In the days of Shakyamuni, as the Buddha is sometimes known, there was a great Indian kingdom known as Koshala, ruled over by King Prasenajit. The king was a devout follower of the Buddha and, along with his queen, listened attentively to all Shakyamuni's teachings. One day the king turned to his wife, Queen Mallika, and said, "The more I think about, the more I believe there is nothing as important in this world as myself. What do you think?"

I believe that the king was expecting the queen to say, "Yes, my dear husband, you are more valuable to me than anything else." But after much contemplation, the queen could think only that she herself was what was most dear to her, and so she replied, "Sire, I feel the same way. There is nothing in this world as important to me as myself."

"Ah, so you think in the same way," he said.

Although the king and queen held identical views of their own importance, they now worried that their deepest, most honest perception of themselves was contrary to the Buddha's teachings. After much consideration, the two sought out the Buddha. Now, what do you suppose Shakyamuni said to these two?

If is, of course, just as important to value oneself as to value others. Yet we frequently encounter circumstances in which one must be sacrificed for the other: if we put ourselves first, we slight others, and vice versa.

After hearing the king recount his dilemma, the Buddha nodded and replied, "Majesty, it is impossible to find anything as dear to us in this world as our own selves. In the same way, other people hold their own selves most dear. The people who hold themselves most dear, however, must never inflict harm on others, but should hold them equally dear."

You may believe yourself to be the most important thing in the world, but if you think only of yourself and make light of others, you are bound to be hurt eventually. And if you expose yourself to harm in this way, you cannot be said to really value yourself. Furthermore, what is true for the individual is equally true for nations. At present, a country secures its safety through diplomatic, economic, and military means. But whatever the means, the underlying premise should be exactly what the Buddha taught: Value others as you would value yourself.

Nikkyo Niwano

Buddhism For Everyday Life

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