Ja 70 Kuddālajātaka
The Birth Story about (the Wise) Kuddāla (1s)

In the present one monk ordains and disrobes six times before finally becoming an Arahat during his seventh ordination. The Buddha tells how in a previous life he too had renounced the ascetic life six times before eventually attaining his goal.

The Bodhisatta = wise Kuddāla (Kuddālapaṇḍito),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā).
the Buddha’s disciples = the rest of the cast (parisā).

Keywords: Wisdom, Attachment, Perseverance.

“That victory isn’t a good victory.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about the elder named Cittahatthasāriputta. He is said to have been a youth of a good family in Sāvatthi; and one day, on his way home from ploughing, he turned in to the monastery. Here he received from the bowl of a certain elder some dainty fare, rich and sweet, which made him think to himself, “Day and night I am toiling away with my hands at divers tasks, yet never do I taste food [1.169] so sweet. I must become a monk myself!” So he joined the Saṅgha, but after six weeks’ improper attention, fell under the dominion of sensual desires and off he went.

His belly again proving too much for him, {1.312} back he came to join the Saṅgha once more, and studied the Abhidhamma. The third, and latest, of the Piṭakas – a systemisation the Nikāyas of the Suttapiṭaka. In this way, six times he left and came back again; but when for the seventh time he became a monk, he mastered the whole seven books of the Abhidhamma, and by much chanting of the Dhamma he won insight and attained to Arahatship. Now his friends among the monks scoffed at him, saying: “Can it be, sir, that sensual desires have ceased to spring up within your heart?”

“Sirs,” was the reply, “I have now got beyond mundane life henceforth.”

He having thus became an Arahat, talk thereof arose in the Dhamma Hall, as follows, “Sirs, though all the while he was destined to all the glories of Arahatship, yet six times did Cittahatthasāriputta renounce the Saṅgha; truly, very wrong is the unconverted state.”

Returning to the Hall, the Teacher asked what they were talking about. Being told, he said: “Monks, the worldling’s heart is light and hard to curb; material things attract and hold it fast; when once it is so held fast, it cannot be released in a trice. Excellent is the mastery of such a heart; once mastered, it brings joy and happiness:

“ ’Tis good to tame a wilful heart and frail,
By passion swayed. Once tamed, the heart brings bliss.” [Dhp 35.]

It was by reason of this wilful quality of the heart, however, that, for the sake of a pretty spade which they could not bring themselves to throw away, the wise and good of bygone days six times reverted to the world out of sheer cupidity; but on the seventh occasion they won Absorption and subdued their greed.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life again as a gardener, and grew up. ‘Kuddālapaṇḍita [Spade Sage]’ was his name. With his spade he cleared a patch of ground, and grew pot-herbs, pumpkins, gourds, cucumbers, and other vegetables, by the sale of which he made a sorry living. For, save only that one spade, he had nothing in the world! Resolving one day to forsake the world for the ascetic life, he hid his spade away, and became a recluse. But thoughts of that spade rose in his heart and the passion of greed overcame him, so that for the sake of his blunt spade he reverted to the world. {1.313} Again and again this happened; six times did he hide the spade and become a recluse – only to renounce his vows again. But the seventh time he bethought him how that blunt spade had caused him again and again to fall back; and he made up his mind to throw it into a great river before he became a recluse again. So he carried the spade to the riverside, and, fearing lest if he saw where it fell, he should come back and fish it out again, he whirled the spade thrice round his head by the handle and flung [1.170] it with the strength of an elephant right into mid-stream, shutting his eyes tight as he did so. Then loud rang his shout of exultation, a shout like a lion’s roar, “I have conquered! I have conquered!”

Now just at that moment the king of Benares, on his way home from quelling disorder on the border, had been bathing in that very river, and was riding along in all his splendour on the back of his elephant, when he heard the Bodhisatta’s shout of triumph. “Here’s a man,” said the king, “who is proclaiming that he has conquered. I wonder whom he has conquered. Go, bring him before me.”

So the Bodhisatta was brought before the king, who said to him, “My good man, I am a conqueror myself; I have just won a battle and am on my way home victorious. Tell me whom you have conquered.” “Sire,” said the Bodhisatta, “a thousand, yes, a hundred thousand, such victories as yours are vain, if you have not the victory over the sensual desires within yourself. It is by conquering greed within myself that I have conquered my sensual desires.” And as he spoke, he gazed upon the great river, and by duly focusing on the water Meditation Object, won Absorption. Then by virtue of his newly-won transcendental powers, he rose in the air, and, seated there, instructed the king in the Dhamma in this verse:

1. Na taṁ jitaṁ sādhu jitaṁ, yaṁ jitaṁ avajīyati,
Taṁ kho jitaṁ sādhu jitaṁ, yaṁ jitaṁ nāvajīyatī ti.

That victory isn’t a good victory, that victory which can be undone, that victory is a good victory, that victory which can’t be undone.


Even as he listened to the Dhamma, light shone in on the king’s darkness, and the sensual desires of his heart were quenched; his heart was bent on renouncing the world; then and there the lust for royal dominion passed away from him. “And where will you go now?” said the king to the Bodhisatta. “To the Himālayas, sire; there to live the ascetic’s life.” “Then I, too, will become an ascetic,” said the king; and he departed with the Bodhisatta. And with the king there departed also the whole army, all the brahmins and householders and all the common folk – in a word, all the host that was gathered there.

Tidings came to Benares that their king, on hearing the Dhamma preached by Kuddāla, was fain to live the ascetic’s life and had gone forth with all his host. “And what shall we do here?” cried the folk of Benares. And thereupon, from out that city which was twelve leagues about, all the inhabitants went forth, a train twelve leagues long, with whom the Bodhisatta passed to the Himālayas.

Then the throne of Sakka, King of Devas, became hot beneath him. Only the merits of a good man struggling with adversity could thus appeal to the mercy-seat of the Lord of the Gods. Looking out, he saw that Kuddāla was engaged upon a Great [1.171] Renunciation. It is only when a future Buddha renounces the world for the religious life, that his ‘going forth’ is termed a Great Renunciation. cf. p. 61 of Vol. i. of Fausböll’s text as to Gotama’s ‘going forth.’ Marking the numbers of his following, Sakka took thought how to house them all. And he sent for Vissakamma, the architect of the Devas, and spoke thus, “Kuddāla is engaged upon a Great Renunciation, {1.315} and quarters must be found for him. Go you to the Himālayas, and there on level ground fashion by divine power an ascetic’s living place thirty leagues long and fifteen broad.”

“It shall be done, sire,” said Vissakamma. And away he went, and did what he was bidden.

(What follows is only a summary; the full details will be given in the Hatthipālajātaka [Ja 509], [However, no further details are vouchsafed there.] which forms one narrative with this.)

Vissakamma caused a hermitage to arise on the ascetic’s lands; drove away all the noisy beasts and birds and Amanussas; and made in each cardinal direction a path just broad enough for one person to pass along it at a time. This done, he betook himself to his own abode. Kuddāla with his host of people came to the Himālayas and entered the lands which Sakka had given and took possession of the house and furniture which Vissakamma had created for the ascetics. First of all, he renounced the world himself, and afterwards made the people renounce it. Then he portioned out the land among them. They abandoned their sovereignty, which rivalled that of Sakka himself; and the whole thirty leagues of the land were filled. By focusing on all the other As shewn above, he had already arrived at Insight through the idea of water. Meditation Objects, Kuddāla developed the Divine Abidings within himself, and he taught the people how to meditate. Hereby they all won the Attainments, and assured their entry thereafter into the Brahma Realm, while all who ministered to them qualified for entry thereafter into the Realm of the Devas.

“Thus, monks,” said the Teacher, “the heart, when passion holds it fast, is hard to release. When the attributes of greed spring up within it, they are hard to chase away, and even persons so wise and good as the above are thereby rendered witless.”

His lesson ended, he preached the Truths, at the close whereof some won the First, some the Second, and some the Third Path, while others again attained to Arahatship. Further, the Teacher showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “Ānanda was the king of those days, the Buddha’s followers were the followers, and I myself was Kuddāla.”