Jātakamālā or Garland of Birth Stories


33. The Story of the Buffalo (Kṣānti)
(Compare the Pāli Jātaka, No. 278, Fausböll II, 385-388; Cariyāpiṭaka II, 5)

Forbearance deserves this name only if there exists some opportunity for showing it, not otherwise. Thus [325] considering, the virtuous appreciate even their injurer, deeming him a profit. This will be shown by the following.

The Bodhisattva, it is said, one time lived in some forest-region as a wild buffalo-bull of grim appearance, owing to his being dirty with mud, and so dark of complexion that he resembled a moving piece of a dark-blue cloud. Nevertheless, though in that animal-state, in which there prevails complete ignorance and it is difficult to come to the conception of righteousness, he in consequence of his keen understanding, was exerting himself to practise righteousness.

1. Compassion, as if it had a deep-rooted affection for him in return for his long service, never left him. But some power too, either of his karma or his nature, must be taken into account to explain the fact that he was so.

2. And it is for this reason, in truth, that the Lord In his Buddha-existence, of course.01 declared the mystery of the result of karma to be inscrutable, since He, though compassion was at the bottom of his nature, obtained the state of a beast, yet even in this condition retained his knowledge of righteousness.

3. Without karma the series of existences cannot be; it is also an impossibility that good actions should have evil as their result. But it must be the influence of small portions of (evil) karma that caused him now and then, notwithstanding his knowledge of righteousness, to be in such (low) states. This apology is not superfluous, indeed. Though fables of animals have been adapted of old so as to form part of the stock of sacred lore of the Buddhists, the contradiction between the low existences of the most virtuous ones and the doctrines about the karma is as great as possible.02

Now some wicked monkey, knowing his natural goodness which had manifested itself in course of time, and understanding from his habitual mercy that anger and wrath had no power over him, was in the [326] habit of vexing the Great Being very much by different injuries. “From him I have nothing to fear,” so he thought.

4. A rascal is never more eager to insult and never displays greater insolence than towards people meek and merciful. Against those he performs his worst tricks, for he sees no danger from their side. But with respect to those from whence a suspicion of danger, however slight, strikes him, he will behave, oh! so modestly, like an honest man; his petulance is quieted there.

Sometimes, then, while the Great Being was calmly asleep or nodding from drowsiness, that monkey would of a sudden leap upon his back. Another time, having climbed on (his head), as if he were a tree, he swung repeatedly (between his horns). Sometimes again, when he was hungry, he would stand before his feet, obstructing his grazing. It happened also now and then that he rubbed his ears with a log. When he was longing to bathe, he would sometimes climb on his head and cover his eyes with his hands. Or having mounted on his back, he would ride him perforce, and holding a stick in his hand counterfeit Yama. The common representation of Yama is sitting on the back of a buffalo with a staff in his hand. See, for instance, Varāhamihira Bṛhatsaṁhitā 58, 57 daṇḍī Yamo mahiṣagaḥ.03 And the Bodhisattva, that Great Being, bore all that unbecoming behaviour of the monkey without irritation and anger, quite untroubled, for he considered it a benefit, as it were.

5. It is the very nature of the wicked, indeed, to walk aside from the way of decent behaviour, whereas forbearance is something like a benefit to the virtuous, owing to their habitual practice of going that way.

Now of a truth, some Yakṣa who was scandalised at those insults of the Great Being, or perhaps wished to try his nature, one time when the wicked monkey was riding the buffalo-bull, placed himself in his way, saying: “Be not so patient. Art thou the slave of [327] that wicked monkey by purchase or by loss at play, or dost thou suspect any danger from his part, or dost thou not know thine own strength, that thou sufferest thyself to be so abused by him as to become his riding animal? Verily, my friend,

6. The thunderbolt of thy pointed horns swung with swiftness could pierce a diamond, or like the thunderbolt, cleave huge trees. And these thy feet treading with furious anger, would sink in the mountain rock as in mud.

7. And this body of thine is, like a rock, solid and compact, the splendid strength of its muscles makes its beauty perfect. So thy power is well-known to the vigorous by nature, and thou wouldst be hard to approach even for a lion.

8. Therefore, either crush him with thy hoof by an energetic effort, or destroy his insolence with the sharp edges of thy horns. Why dost thou suffer this rogue of a monkey to torment thee and to cause pain to thee, as if thou wert powerless?

9. Where is it ever seen that an evildoer is brought to reason by a cure consisting in a virtuous behaviour towards him, modesty, and kindness? This treatment being applied to such a one who is to be cured by pungent and burning and harsh remedies, his insolence will wax like a disease arising from the phlegm.” Indian medicine divides the diseases into three classes, according to their origin from one of the three humours: phlegm (kapha), wind (vāta), and bile (pitta).04

Then the Bodhisattva looking at the Yakṣa spoke to him mild words expressive of his adherence to the virtue of forbearance.

10. “Surely, I know him a fickle-minded one and always fond of iniquity, but for this very reason it is right, in truth, that I put up with him.

11. What forbearance is that, practised towards somebody of greater strength, against whom it is impossible to retaliate? And with respect to virtuous [328] people standing firm in honesty and decent behaviour, what is there to be endured at all?

12. Therefore we ought to endure injuries by a feeble one, though having the power of revenge. Better to bear insults from such a one than to get rid of virtues.

13. Ill-treatment by a powerless one is the best opportunity, in truth, for showing virtues. With what purpose, then, should the lover of virtues make use of his strength in such cases so as to lose his firmness of mind?

14. Besides, the opportunity for forbearance, that virtue always of use, being difficult to obtain inasmuch as it depends on others, what reason could there be to resort to anger just then, when that opportunity has been afforded by another?

15. And if I did not use forbearance against him who disregarding the damage of his own righteousness (dharma), acts as if to cleanse my sins, say who else should be ungrateful, if not I?”

The Yakṣa spoke: “Then wilt thou never be delivered from his persecutions.

16. Who may be able to chastise the ill-behaviour of a rascal having no respect for virtues, unless he sets aside humble forbearance?”

The Bodhisattva spoke:

17. “It is not suitable for him who longs for happiness to pursue comfort or prevention of discomfort by inflicting grief on another. The result of such actions will not tend to the production of happiness.

18. My persistence in patient endurance is, in fact, an admonition to awake his conscience. If he does not understand it, he will afterwards assail others of a hasty temper who will stop him in his pursuit of the wrong way.

19. And having been ill-treated by such a one, he will no more do these things to such as me. For having received punishment, he will not act in this (unbecoming) manner again. And so I will get rid of him.” [329]

On these words the Yakṣa, affected with faithful contentment, amazement, and respect, exclaimed: “Well said! well said!” and moving his head and shaking his (extended) fingers, magnified the Great Being with kind words such as these:

20. “How is it possible that beasts should possess a conduct like this? How didst thou come to this degree of regard for virtues? Having assumed with some purpose or other this animal-shape, thou must be somebody practising penance in the penance forest!”

After thus eulogising him, he threw the wicked monkey off his back, and taught him a preservative charm; after which he disappeared on the spot.

In this manner, then, forbearance deserves this name only if there exists some opportunity for showing it, not otherwise: thus considering the virtuous apppreciate even their injurer, deeming him a profit. [So is to be said, when discoursing on forbearance.

And this may also be said: “In this manner is shown the imperturbable tranquillity of the Bodhisattvas, even when in the state of a beast; how, indeed, should it become a human being or one who has taken the vow of a homeless life to be deficient in it?” Cp. The conclusion of Story XXV.05

This story is also to be told, when praising the Tathāgata and when discoursing on listening with attention to the preaching of the Law.]