Ja 50 Dummedhajātaka
The Story about the Unintelligent (1s)

In the present the monks talk about the effort the Buddha makes to help and save others. The Buddha tells a story of how, when he was once proclaimed king, he had frightened a dissolute people into obedience by threatening to offer them up to the gods in sacrifice if they broke the precepts.

The Bodhisatta = the king of Benares (Bārāṇasirājā),
the Buddha’s disciples = the rest of the cast (parisā).

Present Source: Ja 469 Mahākaṇha,
Quoted at: Ja 50 Dummedha, Ja 347 Ayakūṭa, Ja 391 Dhajaviheṭha.

Keywords: Sacrifice, Fear of wrongdoing, Devas.

“A thousand evil-doers.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about actions done for the world’s good, as will be explained in the Twelfth Book in the Mahākaṇhajātaka [Ja 469].

One day, they say, the monks as they sat in the Dhamma Hall, were talking together. “Sirs,” one would say, “the Teacher, ever practising friendship towards the multitudes of the people, has forsaken an agreeable abode, and lives just for the good of the world. He has attained supreme wisdom, yet of his own accord takes bowl and robe, and goes on a journey of eighteen leagues or more. For the five elders he set rolling the Wheel of the Dhamma; on the fifth day of the half-month he recited the Anattalakkhaṇa discourse, and made them Arahats; he went to Uruveḷa, and to the ascetics with matted hair he showed three and a half thousand miracles, and persuaded them to join the Saṅgha; at Gayāsīsa he taught the Discourse upon Fire, and made a thousand of these ascetics Arahats; to Mahākassapa, when he had gone forward three miles to meet him, after three discourses he gave the higher ordination; all alone, after the noon-day meal, he went a journey of forty-five leagues, and then established in the Fruit of the Third Path Pukkusa (a youth of very good birth); to meet Mahākappina he went forward a space of two thousand leagues, and made him an Arahat; alone, in the afternoon he went a journey of thirty leagues, and made that cruel and harsh man Aṅgulimāla an Arahat; thirty leagues also he traversed, and established Āḷavaka in the Fruit of the First Path, and saved the prince; in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three he dwelt three months, and taught Abhidhamma to eight hundred millions of deities; to the Brahmā Realm he went, and destroyed the false Dhamma of Baka Brahmā, and made ten thousand Brahmās Arahats; every year he goes on pilgrimage in three districts, and to such men as are capable of receiving, he gives the Refuges, the Precepts, and the Fruits of the different stages; he even acts for the good of Nāgas and Garuḷas and the like, in many ways.”

In such words they praised the goodness and worth of the One with Ten Powers’ life for the good of the world. The Teacher came in, and asked what they talked about as they sat there? They told him. “And no wonder, monks,” said he. “I who now in my perfect wisdom would live for the world’s good, even I in the past, in the days of passion, lived for the good of the world.” So saying, he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was reborn in the womb of the queen consort. When he was born, he was named prince Brahmadatta on his name-day. By sixteen years of age he had been well educated at Taxila, had learned the Three Vedas by heart, and was versed in the Eighteen Branches of Understanding. And his father made him a viceroy.

Now in those days the Benares folk were much given to festivals to the Devatā, and used to show honour to them. It was their wont to massacre numbers of sheep, goats, poultry, swine, and other living creatures, and perform their rites not merely with flowers and perfumes but with gory [1.127] carcasses.

Thought the Bodhisatta to himself, “Led astray by superstition, men now wantonly sacrifice life; the multitude are for the most part given up to irreligion: but when at my father’s death I succeed to my inheritance, I will find means to end such destruction of life. I will devise some clever stratagem whereby the evil shall be stopped without harming a single human being.”

In this mood the prince one day mounted his chariot and drove out of the city. On the way he saw a crowd gathered together at a holy banyan tree, praying to the Devatā who had been reborn in that tree, to grant them sons and daughters, honour and wealth, each according to his heart’s desire. Alighting from his chariot the Bodhisatta drew near to the tree and behaved as a worshipper so far as to make offerings of perfumes and flowers, sprinkling the tree with water, and pacing reverently round its trunk. Then mounting his chariot again, he went his way back into the city.

Thenceforth the prince made like journeys from time to time to the tree, {1.260} and worshipped it like a true believer in the Devatās.

In due course, when his father died, the Bodhisatta ruled in his stead. Shunning the four evil courses, and practising the ten royal virtues, he ruled his people in righteousness. And now that his desire had come to pass and he was king, the Bodhisatta set himself to fulfil his former resolve. So he called together his ministers, the brahmins, the gentry, and the other orders of the people, and asked the assembly whether they knew how he had made himself king. But no man could tell.

“Have you ever seen me reverently worshipping a banyan tree with perfumes and the like, and bowing down before it?”

“Sire, we have,” said they.

“Well, I was making a vow; and the vow was that, if ever I became king, I would offer a sacrifice to that tree. And now that by help of the Devatā I have come to be king, I will offer my promised sacrifice. So prepare it with all speed.”

“But what are we to make it of?”

“My vow,” said the king, “was this: All such as are addicted to the Five Defilements, to wit the slaughter of living creatures and so forth, and all such as walk in the Ten Paths of Unrighteousness, them will I slay, and with their flesh and their blood, with their entrails and their vitals, I will make my offering. So proclaim by beat of drum that our lord the king in the days of his viceroyalty vowed that if ever he became king he would slay, and offer up in a sacrifice, all such of his subjects as break the Precepts. And now the king wills to slay one thousand of such as are addicted to the Five Defilements or walk in the Ten Paths of Unrighteousness; with the hearts and the flesh of the thousand shall a sacrifice be made in the god’s honour. Proclaim this that all may know throughout the city. Of those that transgress after this date,” added the king, “will [1.128] I slay a thousand, and offer them as a sacrifice to the god in discharge of my vow.” And to make his meaning clear the king uttered this verse:

1. “A thousand evil-doers once I vowed
In pious gratitude to kill;
And evil-doers form so huge a crowd,
That I will now my vow fulfil.” {1.261}

Obedient to the king’s commands, the ministers had proclamation made by beat of drum accordingly throughout the length and breadth of Benares. Such was the effect of the proclamation on the townsfolk that not a soul persisted in the old wickedness. And throughout the Bodhisatta’s reign not a man was convicted of transgressing. Thus, without harming a single one of his subjects, the Bodhisatta made them observe the Precepts. And at the close of a life of generosity and other good works he passed away with his followers to throng the city of the Devas.

Said the Teacher, “This is not the first time, monks, that the Tathāgata has acted for the world’s good; he acted in like manner in bygone times as well.” His lesson ended, he showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “The Buddha’s disciples were the ministers of those days, and I myself was the king of Benares.”