The Enchantress – from Jataka Tale #13

Once in a previous life the Buddha was a king of the Shibis. Like a parent to his children, he was devoted to his subjects.

In his kingdom there was a young woman of enchanting beauty, they called her the Enchantress. When the king sent his ministers to determine if she was suitable to become his queen, they were struck with great desire. They feared the king would lose interest in his royal duties if he fell under her spell, so they reported that she was unsuitable for marriage and the king lost interest. The young woman married a minister named Abhiparaga instead.

The Enchantress was determined to see if the king could withstand her beauty. During a festival she stood out as the king’s procession passed. The moment the king saw her, he was overwhelmed with desire. After that the king could only think of the young woman. Because she was the wife of another he became despondent and lost interest in his responsibilities. The woman’s husband heard of his king’s sadness and could not bear it. He secretly offered to give up his wife to the king.

Hearing this, the king hung his head in shame. “This cannot be,” the king said. “How can I expect to lead my people if I cannot even rule myself? It is foolish to indulge in evil deeds which have consequences in both this life and the next. Even if no one knew, to sin in secret is like drinking poison and expecting to stay healthy.”

The husband, Abhiparaga, said all he wished for was the king’s happiness. The king replied, “I agree you want to help me. But where is happiness if not in following the dharma?” ~~~

Like other stories, this Jataka tale is not about historical reports. It is a teaching that focuses on a moral and tries to teach us something. And the moral of this story, in brief, is that great people never choose a wrong or non-virtuous path, even though they are mentally sick and driven crazy by negative emotions. The meaning is that great people, good people, even though they are crazy and really upset, will not hit other people. They will not kill other people. Even though they are super attached and have desire to have something else, they will not do it by the wrong path. They will not choose non-virtuous actions to do that. So how do they do it? When they are crazy, there is a Tibetan saying, “Even if a dog becomes mad with rabies it will not bite its owner.” Like that, even if you become crazy like having rabies you will not do the wrong thing.

Demo Rinpoche, Jewel Heart Ann Arbor, Jataka Tales, May 9, 2021