‘Sacca’ is truthfulness or keeping one’s promise. Here Sacca does not mean simply telling the truth but fulfilling one’s engagement or keeping one’s word, assurance or promise even at the point of death. Bodhisattas who follow this pre-requisite for the Enlightenment observe ‘Sacca’ as their guiding principle.

Not only do they refrain from speaking untruth, but they also avoid the other evil speeches such as slandering, harsh words and frivolous talk. They never speak slandering words which are harmful and liable to break the friendship, unity and harmony of others. They use words which are polite, gentle, kind, sincere and pleasant to all beings. They never engage in profitless frivolous talk.

Bodhisattas never break their promise under any circumstances. They would not make a promise if they are not able to keep it. Before they make a promise, they consider care-fully whether they can keep it or not. They do not come into hasty decision to make a promise under the influence of others or to show favour or disfavour to others.

Unlike ordinary people, the Bodhisattas never speak against their consciousness. As they speak, they act accordingly; as they act, they speak accordingly. Therefore there is complete harmony in their words and actions.

Our Bodhisatta, when he was Sumedha Pandit, decided to practise this perfection, advising himself in this way: “O, Sumedha, from now onwards, you must fulfil the Perfection cf Truth as well. Even though the thunderbolt may descend upon your head, you must not utter a conscious lie for the sake of wealth and so forth, being actuated by desire.”


Illustration from MAHA SUTASOMA JATAKA.

Born as King Sutasoma, the Bodhisatta was once ruling his kingdom righteously. At that time there was a man-eater named Porisada. He was formerly a king, but as he fell into the bad habit of eating human flesh, he was forced to leave his kingdom. Under a banyan tree in a forest he lived feasting on human flesh as he liked.

One day a thorn pricked his foot and he suffered long, acute pain from the wound. Thus, in this state of agony, he made a vow to the tree-deity that, if his wound would heal, he would pay back by making a grand sacrifice of a hundred Kings. Due to his fasting and resting, the wound healed in a very short time. Foolishly, he thought that his cure was due to the kindness of the tree-nymph.

In accordance with his vow, he succeeded in seizing a hundred and one kings and made all arrangements for the great sacrifice. The deity resented this human sacrifice and in order to prevent it, he appeared before Porisada and asked him to get King Sutasoma also as a sacrifice.

Porisada lost no time in capturing the wanted king. He went to the pond where the king bathed and hid himself. As the king had finished his bath, Porisada rushed forth whirling a sword above his head and proclaiming his name. At once he carried away the king on his shoulders.

At this moment, the king was not frightened at all but he felt sorry indeed for not being able to keep his appointment with a Brahmin who desired to recite him four advisory verses. As the king was going to have his bath in the park, he sent the learned Brahmin to the city and promised that he would come and hear him after his bath.

So King Sutasoma told Porisada of his promise made to the Brahmin and begged him for a short leave. Porisada allowed him to go on condition that he would return ready for the sacrifice. Porisada had no desire to kill him because they both had been fellow-students in their childhood and he had every reason to be grateful to him. He allowed him to go without expecting his return.

King Sutasoma returned to the palace, heard the words of counsel from the Brahmin and gave him presents. Then the noble king summoned all his courtiers and mentioned about his promise to Porisada. They advised him not to go as he would surely be killed. But the Bodhisatta was a man of principles. He handed over his kingdom and left the palace to keep his promise in spite of the weeping and lamentation of his relatives and subjects.

As Porisada was preparing a fire to offer his human sacrifice, King Sutasoma arrived on the scene and stood before him. Porisada was surprised to see him. He told him: “How foolish are you? I released you, thinking that you would not come. You know well that you would be killed. Why did you come back?”

“O Porisada, in your opinion I may have done a foolish act. But I value my word. I promised to come and I have come now. I prize my promise even more than my life. You may sacrifice me.” Porisada was very much pleased on hearing the speech of his old friend. He yearned to hear more from him and he sat at his feet listening to the advice of the Bodhisatta.

The Bodhisatta preached to him. His innate goodness eame to the surface and he became a changed person after the preaching. Porisada gave up his proposed sacrifice and released all the hundred and one kings and sent them to their respective kingdoms. He himself returned to his kingdom as a reformed king to lead a righteous life.

After His Enlightenment the Buddha said: “Fulfilling my truthful word, I sacrificed my life and saved one hundred and one warrior kings. This is my Perfection of Truthfulness.”