Ja 41 Losakajātaka
The Birth Story about (the Unfortunate Monk) Losaka (1s)
In the present Ven. Sāriputta comes across a poor boy and ordains him, but, as in his lay life, he is very unfortunate and can hardly get enough alms to eat, but yet he does become an Arahat. The Buddha tells a story of the past, during which a man had prevented an Arahat from receiving food. Everywhere he was born from there on he was unfortunate. And when in his last life he meditated on the three characteristics, he won release. This story includes a telling of the Mindavindaka story, which occurs several times in these Jātakas.
The Bodhisatta = the world famous teacher (disāpāmokkhācariya),
the elder Losakatissa = Mittavindaka.
Past Compare: Ja 41 Losaka, Ja 82 Mittavinda, Ja 104 Mittavinda, Ja 369 Mittavinda, Ja 439 Catudvāra.
Keywords: Jealousy, Misfortune, Devas.
“He who does not take the advice.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana about the elder Losakatissa.
‘Who,’ you ask, ‘was this elder Losakatissa?’ Well; his father was a fisherman in Kosala, and he was the bane of his family; and, when a monk, never had anything given to him. His previous existence ended, he had been conceived by a certain fisherman’s wife in a fishing-village of a thousand families in Kosala. And on the day he was conceived all those thousand families, net in hand, went fishing in river and pool but failed to catch one single fish; and
Reflecting that such had not been their lot in former days, but that now they were going to rack and ruin, they concluded that there must be some breeder of misfortune among them, and resolved to divide into two bands. This they did; and there were then two bands of five hundred families each. Thence-forward, ruin dogged the band which included the parents of the future Losaka, while the other five hundred families throve apace. So the former resolved to go on halving their numbers, and did so, until this one family was parted from all the rest. Then they knew that the breeder of misfortune was in that family, and with blows drove them away.
With difficulty could his mother get a livelihood; but, when her time was come, she gave birth to her son in a certain place. (He that is born into his last existence cannot be killed. For like a lamp within a jar, even so securely within his breast burns the flame of his destiny to become an Arahat.) The mother took care of the child till he could run about, and when he could run about then she put a potsherd in his hands, and, bidding him go into a house to beg, ran away. Thenceforward, the solitary child used to beg his food thereabouts and sleep where he could. He was unwashed and unkempt, and made a living after the fashion of a mud-eating Yakkha. On the authority of Ven. Subhūti, paṁsupisācakā are said to form the fourth class of Petas (pretas) or ‘ghosts’ (who were cursed at once with cavernous maws and with mouths no bigger than a needle’s eye, so that their voracity was never satisfied even in their customary coprophagic state). But neither Hardy’s Manual of Buddhism (p. 58) nor the Milinda (p. 294) mentions paṁsupisācakā as one of the four classes of Petas. When he was seven years old, he was picking up and eating, like a crow, lump by lump, any rice he could find outside a house door where they flung away the rinsings of the rice-pots.
Sāriputta, Captain of the Dhamma, going into Sāvatthi on his round for alms, noticed the child, and, wondering what village the hapless creature came from, was filled with love for him and called out, “Come here.” The child came, bowed to the elder, and stood before him. Then said Sāriputta, “What village do you belong to, and where are your parents?”
“I am destitute, sir,” said the child, “for my parents said they were tired out, and so forsook me, and went away.”
“Would you like to become a monk?” “Indeed I should, sir; but who would receive a poor wretch like me into the Saṅgha?” “I will.” “Then, pray let me become a monk.”
The elder gave the child a meal and took him to the monastery, washed him with his own hands, and admitted him a novice first and a full monk afterwards, when he was old enough. In his old age he was known as elder Losakatissa; he was always unlucky, Reading nippuñño instead of nippañño. See Ceylon JRAS 1884, p. 158; and compare apuñño on p. 236, line 20 of the Pāli original. and but little was given to him. The story goes that, no matter how lavish the generosity, he never got enough to eat, but only just enough to keep himself alive. A single ladle of rice seemed to fill his alms-bowl to the brim, so that the charitable thought his bowl was full and bestowed the rest of their rice on the next. When rice was being put into his bowl, it is said that the rice in the giver’s dish used to vanish away. And so with every kind of food. Even when, as time went by, he had developed Discernment and so won the highest fruit which is Arahatship, he still got but little.
In the fullness of time, when the materials which determined his separate existence As protoplasm is ‘the physical basis of life,’ so āyusaṅkhārā are its moral basis according to Buddhist ideas. This Lebensstoff it is the aim of Buddhism to uproot, so that there may be no rebirth. were outworn, the day came for him to pass away. And the captain
“I shall, no doubt, get it in good time,” said the elder. Sāriputta was greatly troubled, and looked to see what hour it was. But noon was passed. i.e. no more rice could be eaten that day. If a shadow of a finger’s breadth is cast by an upright stick, a strict monk will not eat rice and like foods. “Stay here, monk,” said Sāriputta, “and do not move,” and he made Losakatissa sit down in the sitting-hall, and set out for the palace of the king of Kosala. The king bade his bowl be taken, and saying that it was past noon and therefore not the time to eat rice, ordered his bowl to be filled with the four sweet kinds of food. Honey, ghee, butter, and sugar. With this he returned, and stood before him, bowl in hand, bidding the sage eat. But the elder was ashamed, because of the reverence he had towards Ven. Sāriputta, and would not eat. “Come, monk Tissa,” said Sāriputta, “ ’tis I must stand with the bowl; sit you down and eat. If the bowl left my hand, everything in it would vanish away.”
So the venerable elder Losakatissa ate the sweets, while the exalted Captain of the Dhamma stood holding the bowl; and thanks to the latter’s merits and efficacy the food did not vanish. So the elder Losakatissa ate as much as he wanted and was satisfied, and that self-same day passed away by that death whereby existence ceases for ever.
The Supreme Buddha stood by, and saw the body burned; and they built a shrine for the collected ashes.
Seated in a meeting in the Dhamma Hall, the monks said: “Monks, Losaka was unlucky, and little was given to him. How came he with his unluck and his neediness to win the glory of Arahatship?” Entering the Hall, the Teacher asked what they were talking about; and they told him. “Monks,” said he, “this monk’s own actions were the cause both of his receiving so little, and of his becoming an Arahat. In bygone days he had prevented others from receiving, and that is why he received so little himself. But it was by his meditating on suffering, impermanence, and the absence of an abiding self in things, that he became an Arahat for himself.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.
In the past, in the days of Kassapa, the One with Ten Powers, there was a monk who lived the village life and was maintained by a country householder. He was regular in his conduct as a monk, Pakatatto is explained by Rhys Davids and Oldenberg in the note to page 340 of Vol. xvii. of the Sacred Books of the East as meaning a monk “who has not made himself liable to any disciplinary proceeding, has committed no irregularity.” virtuous in his life, and was filled to overflowing with insight. There was also an elder, an Arahat, who lived with his fellows on terms of equality, and at the time of the story paid a first visit to the village where lived the householder who supported
“Oh yes,” replied the elder. “Where, pray?” “Why, in your village close by, at the householder’s house.” And so saying, the elder asked to be shown his cell and made it ready. Then laying aside his bowl and robe, and seating himself, he became absorbed in blissful Insight and enjoyed the bliss of the Fruits of the Paths.
In the evening came the householder, with servants carrying flowers and perfumes and lamps and oil. Saluting the resident monk, he asked whether a guest had appeared, an elder. Being told that he had, the householder asked where he was and learned which cell had been given him. Then the householder went to the elder and, first bowing courteously, seated himself by the elder’s side and listened to a discourse. In the cool of the evening the householder made his offerings at the Stūpa and Bodhi tree, lit his lamp, and departed with an invitation to both elder and monk to come up to his house next day for their meal.
“I’m losing my hold on the householder,” thought the monk. “If this elder stays, I shall count for nothing with him.” So he was discontented and fell to scheming how to make the elder see that he must not settle down there for good. Accordingly, when the elder came to pay his respects in the early morning, the monk did not open his lips. The Arahat read the other’s thoughts and said to himself, “This monk knows not that I shall never stand in his light either with the family that supports him or with his Saṅgha.” And going back to his cell, he became absorbed in the bliss of Absorption, and in the bliss of the fruits.
Next day, the resident monk, having first knocked gingerly on the gong, For gaṇḍi meaning ‘a gong,’ cf. Jātaka iv. 306; but see note p. 213 of Vol. xx. of Sacred Books of the East. It is doubtful what kapiṭṭhena can mean. Can the true reading be (punadivase) nakhapiṭṭhena, i.e. ‘with the back of his nail’? The resident monk’s object was to go through the form of waking the guest without disturbing his slumbers. and having tapped on the gong with the back of his nail, went off alone to the householder’s house. Taking from him his alms-bowl, the householder bade him be seated and asked where the stranger was.
“I know no news of your friend,” said the monk. “Though I knocked on the gong and tapped at his door, I couldn’t wake him. I can
(Meantime the Arahat, who had waited till the time came to go his round for alms, had washed and dressed and risen with bowl and robe in the air and gone elsewhere.)
The householder gave the monk rice and milk to eat, with ghee and sugar and honey in it. Then he had his bowl scoured with perfumed chunam powder and filled afresh, saying: “Sir, the elder must be fatigued with his journey; take him this.” Without demur the monk took the food and went his way, thinking to himself, “If our friend once gets a taste of this, taking him by the throat and kicking him out of doors won’t get rid of him. But how can I get rid of it? If I give it away to a human being, it will be known. If I throw it into the water, the ghee will float on top. And as for throwing it away on the ground, that will only bring all the crows of the district flocking to the spot.” In his perplexity his eye fell on a field that had been fired, and, scraping out the embers, he flung the contents of his bowl into the hole, filled in the embers on the top, and went off home. Not finding the elder there, he thought that the Arahat had understood his jealousy and departed. “Woe is me,” he cried, “for my greed has made me to wrong.”
And thenceforth sore affliction befell him and he became like a living ghost. Dying soon after, he was reborn in hell and there was tormented for hundreds of thousands of years. By reason of his ripening defilements, in five hundred successive births he was a Yakkha and never had enough to eat, except one day when he enjoyed a surfeit of offal. Next, for five hundred more existences he was a dog, and here too, only on one single day had his fill – of a vomit of rice; on no other occasion did he have enough to eat.
Even when he ceased to be a dog, he was only born into a beggar family in a Kāsi village. From the hour of his birth, that family became still more beggared, and he never got half as much water-gruel as he wanted. And he was called Mittavindaka.
In the course of his wanderings, the little outcaste came to Benares, where in those days the Bodhisatta was a teacher of world-wide fame with five hundred young brahmins to teach. In those times the Benares folk used to give day by day commons of food to poor lads and had them taught free, and so this Mittavindaka also became a scholar supported by the Bodhisatta. But he was fierce and intractable, always fighting with his fellows
Then they considered the matter and agreed that it was not so with them before Mittavindaka’s coming, but that ever since he came they had been going from bad to worse. So with blows they drove him from their village; and forth he went with his family, and came to a haunted forest. And there the Amanussas killed and ate his wife and children. Fleeing thence, he came after many wanderings to a village on the coast called Gambhīra, arriving on a day when a ship was putting to sea; and he hired himself for service aboard. For a week the ship held on her way, but on the seventh day she came to a complete standstill in mid-ocean, as though she had run upon a rock. Then they cast lots, in order to rid them of their bane; and seven times the lot fell on Mittavindaka. So they gave him a raft of bamboos, and laying hold of him, cast him overboard. And forthwith the ship made way again.
Mittavindaka clambered on to his bamboos and floated on the waves. Thanks to his having obeyed the Precepts in the times of the Buddha Kassapa, he found in mid-ocean four Devadhītā dwelling in a palace of crystal, with whom he dwelt happily for seven days. Now palace-ghosts [vimānapeta] enjoy happiness only for seven days at a time; and so, when the seventh day came and they had to depart to their punishment, they left him with an injunction to await their return. But no sooner were they departed, than Mittavindaka put off on his raft again and came to where eight Devadhītā dwelt in a palace of silver. Leaving them in turn, he came to where sixteen Devadhītā dwelt in a palace of jewels, and thereafter to where thirty-two dwelt in a palace of gold. Paying no regard to their words, again he sailed away and came to a city of Yakkhas, set among islands. And there a Yakkhini was ranging about in the shape of a goat. Not knowing that she was a Yakkhini, Mittavindaka thought to make a meal of the goat, and seized hold of the creature by the leg. Straightaway, by virtue of her Yakkha-nature, she hurled him up and away over the ocean, and down he fell in a thorn-brake on the slopes of the dry moat of Benares, and from there rolled to earth.
Now it chanced that at that time thieves used to frequent that moat
Mittavindaka picked himself up and saw the goats. Thought he to himself, “Well, it was a goat in an island in the ocean that, being seized by the leg, hurled me here over seas. Perhaps, if I do the same by one of these goats, I may get hurled back again to where the Devadhītā dwell in their ocean palaces.” So, without thinking, he seized one of the goats by the leg. At once the goat began to bleat, and the goatherds came running up from every side. They laid hold of him at once, crying, “This is the thief that has so long lived on the king’s goats.” And they, beat him and began to haul him away in bonds to the king.
Just at that time the Bodhisatta, with his five hundred young brahmins round him, was coming out of the city to bathe. Seeing and recognising Mittavindaka, he said to the goatherds, “Why, this is a pupil of mine, my good men; what have you seized him for?” “Teacher,” they said, “we caught this thief in the act of seizing a goat by the leg, and that’s why we’ve got hold of him.” “Well,”
“ ’Tis through not hearkening to those who wished him well,” said the Bodhisatta, “that he has suffered all these misfortunes.” And he recited this verse:
1. Yo atthakāmassa hitānukampino
Ovajjamāno na karoti sāsanaṁ,
Ajiyā pādam-olamba Mittako viya socatī ti.
He who does not take the advice of one who seeks his good, though taught by those concerned for his welfare, grieve like Mittaka holding onto the goat’s foot.
And in those times both that Teacher and Mittavindaka passed away, and their lot thereafter was according to their deeds.
Said the Teacher, “This Losaka was himself the cause both of his getting little and of his getting Arahatship.” His lesson ended, he showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “The elder Losakatissa was the Mittavindaka of those days, and I the Teacher of world-wide fame.” Compare Petavatthu No. 43, Avadānaśataka No. 50, J.As. 1878, and Indian Antiquities x. 293.
last updated: August 2023