Epic stories of Gautama Buddha's previous lives
Story of Temi, the Speechless Prince
Adapted and translated from Burmese written by Min Yu Wai.
Once upon a time there was a kingdom of Baranares and king Katiikrit reined the kingdom. The king had many consorts. The chief queen was Sandradevi.
Even though the king had many consorts, none of them could bear a son. The chief queen Sandradevi was the only one who gave birth to a son. The king loved his son very much.
"Ask for a wish that you want for your son," the king told the chief queen.
"I shall seek the wish that you bestowed when our son has grown up," the chief queen replied.
The king named his son Temiya. When Temiya reached one month of age the king put him on his lap and ruled administration of justice. Rulings included one thousand lashes to a thief with a spiked cane; one to be imprisoned with an iron fetter on his ankle; one to be lanced to death; and another one to be tortured and skewered to death.
When prince Temiya heard the rulings he was frightened very much. Prince Temiya was once a king in the kingdom of Baranares in his previous life. After reining 20 years he died. After he died he ended up in tormented hell and suffered for eighty thousand years. Prince Temiya recollected all these experiences by way of telepathy and became afraid to rule as a king once again.
At that instant, the white umbrella angel, who had been a mother to prince Temi in one of his previous lives, became aware of his worries. The angel advised him to pretend to be a deaf mute if he did not want to become a king. He did so according to the angel's advice.
When the king came to the knowledge of his son's muteness, he consulted with his ministers and began testing his son with various techniques. At the age of one year he was tested with snack. At the age of two, he was tested with fruit; at three with dolls; at four with rice and curry; at five with dangerous fire; at six with an elephant; at seven with a snake; at eight with the introduction of special events and festivals; at nine with a bogus attempt to assault him with a dagger; at ten with blowing a shell-whistle to his ear to see his muteness; at eleven with playing a drum on his ear; at twelve with the flame of scented oil to see whether he was attracted to it; at thirteen with applying honey on his body and letting mosquitoes to bite his flesh; at fourteen with applying urine and fæces on his body to let him get dirty; at fifteen with burning coals on his body to let him feel hot; and at sixteen with beautiful girls to seduce him.
Although various techniques were used to test him, the prince did not respond or show fear. He was not interested or attracted to it instead he kept on pretending to be a deaf mute.
Therefore, the Brahmins, who had been giving advice to the king, suggested, " It is not appropriate to let him live. He should be buried alive in a cemetery otherwise it is likely that the king will lose his life and luxurious throne."
The king accepted the advice given by the Brahmins and planned to kill the prince. In that instant, chief queen Sandradevi asked the king, " Your majesty, now grant me the wish that you bestowed when the prince was born."
"Get what you wish," the king replied.
"Give my son the throne," the chief queen demanded.
"He is not worthy of the throne so the plan is to kill him," the king replied.
The chief queen continued to insist so at last the king said, "OK, he is allowed to be a king for only seven days and then he will be killed."
Once the permission was granted the chief queen formally supervised the coronation of their son with five elements of royal decorations. Then the chief queen said to the prince, "My beloved son, I have been worrying for sixteen years. I am aware that my beloved son is not a deaf mute. Stop pretending, please."
The prince pitied his mother but he did not want to break his commitment, so he kept up his silence.
On the sixth day of his coronation the king summoned the royal coach driver. When the royal coach driver came the king ordered, "Take my son prince Temi in the royal coach, depart from the rear gate and bury him alive in a cemetery."
The next day, on the seventh day of the coronation, the royal coach driver carried prince Temi and put him in the royal coach. The chief queen was heartbroken and drummed her fists on her chest and lamented, then fell to the ground of the palace.
When the coach driver reached the forest, assuming that it could be a cemetery, he stopped the coach in order to bury the prince. The coach driver took all the clothes off the prince. Then he started to dig a ditch.
While he was digging the prince put his clothes back on. He walked a little to test his mobility then approached the coach driver.
"Who gave you the order to dig this ditch and what are you going to do with it?" he said.
"The son of my lord is a deaf mute and needs to be buried so I am digging," the coach driver, very busy with his digging, replied without looking up.
"Dear coach driver, I am not a deaf mute. You would commit an unconscionable act if you bury me," the prince said.
When the coach driver heard what the prince was saying he looked up from his digging and was amazed.
"Who are you?" the coach driver asked.
"I am no other but the son of King Katiikarit. You live your life by depending on my father, who is your benefactor. You would be committing heinous act against your benefactor if you kill his son," the prince said.
Then prince Temi preached that thy should not commit misdemeanor against colleagues, thy should not commit misdemeanor against benefactors and thy should not commit unlawful acts.
At that, the coach driver kowtowed to prince Temi and begged him to come back to the palace along with him.
The prince declined. "His majesty my father, her highness my mother and the public have already discarded me. I would make myself a hermit and stay right here."
The coach driver went back to the palace and told everything to the king and the queen. The king and the queen, very delighted at the news, planned a trip to meet their son.
In the mean time, prince Temi made himself a hermit and concentrated on religious meditation in a hermitage.
Soon afterward the king and the queen arrived with their entourage to the hermitage. When they saw their son, who had been content with consuming boiled leaves, lying on a bed made with leaves and concentrating on religious meditation, they felt both sadness and happiness at the same time.
"Prince, you are still young. Enjoy the luxurious kinghood and when you get older then go and make yourself a hermit," the king said to the son.
"Your majesty, not only the aged can experience death but also the young ones can experience death," prince Temi replied.
After listening to the religious sermons of prince Temi the king, the queen and the whole entourage got insight into it and converted themselves into hermits as well.
Epilogue: Prince Temi was claimed the avatar of Gautama Buddha in one of his previous 547 lives.