Ja 76 Asaṅkiyajātaka
The Birth Story about the Doubtless (1s)

In the present a faithful lay brother who is traveling with a caravan spends the night in walking meditation. Thieves, who think he is a watchman, miss their opportunity. When the Buddha hears of it he tells of something similar that happened in one of his own past lives as an ascetic.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tapasa),
the Buddha’s disciples = the caravan followers (satthavāsino).

Keywords: Mindfulness, Wakefulness.

“I have no doubt in the village.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a lay brother who lived at Sāvatthi. Tradition says that this man, who had entered the Paths and was an earnest believer, was once journeying along on some business or other in the company of a leader of a caravan; in the jungle the carts were unyoked and a coral was constructed; and the good man began to pace up and down at the foot of a certain tree nearby the leader.

Now five hundred robbers, who had watched their time, had surrounded the spot, armed with bows, clubs, and other weapons, with the object of looting the encampment. {1.333} Still unceasingly that lay brother paced to and fro. “Surely that must be their sentry,” said the robbers when they noticed him, “we will wait till he is asleep and then loot them.” So, being unable to surprise the camp, they stopped where they were. Still that lay brother kept pacing to and fro – all through the first watch, all through the middle watch, and all through the last watch of the night. When day dawned, the robbers, who had never had their chance, threw down the stones and clubs which they had brought, and bolted.

His business done, that lay brother came back to Sāvatthi, and, approaching the Teacher, asked him this question, “In guarding themselves, sir, do men prove guardians of others?”

“Yes, lay brother. In guarding himself a man guards others; in guarding others, he guards himself.”

“Oh, how well-said, sir, is this utterance of the Fortunate One! When I was journeying with a caravan-leader, I resolved to guard myself by pacing to and fro at the foot of a tree, and by so doing I guarded the whole caravan.”

Said the Teacher, “Lay brother, in bygone days too the wise and good guarded others while guarding themselves.” And, so saying, at the lay brother’s request he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a brahmin. Arriving at years of discretion, he became aware of the evils that spring from sensual desires, and so forsook the [1.186] world to live as a recluse in the country round the Himālayas.

Need of salt and vinegar having led him to make a pilgrimage for alms through the countryside, he travelled in the course of his wanderings with a merchant’s caravan. When the caravan halted at a certain spot in the forest, he paced to and fro at the foot of a tree, nearby the caravan, enjoying the bliss of Absorption.

Now after supper five hundred robbers surrounded the coral to plunder it; but, noticing the ascetic, they halted, saying: “If he sees us, he’ll give the alarm; wait till he drops off to sleep, and then we’ll plunder them.” But all through the livelong night the ascetic continued to pace up and down; and never a chance did the robbers get! So they flung away their sticks and stones and shouted to the caravan-folk; “Hi, there! You of the caravan! If it hadn’t been for that ascetic walking about under the tree, we’d have plundered the lot of you. Mind and fête him tomorrow!” And so saying, they made off. When the night gave place to light, the people saw the clubs and stones which the robbers had cast away, {1.334} and came in fear and trembling to ask the Bodhisatta with respectful salutation whether he had seen the robbers. “Oh, yes, I did, sirs,” he replied. “And were you not alarmed or afraid at the sight of so many robbers?” “No,” said the Bodhisatta, “the sight of robbers causes what is known as fear only to the rich. As for me – I am penniless; why should I be afraid? Whether I dwell in village or in forest, I never have any fear or dread.” And therewithal, to teach them the Dhamma, he repeated this verse:

1. Asaṅkiyomhi gāmamhi, araññe natthi me bhayaṁ,
Ujumaggaṁ samārūḷho mettāya karuṇāya cā ti.

I have no doubt in the village, there’s no fear for me in the wilds, having mounted the straight path through loving-kindness and compassion.

When the Bodhisatta had thus taught the Dhamma in this verse to the people of the caravan, peace filled their hearts, and they showed him honour and veneration. All his life long he developed the four Divine Abidings, and then was reborn into the Brahma Realm.

His lesson ended, the Teacher showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “The Buddha’s followers were the caravan-folk of those days, and I the ascetic.”