Ja 124 Ambajātaka
The Birth Story about the Mangoes (1s)

In the present one monk is very virtuous in all his actions, and attracts a generous support for all who dwell with him. The Buddha tells a story of how once during a drought, when living as an ascetic, he had put aside his own needs to cater to watering the animals in the forest, and how they had repaid him.

The Bodhisatta = the teacher of a group (gaṇasatthā),
the monk = the dutiful ascetic (vattasampanno tāpaso).

Keywords: Virtue, Reward, Animals.

“A person must make an effort.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a good brahmin belonging to a noble Sāvatthi family who gave his heart to the dispensation, and going forth, became constant in all duties. Blameless in his attendance on teachers; scrupulous in the matter of foods and drinks; zealous in the performance of the duties of the chapter-house, bath-house, and so forth; perfectly punctual in the observance of the fourteen major and of the eighty minor disciplines; he used to sweep the monastery, the cells, the cloisters, and the path leading to their monastery, and gave water to thirsty folk. And because of his great goodness folk gave regularly five hundred meals a day to the monks; and great gain and honour accrued to the monastery, the many prospering for the virtues of one. And one day in the Dhamma Hall the monks fell to talking of how that monk’s goodness had brought them gain and honour, and filled many lives with joy. Entering the Hall, {1.450} the Teacher asked, and [1.274] was told, what their talk was about. “This is not the first time, monks,” said he, “that this monk has been regular in the fulfilment of duties. In days gone by five hundred ascetics going out to gather fruits were supported on the fruits that his goodness provided.” So saying, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a brahmin in the north, and, growing up, gave up the world and dwelt at the head of five hundred ascetics at the foot of the mountains. In those days there came a great drought upon the Himālayas, and everywhere the water was dried up, and sore distress fell upon all beasts. Seeing the poor creatures suffering from thirst, one of the ascetics cut down a tree which he hollowed into a trough; and this trough he filled with all the water he could find. In this way he gave the animals to drink. And they came in herds and drank and drank till the ascetic had no time left to go and gather fruits for himself. Heedless of his own hunger, he worked away to quench the animals’ thirst. Thought they to themselves, “So wrapped up is this ascetic in ministering to our wants that he leaves himself no time to go in quest of fruits. He must be very hungry. Let us agree that everyone of us who comes here to drink must bring such fruits as he can to the ascetic.” This they agreed to do, every animal that came bringing mangoes or jambus or breadfruits or the like, till their offerings would have filled two hundred and fifty wagons; and there was food for the whole five hundred ascetics with abundance to spare. Seeing this, the Bodhisatta exclaimed, “Thus has one man’s goodness been the means of supplying with food all these ascetics. Truly, we should always be steadfast in doing right.” So saying, he uttered this verse:

1. Vāyametheva puriso, na nibbindeyya paṇḍito,
Vāyāmassa phalaṁ passa bhuttā ambā anītihan-ti.

A person must make an effort, the wise one should not be weary, this is not just hearsay: having eaten the mangoes, see the fruit of the one who exerts himself. {1.451}

Such was the teaching of the Great Being to the band of ascetics.

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “This monk was the good ascetic of those days, and I the ascetics’ master.”