Ja 109 Kuṇḍakapūvajātaka
The Birth Story about the Rice-Cake (1s)

Alternative Title: Kuṇḍapūvajātaka (Cst)

In the present a poor man makes an offering of a coarse cake to the Buddha as his only meal of the day, and others offer him riches to share in his merit. The Buddha tells how a poor man had offered a coarse cake to a Tree Devatā, and had been richly rewarded by the king.

The Bodhisatta = the castor oil Tree Devatā (eraṇḍarukkhadevatā),
the poor man = the same in the past (duggata).

Keywords: Good deeds, Devotion, Devas.

“Just as the man’s food.” This story was told by the Teacher when at Sāvatthi, about a very poor man.

Now at Sāvatthi the Saṅgha with the Buddha at their head used to be entertained now by a single family, now by three or four families together. Or a body of people or a whole street would club together, or sometimes the whole city entertained them. But on the occasion now in question it was a street that was offering the hospitality. And the inhabitants had arranged to provide rice-gruel followed by cakes.

Now in that street there lived a very poor man, a hired labourer, who could not see how he could give the gruel, but resolved to give cakes. And he scraped out the red powder from empty husks and kneaded it with water into a round cake. This cake he wrapped in a leaf of swallow-wort, and baked it in the embers. When it was done, he made up his mind that none but the Buddha should have it, and accordingly took his stand immediately by the Teacher. No sooner had the word been given to offer cakes, than he stepped forward quicker than anyone else and put his cake in the Teacher’s alms-bowl. And the Teacher declined all other cakes offered him and ate the poor man’s cake. Forthwith the whole city talked of nothing but how the Fully Awakened One had not disdained to eat the poor man’s bran-cake. And from porters to nobles and king, all classes flocked to the spot, saluted the Teacher, and crowded round the poor man, [1.253] offering him food, or two to five hundred pieces of money if he would make over to them the merit of his act.

Thinking he had better ask the Teacher first, he went to him and stated his case. “Take what they offer,” said the Teacher, “and impute your righteousness to all living creatures.” So the man set to work to collect the offerings. Some gave twice as much as others, some four times as much, others eight times as much, and so on, till nine crores of gold were contributed.

Returning thanks for the hospitality, the Teacher went back to the monastery and after instructing the monks and imparting his standard teaching to them, retired to his perfumed chamber.

In the evening the king sent for the poor man, and created him Lord Treasurer.

Assembling in the Dhamma Hall the monks spoke together of how the Teacher, not disdaining the poor man’s bran-cake, had eaten it as though it were ambrosia, and how the poor man had been enriched {1.423} and made Lord Treasurer to his great good fortune. And when the Teacher entered the Hall and heard what they were talking of, he said: “Monks, this is not the first time that I have not disdained to eat that poor man’s cake of bran. I did the same when I was a Tree Devatā, and then too was the means of his being made Lord Treasurer.” So saying he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a Tree Devatā dwelling in a castor-oil plant. And the villagers of those days were superstitious about gods. A festival came round and the villagers offered sacrifices to their respective Tree Devatās. Seeing this, a poor man showed worship to the castor-oil tree. All the others had come with garlands, odours, perfumes, and cakes; but the poor man had only a cake of husk-powder and water in a coconut shell for his tree. Standing before it, he thought within himself, “Tree Devatās are used to heavenly food, and my Tree Devatā will not eat this cake of husk-powder. Why then should I lose it outright? I will eat it myself.” And he turned to go away, when the Bodhisatta from the fork of his tree exclaimed, “My good man, if you were a great lord you would bring me dainty yeast bread; but as you are a poor man, what shall I have to eat if not that cake? Rob me not of my portion.” And he uttered this verse:

1. Yathanno puriso hoti, tathannā tassa Devatā,
Āharetaṁ kuṇḍapūvaṁ, mā me bhāgaṁ vināsayā ti.

Just as the man’s food, so is the Devatā’s food, you must bring me rice-cake, do not destroy my share.

Then the man turned again, and, seeing the Bodhisatta, offered up his sacrifice. The Bodhisatta fed on the savour and said: “Why do you worship me?” “I am a poor man, my lord, and I worship you to be eased of my poverty.” {1.424} “Have no more care for that. You have sacrificed to one who is grateful and mindful of kindly deeds. Round this tree, neck to neck, are buried pots of treasure. Go tell the king, and take the treasure away in wagons to the king’s courtyard. There pile it in a heap, and the king shall be so well-pleased that he will make you Lord Treasurer.” So saying, the Bodhisatta vanished from sight. The [1.254] man did as he was bidden, and the king made him Lord Treasurer. Thus did the poor man by aid of the Bodhisatta come to great fortune; and when he died, he passed away to fare according to his deeds.

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “The poor man of today was also the poor man of those times, and I the Tree Devatā who dwelt in the castor-oil tree.”