Taxila, or Takshasila, on the banks of the Vitasata was once ruled by King Kalingadutt. He was a follower of Buddhism. But in his kingdom were several who advocated Vedic religion. The King never forced his subjects to adopt the Buddhist creed. Only when people voluntarily approached him he used to initiate them.
Among those who thus adopted the Buddhist creed was one rich merchant called Vitastadutt. But his son, Ratnadutt, was an ardent believer of the Vedic cult. So, he was always condemning and cursing his father.
“You are a sinner. You have strayed away from the virtuous Vedic path and adopted an atheist creed. Instead of worshipping Brahmans you take to beggar worship. This accursed religion is for those who do not bathe properly, who eat any time of the day, who lead a life of ease without let or hindrance, lounging in the viharas along with loafers of all castes and communities. How could you take to it?’’ Ratnadutt would ask his father.
And the father would reply with a great pain in his heart: “Son, you seem to think that external symbols are the true creed. Do you believe that real Brahamanism is that which is inherited? To control one’s emotions, to practice the virtues of Truth and Ahimsa-that is true Brahmanism. Why do you always abuse and curse this noble creed which offers protection to all living creatures? You should develop tolerance and charity.”
But Ratnadutt, whose heart was full of hatred, did not listen to his father’s words. His attitude to his father grew from bad to worse.
One day Vitastadutt went to the king and told him all about his son.
The king said to him, “On some pretext or other you bring your son to me. I shall see what can be done with him.”
The very next day Vitastadutt came to the king accompanied by his son, Ratnadutt. The king pretended to be enraged at the mere sight of Ratnadutt. He shouted to his servants, “Seize this traitor and behead him at once.”
Ratnadutt listened to this and shivered with fear and dismay. His father pleaded before the king, “I beg your Highness to consider well before acting.”
The king seemed to relent a bit. He said, “Well, then I shall postpone the punishment for two months. At the end of that you bring him to me. You can now take him home.”
Ratnadutt pondered well in his mind as to what crime he could have done towards the king , that he should order him to be beheaded. However much he thought he could not find any reason for the king’s anger. Day or night, he could not forget the impending death and he was greatly agitated in his mind. He could neither eat nor sleep and, at the end of two months, he was so emaciated that he appeared to be more dead than alive.
At the end of the two months Vitastadutt took his son to the court and presented him before the king.
“What is the matter with you?” asked the king, seeing the woeful condition of Ratnadutt. “Are you not eating food? I never ordered that you should go without food!”
“Your Highness, “replied Ratnadutt in anguish, “when yon commanded that I should be killed you also commanded that I should neither eat nor sleep. Fear of death has brought me to this state.”
“So now you know what fear of death is! Like you, every living thing desires life. Now, tell me if anything can be nobler than the creed of preserving precious life, “the king said.
These words of the king brought wisdom to Ratnadutt, He at once fell upon the king’s feet and begged him to initiate him into the Buddhist creed. The king gladly did so.