Fourth Perfection: Wisdom.
Many years ago the Bodhisatta was born as a very wise sage by the name of Pandit Senaka. The king appointed Him a minister and before long He was well known for His wisdom and fairness when dealing with problems and conflicts among his majesty’s subjects. His fame spread across the city so that persons with problems came to Him from all over the country in search of a fair and equitable solution.
In this City there lived an old Brahmin who had a very beautiful young wife. Unknown to the Brahmin she had many lovers and often entertained her men friends in his absence. One day the young woman requested that they husband seek employment so that he could earn some gold to provide them with servants and some savings for their future. Then, packing some delicacies that kept well on a journey, she sent her husband away.
The old Brahmin worked hard and earned sufficient gold to provide them with two servants and savings for their future. Then, remembering the food that his wife had packed, he stopped by the wayside to eat the delicacies she had made. Unknown to him, a poisonous snake crept into the open bag of food, attracted by the sweet smell. The man having eaten his fill, closed the bag and continued on his journey home without realising that there was a snake in the bag with the leftover food.
A tree Deva, on seeing the danger to the man, made himself visible to the Brahmin and exclaimed, “If you go home your wife will die; if you stop by the wayside again, you will die.” The old Brahmin was perplexed and worried. Unable to understand the meaning of the words of the Deva he fretting in anguish. Walking thus he was attracted by a large gathering who had come to visit the Pandit Senaka to ask Him questions. The Brahmin too approached the pandit, and after telling his story, asked Him to explain the words of the Deva.
After pondering over the words for some time the Pandit Senaka asked the Brahmin to untie carefully the string tied around the bag of food. He told the Brahmin that he suspected there was a poisonous snake in the bag. He then explained the words of the Deva by saying that if the Brahmin had gone home, his wife would have died, as, unaware of the snake, she would have put her hand into the bag to take out the leftover food, and that if he had stopped on the way to rest again, he would have died, as he would have put his hand into the bag to have some food. As instructed, the old man carefully opened the bag. A small but poisonous snake slithered out into the bushes.
The old man was overwhelmed with gratitude for the Pandit who he felt had saved his life. He offered the 700 gold coins that he had earned as a gift to the Pandit. The Pandit Senaka, surprised at seeing so much money on a travel-weary old man, asked him how he happened to have so much money with him and to relay the full story of the past few days.
Feeling compassion for the hardworking old man, the Pandit refused the gift and gave him 300 gold coins so that he would have a thousand gold coins for his and his wife’s future. But, suspecting the young woman of treachery, He requested that the Brahmin not inform his wife of his savings.
The old Brahmin who trusted and loved his wife, did not heed the advice of the Pandit. The provided his wife with the servants she had requested and buried all his treasures in the premises of their garden in her presence.
A few days later, he was horrified to find that all his gold was missing. Distraught, he visited the wise Pandit Senaka in the hope of finding a solution to his problem. The Bodhisatta listened to the case, and suspecting the young woman of treachery, instructed the old Brahmin to entertain fourteen guests for seven days. Seven of the guests were to be chosen by his wife and seven were to be chosen by himself. Each succeeding day, one of the guests selected by each of them were to be dropped so that one the seventh day there would only be two guests present, one of whom was selected by his wife and the other by himself. He then requested that the Brahmin come back and inform Him of the identity of his wife’s last guest.
The Brahmin followed the instructions of the Sage and identified his wife’s last guest – the one whom she had chosen to entertain for the full seven days. The Bodhisatta then sent His men to search the house of the wife’s last guest and found the gold that had been stolen.
Upon being caught with the gold the man acknowledged the crime and his relationship to the young woman. The Bodhisatta then questioned the Brahmin if he wished to forgive his wife and remain with her. After being informed that he stilled loved her and wanted to remain with her, the Bodhisatta adviced the young woman of the danger and folly of her behaviour and the consequences of sexual misconduct. On hearing the wisdom of the Bodhisatta, the young woman agreed to mend her ways. The Brahmin and his wife went home reconciled.
The Bodhisatta had practiced the virtue of wisdom in many, many births. The Ummaga Jataka illustrates many of the problems that he solved in His quest for wisdom. In solving this problem the Bodhisatta completed the virtue of wisdom. In happiness He exclaimed:
“With wisdom sifted I the case
And freed the Brahmin from his woes
In wisdom none can equal me
In wisdom I’ve perfection reached.”
Continue to Fifth Perfection: Courage (Effort/Energy).