Ja 238 Ekapadajātaka
The Story about One Word (2s)

In the present one boy asks his father a question about the ‘Door,’ and his father takes him to the Buddha to get the answer. The Buddha tells a story about how a similar question was asked in the past, and how he as Bodhisatta had answered it.

The Bodhisatta = the wealthy man of Benares (Bārāṇasiseṭṭhi),
the son = the same in the past (putta).

Keywords: Skill, Brevity.

“Tell me one word.” {2.236} This story the Teacher told in Jetavana, about a certain landowner.

We are told that there was a landowner who lived at Sāvatthi. One day, his son sitting on his hip asked him what is called the “Door” This question referred to the means of entering on the Paths. question. He replied, “That question requires a Buddha; nobody else can answer it.” So he took his son to Jetavana, and saluted the Teacher. “Sir,” said he, “as my son sat on my hip, he asked me the question called the ‘Door.’ I didn’t know the answer, so here I am to ask you to give it.” Said the Teacher, “This is not the first time, layman, that the lad has been a seeker after the way to accomplish his ends, and asked wise men this question; he did so before, and wise men in olden days gave him the answer; but by reason of a multitude of rebirths, he has forgotten it.” And at his request the Teacher told a tale of the olden time.

In the past, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came into this world as a rich merchant’s son. He grew up, and when in course of time the father died, he took his father’s place as a merchant. [2.164]

And his son, a young boy, sitting on his hip, asked him a question, “Father,” said he, “tell me a thing in one word which embraces a wide range of meaning,” and he repeated the first verse:

1. “Tell me one word that all things comprehends:
By what, in short, can we attain our ends?”

His father replied with the second:

2. “One thing for all things precious – that is skill:
Add virtue and add patience, and you will
Do good to friends and to your foes do ill.” {2.237}

Thus did the Bodhisatta answer his son’s question. The son used the way which his father pointed out to accomplish his purposes, and by and by he passed away to fare according to his deeds.

When this discourse was ended, the Teacher declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, at the conclusion of the Truths father and son reached the Fruit of the First Path, “This man was then the son, and I was the merchant of Benares myself.”