Mindfulness Means Life – Dhammapada Story

Mindfulness is the way to the Deathless
(Nibbana), unmindfulness the way to Death.
Those who are mindful do not die, and those who
are not are as if already dead.

Buddha (Dhammapada Verse 21)

QUEEN SAMAVATI and her ladies-in-waiting all wanted to go and
pay homage to the Buddha but feared that the king would
not approve. So they made holes in the walls of their living quarters
from which they could see the Buddha as he passed by the palace
and bow their heads in reverence to him.

Another consort in the king’s harem, however, was of a different mind. She despised the Buddha. She had never forgotten how
her father had once offered her hand in marriage to him and how
he had flatly refused. She had felt so humiliated that she vowed to
make him pay dearly for it one day.

Her chance had finally come, she thought, upon discovering
what the queen and her maids were up to. She went and lied to the
king saying that the Buddha was secretly seeing Queen Samavati
behind his back. She then took the king to see the holes in the walls
for himself. But when the king asked his queen to account for them,
he remained satisfied with her reply and let the matter drop.

The consort then decided that if she would not be able to take
out her revenge on the Buddha himself, she would take it out on his
admirers. This she did by trying to make the king believe that Queen
Samavati and her maids were plotting to kill him. She first warned
the king to beware of the ladies’ treachery, and then went and hid a
snake in his lute. When the king picked it up to play, the snake came
out hissing at him, ready to strike. It took little else to convince the
king that his consort was indeed telling him the truth.

He went to Queen Samavati’s chambers and commanded her
and her maids to stand up all in a row. He then shot poisoned
arrows at them. No matter how hard he tried, however, he missed
them all, for the arrows seemed to veer away from their intended
targets all by themselves. This proved to the king that the ladies

were all pure and innocent, and to show remorse for his mistake,
he allowed the ladies to invite the Buddha and his monks to the
palace for a meal.

The wicked consort, in the meantime, was beside herself with
frustration and rage, but she was not about ready to give up. Next,
she devised what she considered to be a foolproof plan. She asked
an uncle to set fire to Samavati’s quarters while the women were all
inside. As the building went up in flames, however, the queen and
her attendants did not flinch. They continued to mindfully meditate and succeeded in reaching the higher levels of spiritual attainment before they finally died.

The king at once suspected that his consort was the one behind
the disaster and wanted to prove it. He said in a voice loud enough
for everyone to hear, “Whoever has done this is my savior and should
be richly rewarded. Up to now I have lived in the fear of being murdered by my own wife, but now I am free and can sleep in peace.”

The foolish consort immediately revealed her and her uncle’s
part in the horrendous crime, anxious for the king’s favors. The
king feigned delight at her confession and asked her to invite her
entire family to the palace where they would be honored. Once
assembled, however, they were all put to death.

When it was reported to the Buddha how the queen and her
attendants had died, he told them that those who were mindful
did not die. It was those not mindful who, even though still alive,
were as good as dead.

Mindfulness is the way to the Deathless
(Nibbana), unmindfulness the way to Death.
Those who are mindful do not die, and those who
are not are as if already dead.

Buddha (Dhammapada Verse 21)

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