Ja 228 Kāmanītajātaka
The Story about being Guided by Desire (2s)

In the present one brahmin, after careful tending his crops with the intention of giving a gift to the Buddha and the Saṅgha, loses all in a night’s flood. The Buddha then tells a story of the past in which a greedy king loses his chance to gain three kingdoms, before being taught the folly of desire, and putting his grief aside.

The Bodhisatta = (the King of the Devas) Sakka,
the lustful brahmin = the king (of Benares) (rājā).

Present Source: Ja 467 Kāma,
Quoted at: Ja 228 Kāmanīta.

Keywords: Attachment, Grief, Devas.

“Three forts.” [2.149] This story the Teacher told at Jetavana about a brahmin named Kāmanīta. The circumstances will be explained in the Twelfth Book, and the Kāmajātaka [Ja 467].

A brahmin, so they say, who dwelt at Sāvatthi, was felling trees on the bank of the Aciravatī, in order to cultivate the land. The Teacher, when he visited Sāvatthi for alms, perceiving his destiny, went out of his road to talk sweetly with him. “What are you doing, brahmin?” he asked. “O Gotama,” said the man, “I am cutting a space free for cultivation.” “Very good,” he replied, “go on with your work, brahmin.”

In the same manner the Teacher came and talked with him when the felled trunks were all away, and the man was clearing his acre, and again at plowing time, and at making the little embanked squares for water. Now on the day of sowing, the brahmin said: “Today, O Gotama, is my plowing festival. When this corn is ripe, I will give alms in plenty to the Saṅgha, with the Buddha at their head.” The Teacher accepted his offer, and went away. On another day he came, and saw the brahmin watching the corn. “What are you doing, brahmin?” asked he. “Watching the corn, O Gotama!” “Very good, brahmin,” said the Teacher, and away he went. Then the brahmin thought: “How often Gotama the ascetic comes this way! Without doubt he wants food. Well, food I will give him.” On the day when this thought came into his mind, when he went home, there he found the Teacher come also. Thereat arose in the brahmin a wondrous great confidence.

By and by, when ripe was the corn, the brahmin resolved, tomorrow he would reap the field. But while he lay in bed, in the upper reaches of the Aciravatī the rain fell heavily; down came a flood, and carried the whole crop away to the sea, so that not one stalk was left. When the flood subsided, and the brahmin beheld the destruction of his crops, he had not the strength to stand: pressing his hand to his heart – for he was overcome with great sorrow – he went weeping home, and lay down lamenting.

In the morning the Teacher saw this brahmin overwhelmed with his woe, and he thought: “I will be the brahmin’s support.” So next day, after his alms-round in Sāvatthi, on his return from receipt of food he sent the monks back to their monastery, and himself with the junior who attended him visited the man’s house. When the brahmin heard of his coming, he took heart, thinking: “My friend must be come for a kindly talk.” He offered him a seat; the Teacher entering sat upon the seat indicated, and asked, “Why are you downhearted, brahmin? What has happened to displease you?” “O Gotama!” said the man, “from the time that I cut down the trees on the bank of the Aciravatī, you know what I have been doing. I have been going about, and promising gifts to you when that crop should be ripe: now a flood has carried off the whole crop, away to the sea, nothing is left at all! Grain has been destroyed to the amount of a hundred wagon-loads, and so I am deep in grief!” “Why, will what is lost come back for grieving?” “No, Gotama, that will it not.” “If that is so, why grieve? The wealth of beings in this world, or their corn, when they have it, they have it, and when it is gone, why, gone it is. No composite thing but is subject to destruction; do not brood over it.” Thus comforting him, the Teacher repeated the Kāma discourse as appropriate to his case. At the conclusion of the discourse, the mourning brahmin was established in the Fruit of the First Path. The Teacher having eased him of his pain, arose from his seat, and returned to the monastery.

All the town heard how the Teacher had found such a brahmin pierced with the pangs of grief, had consoled him and established him in the Fruit of the First Path.

The monks talked of it in the Dhamma Hall, “Hear, sirs! The One with Ten Powers made friends with a brahmin, grew intimate, took his opportunity to declare the Dhamma to him, when pierced with the pangs of grief, eased him of pain, and established him in the Fruit of the First Path!” The Teacher came in, and asked, “What do you speak of, monks, as you sit here together?” They told him. He replied, “This is not the first time, monks, I have cured his grief, but I did the same long, long ago,” and with these words he told a story of the past.

[The king of Benares had two sons.] And of these two sons the elder went to Benares, and became king: the youngest was the viceroy. He that was king was given over to the desire of riches, and the lust of the flesh, and was greedy of gain.

At the time, the Bodhisatta was Sakka, King of the Devas. And as he looked out upon Jambudīpa, and observed that the king of it was given over to these sensual desires, he said to himself, “I will chastise that king, and make him ashamed.” So taking the semblance of a young brahmin, he went to the king and looked at him. “What wants this young fellow?” the king asked.

Said he, “Great king, I see three towns, prosperous, fertile, having elephants, horses, chariots and infantry in plenty, full of ornaments of gold and fine gold. These may be taken with a very small army. I have come here to offer to get them for you!”

“When shall we go, young man?” asked the king. “Tomorrow, sire.” “Then leave me now; tomorrow early you shall go.”

“Good, my king, hasten to prepare the army!” And so saying {2.213} Sakka went back again to his own place.

Next day the king caused the drum to beat, and an army to be made ready; and having summoned his courtiers, he thus bespoke them: “Yesterday a young brahmin came and said that he would conquer for me three cities – Uttarapañcāla, Indapatta, and Kekaka. Wherefore now we will go along with that man and conquer those cities. Summon him in all haste!”

“What place did you assign him, my lord, to dwell in?” “I gave him no place to dwell in,” said the king. “But you gave him wherewith to pay for a lodging!” [2.150] “Nay, not even that.” “Then how shall we find him?” “Seek him in the streets of the city,” said the king.

They sought, but found him not. So they came before the king, and told him, “O king, we cannot see him.”

Great sorrow fell upon the king. “What glory has been snatched from me!” he groaned; his heart became hot, his blood became disordered, dysentery attacked him, the physicians could not cure him.

After the space of three or four days, Sakka meditated, and was aware of his illness. Said he, “I will cure him,” and in the semblance of a brahmin he went and stood at his door. He caused it to be told the king, “A brahmin physician is come to cure you.”

On hearing it, the king answered, “All the great physicians of the court have not been able to cure me. Give him a fee, and let him go.” Sakka listened, and made reply, “I want not even money for my lodging, nor will I take fee for my craft. I will cure him: let the king see me!”

“Then let him come in,” said the king, on receiving this message. Then Sakka went in, and wishing victory to the king, sat on one side. “Are you going to cure me?” the king asked.

He replied, “Even so, my lord.” “Cure me, then!” said the king. “Very good, sire. Tell me the symptoms of your disease, and how it came about – what you have eaten or drunken, to bring it on, or what you have heard or seen.”

“Dear friend, my disease was brought upon me by something that I heard.” Then the other asked, “What was it?” {2.214}

“Dear sir, there came a young brahmin who offered to win and give me power over three cities; and I gave him neither lodging, nor wherewithal to pay for one. He must have grown angry with me, and gone away to some other king. So when I bethought me how great a glory had been snatched away from me, this disease came upon me; cure, if you can, this which has come upon me for my covetousness.” And to make the matter clear he uttered the first verse:

1. “Three forts, each built high upon a mount,
I want to take, whose names I here recount: The names of Pañcāla, Kuru, and Kekaka are given.
And there is one thing further that I need
Cure me, O brahmin, me the slave of greed!”

Then Sakka said: “O king, by medicines made with roots you cannot [2.151] be cured, but you must be cured with the simple of knowledge,” and he uttered the second verse as follows: {2.215}

2. “There are, who cure the bite of a black snake;
The wise heal those Amanussa-possessed.
The slave of greed no doctor can make whole;
What cure is there for the discontent soul?”

So spake the Great Being to explain his meaning, and he added this yet beyond, “O king, what if you were to get those three cities, then while you reigned over these four cities, could you wear four pairs of robes at once, eat out of four golden dishes, lie on four state beds? O king, one ought not to be mastered by desire. Desire is the root of all evil; when desire is increased, he that cherishes it is cast into the eight great hells, and the sixteen lowest hells, and into all kinds and manner of misery.”

So the Great Being terrified the king with fear of hell and misery, and discoursed to him. And the king, by hearing his discourse, got rid of his heartbreak, and in a moment he became whole of his disease. {2.216} And Sakka, after giving him instruction, and establishing him in virtue, went away to the world of gods. And the king thenceforward gave alms and did good, and he passed away to fare according to his deeds.

When this discourse was ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “The monk who is a slave to his desires was at that time the king; and I myself was Sakka.”