Ja 64 Durājānajātaka
The Story about what is Difficult to Know (1s)
In the present a lay brother cannot make out the moods of his wife, who is meek on some days and haughty on others. The Buddha explains this is part of women’s nature and tells a past life story in which the same characters appear.
The Bodhisatta = the teacher (ācariya),
the husband and wife = the same in the past (jayampatikā).
Keywords: Unpredictability, Women.
“Think you.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a lay brother. Tradition says that there dwelt at Sāvatthi a lay brother, who was established in the Three Jewels and the Five Precepts, a devout lover of the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha. But his wife was a sinful and wicked woman. On days when she did wrong, she was as meek as a slave girl bought for a hundred pieces; while on days when she did not do
One day he went with perfumes and flowers, and had taken his seat after due salutation, when the Teacher said to him, “Pray how comes it, lay brother, that seven or eight days have gone by without your coming to wait upon the Buddha?” “My wife, sir, is one day like a slave girl bought for a hundred pieces, while another day finds her like a passionate and tyrannical mistress. I cannot make her out; and it is because she has worried me so that I have not been to wait upon the Buddha.”
Now, when he heard these words, the Teacher said: “Why, lay brother, you have already been told by the wise and good of bygone days that it is hard to understand the nature of women.” And he went on to add, “But his previous existences have come to be confused in his mind, so that he cannot remember.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to be a teacher of world-wide fame, with five hundred young brahmins studying under him.
“Teacher, my wife is the cause,” said he. And he told the Bodhisatta how she was meek one day like a slave girl, and tyrannical the next; how he could not make her out at all, and how he had been so worried and harassed by her shifting moods that he had stayed away.
“Precisely so, young brahmin,” said the Bodhisatta, “on days when they have done wrong, women humble themselves before their husbands and become as meek and submissive as a slave girl; but on days when they have not done wrong, then they become stiff-necked and insubordinate to their lords. After this manner are women sinful and wicked; and their nature is hard to know. No heed should be paid either to their likes or to their dislikes.” And so saying, the Bodhisatta repeated for the edification of his pupil this Stanza:
1. “Think you a woman loves you? Be not glad.
Think you she loves you not? Forbear to grieve.
Unknowable, uncertain as the path
Of fishes in the water, women prove.”
Such was the Bodhisatta’s instruction to his pupil, who thenceforward paid no heed to his wife’s caprices. And she, hearing that her misconduct had come to the ears of the Bodhisatta, ceased from that time forward from her naughtiness.
So too this lay brother’s wife said to herself, “The Perfect Buddha himself knows, they tell me, of my misconduct,” and thenceforth she sinned no more.
His lesson ended, the Teacher preached the Truths, at the close whereof the lay brother won the Fruit of the First Path. Then the Teacher showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “This husband and wife were also the husband and wife of those days, and I myself the teacher.”
last updated: November 2021