Jātakamālā or Garland of Birth Stories

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29. The Story of the Inhabitant of the Brahmaloka (Anukampā)

Since the tenets of unbelief are blameable, those who are possessed by the vice of clinging to a false belief are especially worth commiserating by the virtuous. This will be taught as follows. [269]

One time the Bodhisattva, our Lord, having gathered by a constant practice of dhyāna a store of good karma, obtained, it is said, a birth in the Brahmaloka, in consequence of the ripening of that merit. Nevertheless, owing to his having always been conversant with commiseration in his former existences, that high happiness of the Brahmaloka, which he had obtained as the effect of the excellence of his dhyāna, did not destroy in him his longing for the task of benefiting others.

1. By indulging in sensual pleasures, however material, worldly people become utterly careless. But a frequent absorption in the delight of meditation, however ideal, does not hide the desire for benefiting others from (the mind of) the pious.

Now one time it happened that the High-minded One was passing his looks over the Region of Sensuality The Brahmaloka or Brahma-world is in Buddhist cosmology the world superior to the region of sensuality, the kāmadhatu (see Burnouf, Introduction, &c. p. 604) or kāmāvacara (see Hardy, Manual, pp. 3, 261). Cp Kern, Geschiedenis van het Buddhisme, I, pp. 290, 291. Cp. Story 30, stanza 21, where we have this series of happiness: 1. royalty on earth, 2. heavenly bliss, 3. Brahma's world, 4. final extinction (Nirvāna).01 below (his Brahma-world), where Compassion finds its proper sphere of action, since this is the region visited by hundreds of different forms of sufferings and calamities, and containing the elements for moral illnesses, disasters, injuries against living beings, and sensual pleasures.

And he perceived the king of Videha, named Aṅgadinna, erring in the wilderness of a wrong belief, partly by the fault of his intercourse with bad friends, partly also in conscequence of his being ardently attached to false thoughts. That king had got this persuasion: “there is no other world after this; how could there be anything like result ripening out of good or evil actions?” and in conformity with this belief his longing for religious practices was extinguished, he was averse to performing the pious works of charity, good conduct [270] (śīla), and so on, felt a deep-rooted contempt for such as led a religious life, and owing to his want of faith, bore ill-will to the religious law-books. Being inclined to laugh at tales concerning the other world, and showing but little respect and honour to Śramaṇas and Brāhmans, whom he held in little esteem, he was exclusively given up to sensual pleasures.

2. He who is firm in the belief ‘surely, there is a world hereafter where good and evil karma produce their fruit of happiness and mishap,’ such a one will avoid evil actions and exert himself to cultivate pious ones. But by absence of faith a man follows his desires.

Now that king, whose disastrous attachment to a false lore must have mischievous consequences and become a source of calamities to his people, roused the compassion of that High-minded Devarṣi. One time, when that king, always directed by his indulgence in sensual pleasures, was staying in a beautiful and lonely arbour, he descended in his flaming brilliancy from the Brahma-world before his eyes. On beholding that luminous being who blazed like a mass of fire, shone like an agglomeration of lightnings, and spread about a great brilliancy of intense light like a collection of sun-rays, the king, overwhelmed by that lustre, was alarmed and rose from his seat to meet him reverently with folded hands. Respectfully he looked up to him (who stood in the air) and said:

3. “The sky makes thee a resting-place for thy feet, as if it were the earth, O thou being with lotus-like feet; thou shinest far and wide, bearing the lustre of the sun, so to speak. Who art thou, whose form is a delight to the eyes?”

The Bodhisattva replied:

4. “Know me, O king, one of those Devarṣis who attained Brahma's world, having by the power of their mind's strong and assiduous attachment to religion vanquished love and hatred, Love, viz. sensual love and covetousness, and hatred (with anger) are the two great divisions of vyasanāni (vices, evil habits), not only with Buddhists. See, for instance, Manu VII, 45 foll.02 those two proud foes, like two haughty chiefs of a hostile army in battle.” [271]

After these words the king offered him the hospitable reception due to a worthy guest, water to wash his feet and the arghya-water The arghya is the name of a worshipful offering of water to a worthy guest, given with the other ceremonial marks of hospitality: viṣṭara, padya, madhuparka. 03 accompanying this act (of homage) with kind words of welcome and the like. Then, casting admiring looks at his face, he said: “Very wonderful, O Great Ṛṣi, is thy figure. Indeed, thy power is supernatural.

5. Without clinging to the walls of a building, thou walkest in the sky as easily as on earth. Tell me, O thou whose brightness has the lustre of a flash of lightning, how didst thou obtain this supernatural power?”

The Bodhisattva spoke:

6. “Such superhuman power is the result, O king, of meditation (dhyāna), spotless good conduct (śīla), and an excellent restraint of the senses, which I have so practised in other existences that they became essential elements of my nature.”

The king said: “Does there exist in earnest anything like a world hereafter?” The Brahman The inhabitants of Brahma's world are called Brahmans.04 said: “Verily, Your Majesty, there is a world hereafter.” The king said: “But, my dear sir, how should I too be able to believe so?” The Bodhisattva said: “This is a tangible truth, Your Majesty, which may be proved by reasoning with the ordinary modes of proof (pramāṇa): perception by the senses and the rest. The others are inference and analogy; for it is unlikely that the Brahman would think of persuading a disbeliever by means of the fourth mode of proof, revelation. 05 It is exemplified by the declarations of reliable persons, and may be tested by the method·of accurate examination. Do but consider this:

7. The heaven, with its ornament of sun, moon and stars, and the many-shaped variety of animals, are the [272] world hereafter in a concrete and visible form. Let not thy mind be benumbed by scepticism so as not to perceive this truth.

8. Further there are now and then persons who, owing to their practice of dhyāna and the vividness of their memory, remember their former existences. From this it must likewise be inferred, there exists a world after this. And myself, do I not give thee the evidence of a witness?

9. Moreover, thou must infer its existence also from this. The perfection of the intellect presupposes a previous existence of that intellect. The rudimentary intellect of the fetus is the uninterrupted continuation of the intellect in the preceding existence.

10. Further, it is the faculty for catching matter of knowledge that is called intellect (buddhi). Therefore there must be a sphere of employment for the intellect at the beginning of existence. In other words, in the state of the fetus.06 But it is not possible to find it in this world, because of the absence of the eyes and the other (organs of sense). By inference, the place where it is to be found, is the other world.

11. It is known by experience that children diverge from the nature of their fathers and show discrepancies of conduct and the like. Now, since this fact cannot arise without a cause, it follows that we have to do here with habits acquired in other existences.

12, 13. That the new-born child, though his mental powers are wholly rude and his organs of sense in a torpid state, makes an effort to take the breast without being instructed so and almost in a state of deep sleep, this proves his having in former existences exercised himself as to the fit ways of taking his food.

For practice, perfecting the mind, sharpens its faculty for acquiring knowledge for different special performances.

Perhaps, since thou art not accustomed to the idea of the existence of another world, thou mayst still be [273] doubtful about the last statement. (Should this be the case and shouldst thou reason in this way:)

14. ‘Then the lotuses shutting and opening themselves are also a proof, indeed, of their having already practised those movements in other existences. Otherwise, this not being admitted, why dost thou affirm that the suckling's effort of taking the breast is the effect of exertion made in previous births?’

then thou art obliged to put aside that doubt by the consideration that in one case there is compulsion, in the other freedom, and exertion is not made there, but that it is made here.

15. In the case of the lotuses, their opening and shutting depend on time, but the effort to take the breast not so. Moreover, there is no exertion in the lotus, but in the case of the suckling it is evident there is. It is the power of the sun that is the cause of the lotuses expanding.

In this manner, then, Your Majesty, by a close and careful examination it is possible to have faith in the world hereafter.”

But the king, as he was deeply attached to the false lore he professed, also because the extent of his sin was large, felt uneasy on hearing that account of the other world, and spoke: “Why, great Ṛṣi,

16. If the next world is not that (well-known) bugbear for children, or if thou judgest it fit for me to believe in it, well, lend me five hundred niṣkas A niṣka is a gold coin, whose value varied at different times. 07 here, and I shall give thee back one thousand in the next existence.”

Now when the king, according to his habitual boldness, had uttered without scruple this unbecoming language, which was as it were the vomiting of the poison of his wrong belief, the Bodhisattva answered him in a very proper way.

17. “Still in this world those who wish to employ their money, in order to augment it, do not make any loan at all to a wicked person or a glutton or a blockhead [274] or a sluggard. For wealth going to such persons tends to their ruin.

18. But if they see one bashful, with thoroughly subdued senses, and skilled in business, to such a one they offer a loan, even unwitnessed. Such a bestowal of money produces bliss.

19. The very same line of conduct must be followed, O king, with respect to a debt payable in the world hereafter. But it is not suitable to contract such a loan with thee who art a person of a wicked behaviour because of the evil doctrine thou professest.

20. For, at the time when, being precipitated into hell by thy own cruel actions originating in the sin of a wicked lore, thou wilt lie there, sore with pains and paralysed in thy mental powers, who would then call upon thee for a debt of one thousand niṣkas?

21. There the regions of the sky do not shine in their full feminine beauty The disaḥ belong grammatically, and for this reason also mythologically, to the females. Hence they are spoken of as women (digaṅganāḥ). 08 by the beams of sun and moon, the destroyers of their veil of darkness. Nor is the firmament there seen with its ornament of crowds of stars, like a lake embellished by unclosed waterlilies.

22. The place where the unbelievers dwell in the next world, is encompassed with thick darkness, and an icy wind prevails there, penetrating to the very bones and extremely painful. Who, being wise, would enter that hell in order to obtain money?

23. Some wander for a long time on the bottom of the hell, which is wrapt in dense obscurity and dull with pungent smoke; they are afflicted there, drawing along their rags fastened with leather thongs, and crying with pain as often as they tumble over each other.

24. Likewise others are running with wounded feet again and again in all directions in the Hell Jvalatkukūla, = Flaming Chaff.09 longing for deliverance [275] from thence, but they do not attain the end of their sin nor of their life.

25. Terrible servants of Yama carve like carpenters the limbs of others, having them fastened in different manners, and delight in shaping them by cutting with sharp knives, as if they wrought in fresh timber.

26. Others again are entirely stripped off their skin, groaning with pain, or are even bereaved of their flesh, living skeletons, but they cannot die, kept alive by their own evil actions. Likewise others who are cut to pieces.

27. Others draw flaming chariots for a long time. They wear broad flaming bits in their mouth and submit to harnesses and goads of a tawny hue, being fiery. The grounds on which they draw are of iron, heated by an unceasing fire.

28. Some have their bodies crushed, when they meet mount Saṁghāta Saṁghāta is the name of a kind of infernal Symplegades. Cp Journal Asiatique, 8e S., tome XX, p. 184 foll. 10 and ground to dust by its incursion; nevertheless, even in that great suffering of the most intense degree, they cannot die before their evil karma is annihilated.

29. Some others are being ground to dust with big and flaming brazen pestles in troughs incandescent by fire during a succession of full five hundred years, and yet they do not lose life.

30. Others again are hanging with their heads or even feet to trees made red-hot like corals and of a rough surface, being beset with flaming thorns of sharp iron. They are beaten by demons, attendants of Yama, who chide them with harsh cries.

31. Others enjoy the fruit of their conduct, lying on large heaps of burning coals, flaming and resembling molten gold. (Helpless) they are exposed to their fate, they can do nothing but lie and moan.

32. Some howl with their tongues hanging out of their mouths, while their bodies are overcome by heavy [276] pains caused by hundreds of sharp spears on a ground illuminated by garlands of flames rising out of it. In that time they are made to believe that there exists something like a world beyond this.

33. There are others whose heads are encircled with flaming diadems of brass; others are boiled out in pots of brass. Of others the bodies are wounded by sharp stings of showers of weapons, and devoured by crowds of ferocious animals, who gnaw them off to the bones.

34. Others again, exhausted by toil, enter the salt water of the Vaitaraṇī, but that water is painful to touch like fire, and their flesh wastes away from their limbs when in it, but not their life, kept up by their evil actions.

35. And those who afflicted because of the intense torment caused by burning, have resorted to (the hell named) Asucikuṇapa = the hell of unclean corpses.11 as to a pond of fresh water, meet there with unparalleled pain. Their bones are brought to decomposition by hundreds of worms.

36. Elsewhere others undergo the pain of being burnt for a long time. Surrounded by fire, their bodies flame like iron staves surrounded by flames. Yet they do not burn to ashes, being kept alive by their actions.

37. There is sawing of others with fiery saws, cutting of others with sharp razors. Of others the heads are crushed with hammers quickly swung, so as to make them yell with anguish. There is roasting on a smokeless fire of others, fixed on broad iron-spits which pierce through their bodies. Others again are compelled to drink liquid brass looking like blazing fire, which makes them utter raw cries.

38. Some are assailed by spotted dogs of great strength who with their sharp-biting teeth tear off the flesh from their limbs; they fall on the ground with lacerated bodies, crying loudly with pain.

39. Of such a nature are the tremendous torments in the different hells. If thou, impelled by thy karma, [277] shalt once have reached that state The second pāda of this stanza is wanting an iambus in its middle part. I think it is thus to be supplied: prāpto bhaviṣyasi (yadā) svakṛtapranunnaḥ. 12 who then would think of calling upon thee for that debt at that time, while thou art sore with sorrow and thy mind is afflicted with exhaustion and sadness?

40. It may happen that thou art staying in the hell of brazen jars filled with the corpses of wicked people and hard to approach because of the fire-flames, which heat them and make thee move helplessly exposed to the suffering of being boiled. Who then would think of calling upon thee for that debt at that time?

41. Or thou mayst lie with tied limbs on flaming iron pins or on the earth made red-hot by a blazing fire. While thou wilt be weeping piteously, thy body burning away, who then would think of calling upon thee for that debt at that time?

42. Who would require that debt from thee, when thou wilt have reached that wretched state of humiliation, undergoing terrible sufferings and not even able to make any answer?

43. Or suppose thy bones to be pierced by the icy wind which destroys even the power of groaning, or thy voice uttering roaring cries of pain, when thou wilt be torn asunder who would dare ask thee for that money in the other world?

44. Or, if rather thou wert to be exposed to the injuries of Yama's attendants, or to lie in the midst of fiery flames, or if dogs and crows were to feast on thy flesh and blood, who would urge thee with a call for money in the other world?

45. Besides, when thou wert to undergo an uninterrupted torture by striking or cutting or beating or cleaving, by burning or carving or grinding or splitting, in short, by the most different modes of tearing up (thy body), how shouldst thou be able to give back that debt to me at that time?”

This extremely fearful account of the hells missed [278] not its effect upon the king. Hearing it, he became alarmed and left his attachment to the false lore. And having obtained faith in the world hereafter, he bowed to that illustrious Ṛṣi and spoke:

46. “After being apprised of the tortures in the different hells, my mind almost dissolves from fear, on the other hand I feel a burning sense of anxiety, considering how I may take shelter from that terrible pain.

47. For, short-sighted as I was, I walked on the wrong road, my mind being perverted by a wicked doctrine. Now then, let Thy Reverence be my guide here. Thou knowest the right way. Thou art my authority and my refuge, O Muni.

48. As the rising sun dispels darkness, so thou hast dispelled the darkness of my false opinions. In the very same manner, O Ṛṣi, thou must teach me the road, going on which I may not attain misery after death.”

Then the Bodhisattva, perceiving his emotion and understanding that he had changed his opinion for the better and had now become a vessel fit for accepting the Law, instructed him - for he pitied him, like a father his son or a teacher his pupil - in this way.

49. “The glorious way leading to Heaven, is that by which the old kings went, who displayed their love of virtues, behaving like good pupils towards Śramaṇas and Brāhmans, and manifested their compassion for their subjects by their own behaviour. The following stanzas are of a very ingenious composition. In stanzas 50-54 each pāda ends in two homonymous syllables put twice in different functions, and from 55 the simile of the chariot is elaborated with great skill. 13

50. Therefore, subdue injustice which is very difficult to subdue, and overcome vile covetousness which is very difficult to overcome! So thou mayst mount a luminous being to the city of the Lord of Heaven, that city with golden gates resplendent with the most excellent jewels.

51. May thy approval of the lore cherished by the [279] virtuous, and which thou acceptedst in a mind accustomed to a wicked lore, be steadfast. Renounce the latter, which is a system of injustice proclaimed by people intent on gratifying the fools.

52. For thou hast taken the (right) road, O king, now, in that very moment, when desiring to walk on it with the pious behaviour prescribed by the True Lore, thou destroyedst within thy heart the harsh feeling against virtues.

53. Let, therefore, thy wealth be an instrument for obtaining virtues, and to thy people exercise mercy, which is an auspicious thing and will increase thine own happiness. Be also constant in keeping the excellent restraint of senses and good conduct. In this way thou mayst incur no calamity in the next world.

54. Let thy rule, O king, derive its entire brilliancy from the lustre of thy meritorious actions; let it be relied upon by those who practise good actions, and be lovely by its purity. So ruling thou wilt strive for thy true happiness together with thy material interest, and exterminate the anguish of the creatures, increasing thereby thy glory in a lovely manner.

55. Thou art here (on earth) standing on thy royal war-chariot. Let worship of the pious be thy charioteer. Let thy own body, engendering virtues, be thy chariot. Let friendliness be its axle, self-restraint and charity its wheels, and the earnest desire for gathering merit its axletree.

56. Control thy horses, the organs of sense, with that splendid bridle named attentiveness. Make prudence thy goad and take thy weapons from the store of sacred learning. Let shame be the furniture of thy chariot, humility its lovely pole, forbearance its yoke. (Standing on that chariot,) thou wilt drive it skilfully, if thou art firm in courageous self-command.

57. By keeping down bad words thou wilt make it go without rattling of the wheels; if thou usest lovely language, the sound of them will be grave and deep. Never breaking thy self-restraint will [280] preserve thy chariot from looseness of its constituent parts. Thou wilt keep the right direction, if thou avoidest going astray on the winding paths of wicked actions.

58. Using this vehicle (yāna), brilliant with the lustre of wisdom, adorned by the flag of good renown and the high-floating banner of tranquillity, and followed by mercy as its attendance, thou wilt move in the direction of the Highest Atman (paramātmā) and never shalt thou descend to the infernal regions, O king.”

Having thus dispelled by the brilliant beams of his words that darkness of false lore that lay upon the mind of the king, and shown him clearly the road to happiness, the High-minded One disappeared on the spot. But the king, having got a thorough knowledge concerning the matters of the next world, embraced the True Lore with his whole heart, and himself as well as his officials, his townsmen, and landsmen became intent on exercising charity, self-command, and self-restraint.

In this manner, then, those who are possessed by the vice of clinging to a false belief are especially worth commiserating by the virtuous; for the tenets of unbelief are blameable.

[This story may also be adduced with this conclusion: “In this manner listening to the preaching of the Excellent Law (Saddharma), fills up with overflowing faith.” Or with this: “In this manner hearing the Law preached by another, rouses faith productive of right belief.”

And when adducing it in a discourse on praise of the virtuous, likewise on the subject of forbearance, this is to be said: “In this manner the virtuous will parry even a hostile attack by counselling their enemy for his good, and they will do so without harshness in consequence of their being accustomed to forbearance.”

Also when treating of saṁvega Saṁvega is the emotional state which prepares the mind to accept spiritual instruction or to take the vow of a religious life. 14 it is to be said: “In [281] this manner emotion of the mind makes a man inclined to care for his salvation.”]

Of this Jātaka no Pāli recension has been edited as yet, nor am I aware of its occurring in other texts of the Northern Buddhists. Yet, at least stanza 16, which contains the point of the tale, must be founded on some old traditional verse, one of those sacred sayings, of which the Jātaka-class of the Holy Writ is made up.