The Story of Khantivadin, The Teacher of Patience

Note: khanti = patience, and vadin = teacher

The king of Kausala was a very rich king… [with] five hundred wives. One day the king decided he we wanted to go on a picnic and he let his wives know this. The cooks were alerted to prepare the food, the servants to get the elephants ready with seats and decorations and the soldiers to get ready in their best uniforms.

The next morning the whole palace, the royal servants and the royal wives, set out. They came to the forest and found a beautiful meadow for their picnic. The king ate and drank too much. Immediately after lunch he fell asleep and the wives said to each other, ‘Now’s our chance. We don’t often get to go out of the palace. Let’s look around.’ They all trooped off and looked at the butterflies, the greenery and the trees and enjoyed the beauty of the forest.

Very soon they came to a little bark hut in front of which sat a very famous old sage whom they recognized as Khantivadin. All the women sat down in front of him, paid their respects and asked him to preach a sermon to them. He very willingly obliged and spoke about moral conduct, loving-kindness, and generosity.

Meanwhile the king woke up and their wasn’t a single wife to be seen anywhere. He was furious. He called the soldiers and said ‘Go! Get my wives back immediately.’ They obediently ran off into the forest and found the wives sitting in front of Khandivadin’s hut listening to a sermon.’ But the king was still under the influence of all that food and drink and couldn’t listen to reason. He told the soldiers to chase all the wives back to the meadow and then tie Khantivadin to the nearest tree. Since they were in the employ of the king, they could not do otherwise. They chased all the wives back to the meadow and tied up Khantivadin.

Then the king took a huge knife, ran up to Khantivadin in a great rage and said, ‘You old scoundrel, you. You’ve been trying to take my wives away from me.’ And he cut off one foot and said, ‘And where is your patience now?’ Khantivadin replied, ‘Not in my foot, your Majesty.” Then the king proceeded to cut the old sage to pieces while repeating the same question and each time getting the same answer, which increased his fury.

When Khantivadin was on the point of dying, the soldiers who had witnessed the spectacle, said to Khantivadin, ‘Sir, please do not curse the whole kingdom. Just curse the king.’ And Khantivadin said, “I do not curse anyone. May the king live long and happily.’ And then he died. The story says that the earth then swallowed up the king.

The next day the Buddha was informed of this happening whereupon he said, ‘Who does not act in this way has not understood my teaching.’

-Ayya Khema, “Being Nobody, Going Nowhere.” London: Wisdom Publications, 1987. pgs. 66-68.