Ja 235 Vacchanakhajātaka
The Story about (the Wanderer) Vacchanakha (2s)
In the present a supporter of Ven. Ānanda’s tries to tempt him back to the lay life by offering him half his wealth. Ven. Ānanda refuses though, as the household life is full of suffering. The Buddha tells a story of similar events which unfolded in a previous life.
The Bodhisatta = (the wanderer) Vacchanakha,
Roja the Mallian = the wealthy man of Benares (Bārāṇasīseṭṭhi).
Keywords: Attachment, Desire.
“Houses in the world are sweet.” This story the Teacher told at Jetavana, about Roja the Mallian.
We learn that this man, who was a lay friend of Ānanda’s, sent the elder a message that he should come to him. The elder took leave of the Teacher, and went. He served the elder with all sorts of food, and sat down on one side, engaging him in a pleasant conversation. Then he offered the elder a share of his house, tempting him by the five channels of desire. “Ānanda, sir, I have at home great store of live and dead stock. I will divide it and give you half; let us live in one house together!” The elder declared to him the suffering which is involved in desire; then rose from his seat, and returned to the monastery.
When the Teacher asked whether he had seen Roja, he replied that he had. “What did he say to you?” “Sir, Roja invited me to return to the world; then I explained to him the suffering involved in desires and the worldly life.” The Teacher said: “Ānanda, this is not the first time that Roja the Mallian has invited ascetics to return to the world; he did the same before,” and then, at his request, he told a story of the past.
In the past, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was one of a family of brahmins who lived in a certain market town. Coming to years, he took up the ascetic life, and dwelt for a long time amid the Himālayas.
He went to Benares to purchase salt and seasoning, and lived in the king’s grounds; next day he entered Benares.
Now a certain rich man of the place, pleased at his behaviour, took him home, gave him to eat, and receiving his promise to abide with him, caused him to dwell in the garden and attended to his wants. And they conceived a friendship each for the other.
One day, the rich man, by reason of his love and friendship for the Bodhisatta, thought this within himself, “The life of an ascetic is unhappy. I will persuade my friend Vacchanakha to unfrock himself; I will part my wealth in two, and give half to him, and we both will dwell together.”
So one day, when the meal was done, he spake sweetly to his friend and said: “Good Vacchanakha, unhappy is the ascetic’s life; ’tis pleasant to live in a house. Come now, let us both together take our pleasure as we will.” So saying, he uttered the first verse:
1. “Houses in the world are sweet,
Full of food, and full of treasure;
There you have your fill of meat –
Eating, drinking at your pleasure.”
The Bodhisatta on hearing him, thus replied, “Good sir, from ignorance you have become greedy in desire, and call the householder’s life good, and the life of the ascetic bad; listen now, and I will tell you how bad is the householder’s life,” and he uttered the second verse:
2. “He that has houses peace can never know,
He lies and cheats, he must deal many a blow
On others’ shoulders, nought this fault can cure:
Then who into a house would willing go?”
With these words the great Buddha told the defects of a householder’s life, and went into the garden again.
When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he identified the Jātaka, “Roja the Mallian was the Benares merchant, and I was Vacchanakha the mendicant.”
last updated: November 2021