One day a certain merchant visited the court of King Shrenik of Magadh. He was dealing in Costly shawls studded with gems. The king examined them and found them as light as feathers. Therefore, he exclaimed, “How wonderful!” Hearing this, the merchant added, “Your Majesty, these are wonderful shawls. They protect one both from cold and heat.”
Then the king sent one of them to be examined by his chief Queen, Chelana. She asked one of her maid-servants to tell the king that she would be glad to have it.
But as the king found the shawls costly, he did not buy them. In fact he had the necessary amount of money in his royal treasury, He, therefore, told the merchant, “I am sorry, I can’t buy your goods.”
Then the merchant walked up and down the royal road to sell them. At last, he stopped at the house of Shalibhadra, a rich citizen of Rajgrihi. The vendor exclaimed in despair, “What a grand palace I saw! But then it is strange that there is nobody to buy my goods.”
Hearing these words, the mother of Shalibhadra came down. Her name was Bhadra. She said, “Why are you so sad? Well, I will buy all your shawls.”
The merchant thought that the old woman was under some illusion. So he said, “Mother. These are worth not less than twenty lakh gold coins!”
But Bhadra said, “Do not worry about it.” Yes, cost was no consideration for her. She, however, was found worrying as there were only sixteen shawls. She wanted thirty-two; for she had thirty-two daughters-in-law. Therefore, she divided them into thirty-two pieces and distributed them to each of the daughters-in-law.
When the king went home at night, he found that no lamps had been lit in the harem. Nor did the Queen comfort and greet the king with welcome. She was very displeased.
The king asked her, “What is the matter?” Chelana then retorted, “Please build a hut for me and I shall go away to live there.” When the king insisted on her being more precise, she turned her back to the king. He soon realized the root of the trouble and therefore said,” Well, I am asking the merchant to bring his shawls. After all, I will have to buy them, no matter how empty my treasury is! Only, then, I can have peace of mind.”
On inquiry, the merchant was not found. It was known that all his goods had been sold to Shalibhadra. This news staggered the king. He exclaimed, “Is Shalibhadra so rich?”
The next day the king sent word to Shalibhadra to send one shawl and also the cost to be paid for it.
On getting the king’s message, Bhadra said, “The shawls are not in my house. They have been cast away. My daughters-in-laws do not use an article more than once.”
Hearing this from the messenger, the king decided to call on Shalibhadra who was so rich.
The next day King Shrenik went to Shalibhadra’s house with all his retinue. Bhadra welcomed them all royally. Then she accompanied the king to the harem.
But Shalibhadra’s palace had seven storey’s. The first floor was supported on golden pillars with a golden ceiling above them. Here lived his servants and maid-servants. The king ascended the different storey’s and reached the fifth floor. It had walls made of gold and birds of gems were placed there .There were also fruits of pearls and leaves of sapphire.
The king was tired and expressed his inability to climb up the remaining storey’s. Hence Bhadra went up to fetch her son. But, strange to say, her son had never gone downstairs. And his business was looked after by his mother. He did not like to see people other than his mother at this odd hour, who said, “Son, the king has come.” Thereupon Shalibhadra said, “Why has he come?” Then the mother replied, “Well the king wants nothing; he has come to see you, hearing your fame spreading far and wide.” The son then asked if there was any harm if he refused to see him. His mother then explained to him. “After all, he is the king who rules over us and protects all. His order cannot be disobeyed.” Then Shalibhadra asked whether the king also lorded over him. When the son came to know that the king was the master of all, he got grave and said, “That means I am not all-in-all. I have also a master over me!”
The king duly had an audience with Shalibhadra and left for his palace. Shalibhadra felt agitated even after the king had left him. He found that the charm of his life was lost. Dissapointedly he told his mother, “I don’t want this limited lordship. I want to be the lord of all.” Hearing this, his mother became uneasy. She remembered the day when her husband had left the place.
Then, Bhadra said to her son, “The road to emancipation is not so easy. It is not possible for you to become a monk. There will be trouble at every step. Can you face all this?” Then the mother was overpowered with emotion and said, “Look here son, there is immense prosperity for you. What do you lack in life?”
Shalibhadra replied, “I want only your blessings.” His mother then pointed out that it was not possible to renounce the world all of a sudden. He should renounce it step by step. She was sure that past impressions of easy life would come in his way before leaving.
One day Shalibhadra’s sister Subhadra was attending on her husband. And a tear rolled from her eye and dropped on her husband, Dhanna. So Dhanna asked her, “Why are you crying?” She said, “My brother Shalibhadra is going to be a monk. He is leaving his wives one by one to take to monkhood.”
Dhanna laughed at this news and remarked, “It is silly to act like this. If you feel indifferent to the world, you must give it up immediately.”
Hearing this, his wife Subhadra was shocked. She thought her husband was an ordinary person. So she bawled out, “My dear, it is easier said than done. Can you renounce it?”
Immediately, her husband responded with a “Yes” and left the home in no time. Nothing could stop him from his decision.
Subhadra swooned and fell down on the road which Dhanna had taken. All her requests, entreaties, apologies and tears bore no results.
When Shalibhadra came to know about the renunciation of his brother-in-law and he too took the way of monkhood immediately.
Moral: True liberation is when one is master of oneself and not be subjugated nor influenced by any authority.
When comprehension of a subject is perfect one should be quick in decision and prompt in action like renunciation of Dhanna.