Baru Jathakaya: The ancient King who took a Bribe a lesson to all those taking bribes today

This is the 206th Jathaka Katha titled Baru Jathakaya about a king who took bribes. Those who give a bribe is as guilty as those who take a bribe. Its one of the main reasons for the collapse of a country. It also contributes to the fall of a company. Anyone giving or taking bribes does much damage to a system. Bribing is nothing new. It existed during the time of the Buddha. Kosol King underwent many difficulties during his rule as a result of bribery. The intervention of Buddha helped calm matters. The Baru Jathaka story unfolds in Sevathnuwara, Jethavanaramaya where Buddha was resting. Sewathnuwara is where Buddha spent the majority of his time. The population of Sevathnuwara was said to be 70million. It was a pious society following the teachings of Buddha. Yet, there were people who did not follow the path of Buddha.They were filled with hatred. They despised the way the pious society lived. They began directing their wrath against them. This made them more distant from society on account of the evil they spread. Fast forward to present & Sri Lanka. There are people denigrating the Buddha – the Dhamma & the Sangha. In so doing they are amassing their karma. Muditha is about feeling happy when someone is doing well. It is a trait that has to be nurtured by all. Jealosy gets anyone nowhere. Those that are filled with hate & revenge can only come out after realizing what they suffer can change only if they make a conscious effort to change the hate within them. Buddha has taught us to control our Mind, Body & Words

The inner being must be filled with good thoughts, good actions & only those can have peace of mind & body. Those lacking in these traits existed then & they exist now. We can see from our own society.

The fickle minded come up with fickle thoughts. One such was to believe that the area that the Buddha was gifted was a sacred land & taking over that area would give them equal power. They thought the land Buddha was on was miraculous and by securing it they would enjoy the same miracles. Little did they realize that people shower respect to the Buddha-Dhamma-Sangha not because of any miracle in the land but because of the meaning behind the teachings. However, these unpious people resolved to take over part of that land in Jethavanaya. Was this intention correct. Could they become on par with Buddha simply by taking over a piece of land? Could they not comprehend that the power lies in people’s good – good thoughts & deeds? These unpious people thought that be acquiring the land of the Buddha, they would become equally powerful.

So the plan was to take part of the land. They decided that they needed to inform the King before the followers of Buddha complained to the King. They planned to bribe the king. The card they decided to play was to go before the King and claim they were refugees without land. This was to be their “grievance” card to entice the King. They gave Kosol King “100,000 kahavanu” (form of money used in those days)

Fast forward to present – do we not see the same bribery taking place in our society from the upper echelons of society to the lowest. Is it not prevent in all 3 main pillars of governance? Can anyone representing these pillars deny such?

Bribery comes not only in terms of money but other forms as well. Notice how large people congregate to hear anything against Buddha of late? Why is that? It is because their own state of being is decaying from within. People with inferior thoughts go looking for & are attracted to inferior things (බාල දේ හොයාගෙන බාල සිතුවිලි තියන අය යනවා) People with great ideas are attracted to great things

(උතුම්දෙට යන්නේ උතුම් අදහස් තියන අය)

This inferior set of people attempted to bribe the king and asked him not to heed any complaints that came from the followers of the Buddha. No sooner the king saw the kahavanu, he became greedy. Approvals were given no different to the manner present day bribes are used to influence people in the highest of positions in all 3 areas of governance. With the approval given, the objective was to quickly complete the structure before it could be stopped as they were well aware that they were doing something illegal. Is this scenario any different today?

The decision to hastily build the structure resulted in a lot of noise taking place. Buddha called Ananda Thero & asked him to about the noise and said it was an inappropriate place to have an aramaya and that they were unsuited to be placed there. Buddha asked Ananda Thero to go with others to meet the King & explain the situation. The King was informed that the Sangha had arrived & he informed his servants to inform the Sangha that he was not in the palace. Do our leaders make similar lies? The Buddha understood what happened. Sariputta-Moggalana were also sent & the same excuse was given by the Kings servants. Buddha with 500 theros went to meet the King & the King had to come out. The Buddha was ushered in by the King.

The Buddha spoke to the King “Oh great King, in past times, a King had taken bribes and received the animosity of his people, the outcome was that the King lost his kingdom and a major natural catastrophe took place. The story behind this incident is called the Baru Jathakaya. The name of the Kingdom was Baru, the King was called Baru King. The great Bodhisatva was a sage & living close to Himalayas with over 500 ascetics (thaapasa). The Bodhisatway and his ascetics came down from the Himalayas in search of salt/sour. They arrived in the kingdom of Baru and approached a huge nuga tree near the nother part of the palace. They spent 2 weeks at the spot. Another group of 500 ascetics approached the south part. You can visualize the size of the area. Eventually, the two parties began claiming ownership of the nuga tree and surrounding area after part of the tree on the south side died. The king was asked to end the dispute. The king chose the side of the ascetics who arrived later to the nuga tree. The ascetics used their powers to discover that the King had been bribed with numerous gifts. The King took the side of those who came later. The Bodhisatva & his ascetics left towards the Himalayas. The gods who were protecting the tree descended disturbed at the manner that the King was bribed and the impact to the kingdom. In no time, the sea surged 300 miles (yedum 300) and the Baru Kingdom was submerged in water. The wrong committed by the king was enough for nature to punish the entire kingdom. It showed that the King as leader shoulders far more than just a position. Likewise, all those from the head of state to the most junior officer has a role to play on behalf of the State & its people. That role, must be honorably carried out with integrity and as per principles of metta, karuna, muditha & upeksha.

So natural disasters are no accidents – they stem from mistakes committed by man (intentionally or accidentally) Today, bribery is taking place everywhere. Those who take will know. Those who give will know. Laws that attempt to cover those who take/give from exposing their bribery will get exposed one day too. The one’s who take do not think of the consequences. They think only of the advantage accrued to them. Look at the state of nations – is it not because there is no righteous society. People are committing so many ills. They pretend to be what they are not. The entire society has got corrupt, not just the king. If the sea surged to punish for the crime of bribery – what is in store for all of us in a nation that has become so corrupt.

The Baru Jathakaya is relevant to those who take bribes whatever level of society they are in – particular those in the highest decision making roles as the bribe they take & the decisions they make often result in irreversible consequences, which they are little bothered about. But the law of nature & the law of karma is such that the ills they do haunt them throughout their lives. It is not too late to undo those wrongs & whether they are President, Prime Minister, holding posts in the highest echelons of judiciary or even role as Governor or secretarial roles – the consequences of taking bribes should be understood by taking the gist of this jathaka story told centuries ago & relevant even to the present.



Shenali D Waduge

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