The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who lived alone in the Himalayas, eating wild fruit. One time he went down to a city to get salt and vinegar and he slept in the royal park. The next morning while on his alms round he met the commander-in-chief, who was impressed by the Bodhisatta’s demeanor. He invited the Bodhisatta into his home for a meal and decided to support him during his time staying in the park.
One day the king got drunk and came into the park with a company of dancers and musicians from his harem. During the entertainment the king fell asleep and most of the women went for a walk. When they met the Bodhisatta they asked him to preach something worthwhile, and he agreed. When the king woke up he was enraged that the women were gone. Grabbing his sword, he went off to get them and punish the Bodhisatta. When the king found them he asked the Bodhisatta what the sermon was about. Patience, he answered, adding that one should not get angry even if someone insults or abuses you. The king said, “Let’s see if you practice what you preach!” and summoned his executioner.
The king ordered the executioner to flog the Bodhisatta two thousand times with a whip made of thorns. With the Bodhisatta covered in blood, the king again asked what his lesson was. The Bodhisatta once more answered patience, adding that his own patience was not skin deep, it was in his heart. So the king continued torturing and taunting. Next the Bodhisatta’s hands were cut off, and then his feet, nose and ears. Through it all, the Bodhisatta showed perfect patience and did not get angry. Finally the king gave him a kick in the chest and took off. And before he was even out of his park, the earth opened up and a ball of flame seized the king, dragging him down to the lowest, most brutal level of hell.
With the king gone, the commander-in-chief stepped in to bandage the Bodhisatta’s wounds. He praised the Bodhisatta’s patience, and asked if he was angry at the king. The Bodhisatta said, no – pure souls like his disregard all evil deeds. He died later that day.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One of the Buddha’s disciples was filled with anger. The Buddha told him this story as an example of how one is supposed to act, and upon hearing it, the disciple’s state of mind greatly improved, as did that of many others listening to the story.
The king was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis, and the commander-in-chief was an earlier birth of Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.