“I’ve been doing what we divinely anointed noble Kings typically do, intoxicated as we are with power, driven by lust, obsessed with control, ruling our world, always seeking to extend our realm.”
I imagine the Buddha listening to this with a slight smile; then, after respectful consideration of what Pasenadi had said, the Buddha asks him, “Great King, imagine that a trusted messenger would bring you news from the East; a great mountain is there, seven miles wide and seven miles high, and it’s moving. It’s moving this way, crushing everything in its path. And then a messenger from the West would bring the same news, and then messengers from the North and from the South. Great King, with such devastation coming your way, destroying all human lives, life as a human being so hard to attain, what would you do?”
The King’s response is considerably more humble, “Master, if such devastation were coming my way, destroying all human lives, life as a human being so hard to attain, all that anyone could do would be to follow the Dhamma: act ethically, act skillfully, increase merit.”
“I tell you, Great King,” the Buddha went on,”aging and death are advancing on you, and they are unstoppable. What now?”
“Master, as aging and death are advancing, unstoppable, what can I do but follow the Dhamma: act ethically, act skillfully, increase merit.
“Master, divinely anointed Noble Kings, intoxicated with power, driven by lust, obsessed with control, ruling their world, fight elephant battles to increase their realms. But elephant battles are useless against aging and death. Cavalry, infantry, chariots—all are useless against aging and death. There are clever men in my cabinet who know how to divide an enemy and subvert his authority, but such knowledge is useless against aging and death. There is gold in my treasury to bribe and corrupt an enemy, but such wealth is useless against aging and death. With aging and death advancing, there is nothing to be done but to follow the Dhamma: act ethically, act skillfully, increase merit.”
“Good answer, Great King,” replied the Buddha. “Good answer.”