Ja 111 Gadrabhapañha
The Question about the Ass (1s)
Alternative Title: Gadrabhapañhajātaka (Cst)
There is no story of the present. In the past Mahosadha has proven his wisdom in being able to solve many problems, and the king decides to send for him to be his advisor. His chief advisor Senaka sets one more problem for Mahosadha to solve concerning an ass.
The Bodhisatta = (paṇḍita) Mahosadha.
Present Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 111 Gadrabhapañha.
Keywords: Riddles, Wisdom, Animals.
“If you think that the father is better.” This Question as to the Ass will also be set out at length in the Ummaggajātaka [Ja 546].
With a great following the king set out for the village, mounted upon his royal horse. But as he went the horse put his foot into a hole and broke his leg; so the king turned back from that place to the town. Then Senaka entered the presence and said: “Sire, did you go to the east market town to bring the sage back?” “Yes, sir,” said the king. “Sire,” said Senaka, “you make me as one of no account. I begged you to wait awhile; but off you went in a hurry, and at the outset your royal horse broke his leg.” The king had nothing to say to this.
Again on a day he asked Senaka, “Shall we send for the sage, Senaka?” “If so, your majesty, don’t go yourself but send a messenger, saying, O sage! As I was on my way to fetch you my horse broke his leg: send us a better horse and a more excellent one. If he takes the first alternative he will come himself, if the second he will send his father. Then will be a problem to test him.” The king sent a messenger with this message. The sage on hearing it recognised that the king wished to see himself and his father. So he went to his father, and greeting him said: “Father, the king wishes to see you and me. You go first with a thousand merchants in attendance; and when you go, go not empty-handed, but take a sandalwood casket filled with fresh ghee. The king will speak kindly to you, and offer you a householder’s seat; take it and sit down. When you are seated, I will come; the king will speak kindly to me and offer me such another seat. Then I will look at you; take the cue and say, rising from your seat, say, ‘Son Mahosadha the wise, take this seat.’ Then the question will be ripe for solution.” He did so.
On arriving at the palace door he caused his arrival to be made known to the king, and on the king’s invitation, he entered, and greeted the king, and stood on one side. The king spoke to him kindly, and asked where was his son the wise Mahosadha. “Coming after me, my lord.” The king was pleased to hear of his coming, and bade the father sit in a suitable place. He found a place and sat there. Meanwhile the Great Being dressed himself in all his splendour, and attended by the thousand youths he came seated in a magnificent chariot. As he entered the town he beheld an ass by the side of a ditch, and he directed some stout fellows to fasten up the mouth of the ass so that it should make no noise, to put him in a bag and carry him on their shoulders. They did so; the Bodhisatta entered the city with his great company. The people could not praise him enough. “This,” they cried, “is the wise Mahosadha, the merchant Sirivaḍḍhaka’s son; this they say is he, who was born holding a herb of virtue in his hand; he it is who knew the answers to so many problems set to test him.”
On arriving before the palace he sent in word of his coming. The king was pleased to hear it and said: “Let my son the wise Mahosadha make haste to come in.” So with his attendants he entered the palace and saluted the king and stood on one side. The king was delighted to see him and spoke to him very sweetly, and bade him find a fit seat and sit down. He looked at his father, and his father at this cue rose up from his seat and invited him to sit there, which he did.
Thereupon the foolish men who were there, Senaka, Pukkusa, Kāvinda, Devinda, and others, seeing him sit there, clapped their hands and laughed loudly and cried, “This is the blind fool they call wise! He has made his father rise from his seat, and sits there himself! Wise he should not be called surely.” The king also was crestfallen. Then the Great Being said: “Why, my lord! Are you sad?” “Yes, wise sir, I am sad. I was glad to hear of you, but to see you I am not glad.” “Why so?” “Because you have made your father rise from his seat, and sit there yourself.” “What, my lord! Do you think that in all cases the sire is better than the sons?” “Yes, sir.” “Did you not send word to me to bring you the better horse or the more excellent horse?” So saying he rose up and looking towards the young fellows, said: “Bring in the ass you have brought.” Placing this ass before the king he went on, “Sire, what is the price of this ass?” The king said: “If it be serviceable, it is worth eight rupees.” “But if he get a mule colt out of a thoroughbred Sindh mare, what will the price of it be?” “It will be priceless.” “Why do you say that, my lord? Have you not just said that in all cases the sire is better than the sons? By your own saying the ass is worth more than the mule colt. Now have not your wise men clapped their hands and laughed at me because they did not know that? What wisdom is this of your wise men! Where did you get them?” And in contempt for all four of them he addressed the king in this verse of the First Book:
1. Haṁsi tuvaṁ evaṁ maññasi seyyo,
Puttena pitā ti rājaseṭṭha,
Handassatarassa te ayaṁ?
Assatarassa hi gadrabho pitā ti.
If you think that the father is better than the son, foremost king, come, is this better than your mule? For the ass is the mule’s father.
After this was said, he went on, “My lord, if the sire is better than the son, take my sire into your service; if the son is better than the sire, take me.” The king was delighted; and all the company cried out applauding and praising a thousand times, “Well indeed has the wise man solved the question.” There was a snapping of fingers and waving of a thousand scarves: the four were crestfallen.
Now no one knows better than the Bodhisatta the value of parents. If one ask then, why he did so: it was not to throw contempt on his father, but when the king sent the message, “Send the better horse or the more excellent horse,” he did thus in order to solve that problem, and to make his wisdom to be recognised, and to take the shine out of the four sages.
This is the end of the Question as to the Ass.
last updated: August 2023