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The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma


068 - The King, Who Knew The Language Of Animals

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Once a king saw some young boys pelting stones on a Naga serpent. He prevented the boys from killing the snake. Thus, he saved its life. The snake, which was the king of the Naga-World, thanked him and favoured him with a supernatural gift by which he could understand the language of any animal. But he warned him that the divulgence of the secret would cost him his life.

One day, when the king was sitting in his garden and enjoying the breakfast, a small portion of the sweet fell on the ground. Soon he heard an ant shouting,  “My God, what a big wagon-ful of sweet has fallen; and there is none to consume it. Ah! I can enjoy all, now.” Hearing this the king smiled and chuckled. The queen, who was sitting next to him, was curious to note the changing countenance of the king. She asked him to tell her the reason for the smile. But the king kept silent; as the divulgence of the secret would cost him his life.  The queen felt offended and thought that there was something wrong about her look, which the king did not want to tell in public.

At night, when the king was taking rest in his bed-chamber, the queen repeated the same question and demanded the answer. The king then told her that the divulgence of that secret would cost him his life. Nonetheless, the queen persisted by winging and throwing tantrums. Still when the king kept silence, she attacked his self-respect by calling him a “liar” and muttered that all his expressions of endearment like -“Darling, you are dearer to me than my very life” - were nothing but a pack of lies. The king, however, could not bear the attacks on his self-respect and eventually conceded to divulge the secret on the following day in the royal garden; and made up his mind to sacrifice his life.  

The queen begging forgiveness, Ajanta 

Sakka, the lord of the heaven, overheard the king’s resolve and decided to save him, because the king was righteous. So, he picked up one of his nymphets from the heaven and descended on the earth to save the King.

Next day, when the king and his retinues were on the way to the royal park, Sakka in the form of a donkey, and the nymphet in the form of a goat, stood conversing on one side of the path. The king overheard the goat saying to the donkey, “You are a fool but not as big a fool as is the king.” Having heard so, the king was curious to know as to why was he being called a “bigger fool”. So, he asked the goat “Why do you think that I am a bigger fool than a donkey?”

The goat replied, “look O king! Today you are going to die to please your wife; but tomorrow when your wife inherits all your wealth to enjoy it with a new mate would she ever think of you?”

This statement of the goat opened the eyes of the king and he realised his folly. He was then considered to rescind his decision to die to please his queen. He wanted to come out of the mess and not to sacrifice his precious life. So, he said to the goat “Pray, then tell me to break the impasse as I am now committed to tell her the charm”.

The goat said,  “If you want to come out of the mess then go and tell her that you are ready to reveal her the secret on the condition that she agrees to receive one hundred lashes on her back”.

When the king reached the garden, he said to the queen, “O my darling! I am now ready to tell you the secret on the condition that you be ready to receive one hundred lashes in return”.

The queen considered the condition a joke and nodded in agreement.

The king then waived at one of his guards to lash her with all his power. And no sooner than she received two lashes she wailed and shouted “No! No! For God’s sake do not lash me!  I don’t want to know the secret, now”.

The king then said scornfully, “ You wanted to know the secret at the cost of my life; but now you don’t want to know because you have to save your skin. You deserve a few more lashes.” But before he could order his man to give her a few more lashes, the king’s trustworthy minister intervened and requested him to forgive her.

Thus, the queen was not lashed further, yet she never received the same honour and dignity.

(Sakka is identified with the Bodhisatta in the above tale).

 

See Kharaputta Jataka Jataka Pali No.386

 

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