Ja 4 Cullakaseṭṭhijātaka Compare Chapter xxxv of the Divyāvadāna, edited by Cowell and Neil, 1886. The whole Jātaka, in an abbreviated form, forms the story of ‘The Mouse Merchant’ at pages 33, 34 of the first volume of Tawney’s translation of the Kathāsaritsāgara. See also Kalilah and Dimnah, Chapter xviii. (Knatchbull, page 358).
The Birth Story about the Little Merchant (1s)
Alternative Title: Cūḷakaseṭṭhijātaka (Cst)
In the present the story is told of Mahāpanthaka and his brother, Cullapanthaka. The former, gaining faith, attained easily, while the latter struggled till he was directly guided by the Buddha himself. The Buddha then tells a story showing how, in a previous life, Cullapanthaka had taken his advice and become rich beyond measure.
The Bodhisatta = the wealthy man Cullaka (Cullakaseṭṭhi),
Cullapanthaka = his little pupil (cullantevāsika).
Present Compare: Dhp-a II.3 Cullapanthatthera.
Keywords: Perseverance, Amenability.
“Even with little.”
“What’s this, my dear?” said he.
“I have given birth to a son, my husband,” said she.
Accordingly, as the very thing had now happened which was the only reason for the journey, they both agreed that it was no good going on now, and so turned back again. And as their child had been born by the way, they called him ‘Panthaka.’
Not long after, she was with child again, and everything fell out as before. And as this second child too was born by the way, they called him ‘Panthaka’ too, distinguishing the elder as Mahāpanthaka and the younger as Cullapanthaka. Then, with both their children, they again went back to their own home.
Now, as they were living there, their way-child heard other boys talking of their uncles and grandfathers and grandmothers; so he asked his mother whether he hadn’t got relations like the other boys. “Oh yes, my dear,” said his mother, “but they don’t live here. Your grandfather is a wealthy merchant in the city of Rājagaha, and you have plenty of relations there.” “Why don’t we go there, mother?” She told the boy the reason why they stayed away; but, as the children kept on speaking about these relations, she said to her husband, “The children are always plaguing me. Are my parents going to eat us at sight? Come, let us show the children their grandfather’s family.” “Well, I don’t mind taking them there; but I really could not face your parents.” “All right, so long as, some way or other, the children come to see their grandfather’s family,” said she.
So those two took their children and coming in due course to Rājagaha put up in a public rest-house by the city gate. Then, taking with them the two children, the woman caused their coming to be made known to her parents. The latter, on hearing the message, returned this answer, “True, it is strange to be without children unless one has renounced the world in quest of Arahatship. Still, so great is the guilt of the pair towards us that they may not stand in our sight. Here is a sum of money for them: let them take this and retire to live where they will. But the children they may send here.” Then the merchant’s daughter took the money so sent her, and dispatched the children by the messengers. So the children grew up in their grandfather’s house – Cullapanthaka being of tender years, while Mahāpanthaka used to go with his grandfather to hear the One with Ten Powers preach the Dhamma. And by constant hearing of the Dhamma from the Teacher’s own lips, the lad’s heart yearned to renounce the world for the life of a monk.
“With your permission,” said he to his grandfather, “I should like to join the Saṅgha.” “What do I hear?” cried the old man. “Why, it would give me greater joy to see you join the Saṅgha than to see the whole world join. Become a monk, if you feel able.” And he took him to the Teacher.
“Well, merchant,” said the Teacher, “have you brought your boy with you?” “Yes sir, this is my grandson, who wishes to join your Saṅgha.”
Then the elder admitted the lad Cullapanthaka and established him in the Ten Precepts. But Cullapanthaka proved a dullard: with four months’ study he failed to get by heart this single verse:
“Lo! Like a fragrant lotus at the dawn
Of day, full-blown, with virgin wealth of scent,
Behold the Buddha’s glory shining forth,
As in the vaulted heaven beams the sun!”
For, we are told, in the Buddhahood of Kassapa this Cullapanthaka, having himself attained to knowledge as a monk, laughed to scorn a dull monk who was learning a passage by heart. His scorn so confused the dull monk, that the latter could not learn or recite the passage. And now, in consequence, on joining the Saṅgha he himself proved a dullard. Each new line he learned drove the last out of his memory; and four months slipped away while he was struggling with this single verse. Said his elder brother to him, “Panthaka, you are not equal to receiving this dispensation. In four whole months you have been unable to learn a single verse. How then can you hope to crown your vocation with supreme success? Leave the monastery.” But, though thus expelled by his brother, Cullapanthaka was so attached to the Buddha’s dispensation that he did not want to become a layman.
Now at that time Mahāpanthaka was acting as steward. And Jīvaka Komārabhacca, going to his mango-grove with a large present of perfumes and flowers for the Teacher, had presented his offering and listened to a discourse; then, rising from his seat and bowing to the One with Ten Powers, he went up to Mahāpanthaka and asked, “How many monks are there, venerable sir, with the Teacher?” “Just 500, sir.” “Will you bring the 500 monks, with the Buddha at their head, to take their meal at my house tomorrow?” “Lay disciple, one of them named Cullapanthaka is a dullard and makes no progress in the Faith,” said the elder, “I accept the invitation for everyone but him.”
Hearing this, Cullapanthaka thought to himself, “In accepting the invitation for all these monks, the elder carefully accepts so as to exclude me. This proves that my brother’s affection for me is dead. What have I to do with this dispensation? I will become a layman and live in the exercise of generosity and other good works of a lay person.” And on the morrow early he went forth, avowedly to become a layman again.
Now at the first break of day, as he was surveying the world, the Teacher became aware of this; and going forth even earlier than Cullapanthaka, he paced to and fro by the porch on Cullapanthaka’s road. As the latter came out of the house, he observed the Teacher, and with a salutation went up to him. “Whither away at this hour, Cullapanthaka?” said the Teacher.
“My brother has expelled me from the Saṅgha, sir; and I am going to wander forth.”
“Cullapanthaka, as it was under me that you took the vows, why did you not, when expelled by your brother, come to me? Come, what have you to do with a layman’s life? You shall stay with me.” So saying, he took Cullapanthaka and seated him at the door of his own perfumed chamber. Then giving him a perfectly clean cloth which he had made by his Supernormal Powers, the Teacher said: “Face towards the east, and as you handle this cloth, repeat these words – ‘Removal of Impurity; Removal of Impurity.’ ” Then at the time appointed the Teacher, attended by the Saṅgha, went to Jīvaka’s house and sat down on the seat set for him.
Now Cullapanthaka, with his gaze fixed on the sun, sat handling the cloth and repeating the words, “Removal of Impurity; Removal of Impurity.” And as he kept handling the piece of cloth, it grew soiled. Then he thought: “Just now this piece of cloth was quite clean; but I have destroyed its original state and made it dirty. Impermanent indeed are all compounded things! And even as he realised Death and Decay, he won the Arahat’s Awakening. Knowing that Cullapanthaka’s mind had won Awakening, the Teacher sent forth an apparition and in this semblance of himself appeared before him, as if seated in front of him and saying: “Heed it not, Cullapanthaka, that this mere piece of cloth has become dirty and stained with impurity; within you are the impurities of lust and other evil things. Remove them.” And the apparition uttered these verses:
“Impurity in lust consists, not dirt;
And lust we term the real impurity.
Yea, monks, whoso drives it from his breast,
They live in the stainless dispensation.
Impurity in wrath consists, not dirt;
And wrath we term the real impurity.
Yea, monks, whoso drives it from his breast,
They live in the stainless dispensation.
Delusion is impurity, not dirt;
We term delusion real impurity.
Yea, monks, whoso drives it from his breast,
They live in the stainless dispensation.” [These verses seem to be first quoted in the Mahāniddesa and Cullaniddesa, and then frequently throughout the commentarial system.]
At the close of these verses Cullapanthaka attained to Arahatship with the four analytic knowledges, These four branches were (i) understanding of the sense of the sacred books, (ii) understanding of their ethical truth, (iii) ability to justify an interpretation grammatically, logically & so on, and (iv) the power of public exposition. whereby he straightaway came to have analytic knowledge of all the sacred texts.
Tradition has it that, in ages past, when he was a king and was making a solemn procession round his city, he wiped the sweat from his brow with a spotless cloth which he was wearing; and the cloth was stained. He thought: “It is this body of mine which has destroyed the original purity and whiteness of the cloth, and dirtied it. Impermanent indeed are all composite things.” Thus he grasped the idea of impermanence; and hence it came to pass that it was the removal of impurity which worked his emancipation.
Meantime, Jīvaka Komārabhacca offered the Water of Donation; When a gift was made, the donor poured water over the hand of the donee. The gift that was here made by Jīvaka was the food bestowed on the monastics, as the Milindapañha explains (p. 118) in its version of this story. but the One with Ten Powers put his hand over the vessel, saying: “Are there no monks, Jīvaka, in the monastery?”
Said Mahāpanthaka, “There are no monks there, venerable sir.” “Oh yes, there are, Jīvaka,” said the Teacher. “Hi, there!” said Jīvaka to a servant, “just you go and see whether or not there are any monks in the monastery.”
At that moment Cullapanthaka, conscious as he was that his brother was declaring there were no monks in the monastery, determined to show him there were, and so filled the whole mango-grove with nothing but monks. Some were making robes, others dyeing, while others again were repeating the sacred texts: each of a thousand monks he made unlike all the others. Finding this host of monks in the monastery, the man returned and said that the whole mango-grove was full of monks.
But as regards the elder up in the monastery –
“Panthaka, a thousand-fold self-multiplied,
Sat on, till bidden, in that pleasant grove.”
“Now go back,” said the Teacher to the man, “and say ‘The Teacher sends for him whose name is Cullapanthaka.’ ”
But when the man went and delivered his message, a thousand mouths answered, “I am Cullapanthaka! I am Cullapanthaka!”
Back came the man with the report, “They all say they are ‘Cullapanthaka,’ venerable sir.”
“Well now go back,” said the Teacher, “and take by the hand the first one of them who says he is Cullapanthaka,
When the meal was over, the Teacher said: “Jīvaka, take Cullapanthaka’s bowl; he will return thanks.” Jīvaka did so. Then like a young lion roaring defiance, the elder ranged over the whole of the sacred texts through in his address of thanks. Lastly, the Teacher rose from his seat and attended by the Saṅgha returned to the monastery, and there, after the assignment of tasks by the Saṅgha, he rose from his seat and, standing in the doorway of his perfumed chamber, delivered a Sugata’s discourse to the Saṅgha. Ending with a theme which he gave out for meditation, and dismissing the Saṅgha, he retired into his perfumed chamber, and lay down lion-like on his right side to rest.
At evening, the orange-robed monks assembled together from all sides in the Dhamma Hall and sang the Teacher’s praises, even as though they were spreading a curtain of orange cloth round him as they sat.
“Monks,” it was said: “Mahāpanthaka failed to recognise the bent of Cullapanthaka, and expelled him from the monastery as a dullard who could not even learn a single verse in four whole months. But the All-Knowing Buddha by his supremacy in the Dhamma bestowed on him Arahatship with all its supernatural knowledge, even while a single meal was in progress. And by that knowledge he grasped the whole of the sacred texts. Oh! How great is a Buddha’s power!”
Now the Fortunate One, knowing full well the talk that was going on in the Dhamma Hall, thought it good to go there. So, rising from his Buddha-couch, he donned his two orange robes, girded himself as with lightning, arrayed himself in his upper robe, the ample robe of a Buddha, and came forth to the Dhamma Hall with the infinite grace of a Buddha, moving with the royal gait of an elephant in the plenitude of his vigour. Ascending the glorious Buddha-throne set in the midst of the resplendent hall, he seated himself upon the middle of the throne emitting those six-coloured rays which mark a Buddha – like the newly-arisen sun, when from the peaks of the Yugandhara Mountains he illumines the depths of the ocean. Immediately the Buddha came into the Hall, the Saṅgha broke off their talk and were silent. Gazing round on the company with gentle loving-kindness, the Teacher thought within himself, “This company is perfect! Not a man is guilty of moving a hand or foot improperly; not a sound, not a cough or sneeze is to he heard! In their reverence and awe of the majesty and glory of the Buddha, not a man would dare to speak before I did, even if I sat here in silence all my life long. But it is my part to begin; and I will open the conversation.” Then in his sweet divine tones he addressed the monks and said,
“Sir,” they said, “it was no profitless theme, but your own praises that we were telling here in a meeting.”
And when they had told him word for word what they had been saying, the Teacher said: “Monks, through me Cullapanthaka has just now risen to great things in the Dhamma; in times past it was to great things in the way of wealth that he rose – but equally through me.”
The monks asked the Teacher to explain this; and the Fortunate One made clear in these words a thing which succeeding existences had hidden from them:
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares in Kāsi, the Bodhisatta was born into the Treasurer’s family, and growing up, was made Treasurer, being called Cullakaseṭṭhi. A wise and clever man was he, with a keen eye for signs and omens. One day on his way to wait upon the king, he came on a dead mouse lying on the road; and, taking note of the position of the stars at that moment, he said: “Any decent young fellow with his wits about him has only to pick that mouse up, and he might start a business and keep a wife.”
His words were overheard by a young man of good family but reduced circumstances, who said to himself, “That’s a man who has always got a reason for what he says.” And accordingly he picked up the mouse, which he sold for a farthing at a tavern to feed their cat.
With the farthing he got molasses and took drinking water in a waterpot. Coming on flower-gatherers returning from the forest, he gave each a tiny quantity of the molasses and ladled the water out to them. Each of them gave him a handful of flowers, with the proceeds of which, next day, he came back again to the flower grounds provided with more molasses and a pot of water. That day the flower-gatherers, before they went, gave him flowering plants with half the flowers left on them; and thus in a little while he obtained eight pennies.
Later, one rainy and windy day, the wind blew down a quantity of rotten branches and boughs and leaves in the king’s pleasure gardens, and the gardener did not see how to clear them away.
Having now twenty-four pennies in all, a plan occurred to him. He went to the vicinity of the city-gate with a jar full of water and supplied 500 mowers with water to drink. They said: “You’ve done us a good turn, friend. What can we do for you?” “Oh, I’ll tell you when I want your aid,” said he; and as he went about, he struck up an intimacy with a land-trader and a sea-trader. Said the former to him, “Tomorrow there will come to town a horse-dealer with 500 horses to sell.” On hearing this piece of news, he said to the mowers, “I want each of you today to give me a bundle of grass and not to sell your own grass till mine is sold.” “Certainly,” they said, and delivered the 500 bundles of grass at his house. Unable to get grass for his horses elsewhere, the dealer purchased our friend’s grass for a thousand pieces.
Only a few days later his sea-trading friend brought him news of the arrival of a large ship in port; and another plan struck him. He hired for eight pence a well appointed carriage which plied for hire by the hour, and went in great style down to the port. Having bought the ship on credit and deposited his signet-ring as security, he had a pavilion pitched nearby and said to his people as he took his seat inside, “When merchants are being shown in, let them be passed on by three successive ushers into my presence.”
Actuated by a desire to show his gratitude, he went with one hundred thousand pieces to call on Cullakaseṭṭhi. “How did you come by all this wealth?” asked the Treasurer. “In four short months, simply by following your advice,” replied the young man; and he told him the whole story, starting with the dead mouse.
Thought the Lord High Treasurer Cullakaseṭṭhi, on hearing all this, “I must see that a young fellow of these parts does not fall into anybody else’s hands.” So he married him to his own grown-up daughter and settled all the family estates on the young man. And at the Treasurer’s death, he became Treasurer in that city. And the Bodhisatta passed away to fare according to his deeds.
His lesson ended, the Supreme Buddha, after Fully Awakening, repeated this verse:
1. Appakena pi medhāvī pābhatena vicakkhaṇo,
Samuṭṭhāpeti attānaṁ, aṇuṁ aggiṁ va sandhaman-ti.
Even with little, an intelligent, skilled person, by a present, raises himself up, like a small fire that has been fanned is raised up.
Also the Fortunate One said: “It is through me, monks, that Cullapanthaka has just now risen to great things in the Faith, as in times past to great things in the way of wealth.” His lesson thus finished, the Teacher made the connection between the two stories he had told and identified the Jātaka in these concluding words, “Cullapanthaka was in those days the pupil of Cullakaseṭṭhi, and I myself the Lord High Treasurer.”
last updated: August 2023