Ja 259 Tirīṭavacchajātaka
The Story about (the Brahmin) Tirīṭavaccha (3s)

In the present the king of Kosala gives 1,000 robes to Ven. Ānanda, who then gives 500 to monks in need, and 500 to his attendant monk, who passes them to other novices. The king asks the Buddha if this is right, and the latter tells a story of how when he was an ascetic in a previous life he had saved the king’s life, and had been honoured because of it. The honour was questioned, but the king stood by his decision.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā).

Present Source: Ja 92 Mahāsāra,
Quoted at: a 157 Guṇa, Ja 259 Tirīṭavaccha, Ja 302 Mahā-assāroha.

Keywords: Gratitude, Obligation.

“When all alone.” This story the Teacher told while living at Jetavana, about the gift of a thousand garments, how the venerable Ānanda received five hundred garments from the women of the household of the king of Kosala, and five hundred from the king himself. The circumstances have been described above, in the Sigālajātaka [Ja 152], of the Second Book. [This is another name for Ja 157 Guṇajātaka. I include the story here.]

This was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana how elder Ānanda received a present of a thousand robes. The elder had been preaching to the ladies of the king of Kosala’s palace as described above in the Mahāsārajātaka [Ja 92].

As he preached there in the manner described, a thousand robes, worth each a thousand pieces of money, were brought to the king. Of these the king gave five hundred to as many of his queens. The ladies put these aside and made them a present to our elder, and then the next day in their old ones went to the palace where the king took breakfast. The king remarked, “I gave you dresses worth a thousand pieces each. Why are you not wearing them?” “My lord,” they said, “we have given them to the elder.” “Has elder Ānanda got them all?” he asked. They said: “Yes, he has.” “The Supreme Buddha,” said he, “allows only three robes. Ānanda is doing a little trade in cloth, I suppose!”

He was angry with the elder; and after breakfast, visited him in his cell, and after greeting, sat down, with these words: “Pray, sir, do my ladies learn or listen to your preaching?”

“Yes, sire; they learn what they ought, and what they ought to hear, they hear.”

“Oh, indeed. Do they only listen, or do they make you presents of upper garments or under-garments?”

“Today, sire, they have given me five hundred robes worth a thousand pieces each.”

“And you accepted them, sir?”

“Yes, sire, I did.”

“Why, sir, didn’t the Teacher make some rule about three robes?”

“True, sire, for every monk three robes is the rule, speaking of what he uses for himself. But no one is forbidden to accept what is offered; and that is why I took them – to give them to monks whose robes are worn out.”

“But when these monks get them from you, what do they do with their old ones?”

“Make them into a cloak.”

“And what about the old cloak?”

“That they turn into a shirt.”

“And the old shirt?”

“That serves for a coverlet.”

“The old coverlet?” “Becomes a mat.” “The old mat?” “A towel.” “And what about the old towel?”

“Sire, it is not permitted to waste the gifts of the faithful; so they chop up the old towel into bits, and mix the bits with clay, which they use for mortar in building their houses.”

“A gift, sir, ought not to be destroyed, not even a towel.”

“Well, sir king, we destroy no gifts, but all are used somehow.”

This conversation pleased the king so much, that he sent for the other five hundred robes which remained, and gave them to the elder. Then, after receiving his thanks, he greeted the elder in solemn state, and went his way.

The elder gave the first five hundred robes to monks whose robes were worn out. But the number of his fellow monastics was just five hundred. One of these, a young monk, was very useful to the elder; sweeping out his cell, serving him with food and drink, giving him toothbrush and water for cleansing his mouth, looking after the privies, living rooms, and sleeping rooms, and doing all that was needed for hand, foot, or back. To him, as his by right for all his great service, the elder gave all the five hundred robes which he had received afterwards. The young monk in his turn distributed them among his fellow-students. These all cut them up, dyed them yellow as a kaṇikāra flower; then dressed therein they waited upon the Teacher, greeted him, and sat down on one side.

“Sir,” they asked, “is it possible for a holy disciple who has entered on the First Path to be a respecter of persons in his gifts?” “No, monks, it is not possible for holy disciples to be respecters of persons in their gifts.” “Sir, our spiritual teacher, the Treasurer of the Dhamma, gave five hundred robes, each worth a thousand pieces, to a young monk; and he has divided them amongst us.” “Monks, in giving these Ānanda was no respecter of persons. That young fellow was a very useful servant; so he made the present to his own attendant for the sake of his service, for goodness’ sake, and by right, thinking that one good turn deserves another, and with a wish to do what gratitude demands. In former days, as now, wise men acted on the principle one good turn deserves another.” And then, at their request, he told them a story of the past.

In the past, while Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as the son of a brahmin in Kāsi. On his nameday they called him Teacher Tirīṭavaccha. In due time he grew up, and studied at Taxila. He married and settled down, but his parents’ death so distressed him {2.315} that he became an ascetic, and lived in a woodland dwelling, feeding upon the roots and fruits of the forest. [2.219]

While he lived there, a disturbance arose on the frontiers of Benares. The king repaired there, but was worsted in the fight; fearing for his life, he mounted an elephant, and fled away covertly through the forest. In the morning, Tirīṭavaccha had gone abroad to gather wild fruit, and meanwhile the king came upon his hut. “An ascetic’s hut!” said he; down he came from his elephant, weary with wind and sun, and athirst; he looked about for a waterpot, but none could he find. At the end of the covered walk he spied a well, but he could see no rope and bucket for the drawing of water. His thirst was too great to bear; he took off the girth which passed under the elephant’s belly, made it fast on the edge, and let himself down into the well. But it was too short; so he tied on to the end of it his lower garment, and let himself down again. Still he could not reach the water. He could just touch it with his feet: he was very thirsty! “If I can but quench my thirst,” he thought, “death itself will be sweet!” So down he dropped, and drank his fill; but he could not get up again, so he remained standing there in the well. And the elephant, so well trained was he, stood still, waiting for the king.

In the evening, the Bodhisatta returned, laden with wild fruits, and espied the elephant. “I suppose,” he thought, “the king is come; but nothing is to be seen save the armed elephant. What’s to do?” And he approached the elephant, which stood and waited for him. He went to the edge of the well, and saw the king at the bottom. “Fear nothing, O king!” he called out; then he placed a ladder, and helped the king out; he massaged the king’s body, and anointed him with oil; after which he gave him of the fruits to eat, {2.316} and loosed the elephant’s armour. Two or three days the king rested there; then he went away, after making the Bodhisatta promise to pay him a visit.

The royal forces were encamped nearby the city; and when the king was perceived coming, they flocked around him.

After a month and half a month, the Bodhisatta returned to Benares, and settled in the park. Next day he came to the palace to ask for food. The king had opened a great window, and stood looking out into the courtyard; and so seeing the Bodhisatta, and recognising him, he descended and gave him greeting; he led him to a dais, and set him upon the throne under a white umbrella; his own food the king gave him to eat, and ate himself of it. Then he took him to the garden, and caused a covered walk and a dwelling to be made for him, and furnished him with all the necessaries of an ascetic; then giving him in charge of a gardener, he bade farewell, and departed. After this, the Bodhisatta took his food in the king’s dwelling: great was the respect and honour paid to him.

But the courtiers could not endure it. “If a soldier,” they said, “were to receive such honour, how would he behave!” They betook [2.220] them to the viceroy, “My lord, our king is making too much of an ascetic! What can he have seen in the man? You speak with the king about it.” The viceroy consented, and they all went together before the king. And the viceroy greeted the king, and uttered the first verse:

1. “There is no wit in him that I can see;
He is no kinsman, nor a friend of you;
Why should this ascetic with three bits of wood, To hang his waterpot upon.
Tirīṭavaccha, have such splendid food?” {2.317}

The king listened. Then he said, addressing his son,

“My son, you remember how once I went to the marches, and how I was conquered in war, and came not back for a few days?”

“I remember,” said be.

“This man saved my life,” said the king; and he told him all that had happened. “Well, my son, now that this my preserver is with me, I cannot requite him for what he has done, not even were I to give him my kingdom.” And he recited the two verses following:

2. “When all alone, in a grim thirsty wood,
He, and no other, tried to do me good;
In my distress he lent a helping hand;
Half-dead he drew me up and made me stand.

3. By his sole doing I returned again
Out of death’s jaws back to the world of men.
To recompense such kindness is but fair;
Give a rich offering, nor stint his share.” {2.318}

So spake the king, as though he were causing the moon to rise up in the sky; and as the virtue of the Bodhisatta was declared, so was declared his own virtue everywhere; and his takings increased, and the honour shown to him. After that neither his viceroy nor his courtiers nor any one else did say anything against him to the king. The king lived in the Bodhisatta’s admonition; and he gave alms and did good, and at the last went to swell the hosts of heaven. And the Bodhisatta, having cultivated the Super Knowledges and Attainments, became destined to the Brahmā Realm.

Then the Teacher added, “Wise men of old gave help too,” and having thus concluded his discourse, he identified the Jātaka as follows, “Ānanda was the king, and I was the ascetic.”