Ja 29 Kaṇhajātaka
The Birth Story about (the Bull) Blackie (1s)

In the present the Buddha, having bettered all his competitors, is praised by the monks. He then tells a story of how he was once a bull who earned his owner a fortune by pulling carts no one else could pull, and taking the reward to his poor owner.

The Bodhisatta = the bull, Grandmother’s Kāḷaka (ayyikākāḷaka),
Uppalavaṇṇā = the old woman (his ‘grandmother’) (mahallikā).

Present Compare: Ja 483 Sarabhamiga.

Keywords: Effort, Gratefulness, Animals.

“However onerous the load.” [1.73] This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about the Double Miracle, which, together with the Descent from Heaven, will be related in the Thirteenth Book, in the Sarabhamigajātaka [Ja 483].

The Teacher, for the confounding of the schismatics having performed a twofold miracle passing marvellous among his disciples, caused faith to spring up in multitudes, then arose and, sitting in the Buddha’s seat, declared the Dhamma. Twenty crores of beings drank of the waters of life. Then, meditating to see whither it was that former Buddhas went when they had done a miracle, and perceiving that it was to the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, up he rose from the Buddha’s seat, the right foot he placed on the top of Mount Yugandhara, and with his left strode to the peak of Sineru, he began the season of rains under the great Coral Tree, seated upon the yellow-stone throne; for the space of three months he discoursed upon the Abhidhamma to the gods.

After he had performed the Double Miracle and had made a stay in Heaven, the All-knowing Buddha descended at the city of Saṅkassa on the day of the Great Pavāraṇā The festival at the end of the rainy season (Mahāvagga iv. 1). Festival, and thence passed with a large following to Jetavana.

Gathering together in the Dhamma Hall, the monks sat praising the virtues of the Teacher, saying: “Sirs, peerless is the Tathāgata; none may bear the yoke borne by the Tathāgata. The six teachers, though they protested so often that they, and they only, would perform miracles, yet not a single miracle did they work. O! How peerless is the Teacher!” Entering the Hall and asking theme which the monks were discussing in a meeting, {1.194} the Teacher was informed that their theme was none other than his own virtues. “Monks,” said the Teacher, “who shall now bear the yoke borne by me? Even in bygone days, when I came to life as an animal, I was unmatched.” And, so saying, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a bull. And while he was still a young calf, his owners, who had been lodging with an old woman, made him over to her in settlement of their reckoning. She reared him like her own child, feeding him on rice-gruel and rice and on other good cheer. The name he became known by was, “Ayyikā Kāḷaka [Granny’s Blackie].” Growing up, he used to range about with the other cattle of the village, and was as black as jet. The village urchins used to catch hold of his horns and ears and dewlaps, and have a ride; or they would hold on to his tail in play, and mount on his back.

One day he thought to himself, “My mother is very poor; she has painfully reared me, as if I were her own child. What if I were to earn some money to ease her hard lot?” Thenceforth he was always looking out for a job. Now, one day a young merchant at the head of a caravan came with five hundred wagons to a ford the bottom of which was so rough that his oxen could not pull the wagons through. And even when he took out the five hundred pairs of oxen and yoked the lot together to form one team, they could not get a single cart by itself across the river. Close [1.74] by that ford the Bodhisatta was about with the other cattle of the village, and the young merchant, being a judge of cattle, ran his eye over the herd to see whether among them there was a thoroughbred bull who could pull the wagons across. When his eye fell on the Bodhisatta, he felt sure he would do; and, to find out the Bodhisatta’s owner, he said to the herdsmen, “Who owns this animal? If I could yoke him on and get my wagons across, I would pay for his services.” They said: “Take him and harness him, then; he has got no master hereabouts.”

But when the young merchant slipped a cord {1.195} through the Bodhisatta’s nose and tried to lead him off, the bull would not budge. For, we are told, the Bodhisatta would not go till his pay was fixed. Understanding his meaning, the merchant said: “Master, if you will pull these five hundred wagons across, I will pay you two coins per cart, or a thousand coins in all.”

It now required no force to get the Bodhisatta to come. Away he went, and the men harnessed him to the carts. The first he dragged over with a single pull, and landed it high and dry; and in like manner he dealt with the whole string of wagons.

The young merchant tied round the Bodhisatta’s neck a bundle containing five hundred coins, or at the rate of only one for each cart. Thought the Bodhisatta to himself, “This fellow is not paying me according to contract! I won’t let him move on!” So he stood across the path of the foremost wagon and blocked the way. And try as they would, they could not get him out of the way. “I suppose he knows I’ve paid him short,” thought the merchant; and he wrapped up a thousand coins in a bundle, which he tied round the Bodhisatta’s neck, saying: “Here’s your pay for pulling the wagons across.” And away went the Bodhisatta with the thousand pieces of money to his ‘mother.’

“What’s that round the neck of Kāḷaka?” cried the children of the village, running up to him. But the Bodhisatta made at them from afar and made them scamper off, so that he reached his ‘mother’ all right. Not but what he appeared fagged out, with his eyes bloodshot, from dragging all those five hundred wagons over the river. The pious woman, finding a thousand pieces of money round his neck, cried out, “Where did you get this, my child?” Learning from the herdsmen what had happened, she exclaimed, “Have I any wish to live on your earnings, my child? Why did you go through all this fatigue?” So saying, she washed the Bodhisatta with warm water and rubbed him all over with oil; she gave him drink and regaled him with due victuals. And when her life closed, she passed away, with the Bodhisatta, to fare according to her deeds. [1.75]

When he had ended this lesson to show that the Buddha was unmatched in the past as then, he showed the connection by uttering, after Fully Awakening, this verse: {1.196}

1. Yato yato garu dhuraṁ, yato gambhīravattanī,
Tadāssu Kaṇhaṁ yuñjanti, svāssu taṁ vahate dhuran-ti.

However onerous the load, however deep the pathway is, at that time they harness Kaṇha, and he carries away the load.

After his lesson to show that only Kāḷaka could draw the load, he showed the connection, and identified the Jātaka by saying: “Uppalavaṇṇā was the old woman of those days, and I myself Ayyakā Kāḷaka.”