Chapter XXVI - 92 Home | Index | Previous | Next

Meanwhile, an aged hermit who was filled with great pity and affection towards the emperor approached him and, shedding tears of love, he spoke to him thus: "O king! People say all kinds of things; there are many versions going round from mouth to mouth; I have come to you to find out the truth; I can walk only with great difficulty. I love you so much that I cannot bear to hear all that people say about you. What exactly did happen? What is the reason for this sudden act of sacrifice? What is the mystery behind the curse that the son of a hermit pronounced on such a highly evolved soul as you? Declare it! Satisfy our craving to know the truth. I cannot look on while the people are suffering like this; you were like a father to them. Now, you pay no heed to their pleadings. You have given up all attachments and come here. Speak to them at least a few words of solace. With you, sitting silent and hungry on the river bank, engaged in rigorous asceticism, the queens and ministers are in distress like fish thrown out of water. Who was that young man, whose words caused this disastrous storm? Can he be genuinely the son of a hermit? Or, is that only a disguise? It is all a mystery to me."

The king listened to these words, spoken with such affection and equanimity. He opened his eyes, and fell at the feet of the sage. "Master! Mahatma! What have I to hide from you? It cannot be hidden, even if I want to. I went into the forest a-hunting. Many wild animals were seen but they scattered at our approach. The small band of bow men that was with me was also scattered in the attempt to pursue the animals. I found myself alone, on the track of game and was far away from my retinue. I got no game; I was overcome with hunger and thirst; the scorching heat exhausted me; at last, I discovered a hermitage and entered it. I came to know later that it was the cottage of Rishi Sameeka. I called out repeatedly to discover whether there was any one in. No answer came, nor did any one come out. I saw a hermit sitting in deep meditation, lost in his own Dhyana. While coming out from the cottage, I felt something soft under my foot. I lifted it with my fingers and found it was a dead serpent. As soon as my eyes fell on it, a foul thought came into me; I placed the dead snake round the neck of that hermit engaged in Dhyana. This was somehow cognised by the son of that hermit; he could not bear the ignominy. He cursed, "May this snake round the neck of my father take the form of Thakshaka and end the life of the man who insulted my father thus, on the seventh day from today.'"

"News was sent to me from the hermitage, of this curse and its consequence. I am conscious of the sin I have committed; I feel that a king capable of this sin has no place in the kingdom. So I have given up everything, every attachment. I have decided to use these seven days for the ceaseless contemplation of the glory of God; it is great good fortune that this chance has been given to me. That is why I have come here".

Thus, when the nobles, courtiers, princes, queens, ministers, hermits and others who were around him, came to know the true facts, they dropped from their minds the wild guesses they had made so far; they prayed aloud that the curse may lose its fatal sting.