Ja 127 Kalaṇḍukajātaka
The Story about (the Slave) Kalaṇḍuka (1s)
In the present a monk lies about his family, fortune and fame, until he is discovered. The Buddha tells a story of a past life, in which the same person had cheated his master’s friends and married into their family, putting on airs and graces, until his master discovered it and dragged him back to servitude.
The Bodhisatta = the wealthy man of Benares (Bārāṇasiseṭṭhi),
the monk = (the slave) Kalaṇḍuka.
Present Source: Ja 80 Bhīmasena,
Quoted at: Ja 125 Kaṭāhaka, Ja 127 Kalaṇḍuka.
Keywords: Boasting, Vanity.
“You vaunt.” This story was told by the Teacher once at Jetavana, about a boastful monk. The introductory story and the story of the past in this case are like those of Kaṭāhaka related above [Ja 80].
This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a certain braggart among the monks. Tradition says that he used to gather round him monks of all ages, and go about deluding everyone with lying boasts about his noble descent. “Ah, monks,” he would say, “there’s no family so noble as mine, no lineage so peerless. I am a scion of the highest of princely lines; no man is my equal in birth or ancestral estate; there is absolutely no end to the gold and silver and other treasures we possess. Our very slaves and menials are fed on rice and meat-stews, and are clad in the best Benares cloth, with the choicest Benares perfumes to perfume themselves withal; while I, because I have joined the Saṅgha, have to content myself with this vile fare and this vile garb.” But another monk, after enquiring into his family estate, exposed to the monks the emptiness of this pretension.
So the monks met in the Dhamma Hall, and talk began as to how that monk, in spite of his vows to leave worldly things and cleave only to the dispensation which leads to safety, was going about deluding the monks with his lying boasts. While the fellow’s sinfulness was being discussed, the Teacher entered and enquired what their topic was. And they told him. “This is not the first time, monks,” said the Teacher, “that he has gone about boasting; in bygone days too he went about boasting and deluding people.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a rich Treasurer, and his wife bore him a son. And the self-same day a female slave in his house gave birth to a boy, and the two children grew up together. And when the rich man’s son was being taught to write, the young slave used to go with his young master’s tablets and so learned at the same time to write himself. Next he learned two or three handicrafts, and grew up to be a fair-spoken and handsome young man; and his name was Kalaṇḍuka. Being employed as private secretary, he thought to himself, “I shall not always be kept at this work. The slightest fault and I shall be beaten, imprisoned, branded, and fed on slave’s fare. On the border there lives a merchant, a friend of my master’s. Why should I not go to him with a letter purporting to come from my master, and, passing myself off as my master’s son, marry the merchant’s daughter and live happily ever afterwards?
So he wrote a letter, saying: “The bearer of this is my son. It is meet that our houses should be united in marriage, and I would have you give your daughter to this my son and keep the young couple near you for the present. As soon as I can conveniently do so, I will come to you.” This letter he sealed with his master’s private seal, and came to the border-merchant with a well-filled purse, handsome dresses, and perfumes and the like. And with a bow he stood before the merchant. “Where do you come from?” said the merchant. “From Benares.” “Who is your father?” “The Treasurer of Benares.” “And what brings you here?” “This letter will tell you,” said Kalaṇḍuka, handing it to him. The merchant read the letter and exclaimed, “This gives me new life.” And in his joy he gave his daughter to Kalaṇḍuka and set up the young couple, who lived in great style. But Kalaṇḍuka gave himself airs, and used to find fault with the victuals and the clothes that were brought him, calling them “provincial.” “These misguided provincials,” he would say, “have no idea of dressing. And as for taste in scents and garlands, they’ve got none.”
Kalaṇḍuka was in this case the name of the slave of the Treasurer of Benares. And when he had run away and was living in luxury with the daughter of the border-merchant, the Treasurer missed him and could not discover his whereabouts. So he sent a young pet parrot to search for the runaway. And off flew the parrot in quest of Kalaṇḍuka, and searched for him far and wide, till at last the bird came to the town where he dwelt. And just at that very time Kalaṇḍuka was enjoying himself on the river with his wife in a boat well-stocked with dainty fare and with flowers and perfumes. Now the nobles of that land at their water-parties make a point of taking milk with a pungent drug to drink, and so escape suffering from cold after their pastime on the water.
1. “You vaunt your high descent, your high degree,
With lying tongue. Though but a bird, I know
The truth. You’ll soon be caught, you runaway.
Scorn not the milk then, slave Kalaṇḍuka.”
Recognizing the parrot, Kalaṇḍuka grew afraid of being exposed, and exclaimed, “Ah! Good master, when did you arrive?”
Thought the parrot, “It is not friendliness, but a wish to wring my neck, that prompts this kindly interest.” So he replied that he did not stand in need of Kalaṇḍuka’s services, and flew off to Benares, where he told the Lord Treasurer everything he had seen.
“The rascal!” cried the Treasurer, and ordered Kalaṇḍuka to be hauled back to Benares where he had once more to put up with a slave’s fare.
His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “This monk was Kalaṇḍuka in the story, and I the Treasurer of Benares.”
last updated: November 2021