Once upon a time, King Brahmadatta was ruling in Benares in northern India. After completing his education, the Enlightenment Being became one of his ministers.
One day the king went on an outing to his pleasure garden. A big crowd from the court went with him. They visited many parts of the lovely park. Near a cool forest they came upon a beautiful clear pond. The king decided to go for a swim. So he dove into the water. Then he invited all the ladies of his harem to join him in the refreshing pond.
Laughing together, the harem women took off all their ornaments and jewelry – from their heads, necks, ears. wrists, fingers, waists, ankles and toes. Along with their outer clothing, they handed all these over to their servant girls for safekeeping. Then they jumped into the pond with King Brahmadatta.
The king had given one of his favorite queens a very valuable pearl necklace. She was so fond of it that she called it by a pet name, ‘Most Precious’.
It just so happened that a curious she-monkey had been watching all this from a branch of a nearby tree. Peering between the green leaves, she had paid very close attention. When she had caught sight of the Most Precious pearl necklace, her eyes had nearly popped out of her head!
Imagining how grand she would look wearing the queen’s beautiful necklace, she patiently watched the servant girl who was guarding it. In the beginning the girl watched very carefully. But the heat of the day soon made her drowsy. When the she-monkey saw her start to snooze. she swung down from the tree as fast as the wind. In a flash she grabbed the necklace called Most Precious, put it around her neck, and ran back up the tree.
Afraid that the other monkeys would see it, the little thief hid the gleaming pearl necklace in a hollow of the tree. Then she sat guarding her loot, remaining silent and pretending to be as innocent as a nun!
In a minute or two the servant girl awoke from her accidental nap. Frightened, she immediately looked over the queen’s possessions. When she saw the necklace was missing she yelled out in terror, “Help! Help! Some man has taken the queen’s pearl necklace, the one called Most Precious!”
After running to her side, security guards went and reported the theft to the king. He ordered them to stop at nothing, and to catch the thief immediately. Frightened of the king’s wrath, the guards began dashing madly around the pleasure garden searching for the thief.
At that very moment there happened to be a poor man walking just outside the garden. He was on his way back to his far-off home village after paying his meager taxes to the royal treasury. The commotion from inside the park scared him and he started running away.
Unfortunately, the security guards saw him running and said to each other, “That must be the thief!” They rushed through the garden gate and after a short chase easily captured the innocent man. They began beating him as they shouted, “You no good thief! Confess that you robbed the queen’s pearl necklace, the one she calls Most Precious.”
The poor man thought, “If I say I didn’t take it, these men will beat me to death for sure. But if I confess, they will have to take me to the king.” So he said, “Yes, I admit it, I took the necklace.” Hearing this the security guards handcuffed him and hauled him off to the king.
After being told of the man’s confession, the king asked him, “Where is the Most Precious necklace now? What have you done with it?”
Being a somewhat clever fellow, the prisoner replied, “My lord king, I am a very poor man indeed. I have never in my life owned anything at all valuable, not a Most Precious bed or a Most Precious chair – and certainly not a Most Precious pearl necklace. It was your majesty’s own Chief Financial Adviser who made me steal this Most Precious. I gave it to him. He alone knows where it is now.”
King Brahmadatta summoned his Chief Financial Adviser and asked, “Did you take Most Precious from this man’s hands?” “Yes my lord,” said he. “Where is it now?” asked the king. “I gave it to the Royal Teacher Priest.”
The Royal Teacher Priest was called for and asked about the stolen necklace. He claimed, “I gave it to the Official Court Musician.”
He in turn was summoned and questioned. He answered, “I gave Most Precious to a high class prostitute.”
When she was identified and brought to the king, he demanded to know what she had done with the queen’s pearl necklace. But she alone replied, “Your majesty, I don’t know anything about a pearl necklace!”
As the sun began to set, the king said, “Let us continue this investigation tomorrow.” He handed the five suspects over to his ministers and returned to his palace for the night.