Ja 122 Dummedhajātaka
The Birth Story about the Fool (1s)
In the present when Devadatta hears the Buddha being praised he is maddened by it. The Buddha tells how, when he was a state elephant in the past, a previous incarnation of Devadatta had been jealous of him, and had tried to get him killed, until he fled to another king, who was more appreciative.
The Bodhisatta = the elephant (hatthī),
Ānanda = the mahout (hatthācariya),
Sāriputta = the king of Benares (Bārāṇasirājā),
Devadatta = the king of Magadha (Magadharājā).
Keywords: Jealousy, Appreciation, Animals.
“When a foolish one receives fame.”
In the past when king Magadha was ruling in Rājagaha in Magadha, the Bodhisatta was born an elephant. He was white all over and graced with all the beauty of form described above. [Ja 72 Sīlavanāgajātaka. I include the paragraph here.]
When born, he was white all over, like a mighty mass of silver. Like diamond balls were his eyes, like a manifestation of the five brightnesses; red was his mouth, like scarlet cloth; like silver flecked with red gold was his trunk; and his four feet were as if polished with lac. Thus his person, adorned with the Ten Perfections, was of consummate beauty.
And because of his beauty the king made him his state elephant. One festal day the king adorned the city like a city of the Devas and, mounted on the elephant in all its trappings, made a solemn procession round the city attended by a great retinue. And all along the route the people were moved by the sight of that peerless elephant to exclaim, “Oh what a stately gait! What proportions! What beauty! What grace! Such a white elephant is worthy of a Universal Monarch.” All this praise of his
“Indeed he is well trained, sire,” said the mahout. “No, he is very badly trained.” “Sire, he is well trained.”
And the mahout on the elephant’s back just touched the animal with his goad by way of sign and called to him, “Hi! My beauty, stand on three legs.” “Now make him stand on his two fore-legs,” said the king. And the Great Being raised his hind-legs and stood on his fore-legs alone. “Now on the hind-legs,” said the king, and the obedient elephant raised his fore-legs till he stood on his hind-legs alone. “Now on one leg,” said the king, and the elephant stood on one leg.
Seeing that the elephant did not fall over the precipice, the king cried, “Now if you can, make him stand in the air.”
Then thought the mahout to himself, “All Jambudīpa cannot show the match of this elephant for excellence of training. Surely the king must want to make him tumble over the precipice and meet his death.” So he whispered in the elephant’s ear, “My son, the king wants you to fall over and get killed. He is not worthy of you. If you have power to journey through the air, rise up with me upon your back and fly through the air to Benares.”
And the Great Being, endowed as he was with the marvellous powers which flow from merit, straightaway rose up into the air. Then said the mahout, “Sire, this elephant, possessed as he is with the marvellous powers which flow from merit, is too good for such a worthless fool as you: none but a wise and good king is worthy to be his master. When those who are so worthless as you get an elephant like this, they don’t know his value, and so they lose their elephant, and all the rest of their glory and splendour.” So saying the mahout, seated on the elephant’s neck, recited this verse:
1. Yasaṁ laddhāna dummedho, anatthaṁ carati attano,
Attano ca paresañ-ca hiṁsāya paṭipajjatī ti.
When a foolish one receives fame, it’s not at all for his welfare, he practices in a way harmful for himself and for others.
“And now, goodbye,” said he to the king as he ended this rebuke; and rising in the air, he passed to Benares and halted in mid-air
His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “Devadatta was in those days the king of Magadha, Sāriputta the king of Benares, Ānanda the mahout, and I the elephant.”
last updated: August 2023