Once there was a discussion going on in
Indra's (head of heavenly angels) court. One of the demi-gods said that
there are brave and merciful kings on Earth who would not hesitate laying
down their own lives to protect those who come to them for a shelter.
Another demi-god doubted his statement. The two began to argue and so Indra
intervened by asking them to go to the Earth and see for themselves. The two
demi-gods made a plan of action. One of them decided to take the form of a
pigeon, and the other took the form of a hawk.
On the Earth, King Meghrath was sitting in
his court surrounded by his courtiers. At that time a pigeon flew in through
an open window and started circling inside the hall. To the king's surprise,
it landed on his lap. The king realized that the pigeon had come there out
At that very instant, a hawk flew into the
kingís court too. He said to the king, "This pigeon is my prey." The king
was struck with a wonder to hear a bird speak. However, he replied, "It is
true that this pigeon is your prey, but I can give you some other food."
He ordered his servants to bring a basket
of sweets. But the hawk said, "I am not a human being. I am not vegetarian.
I need the flesh for my food."
The king said, "Let me give you my own
flesh instead of this pigeonís flesh." Upon hearing this, one of the
courtiers said, "Your Majesty, why should you give your own flesh? Letís get
the flesh from a butcher's shop."
The king replied, "No, because just as a
confectioner's business thrives when we consume sweets, a butcher's trade
flourishes when we use up meat. The butcher may have to kill another animal
in order to supply us the meat. This pigeon has sought refuge and it is my
duty to protect it. At the same time, it is my duty to see that no one else
is harmed in this process. Therefore, I will give my own flesh to the hawk."
With these words, he took out his dagger
and cut off a piece of flesh from his thigh and offered that to the hawk.
The whole court was stunned. But the hawk said to the king, "Oh, king! I
want the same amount of flesh as the pigeon."
So, a weighing scale was brought to the
court. The king put the pigeon on one side and a piece of his own flesh on
the other. The king kept putting more and more of his flesh on the scale,
but was still not enough. Finally the king was getting ready to put his
whole body on the scale. The court filled with the murmur that the king was
giving his own life for an insignificant bird. But the king considered it
his duty and religion to be above everything else. He sat on the side
opposite to the pigeon in the scale, closed his eyes, and began meditating
in the peace.
As soon as the king entered into the
meditation, the pigeon and the hawk assumed their original divine form. Both
demi-gods bowed to the king and said, "Oh great king! you are blessed. We
are convinced that you are a brave and merciful man."
With these words, they praised and saluted
the king again and left. The whole court resounded with the joyous words,
"Long live the King Meghrath."
Later on, the soul of King Meghrath became
the sixteenth Tirthankar, Shšntinšth.
A merciful person is someone who is not
only influenced by seeing the misery and suffering of others, but goes a
step further and attempts to alleviate the pain. He gives financial aid to
those who are poverty-stricken and gives food to those who are hungry and
needy. A merciful person would not harm others to promote himself but on the
contrary, would sacrifice even his own life to save the lives of the others.