The Poison Rain of Ignorance


Translated from Sutra on Various Metaphors


A long time ago, there was a kingdom that frequently had poison rain. Poison rain contaminated lakes, river, wells, and any water source. People were consuming the water without realizing it was poisonous. After drinking the water, people became drunk and were unable to function normally and act properly for 7 days.

The King was kind and wise. He immediately realized what was happening. So, when he saw the rain, he quickly covered the well at the palace, to prevent poison rain contaminating the clean well water. Despite the King’s effort, palace guards and ministers still drank poisoned rain water. Poison water started to affect their judgment. They began to take of their clothes and presented in disheveled appearance to the King.

Only the King was still appropriately dressed and sat properly on the throne. However, the King’s staff did not know they had gone crazy, so they thought the King was the crazy one, and wondered why the King was the only one wearing clothes.  The ministers talked about, “This is such a big issue.  We have to get it straight.”

The King worried his ministers would rebel, so he said to his staff, “I have a medicine to cure my disease. Let me go and take my medicine, and I will be back.” He then left the room, and when he returned, he had taken off his clothes and rubbed mud on his face. His staff were delighted to see him, and said, “This is our rightful king. Our king is back.”   They still didn’t think they were crazy, so they talked  wildly.

Seven days later, as the poison dissipated, guards and ministers woke up from their confused state. They were ashamed of their disheveled appearance, and immediately washed themselves and dressed properly. However, the King was still sitting on his throne naked with mud on his face. His guards and ministers asked, “Wise king, you were once wise, why aren’t you properly dressed?”

The King answered, “If your mind is calm, then calmness will bring stillness. You drank the poison water, but thought I was the crazy one wearing clothes. Thus, I decided to remain disheveled to help you realize what happened.” ☸︎

Why does the king pretend to be affected by the poison rain? And why doesn’t he get dressed when his ministers do? Can you think of a situation in which pretending ignorance could help someone else’s understanding?

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