Brief synopsis of "A Lesson for Kings":

This is one of my favorite fairy tales, from the Indian Fairy Tales. It teaches several lessons in one; including the well known "Do unto others as you'd have them do unto you," "Goodness overcomes evil," and "Two wrongs don't make a right."

It's easy if you're in a position of power, to defeat someone by exceeding them. But the moral is also that perhaps more a challenging way, is to defeat them through goodness. Much of what is taught in this tale is reminiscient of Matthew 5 in the King James Bible.

a fairy tale from Indian Fairy Tales
by Joseph Jacobs, 1890


Once upon a time, when Brahma-datta was reigning in Benares, the future
Buddha returned to life as his son and heir. And when the day came for
choosing a name, they called him Prince Brahma-datta. He grew up in due
course; and when he was sixteen years old, went to Takkasila, and
became accomplished in all arts. And after his father died he ascended
the throne, and ruled the kingdom with righteousness and equity. He
gave judgments without partiality, hatred, ignorance, or fear. Since he
thus reigned with justice, with justice also his ministers administered
the law. Lawsuits being thus decided with justice, there were none who
brought false cases. And as these ceased, the noise and tumult of
litigation ceased in the king's court. Though the judges sat all day in
the court, they had to leave without any one coming for justice. It
came to this, that the Hall of Justice would have to be closed!

Then the future Buddha thought, "It cannot be from my reigning with
righteousness that none come for judgment; the bustle has ceased, and
the Hall of Justice will have to be closed. I must, therefore, now
examine into my own faults; and if I find that anything is wrong in me,
put that away, and practise only virtue."

Thenceforth he sought for some one to tell him his faults, but among
those around him he found no one who would tell him of any fault, but
heard only his own praise.

Then he thought, "It is from fear of me that these men speak only good
things, and not evil things," and he sought among those people who
lived outside the palace. And finding no fault-finder there, he sought
among those who lived outside the city, in the suburbs, at the four
gates. And there too finding no one to find fault, and hearing only his
own praise, he determined to search the country places.

So he made over the kingdom to his ministers, and mounted his chariot;
and taking only his charioteer, left the city in disguise. And
searching the country through, up to the very boundary, he found no
fault-finder, and heard only of his own virtue; and so he turned back
from the outer-most boundary, and returned by the high road towards the

Now at that time the king of Kosala, Mallika by name, was also ruling
his kingdom with righteousness; and when seeking for some fault in
himself, he also found no fault-finder in the palace, but only heard of
his own virtue! So seeking in country places, he too came to that very
spot. And these two came face to face in a low cart-track with
precipitous sides, where there was no space for a chariot to get out of
the way!

Then the charioteer of Mallika the king said to the charioteer of the
king of Benares, "Take thy chariot out of the way!"

But he said, "Take thy chariot out of the way, O charioteer! In this
chariot sitteth the lord over the kingdom of Benares, the great king

Yet the other replied, "In this chariot, O charioteer, sitteth the lord
over the kingdom of Kosala, the great king Mallika. Take thy carriage
out of the way, and make room for the chariot of our king!"

Then the charioteer of the king of Benares thought, "They say then that
he too is a king! What is now to be done?" After some consideration,
he said to himself, "I know a way. I'll find out how old he is, and then
I'll let the chariot of the younger be got out of the way, and so make
room for the elder."

And when he had arrived at that conclusion, he asked that charioteer
what the age of the king of Kosala was. But on inquiry he found that
the ages of both were equal. Then he inquired about the extent of his
kingdom, and about his army, and his wealth, and his renown, and about
the country he lived in, and his caste and tribe and family. And he
found that both were lords of a kingdom three hundred leagues in
extent; and that in respect of army and wealth and renown, and the
countries in which they lived, and their caste and their tribe and
their family, they were just on a par!

Then he thought, "I will make way for the most righteous." And he
asked, "What kind of righteousness has this king of yours?"

Then the charioteer of the king of Kosala, proclaiming his king's
wickedness as goodness, uttered the First Stanza:
"The strong he overthrows by strength,
The mild by mildness, does Mallika;
The good he conquers by goodness,
And the wicked by wickedness too.
Such is the nature of this king!
Move out of the way, O charioteer!"

But the charioteer of the king of Benares asked him, "Well, have you
told all the virtues of your king?"

"Yes," said the other.

"If these are his virtues, where are then his faults?" replied

The other said, "Well, for the nonce, they shall be faults, if you
like! But pray, then, what is the kind of goodness your king has?"

And then the charioteer of the king of Benares called unto him to
hearken, and uttered the Second Stanza
"Anger he conquers by calmness,
And by goodness the wicked;
The stingy he conquers by gifts,
And by truth the speaker of lies.
Such is the nature of this king!
Move out of the way, O charioteer!"

And when he had thus spoken, both Mallika the king and his charioteer
alighted from their chariot. And they took out the horses, and removed
their chariot, and made way for the king of Benares!

Source--Rajovada Jataka, Fausboll, No. 151, tr. Rhys-Davids, pp. xxii.-vi.

Remarks.--This is one of the earliest of moral allegories in existence. The moralising tone of the Jatakas must be conspicuous to all reading them. Why, they can moralise even the Tar Baby (see infra, Note on "Demon with the Matted Hair," No. xxv.).

from Project Gutenberg (public domain)

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