Jātakamālā or Garland of Birth Stories

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32. The Story of Ayogṛha That ayogṛha is the name of the prince, not an appellative, appears from the Pāli recensions. He was named so, since he was brought up in the ‘iron house’ (ayogṛha). (Saṁvega)
(Compare the Pāli Jātaka, No. 510, Fausböll IV, 491-499; Cariyāpiṭaka III, 3)

To those, whose mind has been seized by emotion, Saṁvignamānasām; compare note on p. 280. even the brilliancy of royalty does not obstruct the way to salvation. Thus considering, one must make one’s self familiar with the emotional state (saṁvega), as will be taught in the following.

At that time, when our Lord was still a Bodhisattva, seeing the world exposed to the assaults of hundreds of calamities: diseases, old age, death, separation from beloved persons, and so on, and understanding that it was woe-begone, without protector, without help, without guidance, He was impelled by His compassion to take the determination of saving the creatures according to His exceedingly good nature, bringing about again and again the good and the highest happiness even to people averse to him and unknown to him.

At that time, then, he once took his birth, it is said, in a certain royal family distinguished for their modest behaviour and their surpassing lustre, which, in consequence of their intentness on possessing the affection of their subjects, was manifested by their [315] increasing prosperity and riches without hindrance, as well as by the submissiveness of their proud vassals. His very birth adorned both that court and that capital, always sympathising with their princes in weal and woe, with the brilliant show of a festival day.

1, 2. (At the court) a large distribution of gifts filled the hands and satisfied the minds of Brāhmans, and the attendants were proud of their very brilliant festival garments. Apparently the attendants had received that new attire as a present. (Outside the palace) the streets resounded with the tones of many instruments and with the blending noise of singing, jesting, laughing, as the gladness of the hearts manifested itself by various merriment, dancing, and wantonness.

Everywhere people meeting told each other with exultation and embraces the happy news, which gave them the same contentment as a present, and they magnified the felicity of their king.

3. The doors of the prisons were opened, and the prisoners set at liberty. Flags floating at the tops of the houses decorated the places, and the ground was covered with fragrant powders and flowers, and moistened with spirituous liquors. So adorned, the town bore the lovely and bright appearance of a festival.

4. From the splendid dwellings of the wealthy abundant showers of different goods: clothes, gold, jewels and so on poured down, so that it seemed as if Felicity, doing her best to pervade the world with lovely sport imitated Gaṅgā in madness. The presents strewed about are compared either with the cascade of the Ganges at Gaṅgādvāra, where the river rushes into the valley, or with the mythological account of Gaṅgā hurling down from heaven to earth at the instance of Bhagīratha.

Now at that time it happened as a rule that every prince born to the king soon died. Supposing that rule to be the effect of goblin-power, In the Pāli redaction the new-born children are in fact carried away by a goblin, a Yakkhīnī. he ordered, with [316] the object of saving the life of that son, the building which was to serve for lying-in chamber to be wholly constructed of iron, (though) ornamented with magnificent figures wrought of jewels, gold, and silver.

The preservative rites destructive of goblins were performed there according to the precepts expounded in the Science of Spirits and ordained by the Veda; and likewise the different customary auspicious ceremonies which have the effect of securing prosperity. As to his son, he had the Jātakarma The king had those sacraments performed by his purohita, the king’s constant and customary representative in sacrificial and ceremonial matters. and the other sacraments performed to him in that iron-house, and let him grow up there. Owing to that most careful guard, but no less to the excellent goodness of his nature and to the power of his store of merit, no goblins overpowered the Great Being.

In course of time, after the sacraments and initiatory rites had been performed, he was instructed by teachers illustrious for their knowledge of the sacred texts, their extraction, and behaviour, who were renowned and honoured as scholars, and attached to the virtues of tranquillity, modesty, and discretion. Having learnt from them many branches of science, and being favoured by the loveliness of youth, which made his figure grow fuller day by day, It is plain that the image of the crescent moon is present to the author’s mind. further displaying that attachment to modesty which was innate in him, he became an object of the greatest love both to his relations and the people at large.

5. People go after a virtuous person, though no relation nor acquaintance of theirs, with the like joy as if they honoured a friend. It is the brilliancy of his virtues which is the cause thereof.

6. In the season of autumn, when the moon freely shooting his beams all around is the laugh of Heaven, say what kind of relation does there exist for the people to Him? [317]

So then the Great Being was enjoying the bliss that had fallen to his share as the effect of the power of his merit. He was petted with plenty of objects of celestial brilliancy standing at his disposal, and his father, who loved him much and bore him high esteem, was no more anxious about him, trusting he would be safe.

Now once on the occasion of the Kaumudī-festival recurring in course of time, it happened that the Bodhisattva was desirous of contemplating the lovely beauty and the display of brilliancy in his capital. Having obtained the permission of his father, he mounted the royal chariot to take a drive. This chariot was embellished with fair ornaments of gold, jewels, and silver; gay flags and banners of various colours were floating aloft on it; its horses well-trained and swift, were adorned with golden trappings; it was driven by a charioteer distinguished for his dexterity, skill, comeliness, honesty, modesty, and firmness, and followed by a retinue adorned with a picturesque and brilliant attire and armour.

Preceded by the delightful tones of musical instruments, the prince with his train passed through the capital in many directions, and let his eyes roam over the spectacle of the streets crowded with townsmen and landsmen in their lovely festival array, who with looks agitated by curiosity, were wholly intent on seeing him, and all along his way received him with praise and worship, folded hands and bent heads, and pronounced blessings over him.

Nevertheless, though the contemplation of this beautiful spectacle was a proper occasion for conceiving a great rejoicing within his mind, he regained by it the remembrance of his former births. So familiar to his nature was the feeling of saṁvega.

7. “Alas” (he thought), “piteous is the state of the world and displeasing because of its unsteadiness. The brilliant splendour of this Kaumudī-day, how soon will it exist but in the memory!

8. And yet, such being the condition of all creatures, how heedless of danger men are, that they hurry after [318] rejoicings with untroubled minds, though every way around them is obstructed by death!

9. Disease, old age and death, three enemies of irresistible strength, stand near ready to strike, and there is no escape from the dreadful world hereafter. How then may there be opportunity for merriment to an intelligent being?

10. The clouds, that poured out streams of water with tremendous noise, almost in anger, imitating, as it were, the uproar of great seas, the clouds with their golden garlands of flashing lightnings, being born of agglomeration come again to dissolution.

11. The rivers, that flowing with increased rapidity carried away trees together with the river-banks, upon which they had their roots, afterwards and in course of time assume again a mean appearance, as if they were burnt away by sorrow.

12. The violence of the wind, too, blowing down peaks of mountains, dispersing masses of clouds, rolling and stirring up the waves of the ocean, becomes extinguished.

13. With high and blazing flame sparkling about, the fire destroys the grass, then it abates and ceases. By turns the different beauties of the groves and forests appear and disappear, as time goes on.

14. What union does there exist which has not its end in separation? what felicity which is not liable to mishap? This sentence is expressed in a similar way in a śloka, recurring several times in Divyāvadāna (ed. Cowell, p. 27; 100; 486): sarve kṣayāntā nicayāḥ; patanāntāḥ samucchrayāḥ; saṁyogā viprayogāntā; maraṇāntaṁ ca jīvitam. [All that is accumulated ends in destruction; what goes up falls down; what is joined ends in separation, life ends in death.] Cp. also supra, Story VI, stanza 7. Since inconstancy, then, is proper to the course of worldly things, that mirth of the multitude is a very thoughtless one.”

In this manner the High-minded One reasoned within himself. Utterly touched with emotion, his heart became averse to that rejoicing and festival mirth; he paid no longer attention to the groups of people, however picturesque, flocking to embellish [319] the capital. In this disposition of mind he perceived that he had already returned to his palace.

His emotion increased still by this, and considering that there is no other refuge but Righteousness, since it is unconcerned with sensual pleasures, he made up his mind to embrace the state of a virtuous life. At the first opportunity he visited the king, his father, and with folded hands asked leave to set out for the penance-forest.

15. “By taking the vow of world-renunciation I wish to bring about the good of my Self, and I want your leave which I shall hold for a favour and a guidance to this (goal).”

16. On hearing this request of his well-beloved son, the king, as if he were an elephant wounded by an empoisoned arrow or a deep sea shaken by the wind, was seized with shivering, for his heart was sore through grief.

17. And desiring to withhold him, he embraced him affectionately, and in a faltering voice obstructed by his tears spoke: “My son, why have you made up your mind to leave us so suddenly?

18. Who is that man who, being a cause of displeasure to you, causes his own ruin, rousing in this manner Death (against himself)? Say, whose relations have to wet their faces with tears of sorrow?

19. Or do you perhaps apprehend, or have you heard of, any improper act of mine? Then, tell it, that I may put an end to it. But I myself do not perceive anything of the kind.”

The Bodhisattva spoke:

20. “What improper act may be found in you, being thus intent to show me your affection? And who would be capable of assailing me with grief?”

“But why then do you want to leave us?” replied the king with tears.

Then the Great Being answered: “Because of the peril of death. Do but consider, Your Majesty.

21. From the very night when a man obtains his residence in the maternal womb, he moves towards [320] death, O hero among men, marching without interruption in that direction day after day.

22. May a man be ever so skilled in the management of his affairs, ever so strong, nobody escapes Death or Old Age, both of whom infest every place in this world. For this reason I will resort to the forest to lead a virtuous life.

23. Haughty princes vanquish by bold attack whole armies in splendid battle-array of footmen, horse, chariots, and elephants; but they are powerless to defeat that enemy named Death, though he is alone. Therefore I am resolved on taking my refuge in Righteousness.

24. Guarded by their forces made up of brisk horses and elephants and footmen and chariots, princes succeed in making their escape from their enemies; but all princes since Manu, together with their armies succumbed helplessly to the superior power of that enemy whose name is Death.

25. Furious elephants crush in battle with their pestle-like tusks the gates of towns, the bodies of men, chariots, and other elephants. Yet the same tusks that were victorious even over town-walls will not push back Death, when that foe rushes on them.

26. Skilled archers pierce their enemies with their arrows in battle, though distant and sheltered by shield and armour strong and artfully wrought; but they never hit that enemy of old, named Death.

27. Lions may abate the martial lustre of elephants, plunging their cutting claws in their frontal globes, and with their roarings they may pierce the ears and frighten the hearts of their adversaries; but when they encounter Death, their insolence and strength are broken, and they fall asleep.

28. Kings inflict punishment on their enemies having sinned against them according to the measure of their guilt; but if that enemy whose name is Death has greatly sinned against them, they do not think of enforcing their law-sentences upon him.

29. Likewise kings may conquer a foe who has [321] offended them by means of the (well-known) expedients: conciliation and the rest; but Death, that ferocious enemy, whose insolence is strengthened by the long duration of his hatred, is not to be subdued with such craft.

30. Serpents in wrath bite men, and the poison of their pointed teeth has the burning effect of a fire blazing awfully, kindled as it is by their anger; but against Death, though always clever in doing harm and therefore deserving of punishment, their effort of biting is deficient.

31. If a man has been bitten by serpents, however furious, medical men will appease the poison by means of charms and medicines; but Death is a serpent with imperishable teeth and irresistible poison, his power cannot be put down by charms, medicines and the like.

32. Garuḍas will stir up the abode of crowds of playing fishes, shaking with the flapping of their wings the water out of the seas with a thunder-like dreadful noise, then seize the serpents with their outstretched fangs; yet they are unable to destroy Death in that boisterous manner.

33. Tigers by their surpassing swiftness overtake the deer of the forest running away with fear, and easily crushing them upon the earth, as if playing, with the thunderbolt of their unequalled claws, drink their blood; but they have no skill to proceed in the same way with Death.

34. It may happen perchance that a deer having come within the reach of a tiger’s mouth with its tremendous teeth, makes his escape even then. But who, having reached the mouth of Death with the big teeth named disease or old age or grief, can become sound again?

35. Demons (grahas), deformed and ferocious looking, drink up the vital strength and absorb the lives of the men they hold with a strong grasp; In the Pāli redaction these demons are specified by the names of yakkhā, pisācā, and petā (= Sanskrit pretā), different classes of goblins. but [322] when time has come for them likewise to wage war with Death, they will lose their insolence and ferocity.

36. Such as are masters in magic arts may subdue those demons, if they come up to do harm to godly persons, by the use of penance-power, evil-averting spells, and medicinal herbs; but against that demon, whose name is Death, there is no remedy at all.

37. Such as are skilled in the art of bringing about magical illusions, perplex the eyes of a great assembly. Jugglers may effect illusions of the kind. The fourth act of the Ratnāvalī affords an instance of that indragāla. Yet Death, too, must have still some power, that his eye is not bewildered even by those.

38. Both those who by their penance-powerful charms checked the virulence of poison, and the excellent physicians who extinguished the diseases of men, even Dhanvantari and such as he, have dissappeared. Therefore my mind is bent on practising righteousness in the forest.

39. The Vidyādharas, owing to their might made up of manifold spells and powers, make themselves visible and again invisible, go through the air or descend to the earth. Nevertheless, when they meet Death, they too have lost their might.

40. The lords of the Celestials (the Devas) drive back the Asuras in spite of their haughtiness, and themselves in turn in spite of their haughtiness are driven back by the Asuras. Yet, even both armies combined, a host that would march with just pride against any adversary, are not able to vanquish Death.

41. Understanding this ferocity of the nature of Death, our enemy, and his irresistibleness, I am no longer pleased with the life at home. It is not from anger that I leave nor in consequence of diminished affection, but I have resolved upon a life of righteousness in the forest.”

The king said: “But what hope do you set upon the forest-life, the danger of death being thus irremediable? what hope on taking the vow of a holy life?

42. Shall not Death, our enemy, attain you also in [323] the forest? Did not the Ṛṣis die who kept their vows of righteousness in the forest? In every place the course of life you wish to adopt is practicable, indeed. What profit, then, do you see in leaving your home and resorting to the forest?”

The Bodhisattva spoke:

43. “No doubt, Death equally visits those at home and those in the forest, the righteous as well as the vicious. Yet the righteous have no reason for remorse, and righteousness is nowhere easier to be attained than in the forest, to be sure.

Will Your Majesty deign to consider this?

44. The house is an abode of carelessness (about one’s moral and religious duties), of infatuation, sensual love, concupiscence, hatred, of everything contrary to righteousness. What opportunity of applying one’s self to it may be found at home?

45. A householder is distracted by many bad occupations; the care of earning and guarding his goods agitates his mind, which is also troubled by calamities arising or approaching. At what time may a householder take the way of tranquillity?

46. In the forest, on the other hand, after leaving that multitude of bad occupations and being freed from the troublesome care of worldly goods, a man is at his ease and may strive for tranquillity exclusively and with a satisfied mind. So he will come to happiness and righteousness and glory.

47. Not his wealth nor his power preserves a man, nothing but his righteousness. It is righteousness that procures him great happiness, not the possession of a large estate. And to a righteous man death cannot but procure gladness. For no fear of mishap exists for him who is devoted to a holy life.

48. And as good and evil are distinguished by their different characteristic marks and separated from each other by the discrepancy of the actions belonging to each, in the same way the result, too, of wickedness is mishap, but that of beautiful righteousness a happy state.” [324]

In this manner the Great-minded One persuaded his father. He obtained his father’s permission and renouncing his brilliant royal bliss, as if it were a straw, took up his abode in the penance-grove. Having acquired there dhyānas of immense extent and established mankind in them, he mounted to Brahma’s world.

In this manner even the brilliancy of royalty does not obstruct the way of salvation to those whose mind has been seized by emotion. Thus considering, one must make one’s self familiar with the emotional state (saṁvega).

[This is also to be told, when expounding the right conception of death: “So the thought that one may die soon causes the sense of saṁvega.”

Likewise, when expounding that death should always be present to our mind, and when teaching the temporariness of everything: “So all phenomena Anityāḥ sarvasaṁskārāḥ, one of the most popular sayings of the Lord. are perishable.”

Also, when inculcating the tenet of taking no delight in the whole Universe: “So nothing which has form (saṁskṛta) Properly speaking, the saṁskṛta is the phenomenon, and the saṁskārāḥ are the ‘fashions’ or ‘forms’ of the perceptible objects as well as of the perceiving mind. But the latter term is not rarely likewise indicative of the things or objects (see Childers, Dictionary, s.v. saṁkhāro), and the former is here nearly a synonym of nāmarūpa. is reliable.”

And also with this conclusion: “So this world is helpless and succourless.”

Also this may be propounded: “In this manner it is easy to obtain righteousness in the forest, but not so for a householder.”]