Murder with Skill in Means: The story of the Compassionate Ship’s Captain
132. Then the Lord again addressed the Bodhisattva Jnanottara:
“Son of the family: Once a upon a time, long before the Thus-come-one, the Worthy, the fully perfected Buddha Dipamkara, there were five hundred merchants who set sail on the high seas in search of wealth. Among the company was a doer of dark deeds, a doer of evil deeds, a robber well-trained in the art of weaponry, who had come on board that very ship to attack them.
He thought, “I will kill all these merchants when they have achieved their aims and done what they set out to do, take all possessions and go to Jambu Continent.”
“Son of the family: then the merchants achieved their aims and set about to depart. No sooner had they done so, than that deceitful person thought:
“Now I will kill all these merchants, take all their possessions and go to Jambu Continent. The time has come.”
133. At the same time, among the company on board was a captain named Great Compassionate. While Captain Great Compassionate slept on one occasion, the deities who dwelt in that ocean showed him in a dream:
‘’’Among this ship’s company is a person named so and so, of such and such sort of physique, of such and such, garb, complex, and shape—a robber mischievous, a thief of others’ property. He is thinking,” I will kill all these merchants, take all their possessions and go to Jambu Continent.” To kill these merchants would create formidable evil karma for that person. Why so? These five hundred merchants are all progressing toward supreme, right and full awakening; they are each irreversible from awakening. If he should kill these Bodhisattvas, the fault—the obstacle caused by the deed—would cause him to burn in the great hells for as long as it take each one of these Bodhisattva to achieve supreme, right and full awakening, consecutively. Therefore, Captain, think of some skill in means to prevent this person from killing the five hundred merchants and going to the great hells because of the deed.
134. “Son of the family: Then the captain Great Compassionate awoke. He considered what means there might be to prevent that person from killing the five hundred merchants and going to the great hells. Seven days passed with a wind averse to sailing to Jambu Continent. Without wind during those seven days he plunged deep into thought, not speaking to anyone.
“He thought, “There is no means to prevent this from slaying the merchants and going to the great hells but to kill him.’
“And he thought, ‘if I were to report this to the merchants, they would kill and slay him with angry thoughts and all go to the great hells themselves.’
“And he thought, ‘if I were to kill this person, I would likewise burn in the great hells for one hundred-thousand eons because of it. Yet I can bear to experience the pain of the great hells, that this person not slay these five hundred merchants and develop so much evil karma. I will kill this person myself.
135. Son of the family: Accordingly, the captain Great Compassionate protected those five hundred merchants and protected that person from going to the great hells, by deliberately stabbing and slaying that person who was a robber with a spear, with great compassion and skill in means. And all among the company achieved their aims and each went to his own city.
136. “Son of the family. At that time, in that life I was none other than the Captain Great Compassionate. Have no second thought or doubt on this point. The five hundred merchants on board the five hundred Bodhisattvas who are to niranize to supreme, right and full awakening in hits auspicious eon.
“Son of the family: For me, Samsara was curtailed for one hundred-thousand eons because of that skill in means and great compassion. And the robber died to be reborn in a world of paradise. The five hundred merchants on board are the hundred future Buddhas of the auspicious eon.
137. “Son fo the family, what do you think of this? Can curtailing birth and death for one hundred-thousand eons with that skill in means and that great compassion with gnosis of skill in means be regarded as the Bodhisattva’s obstacle caused by past deeds? Do not view it in that way. That should be regarded as his very skill in means.
---quoted from Mark Tatz’ Skill in Means Sutra, pp. 73-74