Ja 231 Upāhanajātaka
The Story about the Shoes (2s)
In the present Devadatta repudiates the Buddha and becomes his foe, leading to his own destruction. The Buddha tells a story of an elephant trainer and his pupil, and how the latter judged himself of the same worth as the former, until he was shown to have less skill in front of the king.
The Bodhisatta = the teacher (ācariya),
Devadatta = the pupil (antevāsika).
Keywords: Overestimation, Vanity.
“As when a pair of shoes.”
In the past, while Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as the son of an elephant trainer. When he grew up, he was taught all the art of managing the elephant. And there came a young villager from Kāsi, and was taught of him. Now when the future Buddhas teach any, they do not give a stingy dole of learning; but according to their own knowledge so teach they, keeping nothing back. So this youth learned all the branches of knowledge from the Bodhisatta, without omission; and when he had learned, said he to his master:
“Good, my son,” said he; and he went before the king, and told him how that a pupil of his would serve the king. Said the king, “Good, let him serve me.” “Then do you know what fee to give?” said the Bodhisatta.
“A pupil of yours will not receive so much as you; if you receive a hundred, he shall have fifty; if you receive two, to him shall one be given.” So the Bodhisatta went home, and told all this to his pupil.
“Teacher,” said the youth, “all your knowledge do I know, piece for piece. If I shall have the like payment, I will serve the king; but if not, then I will not serve him.” And this the Bodhisatta told to the king.
Said the king, “If the young man could do even as you – if he is able to show skill for skill with you, he shall receive the like.” And the Bodhisatta told this to the pupil, and the pupil made answer, “Very good, I will.” “Tomorrow,” said the king, “do you make exhibition of your skill.” “Good, I will; let proclamation be made by beat of drum.” And the king caused it to be proclaimed, “Tomorrow the master and the pupil will
“My pupil,” thought the teacher to himself, “does not know all my resources.” So he chose an elephant, and in one night he taught him to do all things awry. He taught him to back when bidden go forward, and to go forward when told to back; to lie down when bidden to rise, and to rise when bidden to lie down; to drop when told to pick up, and to pick up when told to drop.
Next day mounting his elephant he came to the palace yard. And his pupil also was there, mounted upon a beautiful elephant. There was a great concourse of people. They both showed all their skill. But the Bodhisatta gave his elephant reverse orders;
“O mighty king! For their own good men get them taught; but there was one to whom his learning brought misery with it, like an ill-made shoe,” and he uttered these two verses:
1. “As when a pair of shoes which one has bought
For help and comfort cause but misery,
Chafing the feet till they grow burning hot
And making them to fester by and by:
2. Even so an underbred ignoble man,
Having learned all that he can learn from you,
By your own teaching proves your very bane: The commentator would take tam as for attānam, “he hurts himself,” not “thee,” but this is hardly possible. The verses do not seem to fit the story very exactly.
The lowbred churl is like the ill-made shoe.”
The king was delighted, and heaped honours upon the Bodhisatta.
When this discourse was ended, the Teacher identified this Jātaka as follows, “Devadatta was the pupil, and I myself was the teacher.”
last updated: November 2021