Ja 9 Makhādevajātaka See Majjhima-Nikāya, 83 entitled the Makhādevasutta. See also Cariyāpiṭaka, p. 76, and Plate xlviii (2) of the Stūpa of Bharhut, where the name is carved Maghadeva, a spelling which is retained in modern Burmese manuscripts of the Majjhima Sutta from which this Jātaka was manifestly compiled.
The Story about (King) Makhadeva (1s)
Alternative Title: Maghadevajātaka (Cst)
In the present, after the Buddha’s Awakening the monks are discussing his Great Renunciation; the Buddha then tells the story of a previous life where upon the sight of just one grey hair, he renounced the world.
The Bodhisatta = the king (of Videha) Makhadeva (Makhadevarājā),
Rāhula = the (king’s) son (putta),
Ānanda = the barber (kappaka).
Past Compare: Cp 6 Nimirājacariyā, MN 83 Makhādevasutta.
Keywords: Renunciation, Insight, Devas.
“Lo! These grey hairs.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana about the Great Renunciation, which has already been related in the Nidānakathā. See p. 61 et seq. of Vol. i. of Fausböll’s text for this account of how Prince Siddhattha, the future Buddha, renounced the world for the Truth. [Nidānakathā p. 61-65. I give an abbreviated version of it here.]
...the future Buddha, making light of the kingdom of the world, thus within his reach – casting it away as one would saliva – left the city with great honour on the full-moon day of Āsāḷhi, when the moon was in the Uttarāsāḷha lunar mansion (i.e. on the [last day of the lunar month in] July)...
For then, they say, Devas in front of him carried sixty thousand torches, and behind him too, and on his right hand, and on his left...
Advancing in this pomp and glory, the Bodhisatta, in that one night, passed beyond three kingdoms, and arrived, at the end of thirty leagues, at the bank of the river called Anomā...
Now the Bodhisatta, stopping at the river side, asked Channa, “What is this river called?”
“Its name, my lord, is Anomā.”
“And so also our renunciation of the world shall be called Anomā (Illustrious),” said he; and signalling to his horse, by pressing it with his heel, the horse sprang over the river, five or six hundred yards in breadth, and stood on the opposite bank.
The Bodhisatta, getting down from the horse’s back, stood on the sandy beach, extending there like a sheet of silver, and said to Channa, “Good Channa, do you now go back, taking my ornaments and Kanthaka. I am going to become an ascetic.”
“But I also, my lord, will become an ascetic.”
“You cannot be allowed to renounce the world, you must go back,” he said. Three times he refused this request of Channa’s; and he delivered over to him both the ornaments and Kanthaka.
Then he thought: “These locks of mine are not suited for a mendicant. Now it is not right for any one else to cut the hair of a future Buddha, so I will cut them off myself with my sword.” Then, taking his sword in his right hand, and holding the plaited tresses, together with the diadem on them, with his left, he cut them off. So his hair was thus reduced to two inches in length, and curling from the right, it lay close to his head. It remained that length as long as he lived, and the beard the same. There was no need at all to shave either hair or beard any more.
The Bodhisatta, saying to himself, “If I am to become a Buddha, let it stand in the air; if not, let it fall to the ground;” threw the hair and diadem together as he held them towards the sky...
Again the Bodhisatta thought: “This my raiment of Benares muslin is not suitable for a mendicant.” Now the Deva Ghaṭikāra, who had formerly been his friend in the time of Kassapa, the One with Ten Powers, was led by his friendship, which had not grown old in that long interval, to think, “Today my friend is accomplishing the Great Renunciation, I will go and provide him with the requisites of a mendicant.”
273. “The three robes, and the alms bowl,
Razor, needle, and girdle,
And a water strainer – these eight
Are the wealth of the monk devout.”
Taking these eight requisites of a mendicant, he gave them to him. The Bodhisatta dressed himself in the outward signs of an Arahat, and adopted the sacred garb of Renunciation; and he enjoined upon Channa to go and, in his name, assure his parents of his safety. And Channa did homage to the Bodhisatta reverently, and departed.
On this occasion the monks sat praising the Renunciation of the One with Ten Powers. Entering the Dhamma Hall and seating himself on the Buddha-seat, the Teacher thus addressed the monks, “What is your theme, monks, as you sit here in a meeting?” “It is naught else, sir, than the praise of your own Renunciation.” “Monks,” rejoined the Teacher, “not only in these latter days has the Tathāgata The meaning of this frequently recurring title of the Buddha is far from clear, and the obscurity is deepened by the elaborate gloss of Buddhaghosa at pp. 59-68 of the Sumaṅgalavilāsinī, where eight different interpretations are given. Perhaps the word may mean ‘He who has trod the path which the earlier Buddhas trod’; but there is much to be said for the view put forward on p. 82 of Vol. xiii. of the Sacred Books of the East, that the meaning is ‘He who has arrived there,’ i.e. at emancipation. made a Renunciation; in bygone days too he similarly renounced the world.” The monks asked the Fortunate One for an explanation of this. The Fortunate One made clear what had been concealed from them by rebirth.
In the past in Mithilā in the realm of Videha there was a king named Makhādeva, who was righteous and ruled righteously. For successive periods of eighty-four thousand years he had respectively amused himself as prince, ruled as viceroy, and reigned as king. All these long years had he lived, when one day he said to his barber, “Tell me, friend barber, when you see any grey hairs in my head.” So one day, years and years after,
To his barber he gave the grant of a village, which yielded a hundred thousand pieces of money. He sent for his eldest son and said to him, “My son, grey hairs are come upon me, and I am become old. I have had my fill of human joys, and fain would taste the joys divine; the time for my renunciation has come. Take the sovereignty upon yourself; as for me, I will take up my abode in the pleasure gardens called Makhādeva’s Mango-grove, and there tread the ascetic’s path.”
As he was thus bent on leading the monk’s life, his ministers drew near and said: “What is the reason, sire, why you adopt the monk’s life?”
Taking the grey hair in his hand, the king repeated this verse to his ministers:
1. “Lo, these grey hairs that on my head appear
Are Death’s own messengers that come to rob
My life. ’Tis time I turned from worldly things,
And in the ascetic’s path sought saving peace.”
And after these words, he renounced his sovereignty that self-same day and became a recluse. Dwelling in that very Mango-grove of Makhādeva, he there during eighty-four thousand years fostered the four Divine Abidings within himself, and, dying with Absorption full and unbroken, was reborn in the Realm of Brahmā. Passing thence, he became a king again in Mithilā, under the name of Nimi, and after uniting his scattered family, once more became an ascetic in that same
After repeating his statement that he had similarly renounced the world in bygone days, the Teacher at the end of his lesson preached the Four Truths. Some entered the First Path, some the Second, and some the Third. Having told the two stories, the Teacher showed the connection between them and identified the Jātaka, by saying: “In those days Ānanda was the barber, Rāhula the son, and I myself king Makhādeva.”
last updated: November 2021