Any pleasure enjoyed
without awareness of its fleeting nature
will lead to pain.
There once was a king who did not follow the Buddha but whose wife was a very devout Buddhist. One day, they arranged an extravagant ceremony. The husband invited all his important teachers, and the wife asked permission to invite her teacher too. She sent a message to the Buddha inviting him to come to the ceremony or send those of his disciples who would be most beneficial. The Buddha sent his disciple Katyayana.
The celebration was arranged magnificently with dance, food and drink. At the end of the day, the king asked all his ministers and important guests how they had enjoyed the festivities. Everyone replied, ‘This was magnificent! Wonderful!’ When he came to the Buddhist monk, he asked the same question. The monk replied, ‘I had no chance to enjoy it.’ shocked, the king exclaimed, ‘How can you say such a thing? This magnificent display was provided for your enjoyment right in front of you!’ The monk answered, ‘I understand your confusion. It must be not easy to comprehend my reaction. May I request you to do something that will help you understand what I mean?’ The king agreed. ‘Tomorrow, please repeat the same music and performances, Bring a prisoner who has been sentenced to death and provide two guards – one in front and one in back. Give him a bowl filled to the brim with liquid and tell him to walk around the grounds and enjoy the festivities. But also tell him that if he spills even a single drop from the bowl, he will be executed on the spot, and that if he does not spill anything, he will be released from prison.’ The king agreed.
Everything was done just as the monk suggested. The prisoner went around the grounds and did not spill even a drop. At the end of the day, the monk requested the king to ask the prisoner whether he had enjoyed the beautiful songs and displays. The prisoner said, ‘I did not see or hear anything. My mind was entirely concentrated on this bowl. If I had spilled a drop I would have been killed.’ The monk said, ‘This is my witness. In the same way, I have no time for enjoyments. I understand impermanence and see everything as illusion. If I can maintain my meditative concentration, I too will be released from the prison of Samsara.’ The king was quite impressed. ‘How wonderful! This monk is fully mindful of the suffering of the six realms and of impermanence.’ At that moment, the king took refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, and thereafter sincerely followed the teachings.