Prince Goodspeaker And The Water Demon – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Chapter 1. Rebirth of the Bodhisatta]
Once upon a time, there was a very right-
eous 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
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 unwhole-
someness – the poisons of craving, anger and the
delusion of a separate self. By using the Perfec-
tions, he would someday be able to replace the
poisons with the three purities – non-attachment,
loving-kindness and wisdom.
This ‘Great Being’ had been a humble fol-
lower 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 Be-
ing’. 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
As time went on, the three princes grew
into wonderful playful youngsters. The queen saw
that Prince Goodspeaker was intelligent and un-
derstanding. 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 be-
came just as unhappy. He was afraid and filled
with doubt. He suspected that the queen might de-
stroy his first-born children by some wicked
means. He decided that he must make sure his
children were safe.
Secretly, the king called Prince Good-
speaker 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 fa-
ther’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 al-
ways 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 Hi-
malayas. 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 be-
ings 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 di-
rectly 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 wa-
ter 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
The prince asked, “For what reason?” “So
that soon I can gobble them up!”, the demon an-
swered, “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 ad-
vantage 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 re-
freshed him. He gave him water to drink from lo-
tus leaves, and tender lotus roots to eat. He pre-
pared a comfortable seat for him, decorated with
pretty wild flowers. 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
Prince Goodspeaker said, “This is the
teaching of the gods:
You should be ashamed to do un-
wholesome 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 an-
swer, and said, “Worthy prince, you have com-
pletely 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 practice it. We
three princes came to this forest because of the
youngest brother. His mother requested our fa-
ther’s kingdom for him. So it was for our protec-
tion 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 un-
happiness to the kingdom. Fearing such unwhole-
some 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 help-
ful advice to the demon. He said, “Oh water de-
mon, 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 ter-
rible 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 hap-
pily under his protection.
One day, word came that the king had died.
So the three princes, as well as their friend the wa-
ter 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