Ja 93 Vissāsabhojanajātaka
The Birth Story about Using Things on Trust (1s)

Alternative Title: Visāsabhojanajātaka (Cst)

In the present the monks use requisites given by their relatives without circumspection, which the Buddha says is wrong and is like taking poison. He then tells a story of the past when a lion was tricked into licking a doe that had had poison spread over it, and so died.

The Bodhisatta = the great wealthy man (mahāseṭṭhi).
Keyword: The dangers of trust, Devas, Animals.

“Do not trust the untrustworthy.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about taking things on trust.

Tradition tells us that in those days the monks, for the most part, used to rest content if anything was given them by their mothers or fathers, brothers or sisters, or uncles or aunts, or other kinsfolk. Arguing that in their lay state they had as a matter of course received things from the same hands, they, as monks, [1.228] likewise showed no circumspection or caution before using food, clothing and other requisites which their relations gave them. Observing this the Teacher felt that he must read the monks a lesson. So he called them together, and said: “Monks, no matter whether {1.388} the giver be a relation or not, let circumspection accompany use. The monk who without circumspection uses the requisites which are given to him, may entail on himself a subsequent existence as a Yakkha or as a ghost. Use without circumspection is like unto taking poison; and poison kills just the same, whether it be given by a relative or by a stranger. There were those who in bygone days actually did take poison because it was offered by those near and dear to them, and thereby they met their end.” So saying, he told the following story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a very wealthy merchant. He had a herdsman who, when the corn was growing thick, drove his cows to the forest and kept them there at a small hut, bringing the produce from time to time to the merchant. Now nearby the hut in the forest there dwelt a lion; and so afraid of the lion were the cows that they gave but little milk. So when the herdsman brought in his ghee one day, the merchant asked why there was so little of it. Then the herdsman told him the reason. “Well, has the lion formed an attachment to anything?” “Yes, master; he’s fond of a doe.” “Could you catch that doe?” “Yes, master.” “Well, catch her, and rub her all over with poison and sugar, and let her dry. Keep her a day or two, and then turn her loose. Because of his affection for her, the lion will lick her all over with his tongue, and die. Take his hide with the claws and teeth and fat, and bring them back to me.” So saying, he gave deadly poison to the herdsman and sent him off. With the aid of a net which he made, the herdsman caught the doe and carried out the Bodhisatta’s orders.

As soon as he saw the doe again, the lion, in his great love for her, licked her with his tongue so that he died. And the herdsman took the lion’s hide and the rest, and brought them to the Bodhisatta, who said: “Affection for others should be eschewed. Mark how, for all his strength, the king of beasts, the lion, was led by his love for a doe to poison himself by licking her and so to die.” So saying, he uttered this verse for the instruction of those gathered around: {1.389}

1. Na vissase avissatthe, vissatthe pi na vissase,
Vissāsā bhayam-anveti, sīhaṁ va migamātukā ti.

Do not trust the untrustworthy, in the trustworthy do not trust, there is danger following trust, like the lion and the hare-deer.

Such was the lesson which the Bodhisatta taught to those around him. After a life spent in generosity and other good works, he passed away to fare according to his deeds.

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “I was the merchant of those days.”