Ja 241 Sabbadāṭhajātaka
The Story about (the Jackal) Sabbadāṭha (2s)
Alternative Title: Sabbadāṭhijātaka (Cst)
In the present Devadatta is prospering, until the Buddha overcame the elephant Nāḷāgiri, which was sent to kill him, at which point his reputation faded. The Buddha tells a story of a jackal who learned a spell and subdued the animal kingdom, until he was tricked into bringing about his own destruction.
The Bodhisatta = the family priest (purohita),
Sāriputta = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
Devadatta = the jackal (sigāla).
Keywords: Fraud, Spells, Animals.
“Even as the jackal.”
Devadatta, having won favour in the eyes of Ajātasattu, yet could not make the repute and support which he received last any time. Ever since they saw the miracle A great elephant was let loose for the purpose of destroying the Buddha, but only did him reverence: Cullavagga, vii. 3. 11 (Sacred Books of the East, Vinaya Texts, iii. 247); Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, p. 320; Milindapañha iv. 4. 30 (translation in Sacred Books of the East, i. 288). done when Nāḷāgiri was sent against him, the reputation and receipts of Devadatta began to fall off.
So one day, the monks were all talking about it in the Dhamma Hall, “Monks, Devadatta managed to get reputation and support, yet could not keep it up. This happened in olden days in just the same way.” And then he told them a story.
In the past, Brahmadatta was king of Benares, and the Bodhisatta was his family priest; and he had mastered the three Vedas and the eighteen branches of knowledge. He knew the mantra entitled ‘Of subduing the world.’
One day, the Bodhisatta thought that he would recite this spell; so he sat down in a place apart upon a flat stone, and there went through his reciting of it. It is said that this spell could be taught to no one without use of a special rite; for which reason he recited it in the place just described. It so happened that a jackal lying in a hole heard the spell at the time that he was reciting it, and got it by heart. We are told that this jackal in a previous existence had been some brahmin who had learned the charm ‘Of subduing the world.’
The Bodhisatta ended his recitation, and rose up, saying: “Surely I have that spell by heart now.” Then the jackal arose out of his hole, and cried, “Ho, brahmin! I have learned the spell better than you know it yourself!” and off he ran. The Bodhisatta set off in chase, and followed some way, crying, “That jackal will do a great mischief – catch him, catch him!” But the jackal got clear off into the forest.
The jackal found a female jackal, and gave her a little nip upon the body. “What is it, master?” she asked. “Do you know me,” he asked, “or do you not?” Perhaps ājānāmi, “I do know you.” “I do not know you.” He repeated the spell, and thus got
Now the jackal was tempted by his great honour, and became puffed up with pride, and he resolved to capture the kingdom of Benares. So with all the fourfooted creatures in his train, he came to a place near to Benares. His host covered twelve leagues of ground. From his position there he sent a message to the king, “Give up your kingdom, or fight for it.” The citizens of Benares, smitten with terror, shut close their gates and stayed within.
Then the Bodhisatta drew near the king, and said to him, “Fear not, mighty king! Leave me the task of fighting with the jackal king, Sabbadāṭha. Except only me, no one is able to fight with him at all.” Thus he gave heart to the king and the citizens. “I will ask him at once,” he went on, “what he will do in order to take the city.” So he mounted the tower over one of the gates, and cried out, “Sabbadāṭha, what will you do to get possession of this realm?”
“I will cause the lions to roar, and with the roaring I will frighten the multitude: thus will I take it!”
“Oh, that’s it,” thought the Bodhisatta, and down he came from the tower. He made proclamation by beat of drum that all the dwellers in the great city of Benares, over all its twelve leagues, must stop up their ears with flour. The multitude heard the command; they stopped up their own ears with flour, so that they could not hear each other speak: nay, they even did the same to their cats and other animals.
Then the Bodhisatta went up a second time into the tower, and cried out, “Sabbadāṭha!” “What is it, brahmin?” said he. “How will you take this realm?” he asked. “I will cause the lions to roar, and I will frighten the people, and destroy them; thus will I take it!” he said.
“You will not be able to make the lions roar; these noble lions, with their tawny paws and shaggy manes, will never do the bidding of an old jackal like you! The jackal, stubborn with pride,
“Very well,” said the Bodhisatta, “do it if you can.” So he tapped with his foot on the lion which he sat upon, to roar.
And the lion resting his mouth upon the elephant’s temple, roared thrice, without any manner of doubt. The elephants were terrified and dropped the jackal down at their feet; they trampled upon his head and crushed it to atoms. Then and there Sabbadāṭha perished. And the elephants, hearing the roar of the lion, were frightened to death, and wounding one another, they all perished there. The rest of the creatures, deer and swine, down to the hares and cats, perished then and there, all except the lions; and these ran off and took to the woods. There was a heap of carcases covering the ground for twelve leagues.
The Bodhisatta came down from the tower, and had the gates of the city thrown open. By beat of drum he caused proclamation to be made throughout the city, “Let all the people take the flour from out of their ears, and they that desire meat, meat let them take!” The people all ate what fresh meat they could, and the rest they dried and preserved.
It was at this time, according to tradition, that people first began to dry meat.
The Teacher having finished this discourse, identified the Jātaka by the following verses, after Fully Awakening:
1. “Even as the jackal, stiff with pride,
Craved for a mighty host on every side,
And all toothed creatures came
Flocking around, until he won great fame:
2. Even so the man who is supplied
With a great host of men on every side,
As great renown has he
As had the jackal in his sovereignty.”
“In those days Devadatta was the jackal, Ānanda was the king, and I was the family priest.”
last updated: November 2021