Ja 5 Taṇḍulanālijātaka
The Story about the Measure of Rice (1s)
Alternative Title: Taṇḍulanāḷijātaka (Cst)
In the present a foolish monk manages to become steward for the Saṅgha, but doesn’t understand how to properly value the distribution. The Buddha shows how he was also a fool in the past by telling the story of a valuer who was easily bribed into giving wrong prices.
The Bodhisatta = the wise valuer (paṇḍita-agghāpanika),
Lāludāyī = the foolish village valuer (gāmikabāla-agghāpanika).
Keywords: Honesty, Truth
“Do you ask how much a peck of rice is worth?”
At that time the venerable Dabba, the Mallian, was steward to the Saṅgha. See Vinaya, Vol. iii. p. 158. When in the early morning Dabba was allotting the checks for rice, sometimes it was choice rice and sometimes it was an inferior quality which fell to the share of the elder Udāyi. On days when he received the inferior quality, he used to make a commotion in the check-room, by demanding, “Is Dabba the only one who knows how to give out checks? Don’t we know?” One day when he was making a commotion, they handed him the check-basket, saying: “Here! You give the checks out yourself today!” Thenceforth, it was Udāyi who gave out the checks to the Saṅgha. But, in his distribution, he could not tell the best from the inferior rice; nor did he know what seniority Compare Vinaya, Vol. ii. p. 167, and commentary thereon (Sāmantapāsādikā) for the right of seniors, according to the roster, to be served first. The steward was to call out the roster. was entitled to the best rice and what to the inferior. So too, when he was making out the roster, he had not an idea of the seniority of the monks thereon. Consequently, when the monks took up their places, he made a mark on the ground or on the wall to show that one detachment stood here, and another there. Next day there were fewer monks of one grade and more of another in the check-room; where there were fewer, the mark was too low down; where the number was greater, it was too high up. But Udāyi, quite ignorant of detachments, gave out the checks simply according to his old marks.
Hence, the monks said to him, “Friend Udāyi, the mark is too high up or too low down; the best rice is for those of such and such a seniority, and the inferior quality for such and such others.” But he put them back with the argument, “If this mark is where it is, what are you standing here for? Why am I to trust you? It’s my mark I trust.”
Then, the boys and novices
Hearing the noise, the Teacher asked the elder Ānanda, saying: “Ānanda, there is a great uproar in the check-room. What is the noise about?”
The elder explained it all to the Tathāgata. “Ānanda,” said he, “this is not the only time when Udāyi by his stupidity has robbed others of their profit; he did just the same thing in bygone times too.”
The elder asked the Fortunate One for an explanation, and the Fortunate One made clear what had been concealed by rebirth.
In the past Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares in Kāsi. In those days our Bodhisatta was his valuer. He used to value horses, elephants, and the like; and jewels, gold, and the like; and he used to pay over to the owners of the goods the proper price, as he fixed it.
But the king was greedy and his greed suggested to him this thought: “This valuer with his style of valuing will soon exhaust all the riches in my house; I must get another valuer.” Opening his window and looking out into his courtyard, he espied walking across a stupid, greedy person in whom he saw a likely candidate for the post. So the king had the man sent for, and asked him whether he could do the work. “Oh yes,” said the man; and so, to safeguard the royal treasure, this stupid fellow was appointed valuer. After this the fool, in valuing elephants and horses and the like, used to fix a price dictated by his own fancy, neglecting their true worth; but, as he was valuer, the price was what he said and no other.
At that time there arrived from the north country In the Ceylon R.A.S.J. 1884, p. 127, it is argued from the indefinite use of uttarāpatha for all countries north of Benares that the date of writing must be before the 3rd century B.C., when Buddhistic embassies were sent to Mysore and North Canara and when the Dakṣiṇāpatha was familiar. a horse-dealer with 500 horses. The king sent for his new valuer and bade him value the horses. And the price he set on the whole 500 horses was just one measure of rice, which he ordered to be paid over to the dealer, directing the horses to be led off to the stable.
Readily following the Bodhisatta’s advice, the horse-dealer bribed the man and put the question to him. The other, having expressed his ability to value a measure of rice, was promptly taken to the palace, whither also went the Bodhisatta and many other ministers. With due obeisance the horse-dealer said: “Sire, I do not dispute it that the price of 500 horses is a single measure of rice; but I would ask your majesty to question your valuer as to the value of that measure of rice.” Ignorant of what had passed, the king said to the fellow, “Valuer, what are 500 horses worth?” “A measure of rice, sire,” was the reply. “Very good, my friend; if 500 horses then are worth one measure of rice, what is that measure of rice worth?” “It is worth all Benares and its suburbs,” was the fool’s reply.
(Thus we learn that, having first valued the horses at a measure of hill-paddy to please the king, he was bribed by the horse-dealer to estimate that measure of rice at the worth of all Benares and its suburbs. And that though the walls of Benares were twelve leagues round by themselves, while the city and suburbs together were three hundred leagues round!
Hereupon the ministers clapped their hands and laughed merrily. “We used to think,” they said in scorn, “that the earth and the realm were beyond price; but now we learn that the kingdom of Benares together with its king is only worth a single measure of rice! What talents the valuer has! How has he retained his post so long? But truly the valuer suits our king admirably.”
Then the Bodhisatta repeated this verse: The text of this verse does not occur in Fausböll’s Pāli text, but is given by Léon Feer at page 520 of the Journal Asiatique for 1876 and is embodied in the ‘Corrections and Additions’ of Fausböll. That the verse originally formed part of the Sinhalese recension is shown by the quotation of the opening words as the ‘catchword’ at the Commencement of the Jātaka. See also Dickson in Ceylon Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 1884, p. 185.
1. “Do you ask how much a peck of rice is worth?
Why, all Benares, both within and out.
Yet, strange to tell, five hundred horses too
Are worth precisely this same peck of rice!”
Thus put to open shame, the king sent the fool packing, and gave the Bodhisatta the office again. And when his life closed, the Bodhisatta passed away to fare according to his deeds.
His lesson ended and the two stories told, the Teacher made the connection linking both together, and identified the Jātaka by saying in conclusion, “Udāyi the Dullard was the stupid rustic valuer of those days, and I myself the wise valuer.”
last updated: November 2021