Ja 243 Guttilajātaka
The Story about (the Heavenly Musician) Guttila (2s)
In the present Devadatta learned all he knew from the Buddha, but repudiated him. The Buddha tells a story of a musician who taught his pupil, only for the pupil to challenge him in public. When Sakka found out, he helped the master win the contest and took him to heaven.
The Bodhisatta = the heavenly musician Guttila (Guttilagandhabba),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
Anuruddha = (the King of the Devas) Sakka,
Devadatta = (the musician) Mūsila.
Past Compare: Vv 33 Guttilavimāna.
Keywords: Respect, Skill, Devas.
“I had a pupil once.”
On this occasion the monks said to Devadatta, “Friend Devadatta, the Supreme Buddha is your teacher; of him you learned the Three Piṭakas and how to produce the four kinds of Absorption; you really should not act the enemy to your own teacher!” Devadatta replied, “Why, friends, Gotama the ascetic my teacher? Not a bit: was it not by my own power that I learned the Three Piṭakas, and produced the four Absorptions?” He refused to acknowledge his teacher.
The monks fell talking of this in the Dhamma Hall. “Friend! Devadatta repudiates his teacher! He has become an enemy of the Supreme Buddha! And what a miserable fate has befallen him!” In came the Teacher, and enquired what they were all talking of together. They told him. “Ah, monks,” said he, “this is not the first time that Devadatta has repudiated his teacher, and shown himself my enemy, and come to a miserable end. It was just the same before.” And then he told the following story.
In the past, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a musician’s family. His name was teacher Guttila. When he grew up, he mastered all the branches of music, and under the name of Guttila Gandhabba he became the chief of his kind in all Jambudīpa. He married no wife, but maintained his blind parents. Guttila is one of the four men who “even in their earthly bodies attained to glory in the city of the gods.” Milinda, iv. 8. 25 (translation in Sacred Books of the East, ii. 145).
At that time certain traders of Benares made a journey to Ujjeni for trade. A holiday was proclaimed; they all clubbed together; they procured scents and perfumes and ointments, and all manner of foods and meats. “Pay the hire,” they cried, “and fetch a musician!”
It happened that at the time a certain Mūsila
“What! Are you playing?” cried they. “We imagined that you must be tuning up.”
“Why, do you know any better musician,” he asked, “or are you too ignorant to like my playing?”
Said the merchants, “We have heard the music of Guttila Gandhabba, at Benares; and yours sounds like women crooning to sooth their babies.”
“Here, take your money back,” said he, “I don’t want it. Only when you go to Benares, please take me with you.”
They agreed, and took him back to Benares with them; they pointed out the dwelling of Guttila, and departed every man to his own house.
Mūsila entered the Bodhisatta’s dwelling; he saw his beautiful lute where it stood, tied up: he took it down, and played upon it. At this the old parents, who could not see him because they were blind,
At once Mūsila put down the lute, and greeted the old folks. “Where do you come from?” asked they. He replied, “I come from Ujjeni to learn at the feet of the teacher.” “Oh, all right,” said they. He asked where the teacher was.
“He is out, father; but he will be back today,” came the answer. Mūsila sat down and waited until he came; then after some friendly words, he told his errand. Now the Bodhisatta was skilled in divining from the lineaments of the body. He perceived that this was not a good man; so he refused. “Go, my son, this art is not for you.” Mūsila clasped the feet of the Bodhisatta’s parents, to help his suit, and prayed them, “Make him teach me!” Again and again his parents besought the Bodhisatta to do so; until he could not stand it any longer, and did as he was asked. And Mūsila went along with the Bodhisatta into the king’s palace.
“Who is this, master?” asked the king, on seeing him. “A pupil of mine, great king!” was the reply. By and by he got the ear of the king.
Now the Bodhisatta did not stint his knowledge, but taught his pupil everything which he knew himself. This done, he said: “Your knowledge is now perfect.”
Thought Mūsila, “I have now mastered my art. This city of Benares is the chief city in all Jambudīpa. My teacher is old; here therefore I must
He came before the king, and said: “My pupil wishes to serve your highness. Fix what his fee shall be.”
The king answered, “His fee shall be half of yours.” And he came and told it to Mūsila. Mūsila said: “If I receive the same as you, I will serve; but if not, then I will not serve him.”
The Bodhisatta informed the king what had passed. The king said: “If he is as perfect in his art as you, he shall receive the same as you do.” This saying of the king the Bodhisatta told to his pupil. The pupil consented to the bargain; and the king, being informed of this, replied, “Very good. What day will you compete together?” “Be it the seventh day from this, O king.”
The king sent for Mūsila. “I understand that you are ready to try issue with your master?” “Yes, your Majesty,” was the reply.
The king would have dissuaded him. “Don’t do it,” said he, “there should never be rivalry between master and pupil.”
“Hold, O king!” cried he, “yes, let there be a meeting between me and my teacher on the seventh day; we shall know which of us is master of his art.”
So the king agreed; and he sent the drum beating round the city with this notice, “Oyez! On the seventh day Guttila the teacher, and Mūsila the pupil, will meet at the door of the royal palace, to show their skill. Let the people assemble from the city, and see their skill!”
The Bodhisatta thought within himself, “This Mūsila is young and fresh, I am old and my strength is gone. What an old man does will not prosper. If my pupil is beaten, Reading antevāsike. there is no great credit in that. If he beats me, death in the woods is better than the shame which will be my portion.” So to the woods he went, but he kept returning through fear of death and going back to the wood through fear of shame. And in this way six days passed by. The grass died as he walked, and his feet wore away a path.
At that time, Sakka’s throne became hot. Sakka meditated, and perceived what had happened. “Guttila Gandhabba is suffering much sorrow in the forest by reason of his pupil.
“Who are you?” asked the other.
Then said the Bodhisatta, “I was in fear of being worsted by my pupil, O King of the Devas; and therefore did I flee to the woods.” And he repeated the first verse: These verses, together with those which follow on page 255, and others, occur in the Vimānavatthu, no. 33 (p. 28 in the PTS ed.), Guttilavimāna [Vv 33].
1. “I had a pupil once, who learned of me
The seven-stringed lute’s melodious minstrelsy;
He now would fain his teacher’s skill outdo.
O Kosiya! A title of Indra; the word means an Owl (Sanskrit Kauśika): it is one of the many Indian clan names that are also names of animals. Do you my helper be!”
“Fear not,” said Sakka, “I am your defence and refuge,” and he repeated the second verse:
2. “Fear not, for I will help you at your need;
For honour is the teacher’s rightful meed.
Fear not! Your pupil shall not rival you,
But you shall prove the better man indeed.”
“As you play, you shall break one of the strings of your lute, and play upon six; and the music shall be as good as before. Mūsila too shall break a string, and he shall not be able to make music with his lute; then shall he be defeated. And when you see that he is defeated, you shall break the second string of your lute, and the third, even unto the seventh, and you shall go on playing with nothing but the body; and from the ends of the broken strings the sound shall go forth, and fill all the land of Benares for a space of twelve leagues.”
With these words he gave the Bodhisatta three playing-dice, and went on, “When the sound of the lute has filled all the city, you must throw one of these dice into the air; and three hundred Accharā shall descend and dance before you. While they dance throw up the second, and three hundred shall dance in front of your lute; then the third, and then three hundred more shall come down and dance within the arena. I too will come with them; go on, and fear not!”
In the morning the Bodhisatta returned home. At the palace door a pavilion was set up, and a throne was set apart for the king. He came down from the palace, and took his seat upon the divan in the gay pavilion. All around him were thousands of slaves, women beauteously apparelled, courtiers, brahmins, citizens. All the people of the town had come together. In the courtyard they were fixing the seats circle on circle, tier above tier. The Bodhisatta, washed and anointed, had eaten of all manner of finest meats; and lute in hand he sat waiting in his appointed place. Sakka was there, invisible, poised in the air, surrounded
First the two played each the same piece. When they played, both the same, the multitude was delighted, and gave abundant applause. Sakka spoke to the Bodhisatta, from his place in the air, “Break one of the strings!” said he. Then the Bodhisatta broke the bee-string; and the string, though broken, gave out a sound from its broken end; it seemed like music divine. Mūsila too broke a string; but after that no sound came out of it. His teacher broke the second, and so on to the seventh string: he played upon the body alone, and the sound continued, and filled the town: the multitude in thousands waved and waved their kerchiefs in the air, in thousands they shouted applause.
The Bodhisatta threw up one of the dice into the air, and three hundred Accharā descended and began to dance. And when he had thrown the second and third in the same manner, there were nine hundred Accharā dancing as Sakka had said. Then the king made a sign to the multitude; up rose the multitude, and cried, “You made a great mistake in matching yourself against your teacher! You know not your measure!” Thus they cried out against Mūsila; and with stories and staves, and anything that came to hand, they beat and bruised him to death, and seizing him by the feet, they cast him upon a dustheap.
The king in his delight showered gifts upon the Bodhisatta, and so did they of the city. Sakka likewise spake pleasantly to him, and said: “Wise sir, I will soon send my charioteer Mātali with a carriage drawn by a thousand thoroughbreds; and you shall mount upon my divine carriage, drawn by a thousand steeds, and travel to heaven,” and he departed.
When Sakka was returned, and sat upon his throne, made all of a precious stone, the Devadhītā asked him, “Where have you been, O king?” Sakka told them in full all that had happened, and praised the virtues and good parts of the Bodhisatta. Then said the Devadhītā, “O king, we long to look upon this teacher; fetch him here!”
Sakka summoned Mātali. “The Devaccharā,” said he, “desire to look upon Guttila Gandhabba. Go, seat him in my divine carriage, and bring him here.” The charioteer went and brought the Bodhisatta. Sakka gave him a friendly greeting. “The Devakaññā,” said he, “wish to hear your music, teacher.”
“We musicians, O great king,” said he, “live by practice of our art. For a recompense I will play.” “Play on, and I will recompense you.”
“I care for no other recompense but this. Let these Devadhītā tell me what acts of virtue brought them here; then will I play.”
For the space of a week the Bodhisatta played to them, and his music surpassed the music of heaven. On the seventh day he asked the Devadhītā of their virtuous lives, beginning from the first. One of them, in the time of the Buddha Kassapa, had given an upper garment to a certain monk; and having renewed existence as an attendant of Sakka, had become chief among the Devakaññā, with a retinue of a thousand Accharā: of her the Bodhisatta asked, “What did you do in a previous existence, that has brought you here?” The manner of his question and the gift she had given have been told in the Vimāna story, [Vv 33.] they spoke as follows:
“O brilliant Devatā, like morning star,
Shedding your light of beauty near and far, These two lines occur in the Comm. to the Dhp p. 99. See also note on the First Verse, above.
Whence springs this beauty? Whence this happiness?
Whence all the blessings that the heart can bless?
I ask you, Devī excellent in might,
Whence comes this all-pervading wondrous light?
When you were mortal woman, what did you
To gain the glory that surrounds you now?”
“Chief among men and chief of women she
Who gives an upper robe in generosity.
She that gives pleasant things is sure to win
A home divine and fair to enter in.
Behold this habitation, how divine!
As fruit of my good deeds this home is mine
A thousand Accharā stand at my call;
Fair nymphs – and I the fairest of them all.
And therefore am I excellent in might;
Hence comes this all-pervading wondrous light!”
Another had given flowers for worship to a monk who craved an alms. Another had been asked for a scented wreath of five sprays for the shrine, and gave it. Another had given sweet fruits. Another had given fine essences. Another had given a scented five-spray to the shrine of Kassapa, the One with Ten Powers. Another had heard the discourse of monks or nuns in wayfaring, or such as had taken up their abode in the house of some family. Another had stood in the water, and given water to a monk who had eaten his meal on a boat. Another living in the world had done her duty by mother-in-law and father-in-law, never losing her temper. Another had divided even the share that she received, and so did eat, and was virtuous. Another, who had been a slave in some household, without anger and without pride had given away a share of her own portion, and had been born again as an attendant upon the King of
On hearing all this, the Bodhisatta exclaimed, “ ’Tis good for me, in truth, truly ’tis very good for me, that I came here, and heard by how very small a merit great glory has been attained. Henceforward, when I return to the world of men, I will give all manner of gifts, and perform good deeds.” And he uttered this exalted utterance:
“O happy dawn! O happy must I be! Vimānavatthu p. 31.
O happy pilgrimage, whereby I see
These Devatās, like Accharās,
And hear their sweet discourse! Henceforth I swear
Full of sweet peace, and generosity,
Of temperance, and truth my life shall be,
Till I come there where no more sorrows are.”
Then after seven days had passed, the king of heaven laid his commands upon Mātali the charioteer, and he seated Guttila in the chariot and sent him to Benares. And when he came to Benares, he told the people what he had seen with his own eyes in heaven. From that time the people resolved to do good deeds with all their might.
When this discourse was ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “In those days Devadatta was Mūsila, Anuruddha was Sakka, Ānanda was the king, and I was Guttila Gandhabba.”
last updated: November 2021