Prince Five Weapons

Future Buddha

The second story is of a different style. It is told of a young prince who had just completed his military studies under a world-renowned teacher. Having received, as a symbol of his distinction, the title Prince Five-weapons, he accepted the five weapons that his teacher gave him, bowed, and, armed with the new weapons, struck out onto the road leading to the city of his father, the king. On the way he came to a certain forest. People at the mouth of the forest warned him. “Sir Prince, do not enter this forest,” they said; “an ogre lives here, named Sticky-hair; he kills every man he sees.”


But the prince was confident and fearless as a maned lion. He entered the forest just the same. When he reached the heart of it, the ogre showed himself. The ogre had increased his stature to the height of a palm tree; he had created for himself a head as big as a summer house with bell-shaped pinnacle, eyes as big as alms bowls, two tusks as big as giant bulbs or buds; he had the beak of a hawk; his belly was covered with blotches; his hands and feet were dark green. “Where are you going?” he demanded. “Halt! You are my prey!”


Prince Five-weapons answered without fear, but with great confidence in the arts and crafts that he had learned. “Ogre,” said he, “I knew what I was about when I entered this forest. You would do well to be careful about attacking me; for with an arrow steeped in poison will I pierce your flesh and fell you on the spot!”


Having thus threatened the ogre, the young prince fitted to his bow an arrow steeped in deadly poison and let fly. It stuck right in the ogre’s hair. Then he let fly, one after another, fifty arrows. All stuck right to the ogre’s hair. The ogre shook of every one of those arrows, letting them fall right at his feet, and approached the young prince.


Prince Five-weapons threatened the ogre a second time, and drawing his sword, delivered a masterly blow. The sword, thirty-three inches long, stuck right to the ogre’s hair. Then the prince smote him with a spear. That also stuck right to his hair. Perceiving that the spear had stuck, he smote him with a club. That also stuck right to his hair.


When he saw that the club had stuck, he said: “Master ogre, you have never heard of me before. I am Prince Five-weapons. When I entered this forest infested by you, I took no account of bows and suchlike weapons; when I entered this forest, I took account only of myself. Now I am going to beat you and pound you into powder and dust!” Having thus made known his determination, with a yell he struck the ogre with his right hand. His hand stuck right to the ogre’s hair. He struck him with his left hand. That also stuck. He struck him with his right foot. That also stuck. He struck him with his left foot. That also stuck. Thought he: “I will beat you with my head and pound you into powder and dust!” He struck him with his head. That also stuck right to the ogre’s hair.


Prince Five-weapons, snared five times, stuck fast in five places, dangled from the ogre’s body. But for all that, he was unafraid, undaunted. As for the ogre, he thought: “This is some lion of a man, some man of noble birth–no mere man! For although he has been caught by an ogre like me, he appears neither to tremble nor to quake! In all the time I have harried this road, I have never seen a single man to match him! Why, pray, is he not afraid?” Not daring to eat him, he asked: “Youth, why are you not afraid? Why are you not terrified with the fear of death?”


“Ogre, why should I be afraid? for in one life one death is absolutely certain. What’s more, I have in my belly a thunderbolt for weapon. If you eat me, you will not be able to digest that weapon. It will tear your insides into tatters and fragments and will kill you. In that case we’ll both perish. That’s why I’m not afraid!”


Prince Five-weapons, the reader must know, was referring to the Weapon of Knowledge that was within him. Indeed, this young hero was none other than the Future Buddha, in an earlier incarnation.”What this youth says is true,” thought the ogre, terrified with the fear of death. “From the body of this lion of a man, my stomach would not be able to digest a fragment of flesh even so small as a kidney bean. I’ll let him go!” And he let Prince Five-weapons go. The Future Buddha preached the Doctrine to him, subdued him, made him self-denying, and then transformed him into a spirit entitled to receive offerings in the forest. Having admonished the ogre to be heedful, the youth departed from the forest, and at the mouth of the forest told his story to human beings; then went his way.


As a symbol of the world to which the five senses glue us, and which cannot be pressed aside by the actions of the physical organs, Sticky-hair was subdued only when the Future Buddha, no longer protected by the five weapons of his momentary name and physical character, resorted to the unnamed, invisible sixth: the divine thunderbolt of the knowledge of the transcendent principle, which is beyond the phenomenal realm of names and forms. Therewith the situation changed. He was no longer caught, but released; for that which he now remembered himself to be is ever free. The force of the monster of phenomenality was dispelled, and he was rendered self-denying. Self-denying, he became divine–a spirit entitled to receive offerings–as is the world itself when known, not as final, but as a mere name and form of that which transcends, yet is immanent within, all names and forms.


The “Wall of Paradise,” which conceals God from human sight, is described by Nicholas of Cusa as constituted of the “coincidence of opposites,” its gate being guarded by “the highest spirit of reason, who bars the way until he has been overcome.”The pairs of opposites (being and not being, life and death, beauty and ugliness, good and evil, and all the other polarities that bind the faculties to hope and fear, and link the organs of action to deeds of defence and acquisition) are the clashing rocks (Symplegades) that crush the traveller, but between which the heroes always pass. This is a motif known throughout the world. The Greeks associated it with two rocky islands of the Euxine Sea, which clashed together, driven by winds; but Jason, in the Argo, sailed between, and since that time they have stood apart.The Twin Heroes of the Navaho legend were warned of the same obstacle by Spider Woman; protected, however, by the pollen symbol of the path, and eagle feathers plucked from a living sun bird, they passed between.


As the rising smoke of an offering through the sun door, so goes the hero, released from ego, through the walls of the world–leaving ego stuck to Sticky-hair and passing on.



– Joseph Campbell. The Hero With  A Thousand Faces



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