Ja 53 Puṇṇapātijātaka
The Story about the Liquor Dish (1s)

In the present some poor drunks try to fool Anāthapiṇḍika into taking a drugged drink, so they could rob him. When they don’t drink the liquor themselves he understands their trickery and scolds them. When the Buddha hear of this, he tells of a similar happening in a past life, when the same people tried to trick him in a similar way.

The Bodhisatta = the wealthy man of Benares (Bārāṇasiseṭṭhi),
the scoundrels = the same in the past (dhutta).

Keywords: Sobriety, Trickery.

“What? Leave untasted.” [1.134] This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about some drugged liquor.

In the past the drunkards of Sāvatthi met to take counsel, saying: “We’ve not got the price of a drink left; how are we to get it?” “Cheer up!” said one ruffian, “I’ve a little plan.” “What may that be?” cried the others.

“It’s Anāthapiṇḍika’s custom,” said the fellow, “to wear his rings and richest attire, when going to wait upon the king. Let us doctor some liquor with a stupefying drug and fit up a drinking-booth, in which we will all be sitting when Anāthapiṇḍika passes by. ‘Come and join us, Lord High Treasurer,’ we’ll cry, and ply him with our liquor till he loses his senses. Then let us relieve him of his rings and clothes, and get the price of a drink.”

His plan mightily pleased the other rogues, and was duly carried out. As Anāthapiṇḍika was returning, they went out to meet him and invited him {1.269} to come along with them; for they had got some rare liquor, and he must taste it before he went.

“What?” he thought, “shall a believer, who has found emancipation, touch strong drink? Howbeit, though I have no craving for it, yet will I expose these rogues.” So into their booth he went, where their proceedings soon showed him that their liquor was drugged; and he resolved to make the rascals take to their heels. So he roundly charged them with doctoring their liquor with a view to drugging strangers first and robbing then afterwards. “You sit in the booth you have opened, and you praise up the liquor,” said he, “but as for drinking it, not one of you ventures on that. If it is really undrugged, drink away at it yourselves.” This summary exposure made the gang take to their heels, and Anāthapiṇḍika went off home. Thinking he might as well tell the incident to the Tathāgata, he went to Jetavana and related the story.

“This time, layman,” said the Teacher, “it is you whom these rogues have tried to trick; so too in the past they tried to trick the good and wise of those days.” So saying, at his hearer’s request, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was Treasurer of that city. And then too did the same gang of drunkards, conspiring together in like manner, drug liquor, and go forth to meet him in just the same way, and made just the same overtures. The Treasurer did not want to drink at all, but nevertheless went with them, solely to expose them. Marking their proceedings and detecting their scheme, he was anxious to scare them away and so represented that it would be a gross thing for him to drink spirits just before going to the king’s palace. “Sit you here,” said he, “till I’ve seen the king and am on my way back; then I’ll think about it.”

On his return, the rascals called to him, but the Treasurer, fixing his eye on the drugged bowls, confounded them by saying: “I like not your [1.135] ways. Here stand the bowls as full now as when I left you; loudly as you vaunt the praises of the liquor, yet not a drop passes your own lips. Why, if it had been good liquor, you’d have taken your own share as well. This liquor is drugged!” And he repeated this verse:

1. “What? Leave untasted drink you vaunt so rare?
Nay, this is proof no honest liquor’s there.” {1.270}

After a life of good deeds, the Bodhisatta passed away to fare according to his deeds.

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “The rascals of today were also the rascals of those bygone days; and I myself was then Treasurer of Benares.”