Ja 47 Vāruṇijātaka
The Birth Story about Spoiling the Drinks (1s)

Alternative Title: Vāruṇidūsakajātaka (Cst)

In the present an apprentice at a tavern notices his clients taking salt for an appetizer, and decides to salt the liquor, thereby driving them away. The Buddha tells how he did the exact same thing in a past life.

The Bodhisatta = the wealthy man of Benares (Bārāṇasiseṭṭhi),
the apprentice = the one spoiled by drink (vāruṇidūsaka).

Keywords: Foolishness, Spoilation.

“Not with one skilled in harm.” [1.120] This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana about one who spoiled spirits. Tradition says that Anāthapiṇḍika had a friend who kept a tavern. This friend got ready a supply of strong spirits which he sold for gold and for silver, Apparently regarded as a cheating proceeding, as opposed to normal barter. and his tavern was crowded. He gave orders to his apprentice to sell for cash only, and went off himself to bathe.

This apprentice, while serving out the grog to his customers, observed them sending out for salt and jaggery and eating it as an appetizer. Thought he to himself, “There can’t be any salt in our liquor; I’ll put some in.” So he put a pound of salt in a bowl of grog, and served it out to the customers. And they no sooner took a mouthful, than they spat it out again, saying: “What have you been up to?” “I saw you sending for salt after drinking our liquor, so I mixed some salt in.” “And that’s how you’ve spoilt good liquor, you fool,” cried the customers, and with abuse they got up one after another and flung out of the tavern.

When the keeper of the tavern came home, and did not see {1.252} a single customer about, he asked where they had all got to. So the apprentice told him what had happened. Berating him for his folly, the man went off and told Anāthapiṇḍika. And the latter, thinking the story a good one to tell, repaired to Jetavana, where after due obeisance he told the Teacher all about it.

“This is not the first time, layman,” said the Teacher, “that this apprentice has spoiled spirits. He did just the same once before.” Then at Anāthapiṇḍika’s request, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was the Treasurer of Benares, and had a tavern-keeper who lived under his protection. This man having got ready a supply of strong spirits, which he left his apprentice With a dry humour, the Pāli applies to the publican and his apprentice the terms normally applied to a religious teacher and his pupil. to sell while he himself went off to bathe, during his absence his apprentice mixed salt with the liquor, and spoiled it just in the same way. When on his return the young man’s guide and master came to know what had been done, he told the story to the Treasurer. ‘Truly,’ said the latter, the ignorant and foolish, with every desire to do good, only succeed in doing harm.’ And he recited this verse:

1. Na ve anatthakusalena atthacariyā sukhāvahā,
Hāpeti atthaṁ dummedho, Koṇḍañño vāruṇiṁ yathā ti.

Not with one skilled in harm does the one who lives well find happiness, the unintelligent ruins what is good, just like Koṇḍañña’s liquor.

In these lines the Bodhisatta taught the Dhamma. [1.121]

Said the Teacher, “Layman, this same person spoiled spirits in the past as now.” Then he showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “He who spoiled the spirits now was also the spoiler of the spirits in those bygone days, and I myself was then the Treasurer of Benares.”