Ja 265 Khurappajātaka
The Story about the Arrow (3s)

In the present one monk has almost given up on the struggle. The Buddha tells him a story about a forester who acted as a guide for a merchant and was willing to lay down his life to ensure his client was delivered to his destination safely.

The Bodhisatta = the elder watchman (ārakkhakajeṭṭhaka).

Keywords: Effort, Determination.

“When many a bow.” This story the Teacher told in Jetavana, about a monk who had lost all energy. The Teacher asked, was it true that this monk had lost his energy. Yes, he replied. “Why,” asked he, “have you slackened your energy, after embracing this dispensation? In days of yore, wise men were energetic even in matters which do not lead to escape,” and so saying he told a story of the past. [2.232]

In the past, while Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born into the family of a forester. When he grew up, he took the lead of a band of five hundred foresters, and lived in a village at the entrance to the forest. He used to hire himself out to guide men through it.

Now one day a man of Benares, a merchant’s son, arrived at that village with a caravan of five hundred wagons. Sending for the Bodhisatta, he offered him a thousand pieces to be his guide through the forest. He agreed, and received the money from the merchant’s hand; and as he took it, he mentally devoted his life to the merchant’s service. Then he guided him into the forest.

In the midst of the forest, up rose five hundred robbers. As for the rest of the company, no sooner did they see these robbers, than they grovelled upon their belly: the head forester alone, shouting and leaping and dealing blows, put to flight all the five hundred robbers, and led the merchant across the wood in safety. Once across the forest, the merchant encamped his caravan; {2.336} he gave the chief forester choice meats of every kind, and himself having broken his fast, sat pleasantly by him, and talked with him thus, “Tell me,” said he, “how it was that even when five hundred robbers, with arms in their hands, were spread all around, you felt not even any fear in your heart?” And he uttered the first verse:

1. “When many a bow the shaft at speed let fly –
Hands grasping blades of tempered steel were nigh –
When Death had marshalled all his dread array –
Why, ’mid such terror, felt you no dismay?”

On hearing this the forester repeated the two verses following:

2. “When many a bow the shaft at speed let fly –
Hands grasping blades of tempered steel were nigh –
When Death had marshalled all his dread array –
I felt a great and mighty joy this day.

3. And this my joy gave me the victory;
I was resolved to die, if need should be;
He must contemn his life, who would fulfil
Heroic deeds and be a hero still.” {2.337}

Thus did he send forth his words like a shower of arrows; and having explained how he had done heroically through being free from the desire to live, he parted from the young merchant, and returned to his own village; where after giving alms and doing good he passed away to fare according to his deeds.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he declared the Truths, and identified the Jātaka, at the conclusion of the Truths the disheartened monk became an Arahat. “At that time I was the chief of the foresters.”