Ja 83 Kālakaṇṇijātaka
The Story about (the Unlucky Man) Wretch (1s)

In the present Anāthapiṇḍika has a childhood friend with an unfortunate name. He is urged to dismiss him, but refuses to, saying it is only a name. Later the friend does a great service protecting his property. The Buddha tells how the same things played out in a previous life also.

The Bodhisatta = the wealthy man from Benares (Bārāṇasiseṭṭhi),
Ānanda = Kāḷakaṇṇī (a man fallen on hard times).

Present Source: Ja 83 Kālakaṇṇi,
Quoted at: Ja 121 Kusanāḷi.

Keywords: Trust, Friendship, Designations, Devas.

“A friend is he.” {1.364} This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a friend of Anāthapiṇḍika’s. Tradition says that the two had made mud-pies together, and had gone to the same school; but, as years went by, the friend, whose name was Wretch [Kāḷakaṇṇī], sank into great distress and could not make a living anyhow. So he came to the rich man, who was kind to him, and paid him to look after all his property; and the poor friend was employed under Anāthapiṇḍika and did all his business for him. After he had gone up to the rich man’s it was a common thing to hear in the house, “Stand up, Wretch,” or, “Sit down, Wretch,” or, “Have your dinner, Wretch.” [1.210]

One day the Treasurer’s friends and acquaintances called on him and said: “Lord Treasurer, don’t let this sort of thing go on in your house. It’s enough to scare a Yakkha to hear such ill-omened observations as – ‘Stand up, Wretch,’ or ‘Sit down, Wretch,’ or ‘Have your dinner, Wretch.’ The man is not your social equal; he’s a miserable wretch, dogged by misfortune. Why have anything to do with him?” “Not so,” replied Anāthapiṇḍika, “a name only serves to denote a man, and the wise do not measure a man by his name; nor is it proper to wax superstitious about mere sounds. Never will I throw over, for his mere name’s sake, the friend with whom I made mud-pies as a child.” And he rejected their advice.

One day the great man departed to visit a village of which he was headman, leaving the other in charge of the house. Hearing of his departure certain robbers made up their mind to break into the house; and, arming themselves to the teeth, they surrounded it in the night-time. But Wretch had a suspicion that burglars might be expected, and was sitting up for them. And when he knew that they had come, he ran about as if to rouse his people, bidding one sound the conch, another beat the drum, till he had the whole house full of noise, as though he were rousing a whole army of servants. Said the robbers, “The house is not so empty as we were told; the master must be at home.” Flinging away their stones, clubs and other weapons, away they bolted for their lives.

Next day great alarm was caused by the sight of all the discarded weapons lying round the house; and Wretch was lauded to the skies by such praises as this, “If the house had not been patrolled by one so wise as this man, the robbers would have simply walked in at their own pleasure and have plundered the house. The Treasurer owes this stroke of good luck to his staunch friend.” And the moment the merchant came back from his village they hastened to tell him the whole story. “Ah,” said he, “this is the trusty guardian of my house whom you wanted me to get rid of. If I had taken your advice and got rid of him; I should be a beggar today. It’s not the name but the heart within that makes the man.” So saying he raised his wages. And thinking that here was a good story {1.365} to tell, off he went to the Teacher and gave him a complete account of it all, right through. “This is not the first time, sir,” said the Teacher, “that a friend named Wretch has saved his friend’s wealth from robbers; the like happened in bygone days as well.” Then, at Anāthapiṇḍika’s request, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a Treasurer of great renown; and he had a friend whose name was Wretch, and so on as in the foregoing story. When on his return from his village headman the Bodhisatta heard what had happened he said to his friends, “If I had taken your advice and got rid of my trusty friend, I should have been a beggar today.” And he repeated this verse:

1. “A friend is he that seven steps will go
To help us; See Griffith’s “Old Indian Poetry,” p. 27; and Pāṇini’s rule, v. 2. 22. twelve attest the comrade true.
A fortnight or a month’s tried loyalty
Makes kindred, longer time a second self.
Then how shall I, who all these years have known
My friend, be wise in driving Wretch away?”

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “Ānanda was the Wretch of those days, and I myself the Treasurer of Benares.”