Ja 207 Assakajātaka
The Story about (King) Assaka (2s)

In the present one monk is growing dissatisfied owing to his attachment to his former wife. The Buddha tells a story of how the monk was once a king who grieved when his queen passed away. The Bodhisatta cured him of his grief when he showed him she was now reborn as a dung-beetle, and cared not for him any more.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Sāriputta = the young brahmin (māṇava),
the dissatisfied monk = king Assaka (Assakarājā),
his former wife = (queen) Uparī.

Keywords: Attachment, Grief, Animals.

“Once with the great king Assaka.” [2.108] This story the Teacher told while staying in Jetavana, about someone who was distracted by the recollection of a former wife. He asked the monk whether he were really lovesick. The man said, Yes. “Whom are you in love with?” the Teacher continued. “My late wife,” was the reply. Then the Teacher said: “Not this once only, monk, have you been full of desire for this woman; in olden days her love brought you to great misery.” And he told a story.

In the past, there was a king Assaka reigning in Potali, which is a city of the kingdom of Kāsi. His queen consort, named Ubbarī, was very dear to him; she was charming, and graceful, and beautiful, passing the beauty of women, though not so fair as a goddess. She died, and at her death the king was plunged in grief, and became sad and miserable. He had her body laid in a coffin, and embalmed with oil and ointment, and laid beneath the bed; and there he lay without food, weeping and wailing. {2.156} In vain did his parents and kinsfolk, friends and courtiers, monks and laymen, bid him not to grieve, since all things pass away; they could not move him. As he lay in sorrow, seven days passed by.

Now the Bodhisatta was at that time an ascetic, who had gained the five Super Knowledges and eight Attainments; he dwelt at the foot of the Himālayas. He was possessed of the divine eye, and as he looked round Jambudīpa with his heavenly vision, he saw this king lamenting, and straightaway resolved to help him. By his Supernormal Powers he rose in the air, and alighted in the king’s park, and sat down on the ceremonial stone, like a golden image.

A young brahmin of the city of Potali entered the park, and seeing the Bodhisatta, he greeted him and sat down. The Bodhisatta began to talk pleasantly with him. “Is the king a just ruler?” he asked.

“Yes, sir, the king is just.” replied the youth, “but his queen is just dead; he has laid her body in a coffin, and lies down lamenting her; and today is the seventh day since he began. Why do you not free the king from this great grief? Virtuous beings like you ought to overcome the king’s sorrow.”

“I do not know the king, young man,” said the Bodhisatta, “but if he were to come and ask me, I would tell him the place where she has now come into the flesh again, and make her speak herself.”

“Then, venerable sir, stay here until I bring the king to you,” said the [2.109] youth. The Bodhisatta agreed, and he hastened into the king’s presence, and told him about it. “You should visit this being with the divine eye!” he told the king.

The king was overjoyed, at the thought of seeing Ubbarī; and he entered his chariot and drove to the place. Greeting the Bodhisatta, he sat down on one side, and asked, “Is it true, as I am told, that you know where my queen has come into being again?”

“Yes, I do, my lord king,” replied he. Then the king asked where it was.

The Bodhisatta replied, “O king, she was intoxicated with her beauty, and so fell into negligence and did not do fair and virtuous acts; so now she has become a little dung-worm in this very park.” {2.157}

“I don’t believe it!” said the king. “Then I will show her to you, and make her speak,” answered the Bodhisatta. “Please make her speak!” said the king.

The Bodhisatta commanded, “Let the two that are busy rolling a lump of cow-dung, come forth before the king!” and by his power he made them do it, and they came. The Bodhisatta pointed one out to the king, “There is your queen Ubbarī, O king! She has just come out of this lump, following her husband the dung-worm. Look and see.”

“What! My queen Ubbarī a dung-worm? I don’t believe it!” cried the king. “I will make her speak, O king!” “Pray make her speak, venerable sir!” said he.

The Bodhisatta by his power gave her speech. “Ubbarī!” said he. “What is it, venerable sir?” she asked, in a human voice. “What was your name in your former character?” the Bodhisatta asked her. “My name was Ubbarī, sir,” she replied, “the consort of king Assaka.”

“Tell me,” the Bodhisatta went on, “which do you love best now – king Assaka, or this dung-worm?”

“O sir, that was my former birth,” said she. “Then I lived with him in this park, enjoying shape and sound, scent, savour and touch; but now that my memory is confused by rebirth, what is he? Why, now I would kill king Assaka, and would smear the feet of my husband the dung-worm with the blood flowing from his throat!” and in the midst of the king’s company, she uttered these verses in a human voice:

1. “Once with the great king Assaka, who was my husband dear,
Beloving and beloved, I walked about this garden here.

2. But now new sorrows and new joys have made the old ones flee,
And dearer far than Assaka my worm is now to me.” [2.110] {2.158}

When king Assaka heard this, he repented on the spot; and at once he caused the queen’s body to be removed and washed his head. He saluted the Bodhisatta, and went back into the city; where he married another queen, and ruled in righteousness. And the Bodhisatta, having instructed the king, and set him free from grief, returned again to the Himālayas.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, at the conclusion of the Truths, the lovesick monk reached the Fruit of the First Path, “Your late wife was Ubbarī; you, the lovesick monk, were king Assaka; Sāriputta was the young brahmin; and the ascetic was I myself.”