Ja 88 Sārambhajātaka
The Birth Story about (the Ox) Sārambha (1s)
In the present the Group of Six make disparaging remarks about the monks. The Buddha reproves them and tells a story about a bull, who, spoken to harshly, lost his master a thousand, and spoken to kindly gained him two thousand, by pulling a hundred carts all by himself.
The Bodhisatta = (the ox) Sārambha,
Ānanda = the brahmin (brāhmaṇa),
Uppalavaṇṇā = his wife (brāhmaṇī).
Present and Past Compare: Ja 28 Nandivisāla, Vin Pāc 2 (4.5).
Keywords: Kindly speech, Animals.
“He should speak just excellent words.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Sāvatthi, about the precept touching on abusive language. The introductory story and the story of the past are the same as in the Nandivisālajātaka above [Ja 28]. But in this case
This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about the bitter words spoken by the group of six. For, in those days the group of six, when they disagreed with respectable monks, used to taunt, revile and jeer them, and load them with the ten kinds of abuse. This the monks reported to the Fortunate One, who sent for the group of six and asked whether this charge was true. On their admitting its truth, he rebuked them, saying: “Monks, hard words gall even animals: in bygone days an animal made a man who had used harsh language to him lose a thousand pieces.” And, so saying, he told this story of the past.
In the past at Taxila in the land of Gandhāra there was a king reigning there, and the Bodhisatta came to life as an ox. When he was quite a tiny calf, he was presented by his owners to a brahmin who came in – they being known to give away presents of oxen to such-like holy men. The brahmin called it Sārambha (Anger), and treated it like his own child, feeding the young creature on rice-gruel and rice. When the Bodhisatta grew up, he thought thus to himself, “I have been brought up by this brahmin with great pains, and all Jambudīpa cannot show the ox which can draw what I can. How if I were to repay the brahmin the cost of my nurture by making proof of my strength?” Accordingly, one day he said to the brahmin, “Go, brahmin, to some merchant rich in herds, and wager him a thousand pieces that your ox can draw a hundred loaded carts.”
The brahmin went his way to a merchant and got into a discussion with him as to whose oxen in the town were the strongest. “Oh, so-and-so’s, or so-and-so’s,” said the merchant. “But,” added he, “there are no oxen in the town which can compare with mine for real strength.” Said the brahmin, “I have an ox who can pull a hundred loaded carts.” “Where’s such an ox to be found?” laughed the merchant. “I’ve got him at home,” said the brahmin. “Make it a wager.” “Certainly,” said the brahmin, and staked
“I’m not the rascal he calls me,” thought the Bodhisatta to himself; and so he planted his four feet like so many posts, and budged not an inch.
Straightaway, the merchant made the brahmin pay over the thousand pieces. His money gone, the brahmin took his ox out of the cart and went home, where he lay down on his bed in an agony of grief. When Sārambha strolled in and found the brahmin a prey to such grief, he went up to him and enquired if the brahmin were taking a nap. “How should I be taking a nap, when I have had a thousand pieces won of me?” “Brahmin, all the time I have lived in your house, have I ever broken a pot, or squeezed up against anybody, or made messes about?” “Never, my child.” “Then, why did you call me a rascal? It’s you who are to blame, not I. Go and bet him two thousand this time. Only remember not to call me rascal again.”
When he heard this, the brahmin went off to the merchant, and laid a wager of two thousand. Just as before, he tied the hundred carts to one another and harnessed Sārambha, very spruce and fine, to the leading cart. If you ask how he harnessed him, well, he did it in this way: first, he fastened the cross-yoke on to the pole; then he put the ox in on one side, and made the other fast by fastening a smooth piece of wood from the cross-yoke on to the axletree, so that the yoke was taut and could not skew round either way. Thus a single ox could draw a cart made to be drawn by two. So now seated on the pole, the brahmin stroked Sārambha on the back, and urged on him in this style, “Now then, my fine fellow! Pull them along, my fine fellow!” With a single pull the Bodhisatta tugged along the whole string of the hundred carts till the hindermost stood where the foremost had started. The merchant, rich in herds, paid up the two thousand pieces he had lost to the brahmin. Other folks, too, gave large sums to the Bodhisatta, and the whole passed into the hands of the brahmin. Thus did he gain greatly by reason of the Bodhisatta.
After telling the story of the past, the Teacher, after Fully Awakening, uttered this verse:
1. Kalyāṇim-eva muñceyya, na hi muñceyya pāpikaṁ,
Mokkho kalyāṇiyā sādhu, mutvā tappati pāpikan-ti.
He should speak just excellent words, indeed he should not speak bad words, he who has spoken well is good, but speaking badly he suffers.
It seems that your words are gentle, and that they are kindly spoken, he clings onto a mere straw, but does not take a hundred in gold.
When the Teacher had ended his lesson he identified the Jātaka by saying: “Ānanda was the brahmin of those days, Uppalavaṇṇā his wife, and I Sārambha.”
last updated: August 2023