Bimbisar, the king of Koshal, was a devotee of Buddha and would pay him a visit quite often. His wife, Kheema, was extremely beautiful and was very proud of her beautiful looks. Her motto in life was to ‘eat, drink and be merry.’ She would often say to the King, ‘Life is too short. Why don’t you spend it enjoying to the maximum? Why do you go to Buddha? What does the poor mendicant have and what can he give us?’
But the King had an earnest desire that Kheema too should realize the greatness of saints like Buddha. Once he tricked her and asked his ministers to bring Kheema to Venuvana, the forest where Buddha lived in those days. When Kheema got off her palanquin, she did not see the king and instead found a mendicant sitting under the tree.
Perturbed, she said, ‘Where is his majesty?’
Buddha said, ‘This forest doesn’t belong to the king of Koshal. It is I who live here.’
Hearing this, Kheema started rebuking her attendants, ‘Why have you brought me to a place where my lord, the King, is not present?’
Buddha said, ‘To enlighten you about the reality of life. You just enjoy royal comforts and ephemeral pleasures, but you are far away from true happiness and contentment. You consider this body as you, while remaining ignorant of your true Self.’
Kheema said, ‘Well, you can keep these philosophies of true happiness etc. to yourself. I respect you only because his majesty pays obeisance to you. But Holy One! As far as life is concerned, I believe in what I see with my eyes. I love my husband. I am enjoying the present and I am least interested in any promise of happiness that might come in future.’
‘Kheema! Are you satisfied by enjoying your life in this manner?’
‘Why not, Holy One! Of course I am.’
‘Kheema! God forbid the King should lose his kingdom or his strength; will he remain as lovable to you as he is now? What if you grow old, have grey hair or a bent back; will the king continue to love you with the same zeal? Will you still be happy?’
“Kheema was stunned. Buddha continued; ‘What you consider as happiness and contentment is transitory in nature. A bout of diarrhea can tarnish your beauty. A slight fever can weaken this good-looking body. And old age, which is certain to come, will surely be devoid of such pleasures. Aren’t you tired of royal luxuries and momentary pleasures? Haven’t you become a slave to them by becoming dependent on them? Aren’t you perennially anxious to keep these pleasures intact forever?’
On hearing this, Kheema’s discrimination was slightly awakened and she sat on the ground feeling dizzy. After some time, she regained her composure and said, ‘Holy One! You are right. What I consider to be an enjoyable and satisfying life is in fact a delusion. Those who fall for the worldly pleasures are like the fish caught by the bait put on the hook or like the moth that is attracted by the flame and gets burnt by the fire. Holy One! You have bestowed infinite grace upon me by opening my eyes with your words of wisdom…’
Buddha was listening with calm composure.
‘Childhood is spent in childish activities; in old age one is but weak and dependent. Youth alone is suitable for seeking true inner joy. Holy One! Please pardon me and accept me as your disciple.’
When the king of Koshal came to know about this, he was extremely pleased to see that Kheema’s lust was transformed into devotion by the grace of the Holy One.