The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. This king’s son served as viceroy, but as the king grew old he feared his son might seize the throne, so he banished him from the city. The son took his main wife to a distant border land and lived a simple life in a leaf hut eating wild roots and fruit. When he read in the stars that his father had died, the son returned to take the throne. On his way back to the city they passed a mountain and his wife asked him, “Suppose that mountain were turned into pure gold, would you give me some of it?” “Not even an atom’s worth!” was his reply. This upset his wife, who had loved her husband so much she had not abandoned him when he forced her to live a pauper’s life. She became the chief queen, 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 started by asking her why she did not give gifts to the men of the royal court. “What can I give you,” she replied,” when my husband gives me nothing? Even when we traveled back here he said he would not give me anything if there were 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 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 gave his queen everything she deserved and 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 made her very upset.
Later they stopped at the Buddha’s monastery for some water and the Buddha divined 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 the wife her husband acts like this often, but when reminded of her virtues he treats her right and told them this story as an example.