Ja 73 Saccaṅkirajātaka
The Birth Story about the Assertion of Truth (1s)
In the present Devadatta seeks to kill the Buddha, who tells a story of how he did the same in the past, when, as a wicked king, he had sought to pay back the Bodhisatta who had saved his life by having him killed. When the citizens found out, they killed the wicked king instead, and elected the Bodhisatta as the new king.
The Bodhisatta = the righteous man who became king (rajjappatto dhammarājā),
Ānanda = the parrot (suva),
Moggallāna = the rat (undūra),
Sāriputta = the snake (sappa),
Devadatta = the corrupt king (duṭṭharājā).
Keywords: Ingratitude, Gratitude, Devas.
“This is the truth, it seems, that was said.” This story was told by the Teacher while at the Bamboo Grove, about going about to kill. For, seated in the Dhamma Hall, the Saṅgha was talking of Devadatta’s wickedness, saying: “Sirs, Devadatta has no knowledge of the Teacher’s excellence; he actually goes about to kill him!” Here the Teacher entered the Hall and asked what they were discussing.
In the past Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares. He had a son named Duṭṭhakumāra [prince Wicked]. Fierce and cruel was he, like a scotched snake; he spoke to nobody without abuse or blows. Like grit in the eye was this prince to all folk both within and without the palace, or like a ravening Yakkha – so dreaded and fell was he.
One day, wishing to disport himself in the river, he went with a large retinue to the water side. And a great storm came on, and utter darkness set in. “Hi there!” cried he to his servants, “take me into mid-stream,
The courtiers went into the king’s presence, and the king asked where his son was. “We do not know, sire,” they said, “a storm came on, and we came away in the belief that he must have gone on ahead.” At once the king had the gates thrown open; down to the riverside he went and bade diligent search be made up and down for the missing prince. But no trace of him could be found. For, in the darkness of the storm, he had been swept away by the current, and, coming across a tree-trunk, had climbed on to it, and so floated down stream, crying lustily in the agony of his fear of drowning.
Now there had been a rich merchant living in those days at Benares, who had died, leaving forty crores buried in the banks of that same river. And because of his craving for riches, he was reborn as a snake at the spot under which lay his dear treasure. And also in the self-same spot another man had hidden thirty crores, and because of his craving for riches was reborn as a rat at the same spot. In rushed the water into their dwelling-place; and the two creatures, escaping by the way by which the water rushed in, were making their way across the stream, when they chanced upon the tree-trunk to which the prince was clinging.
Also there grew on the river’s bank a Silk-cotton tree, in which lived a young parrot; and this tree, being uprooted by the swollen waters, fell into the river. The heavy rain beat down the parrot when it tried to fly, and it alighted in its fall upon this same tree-trunk. And so there were now these four floating down, stream together upon the tree.
Now the Bodhisatta had been reborn in those days as a brahmin in the north-west country. Renouncing the world for the ascetic’s life on reaching manhood, he had built himself a hermitage by a bend of the river; and there he was now living. As he was pacing to and fro, at midnight, he heard the loud cries of the prince, and thought thus within himself, “This fellow-creature must not perish thus before the eyes of so merciful and compassionate an ascetic as I am. I will rescue him from the water, and save his life.” So he shouted cheerily, “Be not afraid! Be not afraid!” and plunging across stream, seized hold of the tree by one end, and, being as strong as an elephant, drew it in to the bank with one long pull, and set the prince safe and sound upon the shore. Then becoming
A few days later, when all four had recovered their strength and the waters had subsided, the snake bade farewell to the ascetic with these words, “Father, you have done me a great service. I am not poor, for I have forty crores of gold hidden at a certain spot. Should you ever want money, all my hoard shall be yours. You have only to come to the spot and call ‘Snake.’ Next the rat took his leave with a like promise to the ascetic as to his treasure, bidding the ascetic come and call out ‘Rat.’
The desire came on the Bodhisatta to put their professions to the test; and first of all he went to the snake and standing nearby its abode, called out ‘Snake.’ At the word the snake darted forth and with every mark of respect said: “Father, in this place there are forty crones in gold. Dig them up and take them all.” “It is well,” said the Bodhisatta, “when I need them, I will not forget.” Then bidding adieu to the snake, he went on to where the rat lived, and called out ‘Rat.’ And the rat did as the snake had done. Going next to the parrot, and calling out ‘Parrot,’ the bird at once flew down at his call from the tree-top, and respectfully asked whether it was the Bodhisatta’s wish that he with the aid of his kinsfolk should gather paddy for the Bodhisatta from the region round the Himālayas. The Bodhisatta dismissed the parrot also with a promise that, if need arose, he would not forget the bird’s offer.
Last of all, being minded to test the king in his turn, the Bodhisatta came to the royal pleasure gardens, and on the day after his arrival made his way, carefully dressed, into the city on his round for alms. Just at that moment, the ungrateful king, seated in all his royal splendour on his elephant of state, was passing in solemn procession round the city followed by a vast retinue. Seeing the Bodhisatta from afar, he thought to himself, “Here’s that rascally ascetic come
Obedient to their king’s command, the attendants laid the innocent Great Being in bonds and flogged him at every street-corner on the way to the place of execution. But all their floggings failed to move the Bodhisatta or to wring from him any cry of, “Oh, my mother and father!” All he did was to repeat this verse:
1. Saccaṁ kir-evam-āhaṁsu narā ekacciyā idha:
Kaṭṭhaṁ niplavitaṁ seyyo, na tvevekacciyo naro ti.
This is the truth, it seems, that was said by some people in this place: to save a floating log is better, and not a certain person.
These lines he repeated wherever he was flogged, till at last the wise among the bystanders asked the ascetic what service he had rendered to their king. Then the Bodhisatta told the whole story, ending with the words, “So it comes to pass that by rescuing him from the torrent I brought all this woe upon myself. And when I bethink me how I have left unheeded the words of the wise of old, I exclaim as you have heard.”
Filled with indignation at the recital, the nobles and brahmins and all classes with one accord cried out, “This ungrateful king does not recognise even the goodness of this good man who saved his majesty’s life. How can we have any profit from this king? Seize the tyrant!” And in their anger they rushed upon the king from every side, and slew him there and then, as he rode on his elephant, with arrows and javelins and stones and clubs and any weapons that came to hand. The corpse they dragged by the heels to a ditch and flung it in. Then they anointed the Bodhisatta king and set him to rule over them.
As he was ruling in righteousness, one day
So with the
Said the Teacher, “This is not the first time, monks, that Devadatta has gone about to kill me; he did the like in the past also.” His lesson ended, he showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “Devadatta was the corrupt king in those days, Sāriputta the snake, Moggallāna the rat, Ānanda the parrot, and I myself the righteous king who won a kingdom.”
last updated: August 2023