This is the way writing works under the capitalist system: Once you've written your manuscript (sometimes while it's still being written), you have to hire an agent, who takes your manuscript around to the various publishers, trying to convince one of them that it would be in their financial interest to publish you.

Of course, that's assuming that a book can only exist in paper and ink and cardboard and glue.

With the web, hard copy is no longer a requirement, nor is paying a publisher to put it into hard copy. Among the great potentials of the web is the liberation of writing (and writers) from the dictates of the capitalist system. Almost anyone can now "publish" almost anything and have it read almost anywhere. This may not be the best move for world literature, or for authors who want to make money by writing, but at least now thousands of aspiring authors have a venue where they can see their work in print.

This particular story is my retelling of a parable told by the Buddha. It's short (about 3,000 words), simple enough for children to understand, yet conveys one of the principal teachings of the Dhamma (the teachings of the Buddha). Maybe it's all the recent talk about Napster and .mp3 files, but I really believe in the web's potential to allow the arts to flourish independent of moneygrubbing considerations. I consider it even more unseemly to try to make a profit off of transmitting the Dhamma, which should be available to all.

Therefore I'm posting this for all to see, to read, to copy and take away with them if they wish, as long as nobody else tries to claim authorship. Why should someone else have to take the blame for my poor story?


In light of the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, some people may think this story is silly, superfluous or downright dangerous. Personally, with the government beating the war drums, this parable has never been more necessary.


A story told by the Buddha
Retold by Patrick Drazen

for Nana Asantewaa Armah

This story is about something that happened a long, long time ago, in a faraway part of the world.

In this part of the world, there were two kingdoms, side by side.

The people in both kingdoms were pretty much the same; they all spoke the same language, they all played the same games, they all listened to the same music and read the same books.

The only difference was that one of the kingdoms was very big.  It had gotten that way because the king of the big country, King Mokala, sent his army into other kingdoms, killing the other king and making the other country part of his big country.  So his country kept getting bigger and bigger.

The other country in this story was small, like all the countries that had been taken over by King Mokala and his army.  One day, the king of the small country, King Kapras, saw the army of King Mokala gathering on the border between the two countries.  He knew that his country was the next one that would be taken over, maybe even that very night.

So King Kapras gathered his wife, Queen Iloska, and whatever they could carry, and they ran away from the castle that night, when nobody could see them.

They looked for someplace where they could hide, but the people of the small kingdom were afraid.  They knew that King Mokala would kill the king and queen if he caught them, and probably kill anybody who helped the king and queen.  The only one who would help was an old pottery-maker who lived on the edge of town.  He said that the king and queen were welcome to stay in his home as long as they liked.

So it was that, when the army of King Mokala invaded the small kingdom the next night and got to the castle of King Kapras, they couldn’t find the king or queen.

“This one was easy,” King Mokala laughed, as he took whatever he wanted from the castle of King Kapras.

Still, King Mokala was worried about King Kapras.  He was afraid that the king might sneak in one night, pull out a sword and cut King Mokala’s throat.

So King Mokala sent soldiers out all over the small kingdom looking for King Kapras and Queen Iloska.

But the king and queen were dressed like ordinary people now.  The soldiers rode right by the king and queen and didn’t even notice them.

For King Mokala, this was the first of many, many nights when he had trouble getting to sleep.  He would lie awake at night, worrying that King Kapras would sneak into the bedroom.

The fact is that King Kapras was too busy to worry about getting revenge against King Mokala.  The poor disguised king worked at whatever lowly job he could find, to make money to buy food for himself and his wife.  While he worked these jobs, he also studied pottery making from the old man who let them stay in his house.  In time, the king got so good that he was able to spend all his time making beautiful pottery.

It was about this time that Queen Iloska gave birth to a baby boy, who was named Konana.

His parents made sure that he had the best schooling.  Prince Konana learned to draw, and sing, and play musical instruments and tell interesting stories.  His parents also taught him not to be angry that he did not live in a castle.  “We can always have a good life, even if we are poor,” King Kapras would say, “but people who feel hate and fear and anger have no life at all.”

Sometimes Prince Konana would walk by the castle, where his parents used to live and where King Mokala was living now.  Sometimes he would see King Mokala by himself; sometimes a little girl, just a few years younger than Konana, was with the king.  He would think: “My parents and I should be living there.”  It would make him sad, and sometimes even a little angry.

But when he talked to his parents about what he saw and how he felt, they would tell him not to feel sad or angry.

“If we’d never left the castle,” Queen Iloska said, “we’d never have met the wonderful old man who lets us live here.”

“And I’d never have learned how to make pottery,” King Kapras added.  “Most days I’m happier making pottery than I was as King.  I know my jars and dishes will be of use to somebody.  It would be nice to live in the palace again, but life is good here too.  How you live your life is all in your heart, you see.  Living a life of fear and hatred can make a palace into a prison.”

The years went by.  Prince Konana grew up into a handsome young man who knew many things and had many friends.  The people of the village especially loved to hear him sing, for he had a beautiful voice.

King Mokala, however, still had trouble sleeping at night.  He was still afraid that King Kapras was waiting to attack him.  He sent his soldiers out night after night to look for the former king.  The soldiers didn’t get much sleep, either.

But one day, while Prince Konana was away at school, one of the soldiers happened to wander by the pottery-maker’s house, and he recognized King Kapras.  The soldier ran right off to tell King Mokala.

In no time at all, a dozen soldiers broke into the house, captured King Kapras and Queen Iloska, and took them to King Mokala.  He ordered that the king and queen, who had been hiding for years, should be put to death.

When Prince Konana came home from school, the old pottery-maker told him what had happened to his mother and father.  So he ran off to King Mokala’s castle, to see what he could do.

When he got to the castle, he had to push through the people who had gathered to watch.  He saw his parents, their hands and feet tied with heavy ropes, about to be shot by King Mokala’s archers.  The prince pulled out his sword, thinking that he might rescue his parents, or maybe kill some of the soldiers.

But his father, King Kapras, saw the prince pull out his sword.  And the king started singing as loudly as he could:

“Listen, my son, to my final song--
Do not hate short, do not hate long.
Hatred can never make hatred fall--
We must stop hating, once and for all!”

And then the soldiers killed Prince Konana’s parents, right in front of his eyes.

Prince Konana went back to the pottery-maker’s house, but had to stop.  He saw the king’s soldiers in front of the house.  They were questioning the old pottery-maker, and they sounded very angry.  He was afraid that the soldiers would hurt the old man, but he knew he’d be killed too if the soldiers saw him.  Prince Konana had to run away.  He hid in the forest for three days and nights.

These were three more restless nights for King Mokala.  He had hoped that getting rid of the old king and queen would let him get some sleep.  But this was the first time he’d heard that the king had a son!   Now he was afraid that King Kapras’ son would sneak in one night and stab him, to avenge the killing of his parents and the taking of his small kingdom.

But, like his father, Prince Konana was too busy to think about revenge.  After a few days in the forest he came back into town and, to earn a living, took whatever job he could find, no matter how lowly or difficult or disagreeable.

After a while, he heard that King Mokala was looking for someone to work in the castle.  He wanted someone to clean up the elephant stables every night.  It was really dirty work, but someone had to do it, and Prince Konana had learned from his parents that every job was helpful to someone.  So he asked at the stables and was given the job.

Prince Konana worked long and hard to clean up the elephant stables.  He worked so hard that he always had the stables cleaned before the night was over.  So he always had time to himself late in the evening.

So it was that, one night, King Mokala was having trouble sleeping, as usual, when he heard music coming through the window.  It was the sound of a young man singing while accompanying himself on the harp.

That first night, the king heard the voice sing songs of heroes and warriors.  He sang of great battles, of the rise and fall of kingdoms, and sang so perfectly that King Mokala thought he could hear the clash of swords and the thunder of horses’ hooves.

The next night, King Mokala stayed up to listen, and again he heard singing.  This time, the young man sang the funniest songs the king had ever heard.  He sang of tricksters who always managed to survive, even when their tricks were found out.

On the third night, the young man sang of nature and of the gods.  King Mokala was sure that he could hear the wind and the rain in the young man’s music.  And when the young man sang of the gods, the king was sure that he could see the gates of Heaven.

But on the fourth night, the young man sang songs of love and family.  They were so beautiful, so full of memory, that King Mokala couldn’t stop himself from crying.  He remembered his own wife, who had died shortly after giving birth to their only child: their daughter, the Princess Ayisha.

The king’s curiosity finally got the better of him, and he started asking about the late night singing he had heard.

“Your majesty,” he was told, “you must mean the young man who cleans out the elephant stables.  He is a most wonderful singer.”

“Bring him to me at once.”

Prince Konana soon stood before the king, who asked him many questions.  The prince was very careful not to talk about his parents, and told King Mokala only that he had no mother or father.

The king was so impressed with this good-looking, well-spoken young man that he kept him talking for hours.  Others from his court listened in as well--especially the Princess Ayisha.  She had heard the young man singing at night, too, and she was just as impressed as her father.

“Young man,” said the king, “you’re much too talented to spend the rest of your life cleaning up elephant stalls.  I want you to drive my chariot when I go out, hunting, visiting the rest of my kingdom and so forth.  I’m not commanding you to sing but, if you wish to, that would be fine with me.”

The prince bowed.  “Thank you, your majesty.”

So day after day, the king would stand in his chariot next to the prince.  The prince drove the chariot, talked with the king, and sang to him and his escort of soldiers.

The prince, when they were in the castle, was also singing to Princess Ayisha.  She found one reason or another to stay close to her father whenever the young man was with her father.  The more she saw of him, the more she liked him.  And as for the young prince, he knew she was there, and he started liking her too.  As time went on, they managed to sneak away and see each other, for a few minutes here and there. But Ayisha thought Konana was just a laborer, and he couldn’t admit otherwise.  So they had to leave their feelings for each other unspoken.

One day, King Mokala decided to go hunting.  Deep in the forest, the chariot with Konana and the king got separated from the escort of soldiers.  They were soon lost in a hidden part of the forest.

The two left the chariot and sat beneath a tree.  “Young friend,” the king said, “I must take a nap now.  I have such trouble sleeping.”  Before Prince Konana could say a word, the king stretched out on the ground and fell asleep with his head in the prince’s lap.

This was the moment that would mean happiness or misery, life or death, for both King Mokala and Prince Konana.  The man who had stolen Konana’s kingdom was sleeping.  The man who caused the deaths of his mother and father was sleeping.  The man who caused his parents to live like beggars was sleeping.  It would be so simple now for Prince Konana to draw his sword and avenge his loss.

Before he could do anything, though, King Mokala moaned in his sleep, stirred and suddenly came awake.

“I’m sorry.  I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in years.  First I worried that King Kapras would try to kill me for taking his kingdom.  Now I worry that his son will try to kill me for killing his parents.”

Konana was silent for a long time.  Then, he said softly, “Your majesty, I have not been honest with you.  My name is Konana, and I am the son of King Kapras and Queen Iloska.”

For King Mokala, it was as if every nightmare he ever had about being killed in his sleep was coming true.  He jumped up and ran across the clearing, drawing his sword but trying to keep his distance from the young prince. “Why didn’t you kill me just now when you had the chance?”

As his answer, Prince Konana drew his own sword, and then threw it onto the ground between the two of them.  “Don’t you remember what my father sang before he was put to death?” Konana asked.

“Listen, my son, to my final song--
Do not hate short, do not hate long.
Hatred can never make hatred fall--
We must stop hating, once and for all!”

“I remember it,” the king said.  “I thought it was foolish then, and I think it’s foolish now.  The world just doesn’t work that way.  Or can you prove to me that one person can stop both sides from hating each other?”

“I already have proven it,” the prince said, “and this is how I know that my father’s words were wise.  I could kill you now, but then your soldiers would soon find us and kill me.  I would have won nothing.”

As King Mokala listened, the prince said, “By the way, I notice that you are not trying to kill me now.”

“Well, of course not!” the king stammered.  “You aren’t trying to kill me, and that was the only reason I was afraid of you.  Besides, if I killed you now, I would miss your company--your singing, your stories.  And then there is my daughter, Princess Ayisha.”  As soon as he mentioned her name, Konana blushed slightly.  “Ah,” smiled King Mokala, “I thought you’d taken a liking to her.  The fact is, she’s very much attracted to you, and if I killed you now, she would surely die of a broken heart.  Regardless of what I may think of you, I could never do that to her.”

King Mokala thought for another minute, then said, “So, what are we to do now?”

Prince Konana also thought, then spoke.  “You do not want to kill me, and I do not want to kill you.  We have stopped hate by my refusing to hate.  I have honored my father’s last wish; that is enough.”

“Oh, I think I can do better than that,” King Mokala smiled, and he threw his sword down onto the ground.  “Let’s return to the castle.”

So they got back into the chariot and drove through the forest.  They soon found the soldiers who had been looking for them, and they all found the main road and returned to the castle.

At once the king ordered that the people gather by the castle for a special proclamation later that day.  At the proper time, King Mokala stepped onto the balcony over the crowd, with his daughter Ayisha on one side and Konana on the other side.

“Hear me, people!  Many years ago, my army conquered this small kingdom and made it part of my own kingdom.  I have tried to rule here as best I could, but it isn’t enough, and it is less than you deserve.  So there will be some changes made.”

“Starting here and now, I stop being your king.  My armies will return to their own land, and you will be your own kingdom once again!”  At this, the people cheered.

The king turned to Konana.  “And you shall be ruled by Prince Konana--no, KING Konana, the son of King Kopras and Queen Iloska.  Although he is young, there is great wisdom in him, and he will be a blessing to your kingdom.”  At this, the crowd cheered even louder.

“Finally,” interrupted King Mokala, “there is the matter of my daughter, Princess Ayisha.  My only goal in life, since her mother died, has been to make her happy.  Now I know what will guarantee her happiness.  My daughter,” he said, turning to Ayisha, “if you wish to marry this young man, you have my blessing.”

Konana and Ayisha didn’t know what to say.  The three of them hugged each other on the balcony as the crowd gave the loudest roar of all.

And so, because he used not-hating to defeat hatred, Konana became the ruler of his kingdom, and came to live in the palace of his parents after all.  The people of the small kingdom all prospered under their wise king and his beautiful and loving queen--

and King Mokala finally got a good night’s sleep.

(c) 2000 by Patrick Drazen