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Mahavagga X.2.3-20

Dighavu-kumara Vatthu

The Story of Prince Dighavu


Once, monks, in Varanasi, Brahmadatta was the king of Kasi -- rich, prosperous, with many possessions, many troops, many vehicles, many territories, with fully-stocked armories & granaries. Dighiti was the king of Kosala -- poor, not very prosperous, with few possessions, few troops, few vehicles, few territories, with poorly-stocked armories & granaries. So Brahmadatta the king of Kasi, raising a fourfold army, marched against Dighiti the king of Kosala. Dighiti the king of Kosala heard, "Brahmadatta the king of Kasi, they say, has raised a fourfold army and is marching against me." Then the thought occurred to him, "King Brahmadatta is rich, prosperous...with fully-stocked armories & granaries, whereas I am poor...with poorly-stocked armories & granaries. I am not competent to stand against even one attack by him. Why don't I slip out of the city beforehand?" So, taking his chief consort, he slipped out of the city beforehand. Then King Brahmadatta, conquering the troops, vehicles, lands, armories, & granaries of King Dighiti, lived in lordship over them.

Meanwhile, King Dighiti had set out for Varanasi together with his consort and, traveling by stages, arrived there. There he lived with her on the outskirts of Varanasi in a potter's house, disguised as a wanderer. Not long afterwards, she became pregnant. She had a pregnancy wish of this sort: she wanted to see a fourfold army, armed & arrayed, standing on a parade ground at dawn, and to drink the water used for washing the swords. She said to King Dighiti, "Your majesty, I am pregnant, and I have a pregnancy wish of this sort: I want to see a fourfold army, armed & arrayed, standing on a parade ground at dawn, and to drink the water used for washing the swords." He said, "My queen, where is there for us -- fallen on hard times -- a fourfold army, armed & arrayed, standing on a parade ground, and water used for washing the swords?"

"If I don't get this, your majesty, I will die."

Now at that time the brahmin adviser to King Brahmadatta was a friend of King Dighiti. So King Dighiti went to him and, on arrival, said, "A lady friend of yours, old friend, is pregnant, and she has a pregnancy wish of this sort: she wants to see a fourfold army, armed & arrayed, standing on a parade ground at dawn, and to drink the water used for washing the swords."

"In that case, let me see her."

So King Dighiti's consort went to King Brahmadatta's brahmin adviser. When he saw her coming from afar, he rose from his seat, arranged his robe over one shoulder and, with his hands raised in salutation to her, exclaimed three times, "Surely the king of Kosala has come to your womb! Surely the king of Kosala has come to your womb! Don't be worried, my queen. You will get to see a fourfold army, armed & arrayed, standing on a parade ground at dawn, and to drink the water used for washing the swords."

Then he went to King Brahmadatta and, on arrival, said to him, "Your majesty, signs have appeared such that tomorrow at dawn a fourfold army, armed & arrayed, should stand on a parade ground and that the swords should be washed."

So King Brahmadatta ordered his people, "I say, then: Do as the brahmin adviser says." Thus King Dighiti's chief consort got to see a fourfold army, armed & arrayed, standing on a parade ground at dawn, and got to drink the water used for washing the swords. Then, with the maturing of the fetus, she gave birth to a son, whom they named Dighavu (LongLife). Not long afterwards, Prince Dighavu reached the age of discretion. The thought occurred to King Dighiti, "This King Brahmadatta of Kasi has done us great harm. He has seized our troops, vehicles, lands, armories, & granaries. If he finds out about us, he will have all three of us killed. Why don't I send Prince Dighavu to live outside of the city?" So Prince Dighavu, having gone to live outside of the city, learned all the crafts.

Now at that time King Dighiti's barber had gone over to King Brahmadatta. He saw King Dighiti, together with his consort, living on the outskirts of Varanasi in a potter's house, disguised as a wanderer. On seeing them, he went to King Brahmadatta and, on arrival, said to him, "Your majesty, King Dighiti of Kosala, together with his consort, is living on the outskirts of Varanasi in a potter's house, disguised as a wanderer."

So King Brahmadatta ordered his people, "I say then: go fetch King Dighiti together with his consort."

Responding, "As you say, your majesty," they went and fetched King Dighiti together with his consort.

Then King Brahmadatta ordered his people, "I say then: having bound King Dighiti & his consort with a stout rope with their arms pinned tightly against their backs, and having shaved them bald, march them to a harsh-sounding drum from street to street, crossroads to crossroads, evict them out the south gate of the city and there, to the south of the city, cut them into four pieces and bury them in holes placed in the four directions."

Responding, "As you say, your majesty," the king's people bound King Dighiti & his consort with a stout rope, pinning their arms tightly against their backs, shaved them bald, and marched them to a harsh-sounding drum from street to street, crossroads to crossroads.

Then the thought occurred to Prince Dighavu, "It's been a long time since I saw my mother & father. What if I were to go see them?" So he entered Varanasi and saw his mother & father bound with a stout rope, their arms pinned tightly against their backs, their heads shaven bald, being marched to a harsh-sounding drum from street to street, crossroads to crossroads. So he went to them. King Dighiti saw Prince Dighavu coming from afar, and on seeing him, said, "Don't, my dear Dighavu, be far-sighted. Don't be near-sighted. For vengeance is not settled through vengeance. Vengeance is settled through non-vengeance."

When this was said, the people said to him, "This King Dighiti has gone crazy. He's talking nonsense. Who is Dighavu? Why is he saying, 'Don't, my dear Dighavu, be far-sighted. Don't be near-sighted. For vengeance is not settled through vengeance. Vengeance is settled through non-vengeance'?"

"I'm not crazy or talking nonsense. He who knows will understand." Then a second time...a third time he said, "Don't, my dear Dighavu, be far-sighted. Don't be near-sighted. For vengeance is not settled through vengeance. Vengeance is settled through non-vengeance."

A third time, the people said to him, "This King Dighiti has gone crazy. He's talking nonsense. Who is Dighavu? Why is he saying, 'Don't, my dear Dighavu, be far-sighted. Don't be near-sighted. For vengeance is not settled through vengeance. Vengeance is settled through non-vengeance'?"

"I'm not crazy or talking nonsense. He who knows will understand."

Then the king's people, having marched King Dighiti together with his chief consort to a harsh-sounding drum from street to street, crossroads to crossroads, evicted them out the south gate of the city and there, to the south of the city, cut them into four pieces, buried them in holes placed in the four directions, stationed guards, and left.

Then Prince Dighavu, having entered Varanasi, brought out some liquor and got the guards to drink it. When they had fallen down drunk, he collected sticks, made a pyre, raised the bodies of his mother & father onto the pyre, set fire to it, and then circumambulated it three times with his hands raised in salutation.

Now at that time, King Brahmadatta had gone up to the terrace on top of his palace. He saw Prince Dighavu circumambulating the pyre three times with his hands raised in salutation, and on seeing him, the thought occurred to him, "Doubtlessly this person is a relative or blood-kinsman of King Dighiti. Ah, how unfortunate for me, for there is no one who will tell me what this means!"

Then Prince Dighavu, having gone into the wilderness and having cried & wept as much as he needed to, dried his tears and entered Varanasi. Going to an elephant stable next to the king's palace, he said to the chief elephant trainer, "Teacher, I want to learn this craft."

"In that case, young man, you may learn it."

Then, rising in the last watch of the night, Prince Dighavu sang in a sweet voice and played the lute in the elephant stable. King Brahmadatta, also rising in the last watch of the night, heard the sweet-voiced singing & lute-playing in the elephant stable. On hearing it, he asked his people, "I say: Who was that, rising in the last watch of the night, singing in a sweet voice and playing a lute in the elephant stable?"

"Your majesty, a young man -- the student of such-and-such an elephant trainer, rising in the last watch of the night, was singing in a sweet voice and playing a lute in the elephant stable."

"I say then: go fetch that young man."

Responding, "As you say, your majesty," they went and fetched Prince Dighavu.

Then King Brahmadatta said to Prince Dighavu, "I say: Was that you rising in the last watch of the night, singing in a sweet voice and playing a lute in the elephant stable?"

"Yes, your majesty."

"I say then, my young man: sing and play the lute."

Responding, "As you say, your majesty," and seeking to win favor, Prince Dighavu sang with a sweet voice and played the lute.

Then King Brahmadatta said to him, "I say: You, my young man, are to stay and attend to me."

"As you say, your majesty," Prince Dighavu replied. Then he rose in the morning before King Brahmadatta, went to bed in the evening after him, did whatever the king ordered, always acting to please him, speaking politely to him. And it was not long before King Brahmadatta placed the prince close to him in a position of trust.

Then one day King Brahmadatta said to Prince Dighavu, "I say then, my young man: harness the chariot. I'm going hunting."

Responding, "As you say, your majesty," Prince Dighavu harnessed the chariot and then said to King Brahmadatta, "Your chariot is harnessed, your majesty. Now is the time for you to do as you see fit."

Then King Brahmadatta mounted the chariot, and Prince Dighavu drove it. He drove it in such a way that the king's entourage went one way, and the chariot another. Then, after they had gone far, King Brahmadatta said to Prince Dighavu, "I say then, my young man: unharness the chariot. I'm tired. I'm going to lie down."

Responding, "As you say, your majesty," Prince Dighavu unharnessed the chariot and sat down cross-legged on the ground. Then King Brahmadatta lay down, placing his head on Prince Dighavu's lap. As he was tired, he went to sleep right away. Then the thought occurred to Prince Dighavu: "This King Brahmadatta of Kasi has done us great harm. He has seized our troops, vehicles, lands, armories, & granaries. And it was because of him that my mother & father were killed. Now is my chance to wreak vengeance!" He drew his sword from his scabbard. But then he thought, "My father told me, as he was about to die, 'Don't, my dear Dighavu, be far-sighted. Don't be near-sighted. For vengeance is not settled through vengeance. Vengeance is settled through non-vengeance.' It would not be proper for me to transgress my father's words." So he put his sword back in its scabbard. A second time...A third time the thought occurred to Prince Dighavu: "This King Brahmadatta of Kasi has done us great harm. He has seized our troops, vehicles, lands, armories, & granaries. And it was because of him that my mother & father were killed. Now is my chance to wreak vengeance!" He drew his sword from his scabbard. But then he thought, "My father told me, as he was about to die, 'Don't, my dear Dighavu, be far-sighted. Don't be near-sighted. For vengeance is not settled through vengeance. Vengeance is settled through non-vengeance.' It would not be proper for me to transgress my father's words." So once again he put his sword back in its scabbard.

Then King Brahmadatta suddenly got up -- frightened, agitated, unnerved, alarmed. Prince Dighavu said to him, "Your majesty, why have you gotten up suddenly -- frightened, agitated, unnerved, & alarmed?"

"I say, my young man: Just now as I was dreaming, Prince Dighavu -- son of Dighiti, king of Kasi -- struck me down with a sword." Then Prince Dighavu, grabbing King Brahmadatta by the head with his left hand, and drawing his sword from its scabbard with his right, said, "I, your majesty, am that very Prince Dighavu, son of Dighiti, king of Kasi. You have done us great harm. You have seized our troops, vehicles, lands, armories, & granaries. And it was because of you that my mother & father were killed. Now is my chance to wreak vengeance!"

So King Brahmadatta, dropping his head down to Prince Dighavu's feet, said, "Grant me my life, my dear Dighavu! Grant me my life, my dear Dighavu!"

"Who am I that I would dare grant life to your majesty? It is your majesty who should grant life to me!"

"In that case, my dear Dighavu, you grant me my life and I grant you your life."

Then King Brahmadatta and Prince Dighavu granted one another their lives and, taking one another by the hands, swore an oath to do one another no harm.

Then King Brahmadatta said to Prince Dighavu, "In that case, my dear Dighavu, harness the chariot. We will go on."

Responding, "As you say, your majesty," Prince Dighavu harnessed the chariot and then said to King Brahmadatta, "Your chariot is harnessed, your majesty. Now is the time for you to do as you see fit."

Then King Brahmadatta mounted the chariot, and Prince Dighavu drove it. He drove it in such a way that it was not long before they met up with the king's entourage.

Then King Brahmadatta, having entered Varanasi, had his ministers & councilors convened and said to them, "I say, then. If you were to see Prince Dighavu, the son of Dighiti, the king of Kasi, what would you do to him?"

Different ministers said, "We would cut of his hands, your majesty" -- "We would cut off his feet, your majesty" -- "We would cut off his hands & feet, your majesty" -- "We would cut off his ears, your majesty" -- "We would cut off his nose, your majesty" -- "We would cut off his ears & nose, your majesty" -- "We would cut off his head, your majesty."

Then the king said, "This, I say, is Prince Dighavu, the son of Dighiti, the king of Kasi. You are not allowed to do anything to him. It was by him that my life was granted to me, and it was by me that his life was granted to him."

Then King Brahmadatta said to Prince Dighavu, "What your father said to you as he was about to die -- 'Don't, my dear Dighavu, be far-sighted. Don't be near-sighted. For vengeance is not settled through vengeance. Vengeance is settled through non-vengeance' -- in reference to what did he say that?"

"What my father said to me as he was about to die -- 'Don't be far-sighted' -- 'Don't bear vengeance for a long time' is what he was saying to me as he was about to die. And what he said to me as he was about to die -- 'Don't be near-sighted' -- 'Don't be quick to break with a friend' is what he was saying to me as he was about to die. And what he said to me as he was about to die -- 'For vengeance is not settled through vengeance. Vengeance is settled through non-vengeance' -- My mother & father were killed by your majesty. If I were to deprive your majesty of life, those who hope for your majesty's well-being would deprive me of life. And those who hope for my well-being would deprive them of life. And in that way vengeance would not be settled by vengeance. But now I have been granted my life by your majesty, and your majesty has been granted your life by me. And in this way vengeance has been settled by non-vengeance. That is what my father was saying to me as he was about to die."

Then King Brahmadatta said, "Isn't it amazing! Isn't it astounding! How wise this Prince Dighavu is, in that he can understand in full the meaning of what his father said in brief!" So he returned his father's troops, vehicles, lands, armories, & granaries, and gave him his daughter in marriage.

Such, monks, is the forbearance & gentleness of kings who wield the scepter, who wield the sword. So now let your light shine forth, so that you -- who have gone forth in such a well-taught Dhamma & Discipline -- will be their equal in forbearance & gentleness.

Source: ATI - For Free Distribution Only, as a Gift of Dhamma.

Dhamma Essay:
The Quest for Meaning by Bhikkhu Bodhi


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