Ja 261 Padumajātaka
The Story about (Begging for) Lotuses (3s)

In the present Ven. Ānanda helps some monks get lotus flowers to worship the Bodhi tree at Sāvatthi. The Buddha then tells a story of how some people had tried to cheat the caretaker of a lotus tank, and were rebuffed. The one who spoke honestly, however, was given flowers.

The Bodhisatta = the teasurer’s son who got the lotuses (padumalābhī seṭṭhiputto).

Present Source: Ja 479 Kāliṅgabodhi,
Quoted at: Ja 261 Paduma.

Keywords: Merit, Honesty.

“Cut, and cut, and cut again.” This story the Teacher told at Jetavana, about some monks who made offering of garlands under Ānanda’s tree. The circumstances will be given in the Kāliṅgabodhijātaka [Ja 479].

This story the Teacher told while dwelling at Jetavana about worship of the Bodhi tree performed by elder Ānanda.

When the Tathāgata had set forth on pilgrimage, for the purpose of gathering in those who were ripe for conversion, the citizens of Sāvatthi proceeded to Jetavana, their hands full of garlands and fragrant wreaths, and finding no other place to show their reverence, laid them by the gateway of the perfumed chamber and went off. This caused great rejoicings. But Anāthapiṇḍika got to hear of it; and on the return of the Tathāgata visited elder Ānanda and said to him, “This monastery, sir, is left unprovided while the Tathāgata goes on pilgrimage, and there is no place for the people to do reverence by offering fragrant wreaths and garlands. Will you be so kind, sir, as to tell the Tathāgata of this matter, and learn from him whether or not it is possible to find a place for this purpose.” The other, quite willingly, did so, asking, “How many shrines are there?” “Three, Ānanda.” “Which are they?” “Shrines for a relic of the body, a relic of use or wear, a relic of memorial” “Can a shrine be made, sir, during your life?” “No, Ānanda, not a body-shrine; that kind is made when a Buddha enters Nibbāna. A shrine of memorial is improper because the connection depends on the imagination only. But the great Bodhi tree used by the Buddhas is fit for a shrine, be they alive or be they dead.” “Sir, while you are away on pilgrimage the great monastery of Jetavana is unprotected, and the people have no place where they can show their reverence. Shall I plant a seed of the great Bodhi tree before the gateway of Jetavana?” “By all means so do, Ānanda, and that shall be as it were an abiding place for me.”

The elder told this to Anāthapiṇḍika, and Visākhā, and the king. Then at the gateway of Jetavana he cleared out a pit for the Bodhi tree to stand in, and said to the chief elder, Moggallāna, “I want to plant a Bodhi tree in front of Jetavana. Will you get me a fruit of the great Bodhi tree?” The elder, willingly, passed through the air to the platform under the Bodhi tree. He placed in his robe a fruit that was dropping from its stalk but had not reached the ground, brought it back, and delivered it to Ānanda. The elder informed the king of Kosala that he was to plant the Bodhi tree that day. So in the evening time the king came with a great concourse, bringing all things necessary; then also Anāthapiṇḍika and Visākhā came and a crowd of the faithful besides.

In the place where the Bodhi tree was to be planted the elder had placed a golden jar, and in the bottom of it was a hole; all was filled with earth moistened with fragrant water. He said: “O king, plant this seed of the Bodhi tree,” giving it to the king. But the king, thinking that his kingdom was not to be in his hands for ever, and that Anāthapiṇḍika ought to plant it, passed the seed to Anāthapiṇḍika, the great merchant. Then Anāthapiṇḍika stirred up the fragrant soil and dropped it in. The instant it dropped from his hand, before the very eyes of all, it sprang up as broad as a plough-head a Bodhi sapling, fifty cubits tall; on the four sides and upwards shot forth five great branches of fifty cubits in length, like the trunk. So stood the tree, a very lord of the forest already; a mighty miracle! The king poured round the tree jars of gold and of silver, in number eight hundred, filled with scented water, beauteous with a great quantity of blue water-lilies, and caused to be set there a long line of vessels all full, and a seat he had made of the seven precious things, golden dust he had sprinkled about it, a wall was built round the precincts, he erected a gate chamber of the seven precious things. Great was the honour paid to it.

The elder, approaching the Tathāgata, said to him, “Sir, for the people’s good, accomplish under the Bodhi tree which I have planted that height of Attainment to which you attained under the great Bodhi tree.” “What is this you say, Ānanda?” replied he. “There is no other place can support me, if I sit there and attain to that which I attained in the enclosure of the great Bodhi tree.” “Sir,” said Ānanda, “I pray you for the good of the people, to use this tree for the rapture of Attainment, in so far as this spot of ground can support the weight.” The Teacher used it during one night for the rapture of Attainment.

The elder informed the king, and all the rest, and called it by the name of the Bodhi Festival.

This tree was called [2.223] Ānanda’s tree, because Ānanda planted it. [In the story Anāthapiṇḍaka does the actual planting, monks not being allowed to dig the earth. We may understand it as being due to Ānanda that the tree was planted.] All Jambudīpa heard tell how the elder had planted this tree by the gate of Jetavana.

Some monks who lived in the country thought they would make offerings before Ānanda’s tree. They journeyed to Jetavana, did their devotions to the Teacher, and next day wended their way to Sāvatthi, to the Lotus Street; but not a garland could they get. So they told Ānanda, how they had wished to make an offering to the tree, but that not a garland was to be had in all the Lotus Street. The elder promised to fetch some; so he went off to the Lotus Street, and returned with many handfuls of blue lotus, which he gave them. With these they made their offering to the tree.

When the monks got wind of this, they began discussing the elder’s merits in the Dhamma Hall, “Friend, some brothers of little merit from the country could not get a single nosegay in the Lotus Bazaar; but the elder went and fetched them some.” The Teacher entered, and asked what they were talking of as they sat there; and they told him. Said he, {2.322} “Monks, this is not the first time that a clever tongue has gained a garland for clever speaking; it was the same before.” [Note that nothing was said in the Introduction to indicate that Ven Ānanda had used clever speaking to gain the lotuses for the monks, so the story hardly fits.] And he told them a story.

In the past, when Brahmadatta reigned in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a rich merchant’s son. In the town was a tank, in which the lotus flowered. A man who had lost his nose looked after the tank.

It happened one day that they proclaimed holiday in Benares; and the three sons of this rich man thought that they would put wreaths upon them, and go a merrymaking. “We’ll flatter up the old lacknose fellow, and then we’ll beg some flowers of him.” So at the time when he used to pluck the lotus flowers, to the tank they went, and waited. And one of them uttered the first verse:

1. “Cut, and cut, and cut again,
Hair and whiskers grow amain;
And your nose will grow like these,
Give me just one lotus, please!”

But the man was angry, and gave none. Then the second said the second verse:

2. “In the autumn seeds are sown
Which before long are fully grown;
May your nose sprout up like these.
Give me just one lotus, please!”

Again the man was angry, and gave no lotus. Then the third of them repeated the third verse:

3. “Babbling fools! To think that they
Can get a lotus in this way.
Say they yes, or say they no,
Noses cut no more will grow.
See, I ask you honestly:
Give a lotus, sir, to me!” [2.224] {2.323}

On hearing this the lake keeper said: “The other two lied, but you have spoken the truth. You deserve to have some lotuses.” So he gave him a great bunch of lotus, and went back to his lake.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he identified the Jātaka, “The boy who got the lotus was I myself.”