Ja 150 Sañjīvajātaka
The Birth Story about (the Brahmin Youth) Sañjīva (1s)
In the present king Ajātasattu is afraid that his support of Devadatta will bring him a like reward and the earth will open up and swallow him. The Buddha tells a story of how in a previous life, when given a spell of resuscitation, an earlier incarnation of the king had used it to bring a tiger back to life, who had promptly killed him.
The Bodhisatta = the world-famous teacher (disāpāmokkho ācariyo),
King Ajātasattu = the young brahmin who brought the tiger back to life (matabyagghuṭṭhāpanako māṇavo).
Keywords: False teachers, Misused power, Animals.
“He who favours the bad.” This story was told by the Teacher when at the Bamboo Grove, about king Ajātasattu’s adherence to false teachers. See Vin Cv vii. 3. 4 – (translated in Sacred Books of the East xx. pp. 242 &c.). In the Sāmaññaphalasutta [DN 2] the Dīghanikāya gives the incidents of this introductory story and makes the king confess to having killed his father. For he believed in that rancorous foe of the Buddhas, the base and wicked Devadatta, and in his infatuation, wishing to do honour to Devadatta, expended a vast sum in erecting a monastery at Gayāsīsa. And following Devadatta’s wicked counsels, he slew
Hearing that the earth had swallowed up Devadatta, he feared a like fate for himself. And such was the frenzy of his terror that he did not look out for his kingdom’s welfare, slept not upon his bed, but ranged abroad quaking in every limb, like a young elephant in an agony of pain. In fancy he saw the earth yawning for him, and the flames of hell darting forth; he could see himself fastened down on a bed of burning metal with iron lances being thrust into his body. Like a wounded chicken, not for one instant was he at peace.
The desire came on him to see the Supreme Buddha, to be reconciled to him, and to ask guidance of him; but because of the magnitude of his transgressions he shrank from coming into the Buddha’s presence. When the Kattikā [Autumn] festival came round, and by night Rājagaha was illuminated and adorned like a city of the gods, the king, as he sat on high upon a throne of gold, saw Jīvaka Komārabhacca sitting near. The idea flashed across his mind to go with Jīvaka to the Buddha, but he felt he could not say outright that he would not go alone but wanted Jīvaka to take him. No; the better course would be, after praising the beauty of the night,
Then one minister recommended Pūraṇa Kassapa, another Makkhali Gosāla, and others again Ajita Kesakambala, Kakudha Kaccāyana, Sañjaya Belaṭṭhiputta, or Nigaṇṭha Nāthaputta. All these names the king heard in silence, waiting for his chief minister, Jīvaka, to speak. But Jīvaka, suspecting that the king’s real object was to make him speak, kept silence in order to make sure. At last the king said: “Well, my good Jīvaka, why have you nothing to say?” At the word Jīvaka arose from his seat, and with hands clasped in adoration towards the Fortunate One, cried, “Sire, yonder in my mango-grove dwells the Supreme Buddha with twelve hundred and fifty [Mistakenly translated as thirteen hundred and fifty in the original.] monks. This is the high fame that has arisen concerning him.” And here he proceeded to recite the nine titles of honour ascribed to him, beginning with “Fortunate.” [It refers to the well known chant: Itipi so Bhagavā 1) Arahaṁ 2) Sammāsambuddho 3) Vijjācaraṇasampanno 4) Sugato 5) Lokavidū 6) Anuttaro purisadammasārathi 7) Satthā devamanussānaṁ 8) Buddho 9) Bhagavā.] When he had further shown how from his birth onwards the Buddha’s powers had surpassed all the earlier presages and expectations, Jīvaka said: “Unto him, the Fortunate One, let the king repair, to hear the truth and to put questions.”
His object thus attained, the king asked Jīvaka to have the elephants got ready and went in royal state to Jīvaka’s mango-grove, where he found in the perfumed pavilion the Tathāgata amid the Saṅgha, which was itself as tranquil as the ocean in perfect repose. Look where he would, the king’s eye saw only the endless ranks of the monks, exceeding in numbers any following he had ever seen. Pleased with the demeanour of the monks, the king bowed low and spoke words of praise. Then saluting the Buddha, he seated himself, and asked him the question, “What is the fruit of the ascetic life?” And the Fortunate One gave utterance to the Sāmaññaphala Sutta in two sections. [Although the discourse is not formerly divided into two bhāṇavāras, it is approximately that length.] Glad at heart, the king made his peace with the Buddha at the close of the Sutta, and rising up departed with solemn obeisance. Soon after the king had gone,
Next day the monks talked together of all this and said that Ajātasattu’s crime of parricide, which was due to that wicked and sinful Devadatta whom he had favoured, had lost him safety; and that Devadatta had been the king’s ruin. At this point the Teacher entered the Dhamma Hall and asked the subject of their conversation. Being told, the Teacher said: “This is not the first time, monks, that Ajātasattu has suffered for favouring the sinful; like conduct in the past cost him his life.” So saying, he told this story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born into the family of a wealthy brahmin. Arriving at years of discretion, he went to study at Taxila, where he received a complete education. In Benares as a teacher he enjoyed world-wide fame and had five hundred young brahmins as pupils. Among these was one named Sañjīva, to whom the Bodhisatta taught the spell for raising the dead to life. But though the young man was taught this, he was not taught the counter charm. Proud of his new power, he went with his fellow-pupils to the forest wood-gathering, and there came on a dead tiger.
“Now see me bring the tiger to life again,” said he. “You can’t,” said they. “You look and you will see me do it.” “Well, if you can, do so,” said they and climbed up a tree forthwith.
Then Sañjīva repeated his charm and struck the dead tiger with a potsherd. Up started the tiger and quick as lightning sprang at Sañjīva and bit him on the throat, killing him outright. Dead fell the tiger then and there, and dead fell Sañjīva too at the same spot. So there the two lay dead side by side.
The young brahmins took their wood and went back to their master to whom they told the story. “My dear pupils,” said he, “mark herein how by reason of showing favour to the sinful and paying honour where it was not due, he has brought all this calamity upon himself.” And so saying he uttered this verse:
1. Asantaṃ yo pagaṇhāti, asantañcūpasevati,
Tameva ghāsaṃ kurute, vyaggho Sañjīvako yathāti.
He who favours the bad, and mixes with the bad, makes fodder of himself, like Sañjīvaka and the tiger.
Such was the Bodhisatta’s lesson to the young brahmins, and after a life of generosity and other good deeds he passed away to fare according to his deeds.
His lesson ended the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “Ajātasattu was the young brahmin of those days who brought the dead tiger to life, and I the world-famed teacher.”
End of the First Book
last updated: August 2023