In the Himalayas, an incredible Sage once had five hundred disciples. Touring the land with them, the Sage went from one country to another till he arrived at Panchal one day.
The king of Panchal was Renuka. He was very much honoured by the arrival of the Sage and his disciples. He gave them a great reception and lodged them in his extensive gardens.
“I beg you not to stand upon any formalities,” the king told his guests. You can stay here indefinitely for any length of time. I shall see that all your wants are satisfied.”
The Sage spent the entire rainy season in that place and then departed with his disciples. They rested in a grove at the end of a day’s travel. While they were sitting and chatting about the great hospitality of the king of Panchal, someone said that it was a pity that such a fine ruler was not blessed with children to walk in his footsteps.
The Sage told his disciples, “But the king will have a son of scarce and divine virtue.” This information gladdened the hearts of all except one among his disciples.
This man had a dark and sinful soul. He thought up an evil plan. When the party started on its journey again, he pretended to be ill and fell behind, saving that he would catch up with them later.
Then he retraced his steps to Panchal and presented himself before the king. The king was surprised to see him again. He received the Evil One with due courtesy and asked for the cause of his return.
“Listen, O King!” the Evil One said. “After leaving this place, we fell to talking about your goodness. We were all sorry that your cup of joy was not full because you are not yet blessed with children. Then I called up my powers of divination and learned that you would have a son who would be God incarnate. I thought you would be glad to know this. Now, with your permission, I shall go back.”
The king was glad beyond all description. O, Holy One.” he said. “Do not go. Your friends must have gone a very long way by now. Honour me by staying with me. I want you to bless my son when he is born. I shall put the garden at your disposal, and you can live there happily.”
This was what the Evil One wanted. He settled in the garden, grew all sorts of vegetables, and had them sold by the gardener. He put away all this money for himself.
At the time, Bodhisatva was born to the king, and they named him The Flower; He was brought up with exceptional care. When The Flower was about seven years old, a war occurred between Panchal and a neighbouring kingdom. The king went away to fight the enemy and defend his kingdom.
The Flower, one day, came to visit the garden. There he saw a man wearing saffron clothes but watering and tending the plants just like a gardener. The boy at once knew that the man in saffron clothes was not the usual gardener but was gardening out of self-interest. So, he went up to the Evil One and said, “You gardener, what is it you do?”
At this, the men accompanying the prince laughed heartily. But the Evil One was furious. If it were possible, he would have killed. The prince on the spot. That would get him into trouble with the king. So, he thought of a way by which he could get the king to punish his son.
On the day the king was to return, the Evil One broke his water bowl into pieces, sprinkled a lot of refuse around his cottage and lay in a corner, groaning loudly. The minute the king returned to his palace, he paid his respects to the Evil One, whom he still considered very holy.
The king was amazed to see the state of neglect in the cottage. He went in and asked the groaning man, “O, Holy One! What has happened to you?”
The Evil One replied, “This is all your son’s doing. After the way he insulted me, I should not have stayed here one minute. I only wanted to see you before I put my curse upon your country and went somewhere else!” He told the king what had happened.
The king was greatly annoyed at the behaviour of his son.
“O, Holy One!” he said. “Do not worry yourself. I shall rather behead my son than see you displeased.”
The king returned to his palace and sent his guards to drag forth his son.
The boy was sitting with his mother, the queen when the guards came for him. They told the queen about the king’s orders and begged her to send the prince. The boy willingly followed them to the king.
He said to the king, “Sir, I hear that you want me to be put to death. May I know how I deserve this punishment?”
“How dare you ask me reasons for my order, you wretch? Is it not reason enough that you addressed the holiest men and my honoured guest as a gardener ?”
“Father, you do not seem to know how this holiest of holy men engages himself. Any palace servant should be able to enlighten you,” the prince said.
On inquiring in various quarters, it was revealed to the king that the Evil One was growing vegetables in the garden and having them sold for himself. This had been going on for years and years. Searching the cottage revealed lots of money hidden away by the Evil One.
“Now, father, you can understand why I addressed the man as a gardener. He was nothing but a gardener,” said the prince. “I do not want to remain in a kingdom ruled by a thoughtless king and harbouring a spiteful holy man. I shall seek my peace in other surroundings.”
The king was smitten with remorse.
“Son, overlook my haste. From now on, you are the ruler. But do not go away,” he pleaded with his son.
“Father,” said the divine child, “know that words are mighty, powerful things. A word has an effect on a man just as a herb has. The thoughtless word is like a wrongly administered herb. Its evil effect must be endured. Good words are like correctly administered drugs, and they do good. Hurtful words came out of your mouth. Your guards dragged me away from my mother to behead me. You can repeat all this at your leisure, but I am leaving now.”
The king requested the queen to dissuade the prince from his purpose, but the queen refused. When the prince came to bid her goodbye, she said, Son, you are the incarnation of virtue. Lead a pure and virtuous life wherever you are.”
The Flower went to the Himalayan regions. He made himself a cottage and spent his life in penance.
The king of Panchal ordered the spiteful. Evil One to be put to death and issued orders that no hermits should be given hospitality in his kingdom anymore.
Chandamama August 1955