Prince Goodspeaker and the Water Demon
[Chapter 1. Rebirth of the Bodhisatta]
Once upon a time, there was a very righteous king. He had a lovely queen who gave birth to a beautiful baby. This made the king very happy. He decided to give his son a name that might help him in later life. So he called him Prince Goodspeaker.
It just so happened that the prince was no ordinary baby. This was not his first life or his first birth. Millions of years before, he had been a follower of a long-forgotten teaching ‘Buddha’ – a fully ‘Enlightened One’. He had wished with all his heart to become a Buddha just like his beloved master.
He was reborn in many lives – sometimes as poor animals, sometimes as long-living gods and sometimes as human beings. He always tried to learn from his mistakes and develop the ‘Ten Perfections’. This was so he could purify his mind and remove the three root causes of unwholesomeness – the poisons of craving, anger and the delusion of a separate self. By using the Perfections, he would someday be able to replace the poisons with the three purities – nonattachment, loving-kindness and wisdom.
This ‘Great Being’ had been a humble follower of the forgotten Buddha. His goal was to gain the same enlightenment of a Buddha – the experience of complete Truth. So people call him ‘Bodhisatta’, which means ‘Enlightenment Being’. No one really knows about the millions of lives lived by this great hero. But many stories have been told – including this one about a prince called Goodspeaker. After many more rebirths, he became the Buddha who is remembered and loved in all the world today.
[Chapter 2. The Teaching of the Gods]
In time, the queen gave birth to another son, who was named Prince Moon. Shortly after both children began walking about, their mother suddenly became very sick, and died.
To help him look after his playful children, the king found a princess to become his new queen. In a few years, this queen gave birth to a beautiful bright little boy. He was named Prince Sun. Since the king was so happy, he wanted to please his queen, and reward her for bringing up all three children. So he promised to grant her one wish. The queen considered, and said, “Thank you my lord, I will make my wish at some time in the future.”
As time went on, the three princes grew into wonderful playful youngsters. The queen saw that Prince Goodspeaker was intelligent and understanding. She thought, “If these two older princes remain in the palace, my son, Prince Sun, will never get a chance to be king. Therefore, I must do something to make him the next king.”
One day, when the king was in a good mood, the queen respectfully approached him and reminded him of the promised wish. He was very happy and said, “Ask whatever you want!” The queen said, “Oh my husband and king, grant that after the course of your life is over, my son, Prince Sun, will be the next king.”
The king was shocked by this request. He became angry and said, “My first two children are like bright stars! How can I give the kingdom to my third son? All the people will blame me. That cannot be done!” The queen kept silent.
As happy as the king had been, he now became just as unhappy. He was afraid and filled with doubt. He suspected that the queen might destroy his first-born children by some wicked means. He decided that he must make sure his children were safe.
Secretly, the king called Prince Goodspeaker and Prince Moon to him. He told them of the queen’s dangerous desire. He sadly said that the only safe thing for them to do was to leave the kingdom. They should return only after their father’s death, and take their rightful places ruling the kingdom. The two obedient princes accepted their father’s order and prepared to leave.
In a few days they were ready. They said their sad good-byes to their father and friends, and left the palace. On their way through the royal gardens, they came upon Prince Sun. He had always been very affectionate and friendly towards his two older half-brothers. He was upset to hear that they were leaving for a very long time. So he decided that he too would leave the kingdom. The three friendly princes departed together.
For several months they travelled, until they reached the forest country of the mighty Himalayas. They were very tired and sat down under a tree. The oldest brother, Prince Goodspeaker, said to the youngest, Prince Sun, “Please go down to the nearby lake and fill some lotus leaves with water. Bring them back here so we all can drink.”
They did not know that the beautiful dark blue lake was possessed by a water demon! He was permitted by his demon ruler to eat any beings that he could convince to go into the water. There was also one condition. He could not eat anyone who knew the answer to the question, ‘What is the teaching of the gods?”
When Prince Sun arrived at the shore of the lake, being dry and dirty and tired, he went directly into the water without any investigation. Suddenly the water demon rose up from under the water and captured him. He asked him, “What is the teaching of the gods?” Prince Sun said, “I know the answer to that! The sun and the moon are the teachings of the gods.” “You don’t know the teaching of the gods, so you belong to me!” said the water demon. Then he pulled Prince Sun under the water and locked him up in a deep cave.
Since Prince Sun was delayed, Prince Goodspeaker asked the second brother, Prince Moon, to go down to the lake and bring back water in lotus leaves. When he got there, he too went directly into the water without examining. Again the water demon appeared, grabbed him, and asked, “What is the teaching of the gods?” Prince Moon said, “I know the answer to that! The four directions – North, East, South and West – these are the teachings of the gods.” “You don’t know the teaching of the gods, so you belong to me!”, replied the water demon. Then he locked up Prince Moon in the same underwater cave with Prince Sun.
When both his brothers did not return, Prince Goodspeaker began to worry that they might be in some danger. So he himself went down to the beautiful dark blue lake. As he was a wise and careful person, he did not go directly into the water. Instead, he investigated and saw that there were two sets of footprints leading into the lake – but not coming out again! To protect himself, he got his sword and bow and arrows ready. He began to walk around the lake.
Seeing that this prince did not go straight into the lake, the water demon appeared to him disguised as a humble villager. He said to him, “My dear friend, you look tired and dirty from much walking. Why don’t you get into the water and bathe, drink, and eat some lotus roots?”
Remembering the one-way footprints, Prince Goodspeaker said, “You must be some kind of demon disguised as a human! What have you done with my brothers?” Surprised at being recognized so quickly, the water demon returned to his true ferocious appearance. He replied to the wise prince, “By my rights, I have captured your brothers!”
The prince asked, “For what reason?” “So that soon I can gobble them up!”, the demon answered, “I have permission from my demon ruler to eat all those who go into this lake who do not know the teaching of the gods. If anyone does know the teaching of the gods, I am not allowed to eat him.”
The Prince asked, “Why do you need to know this? What is the advantage to a demon like you, to know the teaching of the gods?” The water demon replied, “I know there must be some advantage to me.” “Then I will tell you what the gods teach,” said Prince Goodspeaker, “but I have a problem. Look at me. I am covered with dust and dirt from travelling. I cannot speak about wise teachings in this condition.”
By now, the water demon realized that this prince was especially wise. So he washed and refreshed him. He gave him water to drink from lotus leaves, and tender lotus roots to eat. He prepared a comfortable seat for him, decorated with pretty wildflowers. After laying aside his sword and bow and arrows, the Enlightenment Being sat on the adorned seat. The ferocious demon sat by his feet, just like a student listening to a respected teacher.
Prince Goodspeaker said, “This is the teaching of the gods:
- You should be ashamed to do unwholesome deeds.
- You should be afraid to do unwholesome deeds.
- You should always do wholesome deeds –
- that bring happiness to others, and help mankind.
- Then you will shine with the inner light of calm and peacefulness.”
The water demon was pleased with this answer, and said, “Worthy prince, you have completely satisfied my question. You have made me so happy that I will give you back one of your brothers. Which one do you choose?”
Prince Goodspeaker said, “Release my younger brother, Prince Sun.” To this the demon replied, “My lord prince, wise one, you know the teaching of the gods but
you do not practice it!” The prince asked, “Why do you say that?” The demon said, “Because you leave the older one to die, and save the younger. You do not respect
The prince then said, “Oh demon, I know the teaching of the gods, and I do practise it. We three princes came to this forest because of the youngest brother. His mother requested our father’s kingdom for him. So it was for our protection that our father sent us here. The young Prince Sun joined us out of friendship. But if we return to the court without him, and say he was eaten by a water demon who wanted to know the teaching of the gods, who would believe us? They would think we killed him because he was the cause of our danger. This would bring shame to us and unhappiness to the kingdom. Fearing such unwholesome results, I tell you again to release the young Prince Sun.”
The water demon was so pleased with this answer that he said, “Well done, well done, my lord. You know the true teaching of the gods, and you do practice that true teaching. I will gladly give back both your brothers!” So saying, he went down into the lake and brought both princes back to shore. They were wet, but unharmed.
Later on, the Bodhisatta gave further helpful advice to the demon. He said, “Oh water demon, my new friend, you must have done many unwholesome deeds in your previous lives, so that you were born as a flesh eating demon. And if you continue in this way, you will be trapped in a terrible state even in later lives. For unwholesome deeds lead to shame, fear and unpleasant rebirth. But wholesome deeds lead to self-respect, peace and pleasant rebirth. Therefore, it would be much better for you to do pure deeds, rather than impure deeds, from now on.” This turned the demon from his past ways, and the princes lived together happily under his protection.
One day, word came that the king had died. So the three princes, as well as their friend the water demon, returned to the capital city. Prince Goodspeaker was crowned as king. Prince Moon became the chief minister, and Prince Sun became commander of the army. The water demon was awarded a safe place to live, where he was well fed, cared for and entertained for the rest of his life. In this way they all acquired wholesome meritorious thoughts, leading to rebirth in a heaven world.
The moral is: Unwholesome actions bring shame and fear. Wholesome actions bring self-respect and peace.