It was a far more violent time. Death and Disease were ubiquitous. The power of the kings extended to very small parts of their villages and towns, mostly enforced by brutal capital punishment… the paths were stalked by thieves and murderers… and the police were no less violent and corrupt! Not to mention that the kings and their ministers were themselves almost always up to their neck in bloody disputes, internecine quarrels and warfare.
The Gracious One said this to venerable Nāgasamāla: “This is the path, Nāgasamāla, let us go by this one.”
Then venerable Nāgasamāla, having put the Gracious One’s bowl and robe on the floor right there and then, went away, saying: “This is the Gracious One’s bowl and robe, reverend Sir.”
Then as venerable Nāgasamāla was going along by that path, thieves who had gone along the road, attacked him with their hands and feet, broke his bowl, and tore his double-robe.
Now at that time in the realm of King Pasenadi of Kosala there was a bandit named Aṅgulimāla. He was violent, bloody-handed, a hardened killer, merciless to living beings. He laid waste to villages, towns, and countries. He was constantly murdering people, and he wore their fingers as a necklace.
Furthermore, for the sake of sensual pleasures they break into houses, plunder wealth, steal from isolated buildings, commit highway robbery, and commit adultery. The rulers would arrest them and subject them to various punishments—whipping, caning, and clubbing; cutting off hands or feet, or both; cutting off ears or nose, or both; the ‘porridge pot’, the ‘shell-shave’, the ‘demon’s mouth’, the ‘garland of fire’, the ‘burning hand’, the ‘grass blades’, the ‘bark dress’, the ‘antelope’, the ‘meat hook’, the ‘coins’, the ‘acid pickle’, the ‘twisting bar’, the ‘straw mat’; being splashed with hot oil, being fed to the dogs, being impaled alive, and being beheaded. These result in death and deadly pain.
What do you think, chief? Do you know the Koliyan officers with drooping headdresses?”
“I know them, sir.”
“And what’s their job?”
“To put a stop to bandits and to deliver messages for the Koliyans.”
“What do you think, chief? Are the Koliyan officers with drooping headdresses moral or immoral?”
“I know that they’re immoral, of bad character, sir. They are among those in the world who are immoral and of bad character.”
What kind of person is thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars? A person who is poor, with few possessions and > little wealth. That kind of person is thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars.
What kind of person isn’t thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars? A person who is rich, affluent, and wealthy. That kind of person isn’t thrown in jail for stealing half a dollar, a dollar, or a hundred dollars.
The Gracious One addressed venerable Ānanda, saying: “Now who, Ānanda, is building a city at Pāṭaligāma?”
“The Magadhan chief ministers Sunīdha and Vassakāra, reverend Sir, are building up a city at Pāṭaligāma to ward off the Vajjians.”
Now at that time King Ajātasattu Vedehiputta of Māgadha wanted to invade the Vajjis. He declared: “I shall wipe out these Vajjis, so mighty and powerful! I shall destroy them, and lay ruin and devastation upon them!”
Here, reverend Sir, when King Udena had gone to the pleasure park, the inner quarters of the palace were burnt down, and five hundred women died with Queen Sāmāvatī at their head.
Yet the Buddha was always at pains to remind people of what are their greatest blessings…
Not to associate with the foolish, but to associate with the wise; and to honor those who are worthy of honor—this is the greatest blessing.
To reside in a suitable locality, to have done meritorious actions in the past and to set oneself in the right course—this is the greatest blessing…
To have much learning, to be skillful in handicraft, well-trained in discipline, and to be of good speech—this is the greatest blessing.
To support mother and father, to cherish wife and children, and to be engaged in peaceful occupation—this is the greatest blessing.
To be generous in giving, to be righteous in conduct, to help one’s relatives, and to be blameless in action—this is the greatest blessing.