Jātakamālā or Garland of Birth Stories

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24. The Story of the Great Ape (Anukampā)
(Compare the Pāli Jātaka, No. 516, Fausböll V, 68-74)

The virtuous grieve not so much for their own pain as for the loss of happiness incurred by their injurers. This will be taught now.

There is a blessed region on one side of the Himavat. Its soil, pervaded with different, metallic ores, might be called its body perfumed with lovely and various ointments; and its magnificent woods and forests constituted its upper garment, as it were, con-sisting in a mantle of dark silk. The slopes and declivities of that landscape were adorned by their picturesque scenery, which harmonized the inequality of colours and shapes and combinations, so that they seemed to have been arranged purposely and with [219] care.

In this recreation-ground of the Vidyādharas, moistened by the waters of many mountain-streams passing through it, abounding in deep holes, chasms, and precipices, resounding with the dull and shrill noise of humming bees and caressed by lovely winds fanning its various trees with their beautiful flowers, fruits, and stems, the Bodhisattva was once, it is said, an ape of great size who lived alone. But even in that state he had not lost his consciousness of the Dharma, he was grateful, noble-natured, and endowed with great patience; and Compassion, as if retained by attachment, would never leave him.

1. The earth with its forests, its great mountains and its oceans perished many hundred times at the end of the yuga, either by water or fire or wind, but the great compassion of the Bodhisattva never perishes.

Subsisting, then, like an ascetic, exclusively on the simple fare of leaves and fruits of the forest-trees, and showing pity in various circumstances and ways to such creatures as he met within the sphere of his power, the High-minded One lived in the said forest-region.

Now, one time a certain man wandering about in all directions in search of a stray cow, lost his way, and being utterly unable to find out the regions of the sky, roamed at random, and reached that place. There, being exhausted by hunger, thirst, heat, and toil, and suffering from the fire of sorrow which blazed within his heart, he sat down at the foot of a tree, as if pressed down by the exceeding weight of his sadness. Looking around, he saw a number of very tawny tinduka-fruits, The tinduka or tindukī is the diosperos embryopteris, a common tree, not tall, evergreen with long, glimmering leaves. See Watt, Dictionary of the Economic Products of India, III, pp. 141-145. 'The fruit is eatable, but excessively sour'; it is a food of the poor.01 which being ripe had fallen off.

After enjoying them, as the hunger which tortured him much made them seem very sweet to him, he felt a very strong desire to find out their origin; and [220] looking sharply around on all sides, he discovered the tree from whence they came. This tree had its roots on the border of the sloping bank of a waterfall, and hung down its branches, loaded with very ripe fruits which gave them a tawny hue at their ends. Craving for those fruits, the man mounted to that slope, and climbing up the tinduka-tree, reached a branch with fruit overhanging the precipice. And his eagerness to get the fruit induced him to go along it to its very end.

2. Then on a sudden, that branch, hanging down, unable to bear its too heavy burden, broke off with a noise and fell down, as if hewn with a hatchet.

And with that branch he fell headlong in a large precipice surrounded on all sides by steep rock-walls, like a pit; but as he was protected by the leaves and plunged into deep water, he came off without breaking any of his bones. After getting out of the water, he went about on all sides, looking out for some way by which he might escape, but saw none. As he found no outlet and realised that he must starve there very soon, he despaired of his life, and tortured by the heart-piercing dart of heavy sorrow burst into tears that moistened his sad face. Overwhelmed by discouragement and painful thoughts, he lamented somewhat in this manner.

3. “Down I fell into this precipice in the midst of this forest remote from human approach. Who, how-ever carefully seeking, may discover me, except Death?

4. Who will rescue me out of this place, into which I was precipitated, like a wild beast caught in a pit-fall? No relations, no friends have I near, only swarms of mosquitoes drinking my blood.

5. Alas, the night within this pit conceals from me the aspect of the universe. I shall no more see the manifold loveliness of gardens, groves, arbours, and streams. No more the sky resplendent with its jewel ornament of wide-scattered stars. Thick darkness, like a night in the dark half of the month, surrounds me.”

Thus lamenting, that man passed there some days, [221] feeding on the water and the tinduka-fruits which had come down together with himself.

Now, that great ape wandering through that part of the forest with the purpose of taking his food, came to that place, beckoned as it were by the wind-agitated branches of that tinduka-tree. Climbing on it and looking over the waterfall, he perceived that man lying there and in want of relief, and saw also his eyes and cheeks sunken, and his limbs emaciated, pale, and suffering from hunger. The wretched situation of the man roused the compassion of the great monkey, who setting aside the care for his meal, fixed his eyes intently on the man and in a human voice uttered this:

6. “Thou art in this precipice inaccessible to men. Well, tell me then, please, who thou art and by what cause thou hast come there.”

Then the man, casting up his eyes to the great ape, bowing his head and folding his hands as a supplicant, spoke:

7, 8. “I am a man, illustrious being. Having lost my way and roaming in the forest, I came into this distress, while seeking to get fruits from this tree.

Befallen by this heavy calamity, while away from my friends and kindred, I beseech thee, protector of troops of mon-keys, be also my protector.”

These words succeeded in stirring the boundless pity of the Great Being.

9. A person in distress, without friends or family to help him, imploring help with anxious looks and folded hands, would rouse compassion in the heart even of his enemies; to the compassionate he is a great attraction.

Then the Bodhisattva, pitying him, comforted him with kind words, such as he could hardly expect in that time.

10. “Be not afflicted, thinking thou hast lost thy strength by the fall into this precipice or that thou hast no relations to help thee. What those would do for thee, I will do it all. Do not fear.” [222]

And after these comforting words the Great Being provided the man with tindukas and other fruits. Then with the object of rescuing him, he went away to some other place, and exercised himself in climbing having on his back a stone of a man's weight. Having learnt the measure of his strength and convinced himself that he was able to bring up the man out of the waterfall, he descended to the bottom of it, and moved by compassion, said these words to the man:

11. “Come, climb upon my back and cling fast to me, while I shall bring out both thee and the usefulness of my body.

12. For the pious pronounce this to be the use-fulness of the body, otherwise a worthless thing, that it may be employed by the wise as an instrument for benefiting our neighbour.”

The other agreed, and after reverentially bowing to the ape, mounted on his back.

13. So with that man on his back, stooping under the pain of the exceeding heaviness of his burden, yet, owing to the intensity of his goodness, with unshaken firmness of mind, he succeeded in rescuing him, though with great difficulty.

14. And having delivered him, he enjoyed the highest gladness, but was so exhausted, that he walked with an unstable and tottering step, and chose some cloud-black slab of stone to lie upon, that he might take his rest.

Pure-hearted as he was and being his benefactor, the Bodhisattva did not suspect danger from the part of that man, and trustingly said to him:

15, 16. “This part of the forest being easily accessible, is exposed to the free course of ferocious animals. Therefore, that nobody may kill me and his own future happiness by a sudden attack while I am taking my rest from fatigue, thou must carefully look out in all directions and keep guard over me and thyself. My body is utterly tired, and I want to sleep a little while.”

The man promised to do so. Assuming the frank language of honesty, he said: “Sleep, sir, as long as [223] you like, and may your awaking be glad! I stay here, keeping guard over you.” But when the Great Being, in consequence of his fatigue, had fallen asleep, he conceived wicked thoughts within his mind.

17. “Roots to be obtained with hard effort or forest-fruits offered by chance are my livelihood here. How can my emaciated body sustain life by them? how much less, recover its strength?

18. And how shall I succeed in traversing this wilderness hard to pass, if I am infirm? Yet, in the body of this ape I should have food amply sufficient to get out of this troublesome wilderness.

19. Although he has done good to me, I may feed on him, I may, for he has been created such a being. I may, for here the rules given for times of distress The so-called āpaddharma, cp. stanza 8 of Story 12.02 are applicable to be sure. For this reason I have to get my provisions from his body.

20. But l am only able to kill him while he is sleeping the profound and quiet sleep of trustfulness. For if he were to be attacked in open fight, even a lion would not be assured of victory.

Therefore, there is no time to lose now.” Having thus made up his mind, that scoundrel, troubled in his thoughts by sinful lust which had destroyed within him his gratitude, his consciousness of the moral precepts, and even his tender innate feeling of com-passion, not minding his great weakness of body, and listening only to his extreme desire to perform that vile action, took a stone, and made it fall straight down on the head of the great ape.

21, 22. But, being sent by a hand trembling with weakness and hastily, because of his great cupidity, that stone, flung with the desire of sending the monkey to the complete sleep (of death), destroyed his sleep.

It did not strike him with its whole weight, so that it did not dash his head to pieces; it only bruised it with one of its edges, and fell down on the earth with a thundering noise. [224]

23, 24. The Bodhisattva, whose head had been injured by the stone, jumped up hastily; and looking around him that he might discover his injurer, saw nobody else but that very man who stood before him in the attitude of shame, confounded, timid, perplexed, and dejected, betraying his confusion by the ashy-pale colour of his face, which had lost its brightness; sudden fright had dried up his throat, drops of sweat covered his body, and he did not venture to lift up his eyes.

As soon as the great ape realised that the man himself was the evildoer, without minding the pain of his wound any longer, he felt himself utterly moved. He did not become angry, nor was he subdued by the sinful feeling of wrath. He was rather affected with compassion for him who, disregarding his own happiness, had committed that exceedingly vile deed. Looking at him with eyes wet with tears, he lamented over the man, saying:

25, 26. “Friend, how hast thou, a man, been capable of doing an action like this? How couldst thou con-ceive it? how undertake it?

Thou, who wast bound to oppose with heroic valour any foe whosoever eager to hurt me would have assailed me!

27. If I felt something like pride, thinking I per-formed a deed hard to be done, thou hast cast away from me that idea of haughtiness, having done some-thing still more difficult to do.

28. After being brought back from the other world, from the mouth of Death, as it were, thou, scarcely saved from one precipice, hast fallen into another, in truth!

29. Fie upon ignorance, that vile and most cruel thing! for it is ignorance that throws the miserable creatures into distress, (deceiving them) with (false) hope of prosperity.

30, 31. Thou hast ruined thyself, kindled the fire of sorrow in me, obscured the splendour of thy repu-tation, obstructed thy former love of virtues, and destroyed thy trustworthiness, having become a mark [225] for (the arrows of) reproach. What great profit, then, didst thou expect by acting in that manner?

32. The pain of this wound does not grieve me so much as this thought which makes my mind suffer, that it is on account of me that thou hast plunged into evil, but that I have not the power of wiping off that sin.

33, 34. Well then, go with me, keeping by my side, but mind to be always in my sight, for thou art much to be distrusted. I will conduct thee out of this forest, the abode of manifold dangers, again into the path which leads to the dwellings of men, lest roaming alone in this forest, emaciated and ignorant of the way, thou shouldst be assailed by somebody who, hurting thee, would make fruitless my labour spent in thy behalf.”

So commiserating that man, the High-minded One conducted him to the border of the inhabited region, and having put him on his way, said again:

35. “Thou hast reached the habitations of men, friend; now thou mayst leave this forest-region with its fearful thickets and wildernesses. I bid thee a happy journey and wish that thou mayst endeavour to avoid evil actions. For the harvest of their evil results is an extremely painful time.”

So the great ape pitying the man, instructed him as if he were his disciple; after which he went back to his abode in the forest. But the man who had attempted that exceedingly vile and sinful deed, tor-tured by the blazing fire of remorse, was on a sudden struck with a dreadful attack of leprosy. His figure became changed, his skin was spotted with vesicles which, becoming ulcers and bursting, wetted his body with their matter, and made it putrid in a high degree.

To whatever country he came, he was an object of horror to men; so hideous was his distorted form; neither by his appearance did he resemble a human being nor by his changed voice, indicative of his pain. And people, thinking him to be the embodied Devil, drove him away, threatening him with uplifted clods [226] and clubs and harsh words of menace.

One time, roaming about in some forest, he was seen by a certain king who was hunting there. On perceiving his most horrible appearance - for he looked like a Preta, See supra, note on p. 147. - As to the punishment of this treacherous man (mitradhruk), cp. a similar punishment of the slan-derer Kokāliya in Suttanipāta III, 10.03 the dirty remains of his garments having at last dropped off, so that he had hardly enough to cover his shame - that king, affected with curiosity mingled with fear, asked him thus:

36, 37. “Thy body is disfigured by leprosy, thy skin spotted with ulcers; thou art pale, emaciated, miser-able; thy hair is dirty with dust.

Who art thou? Art thou a Preta, or a goblin, or the embodied Devil, or a Pūtana? A Pūtana is a kind of ghost looking terrible. They live in cemeteries, and like to feed on human flesh.04 Or if one out of the number of sick-nesses, which art thou who displayest the assemblage of many diseases?”

Upon which the other, bowing to the prince, an-swered in a faltering tone: “I am a man, great king, not a spirit.” And being asked again by the king, how he had come into that state, he confessed to him his wicked deed, and added these words:

38. “This suffering here is only the blossom of the tree sown by that treacherous deed against my friend. O, surely, its fruit will be still more miserable than this.

39. Therefore, you ought to consider a treacherous deed against a friend as your foe. With kindhearted-ness you must look upon friends who are kindhearted towards you.

40. Those who adopt a hostile behaviour against their friends, come into such a wretched state already in this world. From hence you may infer what will be in the other world the fate of those who, sullied in their mind by covetousness and other vices, attempted the life of their friends.

41. He, on the other hand, whose mind is pervaded [227] with kindness and affection for his friends, obtains a good reputation, is trusted by his friends and enjoys their benefits. He will possess gladness of mind and the virtue of humility, his enemies will consider him a man hard to offend, and finally he will gain residence in Heaven.

42. Thus knowing the power and the consequences of good and evil behaviour with respect to friends, O king, hold fast to the road followed by the virtuous. He who goes along on this will attain happiness.”

In this manner, then, the virtuous grieve not so much for their own pain as for the loss of happiness incurred by their injurers.

[So is to be said, when discoursing on the great-mindedness of the Tathāgata, and when treating of listening with attention to the preaching of the Law; likewise when dealing with the subjects of forbearance and faithfulness towards friends; also when demonstrating the sinfulness of evil deeds.]