Prince Five-weapons

Buddha told this story while at Jetavana monastery, about a monk who had stopped making effort.

Asked if it was true that he was a backslider, the monk immediately admitted it was so.

“In bygone days, bhikkhu,” Buddha told him, “the wise and good won a throne by sheer perseverance in the hour of need.”

Then he told this story of the past.

Long, long ago when Brahmadatta was reigning in Baranasi, the Bodhisatta was reborn to his queen. On the day he was to be named, his royal parents gave a feast for eight hundred brahmans. After the meal, they asked the brahmans what their son’s destiny would be. Noting that the child showed promise of a glorious destiny, the soothsayers predicted that the child would become a mighty king endowed with every virtue. Winning fame through exploits with his five weapons, he would be without equal in all Jambudipa (India). Because of the brahmans’ prophecy, the king and queen named their son Prince Five-Weapons.

When the prince was sixteen years old, the king gave him a thousand pieces of silver and sent him to study with a famous teacher in Takkasila, a city in Gandhara. The prince studied there for several years. When he had mastered all his subjects, the teacher presented him with a set of five weapons. The prince paid his respects to his master and left Takkasila to return to Baranasi.

On his way the prince came to a dense jungle. Some men who were camped at the edge of the jungle tried to stop him from going on. “Young man,” they warned, “do not try to go through that forest. It is the haunt of a formidable ogre named Shaggy-grip who kills everyone who enters his territory.”

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Confident of his own strength, the prince was undaunted, but, sure enough, in the middle of the jungle, the hairy ogre confronted him. The monster made himself as tall as a palm-tree, with a head as big as a gazebo, eyes like mixing bowls, two sharp tusks, and a hawk-like beak. His distended belly was purple, and the palms of his hands were blue-black.

“Where do you think you’re going?” cried the monster. “Stop! You are mine!”

“Ogre,” answered the prince calmly, “You do not scare me. Do not come near me, or I will kill you with a poisoned arrow!”

Bravely, the prince fitted an arrow dipped in deadly poison to his bow. He shot it at the monster, but it only stuck to the creature’s scruffy coat. The youth shot all fifty of his arrows, one after another, but they all stuck to the ogre’s unkempt fur.

Shaking himself, so that the arrows fell harmlessly at his feet, the ogre gave a roar and charged the prince. The young prince shouted defiance, drew his sword, and struck at the ogre, but, like the arrows, the sword merely got caught in the demon’s shaggy hair. Next the prince hurled his spear, but that, too, lodged in the demon’s thick pelt. He struck the ogre with his club, but the club joined the other weapons in sticking to the creature’s fur.

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The prince maintained his stance, “Ogre, you have never before heard of me. I am Prince Five-Weapons. When I entered this forest, however, I put my trust not in these weapons — bow arrows, sword, spear, and club — but in myself! Now will I give you a blow which will crush you to smithereens.” The prince hit the demon with his right fist, but his hand stuck fast to the hair. Next he aimed a blow with his left hand. He kicked the ogre with his right foot, and with his left. All he accomplished, however, was to get himself stuck to the monster with both hands and both feet.

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“I will crush you to atoms!” he shouted, as he butted the ogre with his head, but that too stuck fast.

Though completely ensnared by all four limbs and his head, hanging helplessly like a doll from the ogre’s coat, the prince remained fearless and undaunted.

The monster reflected, “This is a hero without equal, a lion among men. He cannot be an ordinary human being! Although he has been captured by an ogre like me, he shows no sign of fear. In all the time I’ve been killing travelers in this jungle, I have never seen anyone like him. Why isn’t he afraid of me?”

Reluctant to devour the prince, the ogre asked, “How can it be, young prince, that you have no fear of death?”

“Why should I be afraid? Each life must surely end in death. I know that inside my body there is a diamond sword which not even you can digest. If you eat me, this sword will chop your innards into mincemeat. My death will bring about yours.” Of course, the prince was referring to the adamantine Sword of Knowledge.

The ogre pondered on this. “This young prince speaks only the truth. Surely I would not be able digest a morsel of such a hero. I had better release him.” Fearful for his own life, the demon let the prince go free, saying, “Brave youth, I will not eat you. Go free to gladden the hearts of your kinsfolk, your friends, and your country.”

“I am free to go, and I will go, ogre,” answered the prince, “but the sins you committed in a past life have caused you to be reborn as a murderous fiend. If you continue your evil ways, you will go from darkness to darkness. Having met me, however, you have the chance to stop killing. To destroy life is to ensure rebirth in hell, as a brute, or as a hungry spirit. Even if a killer’s rebirth is as a human, it will be miserable and short.”

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The prince taught the ogre the evil consequences of violating the moral precepts and explained the blessings that follow from observing them. Having converted the monster, the prince imbued him with self-discipline and established him in the Five Precepts.

Before continuing on his way, the prince made the ogre the guardian of that forest, with a right to levy dues, and charged him to remain steadfast. As he passed through the villages at the forest’s edge, he announced to everyone that the ogre was completely reformed.

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Finally, armed with his five weapons, the prince returned to the city of Baranasi and was reunited with his parents.

When he at last became king, he was a righteous ruler. After a life spent in charity and other good works, he passed away to fare according to his deserts.

His lesson ended, Buddha said, “Without attachments to hamper one’s heart, victory will be achieved by walking righteously.”

Buddha taught the Dhamma progressively, until that monk won Arahatship. Then he showed the connection, and identified the Birth by saying, “Angulimala was the ogre of those days, and I myself was Prince Five-Weapons.”

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