Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C. B. Varma Introduction | Glossary | Bibliography

042 – The Virtue of Forbearance

Sage Kundaka Kumar giving discourses to the king’s women, Ajanta

Once when a debauch king Kalabu reigned Varanasi, the Bodhisatta was born in the family of a wealthy merchant. His name was then Kundaka Kumar.

On the death of his parents he realised the futility of amassing the wealth, because the wealth becomes useless after the death. So he renounced all his riches and went to the Himalayas to lead a life of an ascetic.

In course of time he returned to Varanasi to collect salt and vinegar. There he became the guest of the commander-in-chief and was given an abode in the royal park.

One day, King Kalabu under the influence of strong drinks visited the royal park surrounded by the female dancers. He laid his head on the lap of one of his favourite women and started revelling in the dance and music. Soon he dozed off. When the women found him sleeping they left him and started frolicking in the park. Discovering the ascetic meditating in the park they requested him to give some sermon. In the mean time the king woke up and enquired about his women. Not finding them around, he looked for them in the park and found them besieging the holy sage.

Having been infuriated at the sight of his women being attracted to another man, he drew out his sword to kill him. However, when persuaded by the women he stopped. Yet, in his anger he asked the ascetic: “What doctrine you preach, O monk!” “The doctrine of forbearance, sir”, the holy sage replied. “What is this forbearance?”, asked the angry king. “Not to be angry when men abuse you and beat you”, answered the ascetic. “I will test the your forbearance then”, saying the king ordered his men to give the ascetic two thousand stripes with the lash of thorns. When this was done, the king scornfully asked, “what doctrine do you preach, O Monk”! “The doctrine of forbearance, Your Highness”, the unruffled the Bodhisatta replied. “Cut off the head of this spurious ascetic”, the king ordered. This was also done. He then ordered, “off with his feet, too”. His feet were also chopped off. “What do you preach, now”, again the king asked, expecting him to change his view. “I Practise the doctrine of forbearance, sir!” said the ascetic. This further infuriated the king; who got his nose and ears cut off. Then the Bodhisatta said, “my forbearance is seated not on my nose or ears, but is deep inside my heart”. By then the king’s patience had run out and he kicked him on his heart and left the place.

By that time the Bodhisatta was steeped in blood. Yet, he uttered: “long live the king whose cruel hands have thus damaged me. Nevertheless, a pure person shall never be angry to practise the virtue of forbearance”.

When the king was returning, the earth split into two and devoured him then and there.

Some say that the Bodhisatta died on the same day. Some, however, believe that all his wounds soon healed up and he flew back to the Himalayas.

[Kalabu is identified with Devadatta; and the lion with Bodhisatta].

See Khantivadi Jataka Jataka Pali No.313; Dhammapada Atthakatha 1.126; Khuddakapatha-Atthakatha 149; Buddhavamsa Atthakatha 51; Ksantivadin Jataka No.28, Jatakamala.