Ja 8 Gāmanijātaka
The Birth Story about (Prince) Gāmani (1s)
Alternative Title: Gāmaṇijātaka (Cst)
In the present a monk goes to the forest and strives, but fails to attain. When brought to the Buddha he is reproved and told about a previous life where, though the youngest of a hundred sons of the king of Benares, he won the affection of all and attained precedence through his efforts.
The Bodhisatta = the minister who gave advice (ovādadāyako amacco),
the monk (who gave up striving) = the great king Saṁvara (Saṁvaramahārājā).
Present Source: Ja 462 Saṁvarajātaka,
Quoted at: Ja 156 Alīnacittajātaka,
Past Compare: Ja 462 Saṁvarajātaka.
Keywords: Justice, Effort.
“By proceeding steadily.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana about a monk who gave up persevering. In this Jātaka both the Story of the Present and the Story of the Past will be given in the Eleventh Book in connection with the Saṁvarajātaka [Ja 462]; [In that Jātaka the prince is called Saṁvara. Here I include the story but modify the name to match the hero in this story.] the incidents are the same both for that Jātaka and for this, but the verses are different.
This, we learn, was a young man of family, who lived in Sāvatthi. Having heard the Teacher’s discoursing, he renounced the world. Fulfilling the tasks imposed by his teachers and preceptors, he learned by heart both the Pātimokkhas. [It means the rules for both monks and nuns.]
When five years were past, he said: “When I have been instructed in the mode of attaining Absorption, I will go dwell in the forest.” Then he took leave of his teachers and preceptors, and proceeded to a frontier village in the kingdom of Kosala. The people were pleased with his behaviour, and he made a hut of leaves and there was attended to.
Entering upon the rainy season, zealous, eager, striving in strenuous endeavour he strove after Absorption for the space of three months: but of this not a trace could he produce. Then he thought: “Verily I am the most devoted to worldly conditions among the four classes of men taught by the Teacher! What have I to do with living in the forest?” Then he said to himself, “I will return to Jetavana, and there in beholding the beauty of the Tathāgata, and hearing his discourse sweet as honey, I will pass my days.” So he relaxed his striving; and setting forth he came in course of time to Jetavana. His preceptors and teachers, his friends and acquaintances asked him the cause of his coming. He informed them, and they reproved him for it, asking him why he had done so.
Then they led him into the Teacher’s presence. “Why, monks,” said the Teacher, “do you lead here a monk against his will?” They replied, “This monk has come here because he has relaxed his striving.” “Is this true, as they tell me?” asked the Teacher. “Yes, sir,” said the man. Said the Teacher, “Why have you ceased to strive, monk? For a weak and slothful man there is in this dispensation no high fruition, no becoming an Arahat: they only who make strenuous effort accomplish this. In days long gone by you were full of strength, easy to teach: and in this way, though the youngest of all the hundred sons of the king of Benares, by holding fast to the admonition of wise men you obtained the white umbrella.” So saying, he told a story of the past.
In the past, when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, the youngest of his hundred sons was named prince Gāmani. The king gave his sons in charge each of a separate courtier, with directions to teach them each what they ought to learn. The courtier who instructed the prince Gāmani was the Bodhisatta, wise, learned, filling a father’s place to the king’s son. As each of the sons was educated, the courtiers brought them for the king to see. The king gave them each a province, and let them go.
When the prince Gāmani had been perfected in all learning, he asked the Bodhisatta, “Dear father, if my father sends me to a province, what am I to do?” He replied, “My son, when a province is offered you, you should refuse it, and say, My lord, I am the youngest of all: if I go too, there will be no one about your feet: I will remain where I am, at your feet.” Then one day, when prince Gāmani had saluted him, and was standing on one side, the king asked him, “Well, my son, have you finished your learning?” “Yes, my lord.” “Choose a province.” “My lord, there will be emptiness about your feet: let me remain here at your feet, and in no other place!” The king was pleased, and consented.
After that he remained there at the king’s feet; and again asked the Bodhisatta, “What else am I to do, father?” “Ask the king,” said he, “for some old park.” The prince complied, and asked for a park: with the fruits and flowers that there grew he made friends with the powerful men in the city. Again he asked what he was to do. “Ask the king’s leave, my son,” said the Bodhisatta, “to distribute the food-money within the city.” So he did, and without the least neglect of any person he distributed the food-money within the city. Again he asked the Bodhisatta’s advice, and after soliciting the king’s consent, distributed food within the palace to the servitors and the horses and to the army, without any omission: to messengers come from foreign countries he assigned their lodging and so forth, for merchants he fixed the taxes, all that had to be arranged he did alone. Thus following the advice of the Great Being, he made friends with everybody, those in the household and those without, all in the city, the subjects of the kingdom, strangers, by his winsomeness binding them to him as it were by a band of iron: to all of them he was dear and beloved.
When in due time the king lay on his deathbed, the courtiers asked him, “When you are dead, my lord, to whom shall we give the white umbrella?” “Friends,” said he, “all my sons have a right to the white umbrella. But you may give it to him that pleases your mind.” So after his death, and when the obsequies had been performed, on the seventh day they gathered together, and said: “Our king bade us give the Umbrella to him that pleases our mind. He that our mind desires is prince Gāmani.” Over him therefore they uplifted the white umbrella with its festoons of gold, escorted by his kinsmen.
The Great king Gāmani cleaving to the advice of the Bodhisatta reigned in righteousness.
The other ninety nine princes heard that their father was dead, and that the Umbrella had been uplifted over Gāmani. “But he is the youngest of all,” said they, “the Umbrella does not belong to him. Let us uplift the Umbrella over the eldest of us all.” They all joined forces, and sent a letter to Gāmani, bidding him resign the Umbrella or fight; then they surrounded the city. The king told this news to the Bodhisatta, and asked what he was to do now. He answered, “Great king, you must not fight with your brothers. Divide the treasure belonging to your father into a hundred portions, and to your brothers send ninety-nine of them, with this message, “Accept this share of your father’s treasure, for fight with you I will not.” So he did.
Then the eldest of all the brothers, prince Uposatha by name, summoned the rest together, and said to them, “Friends, there is no one able to overcome the king; and this our youngest brother, though he has been our enemy, does not remain so: but he sends us his wealth, and refuses to fight with us. Now we cannot all uplift the Umbrella at the same moment; let us uplift it over one only, and let him alone be king; so when we see him, we will hand over the royal treasure to him, and return to our own provinces.” Then all these princes raised the siege of the city, and entered it, foes no longer. And the king told his courtiers to welcome them, and sent them to meet the princes. The princes with a great following entered on foot, and mounting the steps of the palace, and using all humility towards the great king Gāmani, sat down in a lowly place. King Gāmani was seated under the white umbrella upon a throne: great magnificence was his, and great pomp; what place soever he looked upon, trembled and quaked. Prince Uposatha seeing the magnificence of the mighty king Gāmani, thought to himself, “Our father, I think, knew that prince Gāmani would be king after his decease, and therefore gave us provinces and gave him none,” then addressing him, repeated three verses:
Your nature, mighty monarch, sure the lord of men well knew:
The other princes honoured he, but nothing gave to you.
While the king lived was it, or when a god to heaven he went,
That seeing their own benefit, your kinsmen gave consent?
Say by what power, O Gāmani, you stand above your kin:
Why do your brothers not unite from you the place to win?
On hearing this, king Gāmani repeated six verses to explain his own character:
Because, O prince, I never grudge great sages what is meet:
Ready to pay them honour due, I fall before their feet.
Me envying none, and apt to learn all conduct meet and right,
Wise sages each good precept teach in which they take delight.
I listen to the bidding of these sages great and wise:
My heart is bent to good intent, no counsel I despise.
Elephant troops and chariotmen, guard royal, infantry –
I took no toll of daily dole, but paid them all their fee.
Great nobles and wise counsellors waiting on me are found;
With food, wine, water (so they boast) Benares does abound.
Thus merchants prosper, and from many a realm they come and go,
And I protect them. Now the truth, Uposatha, you know.
Prince Uposatha listened to this account of his character, and then repeated two verses:
Then be above your kith and kin, and rule in righteousness,
So wise and prudent, Gāmani, your brothers you shall bless.
Your treasure-heaps your brothers will defend, and you shall be
Safe from your foes as Sakka’s self from his arch enemy. The king of the Asuras.
1. Api ataramānānaṁ phalāsā va samijjhati,
Vipakkabrahmacariyosmi, evaṁ jānāhi Gāmaṇī ti.
By proceeding steadily the one who desires the fruit succeeds, I have the fruit of the spiritual life, know this, Gāmaṇi.
Seven or eight days after he had become king, all his brothers departed to their own homes. King Gāmani, after ruling his kingdom in righteousness, passed away to fare according to his deeds. The Bodhisatta also passed away to fare according to his deeds.
His lesson ended, the Teacher preached the Truths, at the close whereof the faint-hearted monk became an Arahat. Having told the two stories, the Teacher showed the connection linking them both together and identified the Jātaka.
last updated: August 2023