10. Alavaka, the Demon
lived near the city of Alavi and feasted on human flesh. He
was so fierce, powerful and crafty that he was known as "the
day, the King of Alavi went hunting for deer in the jungle and
Alavaka caught him. The king begged to be released, but in return
for his freedom the demon made a deal that he had to send one
person every day into the jungle as an offering to Alavaka.
king, afraid for his own life, agreed. Every day after that a
prisoner would be sent from the palace dungeons into the forest
with a plate of rice. The wretched soul was told that to gain
freedom he had to go to a certain tree, leave the plate there
and then he could go as he pleased. At first many prisoners
volunteered to go on that "simple" mission. But as the days
went by and no one returned to tell the other prisoners what
had happened, the prisoners soon grew suspicious and had to
be forced each day to go into the forest.
the prison became empty. How was the king to fulfill his promise
of sending a person each day to be eaten by the demon? His ministers
advised him to drop packets of gold in the streets. Those found
picking up the packets would be caught as thieves and sent to
Alavaka. When the word got around, nobody dared to collect the
packets. As a last resort, the king started catching children
for offering. The terrified families of the city began to flee,
leaving the streets deserted and the king completely desperate.
There was only one more boy leftand he was the king's son.
With much reluctance, the king ordered that the prince be sent
to Alavaka the following morning.
day, the Buddha happened to be near the city. When he surveyed
the world with his Divine Eye that morning, he saw what was
going to happen. Out of compassion for the king, the prince
and Alavaka, the Buddha traveled the whole day to the demon's
cave and in the evening he arrived at the entrance.
demon was away in the mountains, and the Buddha asked the gatekeeper
if he could spend a night at the cave. When the gatekeeper left
to inform his master about the request, the Buddha went into
the cave, sat on the seat of the demon and taught the Dharma
to his wives.
When the demon heard what was happening, he hurried home, very
angry. With his extraordinary power, he created a terrifying
thunderstorm which shook and rattled the forest with thunder,
lightning, wind and rain. But the Buddha was unafraid.
then attacked the Buddha by throwing his spear and club at him,
but before the weapons could touch him, they fell at the feet
of the Blessed One.
to frighten the Buddha, Alavaka asked, "Is it right that
you, a holy man, should enter and sit amongst a man's wives
when the owner of the house is away?" At this, the Buddha
got up to leave the cave.
thought, "What a fool I am to have wasted my energy trying
to frighten this ascetic." So he asked the Buddha to enter
the cave again. The demon ordered the Buddha three times to
get out and three times to enter the cave, in the hope that
he could kill the Buddha with fatigue. Each time the Buddha
did as he was ordered. But when the demon asked the Buddha to
leave for the fourth time the Buddha refused to do so, saying,
"I'm not going to obey you, Alavaka. Do whatever
you can but I'm going to remain here."
to force the Buddha to do what he wanted, Alavaka changed his
tactics and said, "I will ask you some questions. If you
can't answer I'll split your heart, kill you and throw you over
to the other side of the river."
Buddha told him calmly, "There is no one, Alavaka, whether
man or deva, ascetic, brahma or brahmin who can do such things
to me. But if you want to ask anything, you may do so."
asked some clever questions which he had learned from his parents
who had, in turn, learned them from their parents. The demon
himself had forgotten the answers, but he had preserved the
questions by writing them on gold leaves. The questions were:
is the greatest wealth for a man?
brings the highest bliss when well mastered?
is the sweetest of all tastes?
is the best way of life?"
greatest wealth for a man is confidence.
The true doctrine, when well mastered, brings the highest bliss.
The sweetest taste is truth.
Wise living is the decent way of life."
asked many more questions, all of which the Buddha answered.
The final question was: "Passing from this world to the
next, how does one not grieve?"
Buddha's reply was: "He who possesses these four virtues
truthfulness, good morals, courage and generosity grieves
not after passing away."
the meaning of the Buddha's words, Alavaka said, "Now I
know what is the secret of my future welfare. It is for my own
welfare and good that the Buddha came to Alavi." Alavaka
prostrated before the Buddha and begged to be accepted as a
next morning, when the officers of Alavi came with the king's
young son, they were surprised at the sight of the Buddha preaching
to Alavaka, who was listening attentively to the sermon. When
the boy was handed to Alavaka, he grew ashamed of what he had
been. Instead of seeing the boy as an offering, he stroked the
boy on the head, kissed him and handed him back to the officers.
After that the Buddha blessed the child and Alavaka.
the conversion of Alavaka the cannibal showed how the Buddha,
with his great wisdom and compassion, could tame a savage and
change him into a gentle disciple.