25 May 2022

#49. Śibi

2 min read

Cave No. 17

Identification: Burgess (1879, p. 75 f.). It is an episode from the life of the Buddha.

King Śibi was renowned for extreme generosity. He provided for all needy persons even if they were from faraway places, having built donation halls in his palace. One day,
No. 78. Upper part: the legend of Indra as a brāhmaṇa measuring the greatness of the Buddha. No. 49. Middle and lower parts: the legend of King Śibi. the king observed that few people were interested in material gifts as the needs of the people were so fulfilled that they did not need any more. King Śibi then proclaimed that he would give anything to the needy, even his body parts. The heavens shook over the proclamation. God Indra decided to test the word of King Śibi. So, at one such grand donation, among carts full of supplies and trunks full of jewels and precious stones, Indra came disguised as a blind beggar. He begged for an eye of the king. Amid frantic protests from his horrified subjects, the king had, not one, but both of his eyes, removed and fitted them into the beggar’s sockets.

Time went by. As the blind king relaxed by a lotus pond outside the city gates, Indra appeared and offered to grant him a boon. The king wished to die as he was now deprived of the pleasure of seeing the faces of his people who were satisfied with his donations. Indra inquired if the king still experienced pleasure in giving, and the king told him that the voices of the needy were the dearest to him. On this pronouncement, sight returned to one of his eyes. In the next spell, he pronounced that he had felt immense joy when he donated both his eyes. In a trice, he could see with his other eye as well. The universe shook at the significance of the event and the gods came down from all directions to heap praises on the king. The king was welcomed to the city amid great pomp and splendour.

—Source: Singh 2019, 31-33; Schlingloff 2013, I, 233

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