Ja 20 Naḷapānajātaka
The Birth Story about Cane Juice (1s)
In the present the monks find that the cane sticks their novices collect are useless, as they are hollow throughout. The Buddha tells how this came about in a previous life when through the power of the truth he determined it should be so.
The Bodhisatta = king of the monkeys (kapirājā),
the Buddha’s disciples = the 80,000 monkeys (asītisahassavānara),
Devadatta = Water Rakkhasa (Dakarakkhasa).
Past Compare: Mvu iii p 38 Vānara (I).
Keywords: Determination, Truth, Animals, Devas.
“Seeing footsteps that didn’t cross.”
“Monks,” said the Teacher, “such was my ordinance in times gone by.” And, so saying, he told this story of the past.
In past times, we are told, there was a thick forest on this spot. And in the lake here dwelt a Water Rakkhasa who used to devour everyone who went down into the water. In those days the Bodhisatta had come to life as the king of the monkeys, and was as big as the fawn of a red deer; he lived in that forest at the head of a troop of no less than eighty thousand monkeys
One day they came to a spot they had never visited before. As, they were searching for water to drink after their day’s wanderings, they came on this lake. But they did not drink; on the contrary they sat down watching for the coming of the Bodhisatta.
When he came up, he said: “Well, my friends, why don’t you drink?”
“We waited for you to come.”
“Quite right, my friends,” said the Bodhisatta. Then he made a circuit of the lake, and scrutinized the footprints round, with the result that he found that all the footsteps led down into the water and none came up again. “Without doubt,” thought he to himself, “this is the haunt of Amanussas.” So he said to his followers, “You are quite right, my friends, in not drinking of this water; for the lake is haunted by Amanussas.”
When the Water Rakkhasa realised that they were not entering his domain,
1. Disvā padam-anuttiṇṇaṁ, disvānotaritaṁ padaṁ,
Naḷena vāriṁ pivissāma, neva maṁ tvaṁ vadhissasī ti.
Seeing footsteps that didn’t cross, seeing footsteps that descended, we will drink the water with reeds, but you will surely not kill me.
So saying, the Bodhisatta had a cane brought to him. Then, calling to mind the Ten Perfections displayed by him, he recited them in a solemn Assertion of Truth, Literally “made a truth-act.” If this is done with intention, a miracle instantly follows. cf. No. 35 &c. and blew down the cane.
(In this Kappa, or Era, there are four miracles which endure through the whole Era. What are the four? Well, they are first, the sign of the hare in the moon, See Jātaka No. 316, and Tawney’s Kathāsaritsāgara, Vol. ii. p. 66, where a number of passages bearing on this symbol are referred to, and Benfey’s Pañcatantra, i. 349. See also Cariyāpiṭaka, p. 82. which will last through the whole Era; secondly, the spot where the fire was put out as told in the Vaṭṭakajātaka [Ja 35], which shall remain untouched by fire throughout the Era; thirdly, on the site of Ghaṭīkāra’s house See the Ghaṭīkāra Sutta [MN 81], Dhp p. 349, and Milindapañha, p. 222. no rain shall ever fall while this Era lasts; and lastly, the canes that grow round this lake shall be hollow throughout during the whole of the Era. Such are the four Era-miracles [Kappaṭṭhiyapāṭihāriya], as they are called.)
After giving this command, the Bodhisatta seated himself with a cane in his hands. All the other eighty thousand monkeys too seated themselves round the lake, each with a cane in his hands. And at the same moment when the Bodhisatta sucked the water up through his cane, they all drank too in the same manner, as they sat on the bank. This was the way they drank, and not one of them could the Water Rakkhasa get; so he went off in a rage to his own habitation. The Bodhisatta, too, with his following went back into the forest.
When the Teacher had ended his lesson and had repeated what he had said as to the hollowness of the canes being the result of a former ordinance of his own, he showed the connection, and identified the Jātaka by saying: “Devadatta was the Water Rakkhasa of those days; my disciples were the eighty thousand monkeys; and I was the monkey-king, having skill in means.”
last updated: August 2023