Jātakamālā or Garland of Birth Stories

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28. The Story of Kṣāntivādin In the original Kṣāntijātakam. Kṣānti must here be an abbreviation of the name Kṣāntivādin; in the Pāli redaction the corresponding story bears the title of Khantivādijātaka.01 (Kṣānti)
(Compare the Pāli Jātaka, No. 313, Fausböll III, 39-43)

Truly, to those who have wholly imbibed the virtue of forbearance and are great in keeping their tranquillity there is nothing unbearable. This will be taught as follows.

One time the Bodhisattva, it is said, was an ascetic who had forsaken the world. He had become convinced that the life in a home, since it is beset with bad occupations, leaves but little room for righteousness; for it is visited by many sins and evils and unfit for quiet, inasmuch as it implies the prevalence of material interest (artha) and sensual pleasures (kāma); it is exposed to the inroad of defiling passions: love, hatred, infatuation, jealousy, anger, lasciviousness, pride, selfishness, and the rest; it involves the loss of the possession of shame and religion, and is the abode of covetousness and wicked lust.

On the other hand he understood the homeless state, as it avoids material property and sensual objects, to be an agreeeable one, being wholly free from those evils. Thus knowing, he became an ascetic, eminent by his conduct, his learning, his placidity of mind, his modesty, and his self-restraint. As he was in the habit of [254] always preaching forbearance and teaching the Law from that point of view, in strict conformity with the vow he had taken to do so, people neglecting his proper name and that of his family, made him a name of their own invention, calling him Kṣāntivādin (forbearance-preacher).

1. Illustrious domination or knowledge or penance, also an extreme passion for arts, likewise anomaly of body, language or behaviour are the causes of giving new names to men.

2. So was the case with him. His true name vanished for the appellation of Kṣāntivādin, because knowing the power of forbearance and desiring to adorn mankind, like himself, with that virtue he constantly used to discourse on that topic.

3. The great endurance, which was a part of his very nature and the firmness of which he showed by his unaltered calm, when injured by others, as well as his excellent sermons on that subject, gave him the renown of a Muni.

The residence of the High-minded One was a place in the forest, lovely by its utter solitude and exhibiting the charming beauty of a garden; it bore flowers and fruits at all seasons, and encompassed a pond of pure water embellished by white and blue lotuses. By his dwelling there he procured for that place the holiness of a hermitage.

4. For where pious persons adorned with excellent virtues have their residence, such a place is a very auspicious and lovely one, a sacred place of pilgrimage (tīrtha), a hermitage.

There he was venerated by the different deities who were living there, and often visited by such people as were lovers of virtues and desirous of their salvation. To that multitude of visitors he showed the high favour of entertaining them with his sermons on the subject of forbearance, rejoicing both their ears and hearts.

Now one time in the season of summer it happened that the king of that country, in consequence of the [255] hot weather, was seized with a great longing to play in the water, a very desirable thing at that time. So he went with his harem to that place in the forest, as it was distinguished by the different delights proper to gardens.

5. While he was rambling in the wood with the beauties of his zenana spreading about on all sides, he embellished its Nandana-like splendour, so to speak, by the rich display of the graceful sport of himself and his wanton retinue.

6. In the arbours and bowers, under the forest-trees with their laughing dress of flowers, and in the water with its expanding lotuses the king delighted in the unrestrained expansion of the natural dalliance of the females.

7. Smilingly he beheld the graceful movements of fear and its beautiful expression on the faces of some molested by bees, that were allured by the perfumes of the implements for bathing and anointing mixed with the fragrance of garlands and the odour of the rum.

8. Though they had adorned their ears with the most beautiful flowers, and their hair wore plenty of garlands, the women could not have enough of flowers. In the same way the king could not look enough at their wanton playing.

9. He beheld those chaplet-like clusters of females, now clinging to the arbours, now tarrying at the lotus-groups, sometimes hovering like bees about the flowery trees.

10. Even the bold lascivious cries of the cuckoos, the dances of the peacocks, and the humming of the bees were outdone by the tattle, the dances, and the songs of those women.

11. The sound of the royal drums, as strong as the rattling of thunder, induced the peacocks to utter their peculiar cries and make a wide-spread circle of their tails, as if they were actors worshipping the monarch by the virtue of their art.

Then, having enjoyed, with his harem, to his heart's [256] content the pleasure of walking about in that garden-like wood, as he was tired with incessant playing and drunkenness overcame his mind, the king laid himself down on his very precious royal couch in a beautiful arbour, and fell asleep.

Now, when the women perceived that their lord was no longer occupied with them, as they were not satiated with the manifold loveliness of the forest which kept them enchanted, they moved from that place, and rambled about in groups formed according to their liking, mixing the confused sounds of their rattling ornaments with the tinkling noise of their chatter.

12. Followed by the badges of sovereign power, the royal umbrella, the royal tail-fan, the royal seat and so on, which were decorated with golden ornaments and borne by female slaves, the women walked about indulging unrestrainedly in their natural wantonness.

13. Disregarding the entreaties of the female servants, they greedily laid hands upon the lovely flowers and twigs of the trees within their reach, prompted by their petulance.

14. Though they had plenty of flowers, both as ornaments and arranged as wreaths, they left on their way no shrub lovely by its flowers, nor tree with its waving twigs without stripping them, out of cupidity.

Now in the course of their rambling through the forest, the loveliness of which had captured their minds, the king's harem approached the hermitage of Kṣāntivādin. But those who were in charge of the royal wives, although they knew the penance-power and high-mindedness of that Muni, did not venture to prevent them from entering, on account of the king's attachment to his darlings, lest he might resent their intervention. So the royal wives, as if they were attracted by the splendour of that hermitage, the loveliness of which was enhanced by (the) supernatural power (of its occupant), entered the hermitage and saw the eminent Muni sitting there with crossed legs under a tree, a view auspicious and purifying to behold.

His tranquillity gave a soft expression to his [257] countenance; the exceeding profundity of his mind inspired awe; his face radiated, as it were, from the splendour of his penance and, owing to his diligent exercise of dhyāna, bore the beautiful expression of calm, as is proper to undisturbed senses, even though the loftiest subjects of meditation were present to his thoughts. In short, he was like the embodied Dharma. The lustre of his penance subdued the minds of those royal wives, and the very sight of him was sufficient to make them abandon their dalliance, frivolity, and haughtiness. Accordingly they went to him in a humble attitude, and sat down respectfully in a circle around him.

He, for his part, performed to them the usual salutation, welcoming them and saying to them kind and courteous things which are agreeable to guests; then availing himself of the opportunity which their questions procured him, he showed them his hospitality by a religious discourse, preaching in such terms as were easily understood by women, and illustrating his exposition of the Law with examples.

15. “He who, having obtained the blameless human state, and being born in the full possession of organs and senses sound and vigorous, without any defect, Bodily infirmities are the effect of former actions. They are with the Buddhists an impediment to proceeding on the way to salvation for the same reason, as they entail impurity and incompetence to assist at sacrificial performances in Brāhmanism. 02 neglects to do good actions every day from lack of attention - such a one is much deceived; is he not subject to the necessity of death?

16. A man may be ever so excellent by his birth, his figure, his age, his superior power, or the wealth of his estate, never will he enjoy happiness in the other world, unless he be purified by charity, good conduct (śīla), and the rest of the virtues.

17. For surely, he who though devoid of a noble birth and the rest, abhorring wickedness, resorts to the virtues of charity, good conduct and so on, such a one is hereafter visited by every kind of bliss, as the sea in the rainy season by the water of the rivers. [258]

18. To him who excels by his extraction, his figure, his age, his superior power, or the wealth of his estate, attachment to virtues is the most proper ornament already in this world; his golden garlands are only indicative of his riches.

19. Blossoms are the ornaments of trees, it is flashes of lightning that adorn the big rain-clouds, the lakes are adorned by lotuses and waterlilies with their drunken bees; but virtues brought to perfection are the proper ornament of living beings.

20. The various differences of men with respect to their health, duration of life, beauty of figure, wealth, birth may be classed under the heads of low, middle and high. This triad is not the effect of natural properties nor caused by external influences, indeed. No, it is the result of a man's actions (karma).

21. Knowing this to be the fixed law of human existence, and keeping in mind the fickleness and frailness of life, a man must avoid wickedness, directing his heart to pious behaviour. For this is the way leading to good reputation and to happiness.

22. But a defiled mind acts like a fire, it burns away the good of one's self and one's neighbour. He who is afraid of wickedness, therefore, ought carefully to keep off such defilement by cultivating what tends to the contrary.

22. As a fire, however fiercely burning, if it meet a great river, filled up to its borders with water, becomes extinguished, so does the fire which blazes within the mind of a man, if he relies on forbearance that will serve him both in this world and in the next.

24. So forbearance is of great benefit. He who practises this virtue avoids wickedness, for he has vanquished the causes of it. In consequence thereof he will not rouse enmity, owing to his cherishing friendliness. For this reason, he will be a person beloved and honoured, and accordingly enjoy a happy life. At the end he comes to Heaven (as easily) as if he entered his home, thanks to his attachment to a meritorious behaviour. [259]

Moreover, ladies, this virtue of forbearance, I say,

25. Is celebrated as the superior degree of a pious nature; as the highest development obtainable by merit and good repute; as that purification which is attained without touching water; as the highest wealth afforded by many affluents of virtuous properties.

26. It is praised also as the lovely firmness of mind of the virtuous which is always indifferent to injuries done to them by others; as having obtained by its properties its lovely name of kṣamā; Kṣamā is a synonym of kṣānti.03 as benefiting mankind; as well acquainted with pity.

27. Forbearance is the ornament of the powerful; it is the highest pitch of the strength of ascetics; and since it has the effect of a shower of rain on the conflagration of evils, it may be called the extinguisher of misfortune both in this world and after death.

28. To the virtuous forbearance is a coat of mail, blunting the arrows which the tongue of the wicked shoots off against them. Mostly it changes those weapons into flowers of praise, which may be inserted in the garland of their glory.

29. It is stated to be the killer of Delusion, that adversary of the Dharma, and an easy contrivance by which to reach salvation. Who, then, ought not to do his utmost to obtain forbearance, that virtue invariably conducive to happiness?”

In this manner the High-minded One entertained those female guests with an edifying sermon.

Meanwhile the king, having satisfied his want of sleep, awoke; his lassitude was gone, but his eyes were still heavy with the dimness of inebriation, which had not entirely passed away. Desirous of continuing his amorous sport, he frowningly asked the female servants who were guarding his couch, where his wives were. “Your Majesty.” they answered, “Their Highhnesses are now embellishing other parts of the forest, to admire the splendour of which they walked on.”

Having been thus informed by them, the king, as he [260] eagerly desired to witness the sportive sayings and doings of the royal wives, how they were laughing and jesting free and unrestrained, rose from his couch, and accompanied by his female warriors bearing his umbrella, his chowrie, his upper garment, and his sword, and followed by the eunuchs of his zenana, wearing their armour and having reed-staves in their hands, he marched through the forest after them.

It was easy to follow the way they had taken; for they had traced it out with juvenile wantonness by means of a multitude of various blossoms, flower-clusters, and twigs, which they had strewed about, moreover by the red sap of the areca-nut and betel chewed by them. So then, going after them he went to the hermitage.

But no sooner had the king seen that most excellent Ṛṣi Kṣantivādin surrounded by the circle of the royal wives, than he was seized with a fit of wrath. This frenzy overtook him, partly because he was long since his enemy and bore him a grudge, This can be no wonder, for in the Pāli Jātaka, that wicked king is identified with Devadatta. 04 partly in consequence of his intellect being still troubled by drunkenness and his mind overcome with jealousy. And as his power of composing himself was small, he lost his countenance, disregarding the laws of decency and politeness, and submitted to sinful wrath.

So his colour altered, drops of sweat appeared on his face, his limbs trembled, his brows frowned, and his eyes tinged reddish, squinted, rolled, stared. The loveliness, grace, and beauty of his figure had waned. He pressed his hands together, and rubbing them, squeezing thereby his finger-rings and shaking his golden armlets, scolded that excellent Ṛṣi, uttering many invectives: “Ha”, he exclaimed,

30. “Who is that knave who injures our majesty casting his eyes on our wives? Under the disguise of a Muni this hypocrite acts like a fowler.”

These words alarmed and disturbed the eunuchs, who said to the king: “Your Majesty ought not to [261] speak so. This is a Muni who has purified his Self by a long life of vows and restraints and penance; Kṣāntivādin is his name.” Nevertheless the king, in the pervertedness of his mind, did not take to heart their words, and continued: “Alas! Ah!

31. So it is then a long time already since this hypocrite, setting himself up as the foremost of holy ascetics, has deceived people by his forgery!

Well, then, I will lay open the true nature of that hypocrite, though he keeps it veiled with his ascetic's dress and well conceals it by practising the art of delusion and false godliness.” After thus speaking, he took his sword from the hand of the female guard (who was bearing it) and rushed on the holy Ṛṣi with the determination of striking him, as if he were his rival.

The royal wives, who had been informed by their attendants of the king's approach, on seeing his fine features changed by anger became much afflicted, and with anxious looks expressive of their trouble and consternation rose from the earth, and took leave of the holy Ṛṣi. Then they went to meet the king, and as they stood near him with their folded hands lifted up to their face, they had the appearance of an assemblage of lotuses in autumn, when the brightness of the flowers begins to peep out of the enclosure of the buds.

32. Yet their graceful demeanour, their modesty and comeliness did not appease his mind incensed with the fire of wrath.

But the queens who commenced already to recover from their first terror, perceiving that the king in the fierce manner of one whose behaviour is altered by anger was marching with a weapon in the direction of the holy Ṛṣi, on whom he kept fixed his adverse looks, placed themselves in his way, and surrounding him entreated him: “Your Majesty, pray, do not commit a reckless act, do not, pray. This man is the Reverend Kṣantivādin.”

The king, however, owing to his heart's wickedness, became the more angry, thinking: “Surely, he has already gained their affection.” He [262] reproved their temerity in requesting by clear signs (of his discontent), frowning and casting on them angry looks, fierce as the jealousy which had taken possession of his mind. After which, turning to his eunuchs and shaking his head so that his royal diadem and ear-rings trembled, he said with a glance at his wives:

33. “This man speaks only of forbearance, but he does not practise it. For example, he was not impassible to the covetousness of the contact with females.

34. His tongue does not at all agree with his actions, still less with his ill-intentioned heart. What has this man with unrestrained senses to do in the penance-forest, that he should simulate religious vows and dress and sit down in the hypocritical posture of a saint?”

Now, the king in his fit of wrath having thus rebuked his queens and shown his hard-heartedness, they were affected with sorrow and sadness, for they knew his ferocious nature and his contumacy which made him inaccessible to persuasion. The eunuchs, who were likewise alarmed, affected with anxiety, and afflicted, made signs to them with their hands that they should withdraw, So they went away, lowering their faces with shame and lamenting over that best of Ṛṣis.

35. “We are the cause of the king's wrath against that sinless and self-subdued holy ascetic, wide-famed for his virtues. Who knows what will be the end of it? In one way or other will the king perform some unbecoming deed, when he will make his wrath fall down on him, however virtuous.

36. Yea, this king would be able to destroy his own royal behaviour and his glory obtained by it, hurting the body of that Muni, as well as the body of his penance, and grieving our guiltless minds at the same time!”

After the queens thus lamenting and sighing on his account - for what could they else do for him? - were [263] gone, the king in wrath came up to the holy Ṛṣi, threatening him with drawn sword, in order to strike him himself. On seeing that the Great Being, though thus assailed, kept his calmness unchanged with imperturbable constancy, he became the more excited, and said to him:

37. “How skilled he is in playing the holy one, that he looks even at me as if he were a Muni, persisting in his guileful arrogance!”

The Bodhisattva, however, owing to his constant practice of forbearance, was not at all disturbed, and as he at once understood from that hostile proceeding, though not without astonishment, that it was the eagerness of wrath which caused the king to act in such an unbecoming way that he had thrown off all restraint of politeness and good manners and lost the faculty of distinguishing between his good and evil, he pitied that monarch and, with the object of appeasing him, said, in truth, something like this:

38. “Meeting with disrespect is nothing strange in this world; for this reason, since it may also happen to be the effect of destiny and guilt, I do not mind it. But this grieves me that I cannot perform towards you, not even with my voice, the usual kind reception, due to those who come to me.

Moreover hear this, O sovereign.

39. To such as you, who are bound to put evildoers on the right way and to act for the interest of the creatures, it never behoves to do any rash action. You should rather follow, therefore, the way of reflection.

40. Something good may be considered evil; inversely, something evil may appear in a false light. The truth about anything to be done cannot be discerned at once before inquiring by reasoning into the differences in the several modes of action.

41. But such a king as gets a true insight of his proper line of conduct by reflection and, after that, carries out his design with righteousness by the way of his policy, will always effect the thrift of dharma, [264] artha and kāma in his people, nor will he be devoid of that threefold prosperity himself.

42. For this reason, you ought to purify your mind of rashness, and to be only intent on such actions as tend to good repute. In fact, transgressions of a decent behaviour are highly notorious, if they are committed by persons of a high rank in whom they were not seen before.

43. In a penance-forest protected by your mighty arm, you would not suffer anybody else, in truth, to do what is blamed by the pious and destructive to good behaviour. How is it that you should be decided to act in this way yourself, O king?

44. If your harem came perchance to my hermitage together with their male attendants, what fault of mine may be found there that you should allow yourself to be thus altered by wrath?

45. Suppose, however, there is here some fault of mine, forbearance would become you even then, my lord. Forbearance, indeed, is the chief ornament of a powerful one; for it betrays his cleverness in keeping (the treasury of) his virtues.

46. Kings cannot so much be adorned either by their dark-blue ear-rings with their reverberation of dancing shine on the cheeks, or by the several brilliant jewels of their head-ornament, as they are adorned by forbearance. Thus considering, pray, do not disregard that virtue.

47. Set aside irascibility which is never fit to be relied upon, but maintain forbearance (as carefully) as your dominions. Literally: as if it were the earth. The comparison constitutes a pun in the original, for kṣamā may convey the meaning of 'earth’ while it also signifies 'forbearance.’ 05 In truth, the lovely behaviour of princes showing their esteem to ascetics, is full of bliss.”

Notwithstanding this admonition by that excellent Muni, the king, troubled by the crookedness of his mind, persisted in his false suspicion. So he addressed him again:

48. “If you are not a mock-ascetic, but really [265] engaged in keeping your vow of restraint, for what reason then do you, under the pretext of exhorting me to forbearance, beg safety from my side?” Instead of asmād I read asmān. 06

The Bodhisattva answered: “Hear then, great prince, for what reason I urged you.”

49. I spoke so that your good renown might not break down under the blame you would incur because of me, if it were to be said of you ‘the king has killed a guiltless ascetic, a Brāhman.’

50. Death is an invariable necessity for all creatures. For this reason I am not afraid of it, nor have I anything to fear, when I recollect my own behaviour.

51. But it was for your sake, that you should not suffer by injuring Righteousness, the source of happiness, that I praised forbearance to you as the fit instrument for attaining salvation.

52. Since it is a mine of virtues and an armour against vices. I gladly praise Forbearance, for it is an excellent boon I offer you.”

But the king disdained these gentle flowers of speech which the Muni offered him. Scornfully he said to that foremost of Ṛṣis: “Let us now see your attacthment to forbearance,” and so speaking he directed his sharp sword to the right hand of the Muni, which was a little extended towards him, with a prohibitive gesture, having its very fine and long fingers upward, and severed it from his arm like a lotus from its stalk.


53. Yet the Bodhisattva did not feel so much pain, even after his hand had been cut off - so steadfast was he in keeping his vow of forbearance - as sorrow concerning the cutter, whose future misfortune he saw, which was to fall terrible and irremediable upon that person hitherto accustomed to pleasures.

And thinking within himself: “Alas! he has transgressed the boundary of his good, he has ceased to be a person worth admonishing,” Cp. Story 7, stanzas 20-26. 07 and commiserating him, as he would do a sick man given up by the [266] doctors, he kept silent. But the king continued to speak threatening words to him.

54. “And in this manner your body shall be cut to pieces until death. Desist from your hypocritical penance, and leave that villainous forgery.”

The Bodhisattva made no answer. He understood him to be deaf to admonition and had learnt his obstinacy. Then the king successively and in the same way cut off the other hand of the High-minded One, both his arms, his ears and nose, and his feet.

55. Yet that foremost of Munis did not feel sorrow or anger, when the sharp sword fell down on his body. His knowledge that the machinery of his body must eventually come to an end, and his habitual practice of forbearance against everybody made him so strong.

56. In consequence of its habitual friendliness, the mind of that virtuous one was inaccessible to the sense of sorrow on account of himself. Even while he saw his limbs being cut off, his forbearance remained unshaken, but that he saw the king fallen from Righteousness, made him sore with grief.

57. Verily, the compassionate who are great in retaining their tranquillity throughout are not so much afflicted by pain arising in themselves, as they grieve on account of the suffering of others.

58. But the king, after performing that cruel deed, was anon caught by a fire-like fever, and when he went out of the gardens, earth on a sudden opened and swallowed him.

After swallowing the king, the earth continued to make a fearful noise, and fiery flames appeared in the opening. This caused great consternation all around, and perplexed and alarmed the royal attendants. The king's ministers, knowing the grandeur of the penance power of that Muni and imputing to it the catastrophe of the king, were affected with anxiety, lest that holy Ṛṣi should burn down the whole country on account of the king. Thus apprehending, they went up to the holy Ṛṣi, and bowing to him entreated him with folded hands to be propitious. [267]

59. “May that king, who impelled by his infatuated mind has put thee into this state by an exceedingly rash action, be alone the fuel for the fire of thy curse. Pray, do not burn his town!

60. Pray, do not destroy for his fault innocent people, women and children, the old and the sick, the Brāhmans and the poor! Rather shouldst thou, being a lover of virtues, preserve both the realm of that king and thy own righteousness.”

In reply to this, the Bodhisattva comforted them: “Do not fear,” he said, “sirs.

61, 62. As to that king who just cut off with his sword my hands and feet, my ears and nose, maiming an innocent ascetic living in the forest, how should a person like me aim at his hurt or conceive even such a thought? May that king live long and no evil befall him!

63. A being subject to sorrow, death and sickness, subdued by cupidity and hatred, consumed by his evil actions, is a person to be pitied. Who ought to get angry with such a one?

64. And should that line of conduct Viz. indulging in anger and cursing that king. The curse of a Ṛṣi, who has obtained supernatural power by his penance, is a dreadful weapon. 08 be ever so preferable, O that his sin might ripen (its unavoidable result) in detriment of no other but me! For to people accustomed to pleasure meeting with suffering, even for a short time, is keen and unbearable.

65. But now, as I am unable to protect that king who annihilated in this manner his own happiness, for what reason should I give up that state of powerlessness of myself and indulge in hatred against him?

66. Even without a king's intervention, everybody born has to deal with sufferings, arising from death, and so on. Therefore in this (series of evils), it is birth alone which one has to oppose. In other words, one has to strive for final extinction. 09 For this not being, what suffering may there arise and from whence?

67. For many kalpas I have lost my worthless [268] body in manifold ways in numbers of existences. How is it that I should give up forbearance on account of the destruction of that frame? Would it not be as if I were to give up a jewel of the first water for a straw?

68. Dwelling in the forest, bound to my vow of world-renunciation, a preacher of forbearance and soon a prey to death, how should I feel the desire of revenge? Do not fear me any longer, then, peace be to you, go!”

69. After thus instructing and at the same time admitting them as disciples in the Lore of the pious, that foremost of Munis, who kept his constancy unshaken owing to his relying on forbearance, left his earthly residence and mounted to Heaven.

So then, indeed, to those who have wholly imbibed the virtue of forbearance and are great in keeping their tranquillity there is nothing unbearable.

[Thus is to be said when discoursing on the virtue of forbearance, taking the Muni for example.

On account of the vices of rashness and wrath, taking the king for example, this story is also to be told.

And when expounding the miserable consequences of sensual pleasures, saying: “In this manner sensual pleasures lead a man to become addicted to wicked behaviour which brings him into ruin.”

It may also be told with the object of showing the inconstancy of material prosperity.]

This story is also extant in the Avadānakalpalatā, in pallava 38, as appears from the Anukramaṇī, verse 15 (yaḥ kṣāntiśīlaḥ śāntyābhuc chinnāṅgo 'py avikāravān), but this part of the work has as yet not been published nor is it found in the Cambridge MSS.