CONVERTING A CANNIBALAlavaka, living near the city of Alavi, was in the habit of feasting on human flesh. So powerful, firece, and crafty was he that Alavaka was thought of as a "demon" (rakshasa).
One day as the king of Alavi was deer hunting in the forest, he was caught by Alavaka. The king begged to be released. But crafty Alavaka struck a bargain. In return for his freedom, the king promised to send one person a day into the forest as an offering to Alavaka.
Everyday from then on a prisoner would be sent into the forest with a plate of rice. Each was told that to gain his freedom he had to go to a certain tree, leave the plate there, and thereafter go free. At first many prisoners volunteered.
As time passed and no one returned to tell the other prisoners what had happened, the prisoners had to be forced to go into the forest. Before long, the prison was empty. The king had to fulfill his end of the bargain, sending someone to the ogre Alavaka. But how?
The king's ministers advised him to drop pouches of gold in the streets. Those found picking up the pouches were taken in as thieves and sent to Alavaka. Word soon spread, and no one dared to so much as touch the pouches. As a last resort, the king caught children to send as offerings.
In response, his terrified subjects fled the city, leaving it deserted. There was only one child left -- the king's own son. With great reluctance, the king decreed that the prince would be sent into the forest on the following morning.
That day, as it happened, the Buddha was near the city of Alavi. And in the morning, as he surveyed the world with his Divine Eye (dibba-cakkhu), he understood what was being planned. Out of compassion for the prince, the king, and Alavaka, the Buddha traveled the entire day to Alavaka's cave.
In the evening, arriving at the entrance of the cave, he found that the ogre was away in the mountains. The Buddha asked mighty Alavaka's gatekeeper if he could spend the night in the cave.
The gatekeeper left to inform his master about the request. In their absence, the Buddha entered the cave, sat in Alavaka's seat, and preached the Dharma to Alavaka's wives.
As soon as the ogre learned what was happening, he be-came infuriated and hurried home. Alavaka possessed extraordinary supernatural powers, which he used to create a terrifying storm, shaking and lighting up the forest with thunder, lightning, wind, and driving rain. The Buddha was unmoved.
Alavaka attacked the Buddha, throwing his spear and club. But before his weapons could touch the Blessed One, they fell at the feet of the Buddha.
Unable to frighten the Buddha with his powers or subdue him by force, Alavaka asked: "Is it right that you, a holy man, should enter a house and sit among someone's wives when he is away?" At this the Buddha got up to leave the cave.
Alavaka the Ogre orders the Buddha to get out (sleuteltotinzicht.nl)
"What a fool I am to have wasted my energy trying to frighten this ascetic!" thought Alavaka. He told the Buddha to come back. The demon then again ordered the Buddha to get out. Three times the demon ordered the Buddha to get out and three times to re-enter, as if hoping to try the Buddha's patience. Each time the Buddha did as Alavaka said. But when the demon ordered the Buddha to leave yet again, the Buddha refused.
"No, Alavaka, I will not obey you. Do as you like, yet I will remain right where I am."
Unable to force the Buddha to do as he commanded him, crafty Alavaka changed his tact, saying: "I will question you. If you are unable to answer me, I will take possession of your mind, tear at your heart and, taking you by the feet, throw you to the other side of the Ganges river."
The Buddha calmly replied: "Alavaka, I am unaware of anyone -- whether human or deity, divinity or killer ("brahma" or "mara"), ascetic or brahmin -- who could do those things to me. But if you wish to ask something, you may."
Alavaka asked questions he learned from his parents, which had been handed down generation to generation. He had forgotten the answers but had preserved the questions by scrawling them down gold leaves:
* "What is the greatest wealth?"
* "What when well mastered brings the highest bliss?"
* "What is the sweetest of tastes?
* "What is the supreme-life?"
The Buddha answered:
* "The greatest wealth is confidence" (saddha or faith").
* "The Dharma well mastered brings the highest bliss."
* "The truth is the sweetest taste."
* "The life wisely led is supreme."
Alavaka asked many more questions all of which the Buddha answered to his delight. And Alavaka put one final question to him:
* "Passing from this world to the next, how does one not grieve?"
The Buddha replied:
* "One who possesses these four virtues -- truthfulness, sila, fearlessness born of love, and generosity -- grieves not after passing from this world."
Real life ogre ("yeti") or demon ("rakshasa") with apparently paranormal abilities
Understanding the meaning of the Buddha's words, the "yakkha" Alavaka said, "Now I know the secret of my well being. It is for my own good, for my own welfare that the Blessed One came to Alavi." Alavaka bowed and pleaded to be accepted as a follower.
The officers of Alavi came with the king's young son and were surprised at the sight of the Buddha speaking to Alavaka. More surprsing was the sight of Alavaka attentively listening to the Dharma. When the boy was handed over, Alavaka was ashamed to receive the offering. Instead of devouring him he stroked the boy's head, kissed him gently, and handed him back to the officers. The Buddha blessed Alavaka and the young prince.
Indeed, the subduing of Alavaka's demonic habits shows how the Buddha was able to tame and transform even a barbaric cannibal with wisdom and compassion.
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