Ja 46 Ārāmadūsakajātaka See the scene sculptured in the Stūpa of Bharhut, Plate xlv, 5.
The Story about Spoiling the Park (1s)

In the present while on walking tour the monks come to a certain village and notice that there is an area of barren land. Upon enquiry it turns out a village lad had dug up the trees to water the roots by size. The Buddha tells a story of how the boy was a monkey in the past who ordered his troop to do the same, thereby ruining the king’s gardens.

The Bodhisatta = the wise man (paṇḍitapurisa),
the village boy = the elder monkey (vānarajeṭṭhaka).

Past Compare: Ja 46 Ārāmadūsaka, Ja 268 Ārāmadūsa.

Keywords: Foolishness, Inconsideration, Animals.

“ ’Tis knowledge.” This story was told by the Teacher in a certain hamlet of Kosala about one who spoiled a pleasure garden.

Tradition says that, in the course of an alms-journey among the people of Kosala, the Teacher came to a certain hamlet. A householder of the place invited the Tathāgata to take the midday meal at his house, and had his guest seated in the pleasure gardens, where he showed hospitality to the Saṅgha with the Buddha at its head, and courteously gave them leave to stroll at will about his grounds. So the monks rose up and walked about the grounds with the gardener. Observing in their walk a bare space, they said to the gardener, “Lay-disciple, elsewhere in the pleasure gardens there is abundant shade; but here there’s neither tree nor shrub. How comes this?”

“Sirs,” replied the man, “when these grounds were being laid out, a village lad, who was doing the watering, pulled up all the young trees hereabouts and then gave them much or little {1.250} water according to the size of their roots. So the young trees withered and died off; and that is why this space is bare.”

Drawing near to the Teacher, the monks told him this. “Yes, monks,” said he, “this is not the first time that village lad has spoiled a pleasure garden; he did precisely the same in bygone times also.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, a festival was proclaimed in the city; and at the first summoning notes of the festal drum out poured the townsfolk to keep holiday. [1.119]

Now in those days, a tribe of monkeys was living in the king’s pleasure gardens; and the king’s gardener thought to himself, “They’re holiday-making up in the city. I’ll get the monkeys to do the watering for me, and be off to enjoy myself with the rest.” So saying, he went to the king of the monkeys, and, first dwelling on the benefits his majesty and his subjects enjoyed from residence in the pleasure gardens in the way of flowers and fruit and young shoots to eat, ended by saying: “Today there’s holiday-making up in the city, and I’m off to enjoy myself. Couldn’t you water the young trees while I’m away?”

“Oh! Yes,” said the monkey.

“Only mind you do,” said the gardener; and off he went, giving the monkeys the water-skins and wooden watering-pots to do the work with.

Then the monkeys took the water-skins and watering pots, and fell to watering the young trees. “But we must be careful not to waste the water,” observed their king, “as you water, first pull each young tree up and look at the size of its roots. Then give plenty of water to those whose roots strike deep, but only a little to those with tiny roots. When this water is all gone, we shall be hard put to it to get more.”

“To be sure,” said the other monkeys, and did as he bade them.

At this juncture a certain wise man, seeing the monkeys thus engaged, asked them why they pulled up tree after tree and watered them according to the size of their roots. “Because such are our king’s commands,” answered the monkeys.

Their reply moved the wise man to reflect how, with every desire to do good, the ignorant and foolish only succeed in doing harm. And he recited this verse: {1.251}

1. “ ’Tis knowledge crowns endeavour with success,
For fools are thwarted by their foolishness,
See the foolish monkey who killed the trees.”

With this rebuke to the king of the monkeys, the wise man departed with his followers from the pleasure gardens.

Said the Teacher, “This is not the first time, monks, that this village lad has spoiled pleasure gardens; he was just the same in bygone times also.” His lesson ended, he showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “The village lad who spoiled this pleasure gardens was the king of the monkeys in those days, and I was myself the wise and good man.”