Brahmadutt, the king of Banaras, had two sons. When his time drew near, the king decided to crown his elder son king and appoint the younger one as the commander-in-chief. But on the eve of his coronation, the older prince said, “I do not want any throne. Let my brother be king in my stead.”

In a spirit of renunciation, the older prince left Banaras. He went to a tributary state and engaged himself with a rich man. He maintained himself by the sweat of his brow.

Over time, some officers arrived in this kingdom from Banaras to inspect certain lands and fix the taxes. They went to the rich man’s house to pay their prince homage. The rich man took this opportunity to request the prince to recommend him to his brother, the king of Banaras, to reduce taxes. The prince made the necessary recommendation, lowering the rich man’s taxes.

Having come to know this, several others pestered the prince to recommend they reduce their taxes, too. The prince sent all the requests to his younger brother at Banaras, who promptly granted them.

Soon everyone in the state began to look upon the prince as their absolute ruler. They paid all their taxes and addressed their petitions only to him. The prince, too, began to enjoy the royalty thrust upon him by the people.

His feeling of renunciation left him, and he began to thirst for the throne he had abandoned sometime back. But he could not ask for it now.

So he began to occupy one tributary state after another and deal with them himself. But he kept informing his brother about what he was doing. The king of Banaras never raised a single objection to what his brother did.

All the tributary states were now directly under the older prince’s rule. Only Banaras was still beyond his reach. He collected some messengers and sent them to the king of Banaras. They told the king, “your brother wants to know whether you will yield the throne to him or face him in battle!”

The king of Banaras sent back his reply: “You need not fight me for the throne which was your own. You can take it back at your pleasure.”

The elder brother became the king of Banaras, and the ex-king became his commander-in-chief.

Once whetted, the thirst for power is not easily satiated. The new king of Banaras demanded that his younger brother conquer new kingdoms for him. More and more states were conquered and annexed to Banaras’s realm, but the king’s thirst for power did not abate.

Now, Indra, the Ruler of Heaven, happened to look into the affairs of mortals on earth. He felt that the king of Banaras’s insatiable power lust would have a wrong end for the human race unless effectively checked in time.

To do this, Indra turned himself into a noble youth and went to see the king of Banaras. He got a private audience with the king and told him, “O king, I know of three great cities which are overflowing with riches. I can conquer them for you if you want.”

The king was beside himself with joy at this offer. He wanted to talk over the details with the young man, but he was nowhere to be seen. The king sent his servants to search for him all over the palace. When they could not find him, the king was very much annoyed. He called all his officials and told them, “Even now, a young man came to me and offered me three great cities and abruptly slipped away. Search for him everywhere and bring him to me.”

The entire city was combed for the unknown young man. But there was no result. The king appeared to lose his very reason. He went to bed and went from bad to worse despite the best efforts of all the doctors. His condition became severe.

Now it happened that Bodhisatva, who had been to Takshasila for his education, returned to Banaras. He heard of the king’s indisposition and went to cure him.

The king told Bodhisatva, “One day, a young man came to me and offered to conquer for me three great cities. After that, he disappeared, and I took to bed with disappointment. Cure me if you can.”

“O king, you can never conquer the three cities by simply worrying about them,” Bodhisatva said.

The king agreed.

“Worry solves no problems. Everything in this world is ultimately dead or destroyed. You will have to go. You know it,” said Bodhisatva.

The king agreed to this too.

“When a man dies, he has to leave behind his possessions and his own body. O king, neither three cities nor three hundred can make you happier because nothing is permanent. The only disease is Desire. It would be best if you kept Desire under control. It should not be allowed to grow beyond one’s legitimate needs even as the tailor cuts the cloth to the exact measure of the body. Desire must be trimmed to life’s needs. Then only can one be happy,” Bodhisatva said.

These words of Bodhisatva gave solace to the mind of the greedy king, and he was rid of his ailment. He kept Bodhisatva with him all his life and took his advice on every matter of state.

Chandamama October 1955

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