Ja 92 Mahāsārajātaka
The Birth Story about the Rich Man (1s)
In the present the king of Kosala has one of his crown jewels go missing, and worries his whole household while searching for it. Ven. Ānanda, by a ruse, has the thief return the jewel anonymously. The Buddha tells a story of how in a previous life he had found a string of pearls a monkey had stolen, and retrieved them for the king.
The Bodhisatta = the wise minister (paṇḍitāmacca),
Ānanda = king (of Benares) (rājā).
Present Source: Ja 92 Mahāsāra,
Quoted at: a 157 Guṇa, Ja 259 Tirīṭavaccha, Ja 302 Mahā-assāroha.
Keywords: Theft, Wisdom, Animals.
“In battle they wish for a hero.”
Once the wives of the king of Kosala thought among themselves, as follows, “Very rare is the coming of a Buddha; and very rare is birth in a human form with all one’s faculties in perfection. Yet, though we have happened on a human form in a Buddha’s lifetime, we cannot go at will to the monastery to hear the
Now it fell out on a day that the king was minded to take his pleasure in the royal pleasure gardens, and gave orders that the grounds should be made ready for his coming. As the gardener was working away, he espied the Teacher seated at the foot of a tree. So he went to the king and said: “The pleasure gardens is made ready, sire; but the Fortunate One is sitting there at the foot of a tree.” “Very good,” said the king, “we will go and hear the Teacher.” Mounting his chariot of state, he went to the Teacher in the pleasure gardens.
Now there was then seated at the Teacher’s feet, listening to his teaching, a lay brother named Chattapāṇi [Parasol Holder], who had entered the Third Path. On catching sight of this lay brother, the king hesitated; but, on reflection that this must be a virtuous man, or he would not be sitting by the Teacher for instruction, he approached and with a bow seated himself on one side of the Teacher. Out of reverence for the supreme Buddha, the lay brother neither rose in the king’s honour nor saluted his majesty; and this made the king very angry. Noticing the king’s displeasure, the Teacher proceeded to extol the merits of that lay brother, saying: “Sire, this lay brother is master of all tradition; he knows by heart the discourses that have been handed down; and he has set himself free from the bondage of passion.” “Surely,” thought the king, “he whose praises the Teacher is telling can be no ordinary person.” And he said to him, “Let me know, lay brother, if you are in need of anything.” “Thank you,” said the man. Then the king listened to the Teacher’s teaching, and at its close rose up and ceremoniously withdrew.
Another day, meeting that same lay brother going after breakfast umbrella in hand to Jetavana, the king had him summoned to his presence and said: “I hear, lay brother, that you are a man of great learning. Now my wives are very anxious to hear and learn the truth; I should be glad if you would teach them.” “It is not meet, sire, that a layman
Recognising the force of this remark, the king, after dismissing the layman, called his wives together and announced to them his intention of sending to the Teacher for one of the monks to come as their instructor in the Dhamma. Which of the eighty chief disciples would they have? After talking it over together, the ladies with one accord chose Ānanda Ānanda held ‘advanced views on the woman question.’ It was he who persuaded the reluctant Buddha into admitting women to the Saṅgha, as recorded in the Vinaya (Sacred Books of the East xx, 320 et seq.). the elder, surnamed the Treasurer of the Dhamma [Dhammabhaṇḍāgārika]. So the king went to the Teacher and with a courteous greeting sat down by his side, after which he proceeded to state his wives’ wish, and his own hope, that Ānanda might be their teacher. The Teacher, having consented to send Ānanda, the king’s wives now began to be regularly taught by the elder and to learn from him.
One day the jewel out of the king’s turban was missing. When the king heard of the loss he sent for his ministers and bade them seize everyone who had access to the precincts and find the jewel. So the Ministers searched everybody, women and all, for the missing jewel, till they had worried everybody almost out of their lives; but no trace of it could they find. That day Ānanda came to the palace, only to find the king’s wives as dejected as they had hitherto been delighted when he taught them. “What has made you like this today?” asked the elder. “Oh, sir,” they said, “the king has lost the jewel out of his turban; and by his orders the ministers are worrying everybody, women and all, out of their lives, in order to find it. We can’t say what may not happen to any one of us; and that is why we are so sad.” “Don’t think
Taking the seat set for him, the elder asked whether it was true that his majesty had lost his jewel. “Quite true, sir,” said the king. “And can it not be found?” “I have had all the inmates of the palaces worried out of their lives, and yet I can’t find it.” “There is one way, sire, to find it, without worrying people out of their lives.” “What way is that, sir?” “By wisp-giving, sire.” “Wisp-giving? What may that be, pray?” “Call together, sire, all the persons you suspect, and privately give each one of them separately a wisp of straw, or a lump of clay will do, saying, ‘Take this and put it in such and such a place tomorrow at daybreak.’ The man that took the jewel will put it in the straw or clay, and so bring it back. If it be brought back the very first day, well and good. If not, the same thing must be done on the second and third days. In this way, a large number of persons will escape worry, and you will get your jewel back.” With these words the elder departed.
Following the above counsel, the king caused the straw and clay to be dealt out for three successive days; but yet the jewel was not recovered.
Thought the thief, “Ānanda has seriously taken the matter in hand; and, if he does not find the jewel, he’ll not let things rest here. The time has really come to give the jewel up without more ado.” So he secreted the jewel about his person, and going behind the screen, dropped it in the water before he went away. When everyone had gone, the pot was emptied, and the jewel found. “It’s all owing to the elder,” exclaimed the king in his joy, “that I have got my jewel back, and that without worrying a host of people out of their lives.” And all the persons about the precincts were equally grateful to Ānanda for the trouble he had saved them from.
The story how Ānanda’s marvellous powers had found the jewel, spread through all the city, till it reached the Saṅgha. Said the monks, “The great knowledge, learning, and the skill in means of the elder Ānanda have been the means at once of recovering the lost jewel and of saving many persons from being worried out of their lives.”
And as they sat together in the Dhamma Hall, singing the praises of Ānanda, the Teacher entered and asked the subject of their conversation. Being told, he said: “Monks, this is not the first time that what had been stolen has been found, nor is Ānanda the only one who has brought about such a discovery. In bygone days too the wise and good discovered what had been stolen away, and also saved a host of people from trouble, showing that the lost property had fallen into the hands of animals.” So saying, he told this story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta, having completed his education, became one of the king’s ministers. One day the king with a large following went into his pleasure gardens, and, after walking about the woods, felt a desire to disport himself in the water. So he went down into the royal tank and sent for his harem. The women of the harem, removing the jewels from their heads and necks and so forth, laid them aside with their upper garments in boxes under the charge of female slaves, and then went down into
Now, as the queen was taking off her jewels and ornaments, and laying them with her upper robe on a box, she was watched by a female monkey, which was hidden in the branches of a tree nearby. Conceiving a longing to wear the queen’s pearl necklace, this monkey watched for the slave in charge to be off her guard. At first the girl kept looking all about her in order to keep the jewels
By and by the slave awoke, and, terrified at finding the jewels gone, saw nothing else to do but to scream out, “A man has run off with the queen’s pearl necklace.” Up ran the guards from every side, and hearing this story told it to the king. “Catch the thief,” said his majesty; and away went the guards searching high and low for the thief in the pleasure gardens. Hearing the din, a poor superstitious rustic Or perhaps “a taxpaying peasant.” took to his heels in alarm. “There he goes,” cried the guards, catching sight of the runaway; and they followed him up till they caught him, and with blows demanded what he meant by stealing such precious jewels.
He thought: “If I deny the charge, I shall die with the beating I shall get from these ruffians. I’d better say I took it.” So he confessed to theft and was hauled off a prisoner to the king. “Did you take those precious jewels?” asked the king. “Yes, your majesty.” “Where are they now?” “Please your majesty, I’m a poor man; I’ve never in my life owned anything, even a bed or a chair, of any value – much less a jewel. It was the Treasurer who made me take that valuable necklace; and I took it and gave it to him. He knows all about it.”
Then the king sent for the Treasurer, and asked whether the rustic had passed the necklace on to him. “Yes, sire,” was the answer. “Where is it then?” “I gave it to your majesty’s family priest.” Then the family priest was sent for, and interrogated in the same way. And he said he had given it to the chief musician, who in his turn said he had given it to a courtesan
While the five were thus being questioned, the sun set. “It’s too late now,” said the king, “we will look into this tomorrow.” So he handed the five over to his ministers and went back into the city.
Hereupon the Bodhisatta fell thinking. “These jewels,” he thought, “were lost inside the grounds, while the rustic was outside. There was a strong guard at the gates, and it was impossible for anyone inside to get away
When he had arrived at this conclusion, the Bodhisatta went to the king with the request that the suspects might be handed over to him and that he might be allowed to examine personally into the matter. “By all means, my wise friend,” said the king, “examine into it.”
Then the Bodhisatta sent for his servants and told them where to lodge the five prisoners, saying: “Keep strict watch over them; listen to everything they say, and report it all to me,” And his servants did as he bade them. As the prisoners sat together, the Treasurer said to the rustic, “Tell me, you wretch, where you and I ever met before this day; tell me when you gave me that necklace.” “Worshipful sir,” said the other, “it has never been mine to own anything so valuable even as a stool or bedstead that wasn’t rickety. I thought that with your help I should get out of this trouble, and that’s why I said what I did. Be not angry with me, my lord.”
Said the family priest
This conversation being reported to the Bodhisatta by his agents, he felt convinced the five were all innocent of the robbery, and that a female monkey had taken the necklace. “And I must find a means to make her drop it,” said he to himself. So he had a number of bead necklaces made. Next he had a number of monkeys caught and turned loose again, with strings of beads on their necks, wrists and ankles. Meantime, the guilty
Tricked out in their new splendour, the other monkeys strutted about till they came to the real thief, before whom they flaunted their finery. Jealousy overcoming her prudence, she exclaimed, “They’re only beads!” and put on her own necklace of real pearls. This was at once seen by the watchers, who promptly made her drop the necklace, which they picked up and brought to the Bodhisatta. He took it to the king, saying: “Here, sire, is the necklace. The five prisoners are innocent; it was a female monkey in the pleasure gardens that took it.” “How came you to find that out?” asked the king, “and how did you manage to get possession of it again?” Then the Bodhisatta told the whole story, and the king thanked
1. Ukkaṭṭhe sūram-icchanti; mantīsu akutūhalaṁ;
Piyañ-ca annapānamhi; atthe jāte ca paṇḍitan-ti.
In battle they wish for a hero; in advice for clarity; in food and drink for a friend; when need arises for a wise one.
Over and above these words of praise and gratitude, the king showered treasures upon the Bodhisatta like a storm-cloud pouring rain from the heavens. After following the Bodhisatta’s counsels through a long life spent in generosity and good works, the king passed away to fare thereafter according to his deeds.
His lesson ended, the Teacher, after extolling the elder’s merits, identified the Jātaka by saying: “Ānanda was the king of those days and I his wise counsellor.”
last updated: August 2023