Gateway to the Classics: Eastern Stories and Legends by Marie L. Shedlock
Eastern Stories and Legends by  Marie L. Shedlock

The Rice Measure

L ONG ago, Brahmadatta was king in Benares, in the land of Kasi. At that time our Bodisat was his valuer. He valued both horses, elephants, or things of that kind; and jewelry, gold, or things of that kind; and having done so, he used to have the proper price for the goods given to the owners thereof.

Now the King was covetous. And in his avarice he thought, "If this valuer estimates in this way, it will not be long before all the wealth in my house will come to an end. I will appoint another valuer."

And opening his window, and looking out into the palace yard, he saw a stupid miserly peasant crossing the yard. Him he determined to make his valuer; and sending for him, asked if he would undertake the office. The man said he could; and the King, with the object of keeping his treasure safer, established that fool in the post of valuer.

Thenceforward the dullard used to value the horses and elephants, paying no regard to their real value, but deciding just as he chose; and since he had been appointed to the office, as he decided, so the price was.

Now at that time a horse-dealer brought five hundred horses from the northern prairies. The King sent for that fellow, and had the horses valued. And he valued the five hundred horses at a mere measure of rice, and straightway ordered the horse-dealer to be given the measure of rice, and the horses to be lodged in the stable. Then the horse-dealer went to the former valuer, and told him what had happened, and asked him what he should do.

"Give a bribe to that fellow," said he, "and ask him thus: 'We know now that so many horses of ours are worth a measure of rice, but we want to know from you what a measure of rice is worth. Can you value it for us, standing in your place by the King?' If he says he can, go with him into the royal presence, and I will be there too."

The horse-dealer accepted the Bodisat's advice, went to the valuer, and bribed him, and gave him the hint suggested. And he took the bribe, and said, "All right! I can value your measure of rice for you."

"Well, then, let us go to the audience-hall," said he; and taking him with him, went into the King's presence. And the Bodisat and many other ministers went there also.

The horse-dealer bowed down before the King, and said, "I acknowledge, O King, that a measure of rice is the value of the five hundred horses; but will the King be pleased to ask the valuer what the value of the measure of rice may be?"

The King, not knowing what had happened, asked, "How now, valuer, what  are five hundred horses worth?"

"A measure of rice, O King!" said he.

"Very good, then! If five hundred horses are worth only a measure of rice, what is that measure of rice worth?"

"The measure of rice is worth all Benares, both within and without the walls," replied that foolish fellow.

For the story goes that he first valued the horses at a measure of rice just to please the King; and then, when he had taken the dealer's bribe, valued that measure of rice at the whole of Benares. Now at that time the circumference of the rampart of Benares was twelve leagues, and the land in its suburbs was three hundred leagues in extent. Yet the foolish fellow estimated that so-great city of Benares, together with all its suburbs, at a measure of rice!

Hearing this the ministers clapped their hands, laughing, and saying, "We used to think the broad earth, and the King's realm, were alike beyond price; but this great and famous royal city is worth, by his account, just a measure of rice! O the depth of the wisdom of the valuer! How can he have stayed so long in office? Truly he is just suited to our King!" Thus they laughed him to scorn.

Then the Bodisat uttered this stanza:

"What is a measure of rice worth?

All Benares and its environs!

And what are five hundred horses worth?

That same measure of rice!"

Then the king was ashamed, and drove out that fool, and appointed the Bodisat to the office of valuer. And in course of time the Bodisat passed away according to his deeds.

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