"Who does thee harm,"--This story the Master told while dwelling at Jetavana, how Devadatta went about to slay him. Then the Master said, "This is not the first time, Brethren, that Devadatta has sought to slay me, but he did the same thing before." Then he told them a story of the past.
"Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Kuru and the city of Uttarapapcala, a king reigned whose name was Renu. At that time there was an ascetic Maharakkhita, who dwelt in Himalaya with a company of five hundred other ascetics. While visiting the country to get salt and seasoning, he came to Uttarapancala, and then abode in the royal park. Seeking alms with his people, he came to the king's door, and the king beholding the sages and being pleased with their manners, invited them to be seated upon a magnificent dais, and gave them good food to eat. He then asked them to remain in his park for the rain-season. He accompanied them into the park, and provided places to dwell in, gave them the things necessary for the religious life, and took leave of them. After that they all received their meals in the palace. Now the king was childless, and desired sons, but no sons were born to him.
"When the season of rains was over, Maharakkhita said, 'Now the Himalaya region is pleasant; let us return thither.' Then he took leave of the king, who showed them all honor and bounty, and departed. On the journey at noontide he left the high road, and with his people sat down on the soft grass beneath a shady tree. The ascetics began to talk. 'There is no son,' they said, 'in the palace to keep up the royal line. It would be a blessing if the king could get a son, and continue the succession.' Maharakkhita hearing their talk, pondered: 'Will the king have a son, or no?' He perceived that the king would have a son, and said, 'Do not be anxious, sirs; this night at dawn a son of the gods will come down, and will be conceived by the queen consort.' A sham ascetic heard it, and thought--'Now I will become a confidant of the royal house.' When the time came for the ascetics to leave, he lay down and made as though he were sick. 'Come, let us go,' they said. 'I cannot,' said he. Maharakkhita learnt why the man lay still. 'Follow us when you can,' he said, and with the rest of the sages went on to Himalaya.
"Now the cheat ran back as fast as he could, and standing at the palace door, sent in a message that one of Maharakkhita's attendants was come. He was summoned at once by the king, and going up to the terrace, sat in a seat which they showed him. The king greeted him, and sitting on one side, asked after the health of the sages. 'You have come back very soon,' he said; 'what is the cause of your so speedy return?' 'O mighty king,' he replied, 'as the sages were all sitting comfortably together, they began to say how great a blessing it would be if the king could have a son to keep up his line. When I heard it, I pondered whether the king should get a son or no; and by divine vision I beheld a mighty son of the gods, and saw that he was about to descend, that he might be conceived by your queen consort Sudhamma. Then I thought, If they know not, they may perchance destroy the life conceived, so I must tell them; and to tell you the news, O king, I am come. Now I have told it, let me depart again.' 'No, no, friend,' quoth the king, 'that must not be'; and highly delighted he brought the cheat into his park, and assigned him a place to dwell in. Thenceforward he lived in the king's household, and got his food there, and his name was Dibbacakkhuka, the man of Divine Vision.
"Then the Bodhisattva came down from the heaven of the Thirty-three, and was conceived there; and when he was born they gave him the name of Somanassa Kumara, Prince Delight, and he was reared after the manner of princes.
"Now the false ascetic in a corner of the park used to plant vegetables and pot-herbs and runners, and by selling these to the market gardeners he amassed much wealth. When the Bodhisattva was seven years old, there was a rebellion on the frontier. The king went out to quell it, giving the ascetic Dibbacakkhuka into the prince's charge, with orders not to neglect him. One day the prince went out to see the ascetic. He found him with both yellow robes, upper and under, knotted up, holding a water jar in each hand, and watering his plants. 'This false ascetic,' thought he, 'instead of doing the ascetic's duty, does the work of a gardener.' Then he asked--'What are you doing, gardener, worldling?' So he put him to shame, and left him without salute. 'Now I have made an enemy of this fellow,' thought the man. 'Who knows what he will do? I must make an end of him at once.'
"About the time when the king was to return, the man threw his stone bench on one side, broke his water pot to bits, scattered grass about in his hut, smeared all his body with oil, went into the hut and lay down on his pallet, wrapped up head and all, making as though he were in much pain. The king returned, and made a circuit about the city right-wise. But before he would enter his own house, he went to see his friend Dibbacakkhuka. Standing by the door of the hut, he saw all in disorder, and entered wondering what was the matter. There was the man lying down. The king chafed his feet, repeating the first stanza:
"'Who does thee harm or scorn?
"At this the impostor rose up groaning, and said the second stanza:
"'Thee I rejoice to see
"The connection of the following verses is clear; they are arranged in due succession.
"'Executioners, what ho!
"'The royal messengers went forth, and to the prince they cry--
"'There the prince lamenting stands,
"'They heard his prayer, and to the King his son the servants led.
"'Let thy men take sword and slay,
"The king answered, 'High estate is fallen very low: your error is very great,' and explained it in this stanza:
"'Water morn and eve he draws,
"'My lord,' said the prince, 'if I call a worldling a worldling, what harm is done!' and he repeated a stanza:
"'He possesses trees and fruits,
"'And that is the reason,' he went on, 'why I called him a worldling. If you do not believe me, enquire of the market gardeners at the four gates.' The king made enquiry. They said, 'Yes, we buy from him vegetables and all sorts of fruit.' When he found out this greengrocery business, he made it known. The prince's people went into the man's hut, and ferreted out a bundle of rupees and small coins, the price of the green food, which they showed to the king. Then the king knew the Great Being was guiltless, and said a stanza:
"'True it was that trees and roots
"Then the Great Being thought, 'While an ignorant fool like this is of the king's household, the best thing to do is to go to Himalaya and embrace the religious life. First I will proclaim his sin before the company here assembled, and then this very day I will go and become a religious.' So with a bow to the company, he cried,
"'Hear ye people as I call,
"This said, he asked leave to do it in the next stanza:
"'Thou a strong wide spreading tree,
"The following stanzas give the conversation of the king with his son.
"'Prince, enjoy the wealth you own,
"'What of joy can this world give?
"'Joys of heaven, and nymphs divine,
"'If I am foolish-weak, my son,
"The Great Being then repeated eight stanzas, admonishing the king.
"'A thoughtless act, or done without premeditation had,
"'A thoughtful act, wherein is careful policy pursued,
"'The idle sensual layman I detest,
"'The warrior prince takes careful thought, and well-weighed judgement gives:
"'Kings should give punishment with careful measure:
"'They who do deeds which no repentance bring,
"'"What ho, my executioners!" you cried,
"'A tender nursling, treated in this way,
"When the Great Being had thus discoursed, the king said to his queen,
"'So my young son, Sudhamma, says me nay,
"But she urged him to renounce the world in this stanza:
"'O be the holy life thy pleasure, son!
"Then the king repeated a stanza:
"'This is a marvel which I hear from thee,
"Again the queen repeated a stanza:
"'There are who live from sin and sorrow free,
"In reply the king recited the last stanza:
"'Surely 'tis good to venerate the wise,
"The Great Being then saluted his parents, asking them to pardon him if he did amiss, and with a reverent obeisance to the company set his face towards Himalaya. When the people had returned, he, with the deities who had come thither in human shape, traversed the seven ranges of hills and arrived at Himalaya. In a leaf-hut made by the heavenly architect Vissakamma he entered upon the religious life, and there he was waited upon by deities in the shape of a princely retinue until his sixteenth year. But the deceitful ascetic was set upon by the crowd and beaten to death. The Great Being cultivated the Faculty of Ecstasy, and became destined to Brahma's heaven."
This discourse ended, the Master said, "Thus Brethren, he went about to slay me in former days, as now," and then he identified the Birth: "At that time Devadatta was the impostor, Maha Maya was the mother, Sariputta was Rakkhita, and I myself was Prince Somanassa."