Third Perfection: Renunciation.
Many years ago in the city of Sudassana there ruled a King by the name of Brahmadatta. Our Bodhisatta was born as his son and was named Somanassa. Prince Somanassa was well known for His love of learning, wisdom and righteousness. When the Prince came of age, He married a beautiful princess named Chanda Devi. Before long the King handed over the kingdom to his Son, who won the hearts of his subjects through kindness and righteousness. The Prince, who was very fond of learning, was soon referred to as King Sutasoma, a name that was often used in referring to the very learned.
King Sutasoma decided that He would focus the first part of His life on the welfare of His subjects and kingdom, and the latter years on His spiritual development. With this in mind, He requested the royal barber to inform Him of the first gray hair that appeared on His head. One day the King was having his hair cut, when the barber detected a single gray hair. Cutting it out carefully he showed it to the King, who then decided that it was time for Him to renounce His Kingdom and begin the practice of spiritual development. Handing over his Kingdom to his younger brother, Prince Somadatta, King Sutasoma renounced his kingdom and wealth and took to the life of an ascetic. Prince Somadatta, Queen Chanda Devi, and the people of the kingdom implored the popular King to remain. But the King, who was now determined to live a spiritual life, refused to change his mind.
Prince Somadatta reluctantly took over the kingdom and duties of the Royal palace. But things were just not the same. The young prince missed his older brother, whom he had adored and upon him he had relied. The royal subjects, though fond of the young Prince Somadatta, often talked about the popular King who had renounced the world. They decided to try one more to entice the King to the pleasures of the world. The Prince, Queen Chanda Devi, the ministers, and many subjects visited the forest hermitage where the king lived. Despite His simple clothing, the King looked radiant and peaceful as he sat in meditation amidst the flowering blooms of the hermitage. Bowing before the King, who was now in the garbs of a simple ascetic, they offered him the kingdom.
The King listened to them patiently, then taught them the virtues of holy life. After listening to Him, the Queen and the subjects decided that they too would give up the pleasures of the world for the development of their spiritual life. On the advice and encouragement of the King, the young prince and his ministers returned to the kingdom to govern the remaining subjects. In perfecting the virtue of renunciation the Bodhisatta exclaimed this:
“A kingdom dropped into my hand,
Like spittle vile I let it drop.
Not for it felt the smallest wish,
And thus renunciation gained.”
Continue to Fourth Perfection: Wisdom.