not want villages, I do not need slaves. Know me, Oh King, to be the Lord of the Gods. And know further: The speaker of wholesome words desires nothing but acceptance of the teachings ― and their practice ― for this way alone leads to glory and renown, and after death to bliss. Therefore, throw off the habit of drinking. Hold fast to right action, and you will share in my heaven.”
Having fulfilled his intention, Shakra disappeared on the spot. And the king and all his people refrained from drink forever after.
From this story one can see how much harm arises from drinking, and how the virtuous will attempt to turn others from this evil and, needless to say, themselves as well. This story is also pertinent when praising the qualities of the Tathagata and when showing how the Bhagavat benefitted beings in his previous existences.