Ja 97 Nāmasiddhijātaka
The Birth Story about the Lucky Name (1s)
In the present one monk is worried that his name brings bad luck. The Buddha tells a story showing how he had the same name in the past, and his teacher had sent him out to find a new, more pleasing name. During his journey he realised that names are not so important and became content with his own.
The Bodhisatta = the teacher (ācariya),
the Buddha’s disciples = the teacher’s disciples (ācariyaparisā),
the monk who believed in the power of names = the same in the past (nāmasiddhika).
Keywords: Names, Luck.
“Having seen Life lying dead.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a monk who thought luck went by names. For we hear that a young man of good family, named ‘Wicked [Pāpaka],’ had given his heart to the dispensation and went forth.
In the past the Bodhisatta was a teacher of world-wide fame at Taxila, and five hundred young brahmins learned the Vedas from his lips. One of these young men was named Wicked [Pāpaka]. And from continually hearing his fellows say, “Go, Wicked” and, “Come, Wicked,” he longed to get rid of his name and to take one that had a less ill-omened ring about it. So he went to his master and asked that a new name of a respectable character might be given him. Said his master, “Go, my son, and travel through the land till you have found a name you fancy. Then come back and I will change your name for you.”
The young man did as he was bidden, and taking provisions for the
“Life,” was the reply. “What, can Life be dead?” “Yes, Life is dead; both Life and Dead die just the same. A name only serves to mark who’s who. You seem a fool.” Hearing this he went on into the city, feeling neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with his own name.
Now a slave girl had been thrown down at the door of a house, while her master and mistress beat her with rope-ends because she had not brought home her wages. And the girl’s name was Rich [Dhanapālī].
More reconciled to his own name, the young brahmin left the city and on the road found a man who had lost his way. Having learned that he had lost his way, the young man asked what his name was. “Guide [Panthaka],” was the reply. “And has Guide lost his way?” “Guide or Lost, you can lose your way just the same. A name only serves to mark who’s who. You seem a fool.”
Quite reconciled now to his name, the young brahmin came back to his master. “Well, what name have you chosen?” asked the Bodhisatta. “Teacher,” said he, “I find that death comes to ‘Life’ and ‘Dead’ alike, that ‘Rich’ and ‘Poor’ may be poor together, and that ‘Guide’ and ‘Lost’ alike miss their way. I know now that a name serves only to tell who is who, and does not govern its owner’s destiny. So I am satisfied with my own name, and do not want to change it for any other.”
Then the Bodhisatta uttered this verse, combining what the young brahmin had done with the sights he had seen:
1. Jīvakañ-ca mataṁ disvā, Dhanapāliñ-ca duggataṁ,
Panthakañ-ca vane mūḷhaṁ, Pāpako puna-r-āgato ti.
Having seen Life lying dead, Wealthy who was poor, and Guide lost in the wood, Wicked came home again.
His story told, the Teacher said: “So you see, monks, that in former days as now this monk imagined there was a great deal in a name.” And he identified the Jātaka by saying: “This monk who is discontent with his name was the discontented young brahmin of those days; the Buddha’s disciples were the pupils; and I myself their master.”
last updated: August 2023