Fifth Perfection: Courage (Effort/Energy).
Many, many years ago, the Kingdom of Mithila in the country now known as India, was ruled by a king named Maha Janaka. He had two sons whom he named Arittha Janaka and Pola Janaka. When the older son, Arittha, came of age, King Maha Janaka appointed him the new king and retired. He also appointed his younger son, Pola, chief minister.
Before long the old king passed away. The two brothers ruled the kingdom with friendship and wisdom. A minister, jealous of the friendship and attention that the king paid to the chief minister, planned to destroy Prince Pola. He started to poison King Arittha’s mind with false accusations regarding his brother. The King, who trusted his minister, soon began to think that Prince Pola was plotting to kill him and capture his kingdom. He commanded that his brother be chained and thrown into the palace dungeons.
Prince Pola, who had been a righteous prince, was dismayed. He knew that he had never performed an unwholesome deed by thought, speech or action. Using the power of Truth he aspired thus, “I have never performed an unwholesome deed either by thought, speech, or action. By the power of this Truth may the chains that hold me prisoner be destroyed.” By the power of Truth the bonds were destroyed. The young prince fled to a nearby kingdom and lived incognito among the villagers.
Prince Pola, who had the character and qualities of a leader, won the hearts of the villagers. He sent a message asking his older brother to hand over the kingdom to him for his wrongful action of punishing an innocent man. King Arittha refused. Gathering an army, Prince Pola prepared to attack his brother who had punished him for naught.
King Arittha realized that he could die in battle. Handing over the crown jewels to his queen who was pregnant with their first child, he asked her to flee the kingdom to safety should he die in battle. King Arittha was killed in battle and Prince Pola took over the kingdom of Mithila as king.
The queen, with the help of a passing charioteer, travelled to the city of Kala Champa and lived among the destitute, in a home for the homeless. One day a Brahmin, who was with his retinue of students on their way to the nearby lake for a bath, passed the home. Seeing the beautiful queen who was heavy with her child, he felt compassion. Taking her home, he asked his wife to tend to her needs as she would a younger sister. Before long the queen gave birth to a baby son who was none other than our Bodhisatta. She named her baby Maha Janaka after His grandfather.
The baby Prince grew up to be a good student. He was also a strong swordsman. However, He was often teased by his classmates as a fatherless destitute. Determined to find out His origins, the Prince questioned his mother. On hearing that He was the son of a king and that His mother still had with her the crown jewels, He decided to seek his fortune.
The Prince was now sixteen years of age. Taking leave of his mother, Prince Maha Janaka asked permission to set sail as a merchant shipman. His mother gave him a portion of the crown jewels and bid Him farewell and success. Seven days later the ship encountered difficulties. Rough seas lashed the ship causing it to lurch from side to side. The desperate crew were trying to control the ship when they saw that it was surrounded by giant turtles. The frightened crew were troubled by the unusual sight of such giant creatures. In fear they started praying to the Gods to save them.
The Prince realized that the ship would soon capsize. Urging his crewmates to follow him, He applied oil to His body and ate a meal to sustain Himself. Then, climbing the mast, He dived into the water and swam.
Every muscle in His body ached and his lips were parched. The wind, heat and water had braised His tender skin. The salt water stung while the searching heat of the sun burnt His skin. Seven days had passed – seven days of extreme hardship and effort and He had not yet sighted land. Seeing a distant seagull He made a desperate effort. He last He remembered was dragging His sore body up a sheltered cove.
At about the same time, King Pola of the City of Mithila was breathing his last. The Old King passed away, after leaving instructions that the next king would be the man that his daughter, Princess Sivali, chose as her husband. Suitor after suitor was brought to the princess, as princes from neighboring countries came to ask for her hand. But in scorn she refused them all. The desperate ministers started combing the entire country for a suitable match.
Prince Maha Janaka, who had been nursed by a caring peasant, was resting in a nearby park. Rested and healed, He was walking slowly among the beautiful blooms when the ministers, attracted by his royal carriage and countenance, approached Him. On learning that He was the son of King Arittha, the dressed him in royal attire and led Him to the palace. Princess Sivali was transformed at the sight of Prince Maha Janaka. Running towards Him she held his hand and drew Him into the palace.
In surviving with courage the ordeal of shipwreck for seven days, the Bodhisatta completed the virtue of effort. In completing the virtue of effort, with joy He exclaimed:
“Far out of sight of land were we
The crew were all but dead of fright
Yet still unruffled was my mind
In courage I’ve perfection reached.”
Continue to Sixth Perfection: Patience.