The misunderstood Ogress

In the world of spirituality, there are many stories of demons, ghost and goblins etc.

Buddhism also has its fair share of such stories. One of the famous story occurred during the Buddha’s time.

It started like any typical day in the monastery. Buddha was giving a sermon to an assembly of devotees.

The peace and tranquillity was suddenly disrupted by a woman crying for help. Then a terrified woman came running into the main hall of the monastery, carrying a baby in her arms.

This is followed by an inhuman howl filled with anguish. That shriek came from the monastery gate. Everyone present was alarmed by that unearthly sound.

Buddha was calm as usual. He assured the terrified mother. ‘ Do not be afraid lady, no harm will befall you.’

Meanwhile, the shrieking at the monastery gate continued.

‘You may enter and I shall help you too.’ The sweet voice of Buddha although gentle, seemed to resound throughout space.

The inhuman howling stopped.

Shortly after, an ugly and fearsome looking ogress entered the main hall. (When the terrified woman ran into the monastery for refuge, the ogress could not enter. That caused her to screech in anguish. She can only enter with the Buddha’s consent)

“She is trying to eat my baby, Buddha please get rid of her!’ begged the terrified woman.

The reply from Buddha caught everyone by surprise.

‘Foolish woman, don’t you remember what you did in the past? You are the one who started this ill fate and you want me to banish the victim?’

Although the word spoken was calm and tranquil, everyone was startled by the meaning behind it.

The terrified mother was shocked too.

Meanwhile, the ogress was visibly appeased.

Buddha : ‘Both of you should sit down and I shall explain.’

The woman with the baby was the wife of a very rich and affluent merchant in one of her previous life time

Unfortunately, she was barren and could not produce an heir for the merchant.

To deal with the mounting discontent of her elders, she cleverly proposed a concubine for her husband. Unknown to all, she already had a devious plan in mind.

The concubine soon found herself pregnant and the entire family was elated. Unfortunately, she suffered a miscarriage shortly. The miscarriage was caused by the 1st wife administering poison to the concubine’s diet secretly.

This evil deed repeated for 3 times. The young concubine was unaware of the 1st wife’s scheming nature and everyone in the family was fooled by the 1st wife’s pretense.

The 3rd miscarriage was too much to bear. The poisons and miscarriages had harmed the concubine’s health to extremes and she passed away.

The 1st wife lamented and pretended to be distraught by the death of the concubine.

“She is like a sister to me, how horrible that the barren fate decided by God had won. Perhaps we shouldn’t go against the will of God. Such a pretty young life is lost because of my selfishness. I should not have asked for a concubine to go against God’s will.”

While everyone was convinced by the 1st wife’s pretense, the dead concubine had become aware of the foul injustice at her deathbed. She vowed for revenge!

This started a series of revenge back and forth, between the 1st wife and the concubine, over many lifetimes. In each life, one party will harm the child of the other. Consequently, their hatred for each other grew and grew. In their present one, the 1st wife had been reborn a lady while that concubine had become an ogress.

After Buddha related their stories of revenge and how they had murdered each other’s offsprings over a few lifetimes, the woman with the baby (1st wife) became very remorseful. As if awaken from a dream, she realised her faults and she offered her baby to the ogress as compensation.

The ogress also regained her senses and refused the baby. Instead, she promised to become a guardian of the child.

Under the admonishment of Buddha, both had realised their folly. Their vengeance only pulled each other into a deeper state of suffering in each successive lifetime.

The Buddha then recited the following verse,

Hatred in the world is indeed never appeased by hatred. It is appeased only by loving kindness. This is the ancient law.

(Dhammapada Verse 5)

At the end of the discourse, the ogress was established in Sotapatti Fruition and the long-standing feud came to an end. With evilness gone from her heart, she transformed into a beautiful form.

Forgiveness is not weakness.

It is a bravery to choose a brighter path and walk away from darkness.

May all be well and happy.

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