|Temple statue of a Buddhist king in Bangkok, Thailand (fredMin/flickr.com)|
The substance of the discussion nevertheless touches on some serious issues such as the differences among the castes of India at the time of the Buddha, which can be applied to issues of racism/class division in our time.
The discussion and the setting play off one another. Because of his social position, the king is unable to pursue the path to liberation open to all regardless of race, caste, or sex. His social advantages are therefore spiritual liabilities. Like many of us in the modern world, he has plenty of things but no time.
|All hail the king, in this case famous Buddhist kings Pukkusati and Bimbisara meet in India after the former renounces the throne and travels from Taxila to meet the Buddha (w-e)|
|One of the Four Heavenly Kings, Korea (wiki)|
- The Commentary's treatment of this incident as a whole seems aimed at taking the teeth out of the satire, perhaps to appease the royal patrons of the Buddhist monks who compiled the Commentary. It insists that the two sisters did not barge in on the king as his morning meal was being served, but were actually taking part in the meal-serving ceremony. But the sisters' tone in making their request is not servile. So perhaps the Commentary is mistaken about their identity as well.
|King Sakka as Burmese Thagyamin|
"One is neither fraudulent nor deceitful. One declares oneself to the teacher or to wise friends in the supreme life in line with what one actually is.
"One keeps one's persistence aroused for abandoning unskillful mental (heart) qualities and developing skillful mental qualities. One is steadfast, solid in effort, not shirking duties with regard to skillful mental qualities.
"One is discerning, endowed with wisdom leading to the arising of the goal -- noble, penetrating, leading to the right ending of suffering.
"These are the Five Factors of Exertion.
"As for the four castes, great king, if they were endowed with these Five Factors of Exertion, that would be for their long-term welfare and happiness."
"Venerable sir, if these four castes were endowed with these Five Factors of Exertion, would there be any distinction or difference among them in that respect?"
"I tell you, great king, the difference among them would reside in the diversity of their exertion.
"Suppose that there were two tamable elephants, tamable horses, or tamable oxen that were well-tamed and well-trained, and there were two tamable elephants, tamable horses, or tamable oxen that were untamed and untrained.
"What do you think, Would the two tamable elephants, tamable horses, or tamable oxen that were well-tamed and well-trained acquire the habits of the tamed and reach the status of the tamed?"
"Yes, venerable sir."
"And would the two tamable elephants, tamable horses, or tamable oxen that were untamed and untrained acquire the habits of the tamed and reach the status of the tamed?"
"No, venerable sir."
"In the same way, great king, it is impossible that what could be attained by one who has confidence, who is free from illness, who is neither fraudulent nor deceitful, whose persistence is aroused, and who is discerning could also be attained by one who is without conviction, who is sickly, fraudulent and deceitful, lazy, and dull." More