Ja 120 Bandhanamokkhajātaka
The Birth Story about Freedom from Bondage (1s)
In the present Ciñcā falsely accuses the Buddha of fathering a child on her. After Sakka reveals the falsehood, she falls into hell. The Buddha tells a story about a queen who cheated with 64 men and then falsely accused the king’s family priest of adultery, until it was discovered.
The Bodhisatta = the family priest (purohita),
Ānanda = the king (rājā),
Ciñcamāṇavikā = the corrupt queen (duṭṭhadevī).
Present Source: Ja 472 Mahāpaduma,
Quoted at: Ja 120 Bandhanamokkha,
Present Compare: Dhp-a XIII.9 Ciñcamāṇavikā.
Keywords: Slander, Wisdom, Devas, Women.
“They bind the unbound right there.”
When the One with Ten Powers first attained supreme wisdom, after disciples had multiplied, and innumerable gods and men had been born into heavenly states, and the seeds of goodness had been cast abroad, great honour was shown him, and great gifts given. The heretics were like fireflies after sunrise; they had no honours and no gifts; in the street they stood, and cried out to the people, “What is the ascetic Gotama the Buddha? We are Buddhas also! Does that gift only bring great fruit, which is given to him? That which is given to us also has great fruit for you! Give to us also, work for us!” But cry as they would, they got no honour nor gifts. Then they came together in secret, and consulted, “How can we cast a stain upon Gotama the ascetic in the face of men, and put an end to his honour and his gifts?”
Now there was at that time in Sāvatthi a certain nun, named Ciñcamāṇavikā; she was very lovely, full of all grace, like a Devaccharā; rays of brilliancy shone forth from her body. Some one uttered a counsel of cruelty thus, “By the help of Ciñcamāṇavikā we will cast a stain upon the ascetic Gotama, and put an end to his honour and the gifts he receives.” “Yes,” they all agreed, “that is the way to do it.”
She came to the monastery of the heretics, and greeted them, and stood still. The heretics said nothing to her. She said: “What blemish is there in me? Three times I have greeted you!” She said again, “Sirs, what blemish is in me? why do you not speak to me?” They replied, “Know you not, sister, that Gotama the ascetic is going about and doing us harm, cutting off all the honour and liberality that was shown us?” “I did not know it, sirs; but what can I do?” “If you wish us well, sister by your own doing bring a stain upon the ascetic Gotama, and put an end to his honour and the gifts he receives.” She replied, “Very good, sirs, leave that to me; do not trouble about it.” With these words she departed.
After that, she used all a woman’s skill in deceit. When the people of Sāvatthi had heard the Dhamma, and were coming away from Jetavana, she used to go towards Jetavana, clad in a robe dyed with cochineal, and with fragrant garlands in her hands. When any one asked her, “Whither away at this hour?” she would reply, “What have you to do with my goings and comings?” She spent the night in the heretics’ monastery, which was close by Jetavana: and when early in the morning, the lay associates of the order came forth from the city to pay their morning salutation, she would meet them as though she had spent the night in Jetavana, going towards the city. If any one asked where she had stayed, she would answer, “What are my stayings and lodgings to you?” But after some six weeks, she replied, “I spent the night in Jetavana, with Gotama the ascetic, in one fragrant cell.” Then the unconverted began to wonder, could this be true, or not.
After three or four months, she bound bandages about her belly, and made it appear as though she were with child, and wrapped a red robe around her. Then she declared that she was with child by the ascetic Gotama, and made blind fools believe. After eight or nine months, she fastened about her pieces of wood in a bundle, and over all her red robe; hands, feet, and back she caused to be beaten with the jawbone of an ox, so as to produce swellings; and made as though all her senses were wearied.
One evening, when the Tathāgata was sitting on the splendid seat of preaching, and was preaching the Dhamma, she went among the Saṅgha, and standing in front of the Tathāgata, said: “O great ascetic! You preach indeed to great multitudes; sweet is your voice, and soft is the lip that covers your teeth; but you have got me with child, and my time is near; yet you assign me no chamber for the childbirth, you give me no ghee nor oil; what you will not do yourself, you do not ask another of the lay associates to do, the king of Kosala, or Anāthapiṇḍika, or Visākhā the great lay sister. Why do you not tell one of them to do what is to be done for me? You know how to take your pleasure, but you do not know how to care for that which shall be born!” So she reviled the Tathāgata in the midst of the Saṅgha, as one might try to besmirch the moon’s face with a handful of filth. The Tathāgata stopped his discourse, and roaring like a lion in clarion tones, he said: “Sister, whether that which you have said be true or false, you know and I only know.” “Yes, truly,” said she, “this happened through something that you and I only know of.”
Just at that moment, Sakka’s throne became hot. Reflecting, he perceived the reason, “Ciñcamāṇavikā is accusing the Tathāgata of what is not true.” Determined to clear up this matter, he came there with four Devaputtas in his company. The Devaputtas took on them the shape of mice, and all at once gnawed through the cords that bound the bundle of wood: a wind-puff blew up the robe she wore, and the bundle of wood was disclosed and fell at her feet: the toes of both her feet were cut off. The people cried out, “A wretch is accusing the Supreme Buddha!” They spat on her head, and drove her forth from Jetavana with staves and clods in their hands. And as she passed beyond the range of the Tathāgata’s vision, the great earth yawned and showed a huge cleft, flames came up from the lowest hell, and she, enveloped in it as it were with a garment which her friends should wrap about her, fell to the lowest hell and there was born again. The honour and receipts of the other heretics ceased, those of the One with Ten Powers grew more abundantly.
Next day they were conversing in the Dhamma Hall, “Monks, Ciñcamāṇavikā falsely accused the Supreme Buddha, great in virtue, worthy of all gifts! And she came to dire destruction.” The Teacher entered, and asked what they talked of, sitting there together. They told him.
On this occasion the Teacher said: “Monks, this is not the first time Ciñcā has laid false accusations against me. She did the like in other times.” So saying he told this story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born into the family priest’s family, and on his father’s death became the family priest.
Now the king promised to grant whatsoever boon his queen should ask of him, and she said: “The boon I ask is an easy one; henceforth you must not look on any other woman with eyes of love.” At first he refused, but, wearied by her unceasing importunity, was obliged to give way at last. And from that day forward he never cast a glance of love at any one of his sixteen thousand dancing girls.
Now a disturbance arose on the borders of his kingdom, and after two or three engagements with the robbers, the troops there sent a letter to the king saying that they were unable to carry the matter through. Then the king was anxious to go in person and assembled a mighty host. And he said to his wife, “Dear one, I go to the frontier, where battles will rage ending in victory or defeat. The camp is no place for a woman, and you must stay behind here.”
“I can’t remain behind if you go, my lord,” said she. But finding the king firm in his decision she made the following request instead, “Every league,
Halting his victorious army near the city, the king sent a letter to the Bodhisatta to prepare the city for his entry. The preparations in the city were done, and the Bodhisatta was preparing the palace for the king’s arrival, when he came to the queen’s apartments. The sight of his great beauty so moved the queen that she called to him to satisfy her lust. But the Bodhisatta pleaded with her, urging the king’s honour, and protesting that he shrank from all wrong and would not do as she wished. “No thoughts of the king frightened sixty-four of the king’s messengers,” said she, “and will you for the king’s sake fear to do my will?”
Said the Bodhisatta, “Had these messengers thought with me, they would not have acted thus. As for me that know the right, I will not commit this wrong.”
“Don’t talk nonsense,” said she. “If you refuse, I will have your head chopped off.”
“So be it. Cut off my head in this or in a hundred thousand existences; yet will I not do your bidding.”
“All right; I will see,” said the queen menacingly. And retiring to her chamber, she scratched herself, put oil on her limbs, clad herself in dirty clothes and feigned to be ill. Then she sent for her slaves and bade them tell the king, when he should ask after her, that she was ill.
Meantime the Bodhisatta had gone to meet the king, who, after marching round the city in solemn procession, entered his palace. Not seeing the queen, he asked where she was, and was told that she was ill. Entering the royal bed-chamber, the king caressed the queen and asked what ailed her. She was silent; but when the king asked the third time, she looked at him and said: “Though my lord the king still lives, yet poor women like me have to own a master.”
“What do you mean?”
“The family priest whom you left to watch over the city came here on pretence of seeing after the palace; and because I would not yield to his will,
Then the king fumed with rage, like the crackling of salt or sugar in the fire; and he rushed from the chamber. Calling his servants, he bade them bind the family priest with his hands behind him, like one condemned to death, and cut off his head at the place of execution. So away they hurried and bound the Bodhisatta. And the drum was beaten to announce the execution.
Thought the Bodhisatta, “Doubtless that wicked queen has already poisoned the king’s mind against me, and now must I save myself from this peril.” So he said to his captors, “Bring me into the king’s presence before you slay me.” “Why so?” said they. “Because, as the king’s servant, I have toiled greatly on the king’s business, and know where great treasures are hidden which I have discovered. If I am not brought before the king, all this wealth will be lost. So lead me to him, and then do your duty.”
Accordingly, they brought him before the king, who asked why reverence had not restrained him from such wickedness.
“Sire,” answered the Bodhisatta, “I was born a brahmin, and have never taken the life so much as of an emmet or ant. I have never taken what was not my own, even to a blade of grass. Never have I looked with lustful eyes upon another man’s wife. Not even in jest have I spoken falsely, and not a drop of strong drink have I ever drunk. Innocent am I, sire; but that wicked woman took me lustfully by the hand, and, being rebuffed, threatened me, nor did she retire to her chamber before she had told me her secret evil-doing. For there were sixty-four messengers who came with letters from you to the queen. Send for these men and ask each whether he did as the queen bade him or not.” Then the king had the sixty-four men bound and sent for the queen. And she confessed to having had guilty intercourse with the men. Then the king ordered off all the sixty-four to be beheaded.
But at this point
Upon this entreaty the king was merciful, and so the Bodhisatta saved the lives of the queen and the sixty-four men, and he gave them each a place to dwell in. Then the Bodhisatta came to the king and said: “Sire, the baseless accusations of folly put the wise in unmerited bonds, but the words of the wise released the foolish. Thus folly wrongfully binds, and wisdom sets free from bonds.” So saying, he uttered this verse:
1. Abaddhā tattha bajjhanti, yattha bālā pabhāsare,
Baddhā pi tattha muccanti, yattha dhīrā pabhāsare ti.
They bind the unbound right there, where fools speak, they free the bound right there, where the wise speak.
When he had taught the king the Dhamma in these verses, he exclaimed, “All this trouble sprang from my living a lay life. I must change my mode of life, and crave your permission, sire, to give up the world.” And with the king’s permission he gave up the world and quit his tearful relations and his great wealth to become a recluse. His dwelling was in the Himālayas, and there he won the Super Knowledges and Attainments and became destined to rebirth in the Brahma Realm.
His teaching ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “Ciñcā was the wicked queen of those days, Ānanda the king, and I his family priest.”
last updated: August 2023