Ja 166 Upasāḷhajātaka
The Story about (the Brahmin) Upasāḷha (2s)

Alternative Title: Upasāḷakajātaka (Cst)

In the present a brahmin is concerned that the place where he will be cremated is pure, and no outcaste had been cremated there before him. The Buddha tells them of a previous life in which he pointed out that every place on earth has seen endless people die on it.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
the father and son = the same in the past (pitāputtā).

Keywords: Fastidiousness, Death.

“Fourteen thousand Upasāḷhas.” This story the Teacher told while at Jetavana, about a brahmin named Upasāḷha, who was fastidious in the matter of cemeteries.

This man, we learn, was rich and wealthy; but, though he lived over against the monastery, he showed no kindness to the Buddhas, being given to heresy. But he had a son, wise and intelligent. When he was growing old, the man said to his son, “Don’t let my body be burnt in a cemetery where any outcaste can be burnt, but find some uncontaminated place to burn me in.” “Father,” said the young fellow, “I know no cemetery fit to burn your body in. My father, take the lead and point out the place where I shall have you burnt.” So the brahmin consenting led his son out of the city to the top of Vulture Peak, and then said he, “Here, my son, no outcaste is ever burnt; here I would have you burn me.” Then he began to descend the hill in his son’s company.

On that day, in the evening, the Teacher was looking around to see which of his friends was ripe for release, and perceived that this father and son were [2.38] ready to enter upon the First Path. So he took their road, and came to the foot of the hill, like a hunter waiting for his quarry; there he sat till they should come down from the top. Down they came, and noticed the Teacher. He gave them greeting, and asked, “Where are you bound, brahmins?” The young man told him their errand. “Come along, then,” said the Teacher, “show me the place your father pointed out.” So he and they two together climbed up the mountain. “Which place?” he asked. “Sir,” said the lad, “the space between these three hills is the one he showed me.” {2.55} The Teacher said: “This is not the first time, my lad, that your father has been nice in the matter of cemeteries; he was the same before. Nor is it only now that he has pointed you out this place for his burning; long ago he pointed out the very same place.” And at his request the Teacher told them a tale of long ago.

In the past, in this very city of Rājagaha, lived this same brahmin Upasāḷhaka, This added suffix [-ka] makes no practical difference in the word: it is often put on to adjectives and substantives without affecting their meaning. But sometimes it has a diminutive force. and he had the very same son. At that period the Bodhisatta had been born in a brahmin family of Magadha land; and when his education was finished, he embraced an ascetic life, cultivated the Super Knowledges and Attainments, and lived a long time in the region of the Himālayas, plunged in mystic exaltation.

Once he left his hermitage on Vulture Peak to go buy salt and seasoning. While he was away, this brahmin spoke in just the same way to his son, as now. The lad begged him to point out a proper place, and he came and pointed out this very place. As he was descending, with his son, he observed the Bodhisatta, and approached him, and the Bodhisatta put the same question as I did just now, and received the son’s answer. “Ah,” said he, “we’ll see whether this place which your father has shown you is contaminated or not,” and made them go with him up the hill again. “The space between these three hills,” said the lad, “is pure.” “My lad,” the Bodhisatta replied, “there is no end to the people who have been burned in this very spot. Your own father, born a brahmin, as now, in Rājagaha, and bearing the very same name of Upasāḷhaka, has been burnt on this hill in fourteen thousand births. On the whole earth there’s not a spot to be found where a corpse has not been burnt, which has not been a cemetery, which has not been covered with skulls.”

This he discerned by the faculty of knowing all previous lives: and then he repeated these two verses: {2.56}

1. “Fourteen thousand Upasāḷhas have been burnt upon this spot,
Nor is there the wide world over any place where death is not.

2. Where is kindness, truth, and justice, temperance and self-control,
There no death can find an entrance; there goes each saintly soul.” [2.39]

When the Bodhisatta had thus discoursed to father and son, he cultivated the four Divine Abidings and went his way to Brahmā’s Realm.

When this discourse was ended, the Teacher declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, at the conclusion of the Truths father and son were established in the Fruit of the First Path. “The father and son were the same then as they are now, and the ascetic was I myself.”