Ja 11 Lakkhaṇajātaka
The Birth Story about (the Deer named) Lakkhaṇa (1s)
Alternative Title: Lakkhaṇamigajātaka (Cst)
In the present Devadatta goes off with 500 disciples, and the Buddha sent Vens. Sāriputta and Moggallāna to bring them back to the fold. He then tells a story where in the past Devadatta, through carelessness, had lost the herd he was in charge of, while Sāriputta had preserved all alive.
The Bodhisatta = the father (deer, pitā),
Rāhulamātā = the mother (deer, mātā),
Sāriputta = (the deer) Lakkhaṇa,
Sāriputta’s followers = Lakkhaṇa’s followers,
Devadatta = (the deer) Kāḷa,
Devadatta’s followers = Kāḷa’s followers,
Buddha’s followers = the cast (parisā).
Keywords: Prudence, Caution, Animals.
“The virtuous one will prosper.” This story was told by the Teacher in the Bamboo Grove near Rājagaha about Devadatta. The story of Devadatta See Cullavagga, vii. 1 – et seq. The “Five Points” of Devadatta are there given (vii. 3. 14) as follows: “The monks shall live all their life long in the forest, subsist solely on doles collected out of doors, dress solely in rags picked out of dust-heaps, dwell under trees and never under a roof, never eat fish or flesh.” These five points were all more rigid in their asceticism than the Buddha’s rule, and were formulated by Devadatta in order to outbid his cousin and master. will be related, up to the date of the employment of assassins, in the Khaṇḍahālajātaka [Ja 542]; up to the date of his dismissal from the office of Treasurer, in the Cullahaṁsajātaka [Ja 533]; and, up to the date of his being swallowed up by the earth, in the Sixteenth Book in the Samuddavāṇijajātaka [Ja 466].
For, on the occasion now in question, Devadatta, through failing to carry the Five Points which he had pressed for, had made a schism in the Saṅgha and had gone off with five hundred monks to dwell at Gayāsīsa. Now, these monks came to a riper knowledge; and the Teacher, knowing this, called the
They went there, preached the Dhamma, enlightened them respecting the Paths and the Fruits, and next day
“This is not the only time, monks, when glory has been Sāriputta’s on his return with a following of his kinsfolk; like glory was his too in bygone days. So too this is not the only time when Devadatta has lost his following; he lost it also in bygone days.”
The monks asked the Fortunate One to explain this to them. The Fortunate One made clear what had been concealed by rebirth.
In the past in the city of Rājagaha in the kingdom of Magadha there ruled a certain king of Magadha, in whose days the Bodhisatta came to life as a stag. Growing up, he dwelt in the forest as the leader of a herd of a thousand deer. He had two young ones named Lakkhaṇa [Lucky] and Kāḷa [Unlucky]. When he grew old, he handed his charge over to his two sons, placing five hundred deer under the care of each of them. And so now these two young stags were in charge of the herd.
Towards harvest-time in Magadha, when the crops stand thick in the fields, it is dangerous for the deer in the forests round. Anxious to kill the creatures that devour their crops, the peasants dig pitfalls, fix stakes, set stone-traps, and plant snares and other traps; so that many deer are slain.
Accordingly, when the Bodhisatta marked that it was crop-time, he sent for his two sons and said to them, “My children, it is now the time when crops stand thick in the fields, and many deer meet their death at this season. We who are old will make shift to stay in one spot; but you will retire each with your herd to the mountainous tracts in the forest and come back when the crops have been carried.” “Very good,” said his two sons, and departed with their herds, as their father bade.
Now the men who live along the route, know quite well the times at which deer take to the hills and return thence. And
Lakkhaṇa on the other hand, being wise and astute and having skill in means, never so much as approached the confines of a village. He did not travel by day, or even in the dawn or evening. Only in the dead of night did he move; and the result was that he reached the forest without losing a single head of his deer.
Four months they stayed in the forest, not leaving the hills till the crops were carried. On the homeward way Kāḷa, by repeating his former folly, lost the rest of his herd and returned solitary and alone; whereas Lakkhaṇa had not lost one of his herd, but had brought back the whole five hundred deer, when he appeared before his parents. As he saw his two sons returning, the Bodhisatta framed this verse in concert with the herd of deer:
1. Hoti sīlavataṁ attho, paṭisanthāravuttinaṁ,
Lakkhaṇaṁ passa āyantaṁ, ñātisaṅghapurakkhataṁ,
Atha passasimaṁ Kāḷaṁ, suvihīnaṁ va ñātibhī ti.
The virtuous one will prosper, he whose way of life is friendly, look at Lakkhaṇa approaching, surrounded by his relatives, then look at this Kāḷa, who has completely lost his relatives.
Such was the Bodhisatta’s welcome to his son; and after living to a good old age, he passed away to fare according to his deeds.
At the close of his lesson, when the Teacher had repeated that Sāriputta’s glory and Devadatta’s loss had both had a parallel in bygone days, he showed the connection linking the two stories together and identified the Jātaka, by saying: “Devadatta was the Kāḷa of those days; his followers were Kāḷa’s following; Sāriputta was the Lakkhaṇa of those days, and his following the Buddha’s followers; Rāhula’s mother was the mother of those days; and I myself was the father.”
last updated: August 2023