41. The Curse of Mittavinda [Chapter 3. Pleasure]
Buddhist Tales for Young and Old, volume 1, Prince Goodspeaker, Stories 1-50
After seven days on the Indian Ocean, all the winds and currents stopped completely. The ship was stuck! After being dead in the water for seven days, all on board were terrified they would die.
So they drew straws to find out who was the cause of their bad luck and frightening misfortune. Seven times the short straw was drawn by Mittavinda!
They forced him onto a tiny bamboo raft, and set him adrift on the open seas. They shouted, “Be gone forever! You are nothing but a curse!" And suddenly a strong wind sent the ship on its way.
But once again Mittavinda’s life was spared. This was a result of his wholesome actions as a monk, so many births ago. No matter how long it takes, actions cause results.
Sometimes an action causes more than one result, some pleasant and some unpleasant. It is said there are Asuras who live through such mixed results in an unusual way.
Asuras are unfortunate ugly gods. Some of them are lucky enough to change their form into beautiful young dancing girl goddesses. These are called Apsaras.
They enjoy the greatest pleasures for seven days. But then they must go to a hell world and suffer torments as hungry ghosts for seven days. Again they become Apsara goddesses – back and forth, back and forth – until both kinds of results are finished.
While floating on the tiny bamboo raft, it just so happened that Mittavinda came to a lovely Glass Palace. There he met four very pretty Apsaras. They enjoyed their time together, filled with heavenly pleasures, for seven days.
Then, when it was time for the goddesses to become hungry ghosts, they said to Mittavinda, “Wait for us just seven short days, and we will return and continue our pleasure."
The Glass Palace and the four Apsaras disappeared. But still Mittavinda had not regained the peace of mind thrown away by the village monk, so very long ago. Seven days of pleasure had not satisfied him. He could not wait for the lovely goddesses to return. He wanted more and more. So he continued on, in the little bamboo raft.
Lo and behold, he came to a shining Silver Palace, with eight Apsara goddesses living there. Again he enjoyed seven days of the greatest pleasure. These Apsaras also asked him to wait the next seven days, and disappeared into a hell world.
Amazing as it may seem, the greedy Mittavinda went on to seven days of pleasure in a sparkling Jewel Palace with 16 Apsaras. But they too disappeared. Then he spent seven days in a glowing Golden Palace with 32 of the most beautiful Apsaras of all.
But still he was not satisfied! When all 32 asked him to wait seven days, again he departed on the raft.
Before long he came to the entrance of a hell world filled with suffering tortured beings. They were living through the results of their own actions. But his desire for more pleasure was so strong that Mittavinda thought he saw a beautiful city surrounded by a wall with four fabulous gates. He thought, I will go inside and make myself king!
After he entered, he saw one of the victims of this hell world. He had a collar around his neck that spun like a wheel, with five sharp blades cutting into his face, head, chest and back. But Mittavinda was still so greedy for pleasure that he could not see the pain right before his eyes. Instead he saw the spinning collar of cutting blades as if it were a lovely lotus blossom. He saw the dripping blood as if it were the red powder of perfumed sandal wood. And the screams of pain from the poor victim sounded like the sweetest of songs!
He said to the poor man, “You’ve had that lovely lotus crown long enough! Give it to me, for I deserve to wear it now." The condemned man warned him, “This is a cutting collar, a wheel of blades." But Mittavinda said, “You only say that because you don’t want to give it up."
The victim thought, “At last the results of my past unwholesome deeds must be completed. Like me, this poor fool must be here for striking his mother. I will give him the wheel of pain." So he said, “Since you want it so badly, take the lotus crown!"
With these words the wheel of blades spun off the former victim’s neck and began spinning around the head of Mittavinda. And suddenly all his illusions disappeared; he knew this was no beautiful city, but a terrible hell world; he knew this was no lotus crown, but a cutting wheel of blades; and he knew he was not king, but prisoner. Groaning in pain he cried out desperately, “Take back your wheel! Take back your wheel!" But the other one had disappeared.
Just then the king of the gods arrived for a teaching visit to the hell world. Mittavinda asked him, “Oh king of gods, what have I done to deserve this torment?" The god replied, “Refusing to listen to the words of monks, you obtained no wisdom, but only money. A thousand gold coins did not satisfy you, nor even 120,000. Blinded by greed, you struck your mother on your way to grabbing greater wealth still.
“Then the pleasure of four Apsaras in their Glass Palace did not satisfy you. Neither eight Apsaras in a Silver Palace, nor 16 in a Jewel Palace. Not even the pleasure of 32 lovely goddesses in a Golden Palace was enough for you! Blinded by greed for pleasure you wished to be king. Now at last, you see your crown is only a wheel of torture, and your kingdom is a hell world.
“Learn this, Mittavinda – all who follow their greed wherever it leads are left unsatisfied. For it is in the nature of greed to be dissatisfied with what one has, whether a little or a lot. The more obtained, the more desired – until the circle of greed becomes the circle of pain."
Having said this, the god returned to his heaven world home. At the same time the wheel crashed down on Mittavinda. With his head spinning in pain, he found himself adrift on the tiny bamboo raft.
Soon he came to an island inhabited by a powerful she-devil. She happened to be disguised as a goat. Being hungry, Mittavinda thought nothing of grabbing the goat by a hind leg. And the she-devil hiding inside kicked him way up into the air. He finally landed in a thorn bush on the outskirts of Benares!
After he untangled himself from the thorns, he saw some goats grazing nearby. He wanted very badly to return to the palaces and the dancing girl Apsaras. Remembering that a goat had kicked him here, he grabbed the leg of one of these goats. He hoped it would kick him back to the island.
Instead, this goat only cried out. The shepherds came, and captured Mittavinda for trying to steal one of the king’s goats.
As he was being taken as a prisoner to the king, they passed by the world famous teacher of Benares. Immediately he recognized his student. He asked the shepherds, “Where are you taking this man?"
They said, “He is a goat thief! We are taking him to the king for punishment!" The teacher said, “Please don’t do so. He is one of my students. Release him to me, so he can be a servant in my school." They agreed and left him there.
The teacher asked Mittavinda, “What has happened to you since you left me?"
He told the story of being first respected, and then cursed, by the people of the remote village. He told of getting married and having two children, only to see them killed and eaten by demons in the haunted forest. He told of slapping his generous mother when he was crazy with greed for money. He told of being cursed by his shipmates and being cast adrift on a bamboo raft. He told of the four palaces with their beautiful goddesses, and how each time his pleasure ended he was left unsatisfied. He told of the cutting wheel of torture, the reward for the greedy in hell. And he told of his hunger for goat meat, that only got him kicked back to Benares without even a bite to eat!
The world famous teacher said, “It is clear that your past actions have caused both unpleasant and pleasant results, and that both are eventually completed. But you cannot understand that pleasures always come to an end. Instead, you let them feed your greed for more and more. You are left exhausted and unsatisfied, madly grasping at goat legs! Calm down, my friend. And know that trying to hold water in a tight fist, will always leave you thirsty!"
Hearing this, Mittavinda bowed respectfully to the great teacher. He begged to be allowed to follow him as a student. The Enlightenment Being welcomed him with open arms.
The moral is: In peace of mind, there is neither loss nor gain.
41. The Curse of Mittavinda [Chapter 3. Pleasure]
INTERPRETER’S INTRODUCTION – BUDDHIST TALES FOR YOUNG AND OLD, VOLUME 1, STORIES 1-50
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