Self Criticism

While Brahma-Dutt ruled Banaras, Bodhisatva was born as the Kuru King of Indraprastha. His name was Dhanan- jaya. During his rule, people were utterly free from evils such as floods and famines and were very happy. Dhananjaya’s righteousness and philanthropy were widely known all over the continent.

At that time, King Kalinga ruled the country of Kalinga with Danta-pur as his capital. One year there was a famine in that kingdom due to a lack of rain. Hunger stalked the land. Numberless children perished in the arms of their mothers. The entire populace lost its nerve.

This state of affairs upset King Kalinga very much. He called his ministers and asked them, “What can be the reason for the failure of rains in our land this year? What should we do to get over this menace of famine ?”

“O King,” they replied, “when we stray from the path of righteousness, such calamities occur. Take the case of King Dhanan-Jaya of Indra-Prastha, who never deviates from the path of virtue. No calamity ever visits his kingdom. It rains a month greatly there, and the people are exceedingly happy.”

“In that case,” King Kalinga said to his ministers, “go to see King Dhanan-Jaya, get him to write down the virtues he adopts in his rule on leaves of gold, and bring them to me. I, too, shall adopt them and save the country!”

The ministers of Kalinga took some leaves of gold and travelled to Indraprastha. They interviewed King Dhanan-Jaya and said to him, “O virtuous King! We come from Kalinga, where people are dying of terrible famine. You are the very Incarnation of Virtue! You rule your people righteously so that your people live happily, free from all calamities. Should you be kind enough to write down the rules of righteous administration on these leaves of gold, we shall take them back to our lord, who will put them into practice and save our country.”

The ministers of Kalinga placed the leaves of gold before King Dhanan-Jaya. But King Dhanan-Jaya folded his hands to them and said, “Pardon me, wise ministers. I’m not competent in writing down the rules of righteousness. For once, I transgressed the path of virtue. I shall tell you how. The Kartik festival is celebrated in our land every third year. On that day, the King has to perform yajna on the bund of a tank, and at the end, he should shoot four arrows in four directions. On one particular occasion, I shot the arrows, but only three of them recovered, the fourth falling into the tank. When it fell with force, many fishes and frogs must have died of it. Thus I deviated from the path of virtue. If my country is free from calamities, it must be because of the virtue of someone else in the court. Kindly find out who it is.”

The ministers of Kalinga were surprised to hear this. They went to Maya Devi, the King’s mother, and told her what the King said. Then they asked her if she would oblige them by writing down the requisite rules of righteousness on the leaves of gold.

“Ah, my friends!” the old lady replied. I, too, have strayed from the path of virtue once. Once my elder son gave me a gold necklace. Since my elder daughter-in-law was wealthy, I thought I should give it to the younger one. But after doing so, I was tortured with remorse for having drawn such distinctions between my two daughters-in-law. How am I competent to write down the rules of righteousness? Please find someone else.”

Then the ministers approached Nanda, the King’s brother. But he, too, confessed that he had transgressed the path of virtue. He told of the incident thus:

“I take a ride to the palace every evening in my chariot. At times I stay away for the night. If I leave my whip in the chariot, my charioteer knows I shall return, and he waits for me. If I take the whip with me, the charioteer drives away and comes for me only the next morning. Well, one evening, I left my whip in the chariot, intending to return soon. But suddenly, it began to rain, and my brother, the King, detained me in the palace that night. All night my charioteer waited for me, getting soaked in the rain. It was unforgivable on my part to have put him in that discomfort.”

The ministers then went to the King’s purohit, hoping to find in him the required qualifications to fill the leaves of gold. But the purohit, too, had to confess to a breach of virtue. He said, “One day, I was going to court when I saw a chariot with gold fittings. Seeing it, I was urged to request the King to make a gift of that chariot to me. When the King saw me, he told me that the chariot was a gift for me. I was so ashamed of my cupidity that I had to decline the gift. So take me not as an embodiment of virtue, which I am not.”

As a last measure, the ministers of Kalinga won’t to the minister of Dhanan-Jaya. But he, too, had a confession. “One day,” he said, “I measured a peasant’s land. At the exact spot where the marking peg was to be driven into the ground, I found a small hole. If I avoided the hole and drove the peg to a side, the peasant or his neighbour would lose a bit of land. So in the name of real justice, I ordered the peg to be knocked into the hole. As this was being done, a small crab came out of the hole and got killed. Tell me, how am I entitled to write down the rules of righteousness?”

The baffled ministers of Kalinga were at last struck with a bright idea. They wrote down all the stories they had heard on the gold leaves and took them to their King. The King of Kalinga read them and realised that the best virtue is the awareness of righteousness. With self-criticism as his motto, he ruled his country, and the people were freed from all calamities and lived happily.

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