Prince Who Had a Plan
Power of Superstition]
a time, King Brahmadatta was ruling in Benares, in northern India.
The Enlightenment Being was born as his son the prince. Being
quite intelligent, he completed his entire education by the age
of sixteen. So, at this early age, his father made him second
In those days,
most people in Benares worshipped gods. They were very superstitious.
They thought gods caused things to happen to them, rather than
being results of their own actions. So they would pray to these
gods and ask special favours. They would ask for a lucky marriage,
or the birth of a child or riches or fame.
promise the gods that, if their prayers were answered, they would
pay them by making offerings to them. In addition to flowers and
perfumes, they imagined the gods desired the sacrifice of animals.
So, when they thought the gods had helped them, they killed many
animals goats, lambs, chickens, pigs and others.
saw all this and thought, "These helpless animals are also
subjects of the king, so I must protect them. The people commit
these unwholesome acts due to ignorance and superstition. This
cannot be true religion. For true religion offers life as it really
is, not killing. True religion offers peace of mind, not cruelty.
these people believe in their superstitions too strongly to give
them up. This is very sad. But perhaps their beliefs can at least
be put to good use. Some day I will become king. So I must begin
to make a plan to let their superstitions help them. If they must
offer sacrifices, let them kill their own greed and hatred, instead
of these helpless animals! Then the whole kingdom will benefit."
So the prince
devised a clever long term plan. Every so often, he rode in his
grand chariot to a popular banyan tree just outside the city.
This was a huge tree, where the people prayed and made offerings
to a god they thought lived there. The prince came down from his
chariot and made the same offerings as the others incense,
flowers, perfumes and water but not animal sacrifices.
In this way
he made a great show, and the news spread about his offerings.
Pretty soon, all the people thought he was a true believer in
the great god of the banyan tree.
In due time,
King Brahmadatta died and his son became king. He ruled as a righteous
king, and the people benefited. So all his subjects came to trust
and respect him as a just and honourable king.
Then one day, he decided it was the right time to carry out the
rest of his plan. So he called all the leading citizens of Benares
to the royal assembly hall. He asked them, "Worthy ministers
and loyal subjects, do you know how I was able to make sure that
I would become king?" No one could answer.
He said, "Do
you remember that I often gave wonderful sweet offerings to the
great god of the banyan tree?" "Yes, our lord,"
continued, "At each of those times, I made a promise to the
powerful god of the tree. I prayed, 'Oh mighty one, if you make
me King of Benares, I will offer a special sacrifice to you, far
greater than flowers and perfumes.'
I am now the king, you all can see for yourselves that the god
has answered my prayers. So now I must keep my promise and offer
the special sacrifice."
in the assembly hall agreed. They said, "We must prepare
this sacrifice at once. What animals do you wish to kill?"
The king said,
"My dear subjects, I am glad you are so willing to cooperate.
I promised the great god of the banyan tree that I would sacrifice
anyone who fails to practice the Five Training Steps. That is,
anyone who destroys life, takes what is not given, does wrong
in sexual ways, speaks falsely, or loses his mind from alcohol.
I promised that, if any do these things, I will offer their guts,
and their flesh and blood on the great god's altar!"
Being so superstitious,
all those in the hall agreed that this must be done, or the god
would surely punish the king and the kingdom.
The king thought,
"Ah, such is the power of superstition that these people
have lost all common sense! They cannot see that, since the first
training step is to give up killing, if I sacrificed one of my
subjects, I would be next on the altar! And such is the power
of superstition that I could make such a promise, and never have
to carry it out!"
So, with full
confidence in the power of superstition, the king said to the
leading citizens, "Go into all the kingdom and announce the
promise I made to the god. Then proclaim that the first one-thousand
who break any of the training steps will have the honour of being
sacrificed, to keep the king's promise."
Lo and behold,
the people of Benares became famous for carefully practising the
Five Training Steps. And the good king, who knew his subjects
so well, sacrificed no one.
moral is: Sacrifice your own wrong doing,
not some helpless animal.