Ja 143 Virocanajātaka
The Birth Story about Shining Forth (1s)
Alternative Title: Virocajātaka (Cst)
In the present Devadatta makes himself out a Buddha, but loses all his disciples in a stroke. The Buddha tells a story of how a jackal wanted to emulate a lion and soon came to destruction.
The Bodhisatta = the lion (sīha),
Devadatta = the jackal (sigāla).
Keywords: Dissimulation, Conceit, Animals.
“Your brains are split open.” This story was told by the Teacher while at the Bamboo Grove, about Devadatta’s efforts to pose as a Buddha at Gayāsīsa. For when Absorption left him and he lost the honour and profit which once were his, he in his perplexity asked the Teacher to concede the Five Points. This being refused, he made a schism in the Saṅgha and departed to Gayāsīsa with five hundred young monks, pupils of the Buddha’s two chief disciples, but as yet unversed in the Dhamma and the Regulations. With this following he performed the acts of a separate Saṅgha gathered together within the same precincts. Knowing well the time when the knowledge of these young monks should ripen, the Teacher sent the two elders to them. Seeing these,
Finding the monastery emptied of the monks, Kokālika went to Devadatta and told him how the two disciples had broken up his following and left the monastery empty, “and yet here you still lie asleep,” said he. So saying he stripped off Devadatta’s outer cloth and kicked him on the chest with as little compunction as if he were knocking a roof-peg into a mud-wall. The blood gushed out of Devadatta’s mouth, and ever after he suffered from the effects of the blow. The Vinaya account (Cullavagga vii. 4) omits the kicking, simply stating that Kokālika “awoke” Devadatta, and that, at the news of the defection, “warm blood gushed out of Devadatta’s mouth.”
The Teacher said to Sāriputta, “What was Devadatta doing when you got there?” And Sāriputta answered that, though posing as a Buddha, evil had befallen him. Said the Teacher, “Even as now, Sāriputta, so in former times too has Devadatta imitated me to his own hurt.” Then, at the elder’s request, he told this story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a maned lion and dwelt at Gold Den in the Himālayas. Bounding forth one day from his lair, he looked north and west, south and east, and roared aloud as he went in quest of prey. Slaying a large buffalo, he devoured the prime of the carcass, after which he went down to a pool, and having drunk his fill of crystal water turned to go towards his den. Now a hungry jackal, suddenly meeting the lion, and being unable to make his escape, threw himself at the lion’s feet. Being asked what he wanted, the jackal replied, “Lord, let me be your servant.” “Very well,” said the lion, “serve me and you shall feed on prime meat.” So saying, he went with the jackal following to Gold Den. Thenceforth the lion’s leavings fell to the jackal, and he grew fat.
Lying one day in his den, the lion told the jackal to scan the valleys from the mountain top, to see whether there were any elephants or horses or buffaloes about, or any other animals
Now as time went on, the jackal grew bigger and bigger till be grew haughty. “Have not I too four legs?” he asked himself. “Why am I a pensioner day by day on others’ bounty? Henceforth I will kill elephants and other beasts, for my own eating. The lion, king of beasts, only kills them because of the formula, ‘Shine forth in your might, Lord.’ I’ll make the lion call out to me, ‘Shine forth in your might, jackal,’ and then I’ll kill an elephant for myself.” Accordingly he went to the lion, and pointing out that he had long lived on what the lion had killed, told his desire to eat an elephant of his own killing, ending with a request to the lion to let him, the jackal, couch in the lion’s corner in Gold Den while the lion was to climb the mountain to look out for an elephant. The quarry found, he asked that the lion should come to him in the den and say, ‘Shine forth in
1. Lasī ca te nipphalitā, matthako ca padālito,
Sabbā te phāsukā bhaggā, ajja kho tvaṁ virocasī ti.
Your brains are split open, and your head is smashed in, all your ribs are broken, today you did shine forth.
Thus spake the Bodhisatta, and living to a good old age he passed away in the fulness of time to fare according to his deeds.
His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “Devadatta was the jackal of those days, and I the lion.”
last updated: August 2023