The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king’s son served as viceroy, but as the king grew old, he feared that his son might seize the throne, so he banished him from the city. The son took his main wife to a distant borderland and lived a simple life in a leaf hut eating wild roots and fruit from the forest.
When the son read in the stars that his father had died, he returned to take the throne. While traveling back to the city, they passed a mountain, and his wife asked him, “Suppose that mountain turned into pure gold. Would you give me some of it?” “Not even one iota!” was his reply. This upset his wife, who had loved her husband so much that she did not abandon him when he forced her to live as an ascetic. Back at the palace, he made her his queen consort, but from that point on, the king completely ignored her and took his pleasure with other women.
The Bodhisatta felt the queen deserved some respect because she was a good woman, and he decided to get it for her. His plan began by asking her why she did not give gifts to the men of the royal court. “What can I give you,” she asked,” when my husband gives me nothing? Even when we traveled back here, he said he would not give me anything if he had a mountain made of gold.” The Bodhisatta told her that he was going to confront the king about this misconduct, and she needed to give the same direct, honest answer to this question in his presence.
Later that day, the Bodhisatta again asked the queen why she was cruel and did not give anything to the men of the court, and she gave the same answer about not receiving anything from her husband, not even the hypothetical gold. But she also pointed out that the king was otherwise a good man. The Bodhisatta sang the queen’s praises and told the king he should honor her. The king agreed, and from then on gave his queen everything she deserved, and he also thanked the Bodhisatta for reminding him of her virtue.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
The king and queen were earlier births of a husband and wife who had traveled from the city to the country to collect a debt. As they returned home, they passed a mountain, and the wife asked him, “Suppose that mountain turned into gold. Would you give me some?” “Not even an iota!” he replied. This upset her a lot.
Later, they stopped at the Buddha’s monastery for some water, and the Buddha divined that they were ready for a spiritual breakthrough. He asked the wife if her husband was kind and loving. “I love him,” she answered, “but he does not love me. For example, today he said that if a mountain turned to gold he would not give me any.” The Buddha told them this story so they knew that in the past she had been equally loving and kind, and he had mistreated her like this. And after hearing the Buddha’s words, the husband stopped his selfish behavior.