Ja 62 Aṇḍabhūtajātaka
The Birth Story about being Inexperienced (1s)
In the present a monk is driven by lust to renouce the celibate life. To deter him the Buddha tells a story of a past life in which a young girl, even though brought up in seclusion from birth, still managed to trick her husband and take a lover.
The Bodhisatta = the king of Benares (Bārāṇasirājā).
Keywords: Women, Lust, Innate wickedness, Devas, Women.
“That brahmin who, with a veil.”
Said the Teacher, “Is the report true that you are overcome by passion, monk?” “Quite true,” was the reply.
“Monk, women cannot be guarded; in days gone by the wise who kept watch over a woman from the moment she was born, failed nevertheless to keep her safe.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as the child of the queen-consort. When he grew up, he mastered every accomplishment; and when, at his father’s death, he came to be king, he proved a righteous king. Now he used to play at dice with his family priest, and, as he flung the golden dice upon the silver table, he would sing this catch for luck:
’Tis nature’s law that rivers wind;
Trees grow of wood by law of kind;
And, given opportunity,
All women work iniquity.
As these lines always made the king win the game, the family priest was in a fair way to lose every penny he had in the world. And, in order to save himself from utter ruin, he resolved to seek out a little maid that had never seen another man, and then to keep her under lock and key in his own house. “For,” he thought: “I couldn’t manage to look after a girl who has seen another man. So I must take a new-born baby girl, and keep her under my thumb as she grows up, with a close guard over her, so that none may come near her and that she may be true to one man. Then I shall win of the king, and grow rich.” Now he was skilled in signs; and seeing a poor woman who was about to become a mother, and knowing that her child would be a girl, he paid the woman to come and be confined in his house, and sent her away after her confinement with a present. The infant was brought up entirely by women, and no men – other than himself – were ever allowed to set eyes on her. When the girl grew up, she was subject to him and he was her master.
Now, while the girl was growing up, the family priest forbore to play with the king; but when she was grown up and under his own control,
Thinking the matter over, the Bodhisatta suspected the family priest had a virtuous girl shut up in his house; and enquiry proved his suspicions true. Then, in order to work her fall, he sent for a clever fellow, and asked whether he thought he could seduce the girl. “Certainly, sire,” said the fellow. So the king gave him money, and sent him away with orders to lose no time.
With the king’s money the fellow bought perfumes and incense and aromatics of all sorts, and opened a perfumery shop close to the family priest’s house. Now the family priest’s house was seven stories high, and had seven gateways, at each of which a guard was set – a guard of women only – and no man but the brahmin himself was ever allowed to enter. The very baskets that contained the dust and sweepings
And his confederates, who stood by his side, cried, “What a likeness! Hand and foot, face and figure, even in style of dress, they are identical!” As one and all kept dwelling on the marvellous likeness, the poor woman lost her head. Crying out that it must be her boy, she too burst into tears. And with weeping and tears the two fell to embracing one another. Then said the man, “Where are you living, mother?”
“Up at the family priest’s, my son. He has a young wife of peerless beauty, a very Kinnarī for grace; and I’m her waiting-woman.” “And whither away now, mother?” “To buy her perfumes and flowers.” “Why go elsewhere for them? Come to me for them in future,” said the fellow. And he gave the woman betel, bdellium, and so forth, and all kinds of flowers, refusing all payment. Struck with the quantity of flowers and perfumes which the waiting-woman brought home, the girl asked why the brahmin was so pleased with her that day. “Why do you say that, my dear?” asked the old woman. “Because of the quantity of things you have brought home.” “No, it isn’t that the brahmin was free with his money,” said the old woman, “for I got them at my son’s.” And from that day forth she kept the money the brahmin gave her, and got her flowers and other things free of charge at the man’s shop.
And he, a few days later, made out to be ill, and took to his bed. So when the old woman came to the shop and asked for her son, she was told he had been taken ill. Hastening to his side, she fondly stroked his shoulders, as she asked what ailed him. But he made no reply. “Why don’t you tell me, my son?” “Not even if I were dying, could I tell you, mother.” “But, if you don’t tell me,
Hereupon the old woman set to work sweeping together all the dust she could find in the house from top to bottom; this dust she put into a huge flower-basket, and tried to pass out with it. When the usual search was made, she emptied dust over the woman on guard, who fled away under such ill-treatment. In like manner she dealt with all the other watchers, smothering in dust each one in turn that said anything to her. And so it came to pass from that time forward that, no matter what the old woman took in or out of the house, there was nobody bold enough to search her. Now was the time!
The old woman smuggled the fellow into the house in a flower-basket, and brought him to her young mistress. He succeeded in wrecking the girl’s virtue, and actually stayed a day or two in the upper rooms – hiding when the family priest was at home, and enjoying the society of his mistress when the family priest was off the premises. A day or two passed and the girl said to her lover, “Sweetheart, you must be going now.” “Very well; only I must cuff the brahmin first.” “Certainly,” said she, and hid the fellow. Then, when the brahmin came in again, she exclaimed, “Oh, my dear husband, I should so like to dance, if you would play the lute for me.” “Dance away, my dear,” said the family priest, and struck up forthwith. “But I shall be too ashamed, if you’re looking. Let me hide your handsome face first with a cloth; and then I will dance.” “All right,” said he, “if you’re too modest to dance otherwise.” So she took a thick cloth and tied it over the brahmin’s face so as to blindfold him. And, blindfolded as he was, the brahmin began to play the lute.
After dancing awhile, she cried, “My dear, I should so like to hit you once on the head.” “Hit away,” said the unsuspecting dotard. Then the girl made a sign to her lover; and he softly stole up behind the brahmin
Now, as soon as the fellow had struck the brahmin, he hid; and when he was hidden, the girl took the bandage off the family priest’s eyes and rubbed his bruised head with oil. The moment the brahmin went out, the fellow was stowed away in his basket again by the old woman, and so carried out of the house. Making his way at once to the king, he told him the whole adventure.
Accordingly, when the brahmin was next in attendance, the king proposed a game with the dice; the brahmin was willing; and the dicing-table was brought out. As the king made his throw, he sang his old catch, and the brahmin – ignorant of the girl’s naughtiness – added his, “Always excepting my girl,” and nevertheless lost!
Then the king, who knew what had passed, said to his family priest, “Why except her? Her virtue has given way. Ah, you dreamed that by taking a girl in the hour of her birth and by placing a sevenfold guard round her, you could be certain of her. Why, you couldn’t be certain of a woman, even if you had her inside you and always walked about with her. No woman is ever faithful to one man alone. As for that girl of yours, she told you she should like to dance, and having first blindfolded you as you played the lute to her, she let her lover strike you on the head, and then smuggled him out of the house. Where then is your exception?” And so saying, the king repeated this verse:
1. Yaṁ brāhmaṇo avādesi vīṇaṁ samukhaveṭhito,
Aṇḍabhūtā bhatā bhariyā, tāsu ko jātu vissase ti?
That brahmin who, with a veil that covered his face, played the lute, supported his inexperienced wife, who could have faith in these?
In such wise did the Bodhisatta expound the Dhamma to the brahmin. And the brahmin went home and taxed the girl with the wickedness of which she was accused. “My dear husband, who can have said such a thing about me?” said she. “Indeed I am innocent; indeed it was my own hand, and nobody else’s, that struck you; and, if you do not believe me, I will brave the ordeal of fire to prove that no man’s hand has touched me but yours; and so I will make you believe me.” “So be it,” said the brahmin. And he had a quantity of wood brought and set light to it. Then the girl was summoned. “Now,” said he, “if you believe your own story, brave these flames!”
Now before this the girl had instructed her attendant as follows, “Tell your son, mother, to be there and to seize my hand just as I am about to go into the fire.” And the old woman did as she was bidden; and the fellow came and took his stand among the crowd. Then, to
Such, we learn, is the wickedness of women. What crime will they not commit; and then, to deceive their husbands, what oaths will they not take – aye, in the light of day – that they did it not! So false-hearted are they! Therefore has it been said:
“A sex composed of wickedness and guile,
Unknowable; uncertain as the path
Of fishes in the water – womankind
Hold truth for falsehood, falsehood for the truth!.
As greedily as cows seek pastures new,
Women, unsated, yearn for mate on mate.
As sand unstable, cruel as the snake,
Women know all things; naught from them is hid!”
“Even so it is impossible to guard women,” said the Teacher. His lesson ended, he preached the Truths, at the close whereof the passionate monk won the Fruit of the First Path. Also the Teacher showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “In these days I was the king of Benares.”
last updated: August 2023