Ja 139 Ubhatobhaṭṭhajātaka
The Birth Story about Falling Both Ways (1s)
In the present the monks are talking about Devadatta’s twofold failure, as a monk and as a layman. The Buddha tells of a fisherman who lost his eyes while his wife got a beating by trying to hide their good luck.
The Bodhisatta = the Tree Devatā (Rukkhadevatā),
Devadatta = the fishermen (bāḷisika).
Keywords: Dissemblance, Misfortune, Devas.
“Eyes are blinded, and clothes are lost.” This story the Teacher told while at the Bamboo Grove, about Devadatta. We hear that the monks, meeting together in the Dhamma Hall, spoke one with another, saying that even as a torch from a pyre, charred at both ends and bedunged in the middle, does not serve as wood either in forest tree or village-hearth, so Devadatta by giving up the world to follow this dispensation which leads to safety had only achieved a twofold shortcoming and failure, seeing that he had missed the comforts of a lay life yet had fallen short of his vocation as a monk.
Entering the Hall, the Teacher asked and was told what the monks were talking of together. “Yes, monks,” said he, “and so too in days gone by Devadatta came to just such another two-fold failure.” So saying, he told this story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a Tree Devatā, and there was a certain village where
Accordingly he told the lad to run off home and tell his mother what a big fish he had hooked and how she was to engage the neighbours’ attention. Then, fearing his line might break, he flung off his coat and dashed into the water to secure his prize. But as he groped about for the fish, he struck against the snag and put out both his eyes. Moreover a robber stole his clothes from the bank. In an agony of pain, with his hands pressed to his blinded eyes, he clambered out trembling in every limb and tried to find his clothes.
Meantime his wife, to occupy the neighbours by a quarrel on purpose, had tricked herself out with a palm-leaf behind one ear, and had blacked one eye with soot from the saucepan. In this guise, nursing a dog, she came out to call on her neighbours. “Bless me, you’ve gone mad,” said one woman to her. “Not mad at all,” retorted the fisherman’s wife, “you abuse me without cause with your slanderous tongue. Come your ways with me to the village headman and I’ll have you fined eight pieces The Pāli word here, as in No. 137, is kahāpaṇa. But there it is shewn by the context to be a golden coin; whereas here the poverty of the fisher-folk supports the view that the coin was of copper, as commonly. The fact seems to be that the word kahāpaṇa, like some other names of Indian coins, primarily indicated a weight of any coined metal, whether gold, silver or copper. for slander.”
So with angry words they went off to the village headman. But when the matter was gone into, it was the fisherman’s wife who was fined; and she was tied up and beaten to make her pay the fine. Now when the Tree Devatā saw how misfortune had befallen both the wife in the village and the husband in the forest, he stood in the fork of his tree and exclaimed, “Ah fisherman, both in the water and on land your labour is in vain, and twofold is your failure.” So saying he uttered this verse:
1. Akkhī bhinnā, paṭo naṭṭho, sakhigehe ca bhaṇḍanaṁ,
Ubhato paduṭṭhā kammantā, udakamhi thalamhi cā ti.
Eyes are blinded, and clothes are lost, accusations in a friend’s house, both of their doings are wicked, in the water and on dry land.
His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “Devadatta was the fisherman of those days, and I the Tree Devatā.”
last updated: August 2023