Ja 130 Kosiyajātaka
The Story about (the Adulteress) Kosiyā (1s)

In the present a virtuous brahmin is being cheated on by his wife who makes him work for her every whim. The Buddha tells a similar story of the past, and how he advised a brahmin so as to cure his wife with an unpleasant alternative.

The Bodhisatta = the teacher (ācariya),
the husband and wife = the same in the past (jayampatikā).

Keywords: Lust, Cheating, Women.

“You may ail or eat.” {1.463} This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a woman of Sāvatthi. She is said to have been the wicked wife of a good and virtuous brahmin, who was a lay brother. Her nights she spent in gadding about; while by day she did not a stroke of work, but made out to be ill and lay in bed groaning.

“What is the matter with you, my dear?” said her husband. “Wind troubles me.” “What can I get for you?” “Sweets, savouries, rich food, rice-gruel, boiled-rice, oil, and so forth.”

The obedient husband did as she wished, and toiled like a slave for her. She meantime kept her bed while her husband was about the house; but no sooner saw the door shut on him, than she was in the arms of her lovers.

“My poor wife doesn’t seem to get any better of the wind,” thought the brahmin at last, and betook himself with offerings of perfumes, flowers, and the like, to the Teacher at Jetavana. His obeisance done, he stood before the Fortunate One, who asked him why he had been absent so long.

“Sir,” said the brahmin, “I’m told my wife is troubled with the wind, and I toil away to keep her supplied with every conceivable dainty. And now she is stout and her complexion quite clear, but the wind is as troublesome as ever. It is through ministering to my wife that I have not had any time to come here, sir.”

Said the Teacher, who knew the wife’s wickedness, “Ah! Brahmin, the wise and good of days gone by taught you how to treat a woman suffering like your wife from so stubborn an ailment. But rebirth has confused your memory so that you forget.” So saying, he told the following story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a brahmin in a very distinguished family. After perfecting [1.285] his education at Taxila, he became a teacher of world-wide fame in Benares. To him flocked as pupils the young nobles and brahmins from all the princely and wealthy families. Now a country brahmin, who had learned from the Bodhisatta the three Vedas, and the eighteen Sciences, and who stopped on in Benares to look after his estate, came two or three times every day to listen to the Bodhisatta’s teachings. {1.464} And this brahmin had a wife who was a bad, wicked woman. And everything came to pass as above.

When the brahmin explained how it was that he could not get away to listen to his master’s teachings, the Bodhisatta, who knew that the brahmin’s wife was only feigning sickness, thought to himself, “I will tell him what treatment will cure the creature.” So he said to the brahmin, “Get her no more dainties, my son, but collect the urinations of cows and therein souse five kinds of fruit and so forth, and let the lot pickle in a new copper pot till the whole savours of the metal. Then take a rope or cord or stick and go to your wife, and tell her plainly she must either swallow the cure you have brought her, or else work for her food. (And here you will repeat certain lines which I will tell you.) If she refuses the remedy, then threaten to let her have a taste of the rope or stick, and to drag her about for a time by the hair, while you pummel her with your fists. You will find that at the mere threat she will be up and about her work.”

So off went the brahmin and brought his wife a mess prepared as the Bodhisatta had directed. “Who prescribed this?” said she. “The master,” said her husband. “Take it away, I won’t have it.”

“So you won’t have it, eh?” said the young brahmin, taking up the rope-end, “well then, you’ve either got to swallow down that cure or else to work for honest fare.” So saying he uttered this verse:

1. “You may ail or eat; which shall it be?
For you can’t do both, my Kosiyā.” {1.465}

Terrified by this, the woman Kosiyā realised from the moment the master inferred how impossible it was to deceive him, and, getting up, went about her work. And the consciousness that the master knew her wickedness made her repent, and become as good as she had formerly been wicked.

(So ended the story, and the brahmin’s wife, feeling that the All-enlightened Buddha knew what she was, stood in such awe of him that she did wrong no more.)

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “The husband and wife of today were the husband and wife of the story, and I was the master.”