Ja 276 Kurudhammajātaka cf. Cariyāpiṭaka, i. 3; Dhp p. 416. In this story the king appears as a rain-maker, and on certain occasions dresses like the gods.
The Story about the Righteousness of the Kurus (3s)
In the present one monk kills a goose with a slingshot. When the Buddha heard of this he told a story of how the people in the land of the Kurus used to keep the precepts, rain fell on time, and the people were prosperous. When afflictions fell on a neighbouring kingdom an embassy was sent to find out the secret of the Kurus’ success. The people in Kuru were so scrupulous they had doubts about their virtue over even the smallest of faults.
The Bodhisatta = the king of Kuru (Kururājā),
Māyādevī = his mother (janettiyā),
Rāhulamātā = his queen (mahesī),
Nandapaṇḍita = the viceroy (uparājā),
Kassapa = the brahmin (brāhmaṇa),
Anuruddha = the charioteer (sārathi),
Sāriputta = the wealthy man (seṭṭhi),
Moggallāna = the tax collector (doṇamāpaka),
Kaccāyana = the surveyor (rajjugāhaka),
Puṇṇa = the gatekeeper (dovārika),
Uppalavaṇṇā = the courtesan (gaṇikā).
Present Compare: Ja 107 Sālittaka, Ja 276 Kurudhamma, Dhp-a XXV.2 Haṁsaghātakabhikkhu,
Past Compare: Cp 3 Kurudhammacariyā.
Keywords: Virtue, Scrupulousness, Devas.
“Knowing your faith.”
The monks who were standing about saw what had occurred, and ran up, reproaching him. “What a shame,” they said, “that you, who have embraced such a dispensation as ours, should take the life of a living creature!” They made him go before the Tathāgata with them. “Is what they say true?” asked the Teacher. “Have you really taken the life of a living creature?” “Yes, sir,” replied the monk. “Monk,” said he, “how is it that you have done this thing, after embracing so great a dispensation? Wise men of old, before the Buddha appeared, though they lived in the world, and the worldly life is impure, felt remorse about mere trifles; but you, who have embraced this great dispensation, have no scruples. A monk ought to hold himself in control in deed, word, and thought.” Then he told a story.
In the past, when Dhanañjaya was king of Indapatta City, in the Kuru kingdom, the Bodhisatta was born as a son of his queen consort. By and by he grew up, and was educated at Taxila. His father made him viceroy,
King, mother, consort, viceroy, family priest too,
Driver and charioteer and treasurer,
And he that governed the king’s granaries,
Porter, and courtesan, eleven in all,
Observed the rules of Kuru righteousness.
Thus all these did observe the five precepts, and kept them untarnished. The king built six alms houses – one at each of the four city gates, one in the midst of the city, and one at his own door; daily he distributed 600,000 pieces of money in alms, by which he stirred up the whole of Jambudīpa. All Jambudīpa was overspread by his love and delight in generosity.
At this period there was in the city of Dantapura, in the kingdom of Kāliṅga, a king named Kāliṅga. In his realms the rain fell not, and because of the drought there was a famine in the land. The people thought that lack of food might produce a pestilence; and there was fear of drought, and fear of famine – these three fears were ever present before them. The people wandered about destitute here and there, leading their children by the hand. All the people in the kingdom gathered together, and came to Dantapura; and there at the king’s door they made outcry.
As the king stood, by the window, he heard the noise, and asked why the people were making all that noise.
“Oh, sire,” was the reply, “three fears have seized upon all your kingdom: there falls no rain, the crops fail, there is a famine. The people, starving, diseased, and destitute, are wandering about with their little ones by the hand. Make rain for us, O king!”
Said the king, “What used former monarchs to do, if it would not rain?”
“Former monarchs, O king, if it would not rain, used to give alms, to keep the holy day, to make vows of virtue, and to lie down seven days in their chamber on a grass pallet: then the rain would fall.”
“Very good,” the king said; and even so did he. Still even so there came no rain. The king said to his court,
“As you bade me, so I have done; but there is no rain. What am I to do?”
“O king, in the city of Indapatta, there is a state elephant, named Añjanavasabho [Black Bull]. It belongs to Dhanañjaya, the Kuru king. This let us fetch; then the rain will come.”
“But how can we do that? The king and his army are not easy to overcome.”
“O king, there is no need to fight him. The king is fond of giving, he loves giving: were he but asked, he would even cut off his head in all its magnificence, or tear out his gracious eyes, or give up his very kingdom. There will be no need even to plead for the elephant. He will give it without fail.”
“But who is able to ask him?” said the king.
“The brahmins, great king!”
The king summoned eight brahmins from a brahmin village, and with all honour and respect sent them to ask for the elephant. They took
The answer was,
So early the next morning, the brahmins went, and entered by the eastern gate. The Bodhisatta also, washed and anointed, all adorned and rarely arrayed, mounted upon a fine elephant richly caparisoned, came with a great company to the alms-hall at the eastern gate. There he dismounted, and gave food to seven or eight people with his own hand. “In this manner give,” said he, and mounting his elephant departed to the south gate. At the eastern gate the brahmins had had no chance, owing to the force of the royal guard; so they proceeded to the south, and watched when the king should come. When the king reached a rising ground not far from the gate, they raised their hands, and hailed the king victorious. The king guided his animal with the jewelled goad to the place where they were. “Well, brahmins, what is your wish?” asked he. Then the brahmins declared the virtues of the Bodhisatta in the first verse:
1. “Knowing your faith and virtue, Lord, we come;
For this beast’s sake our wealth we spent at home.” i.e. we spent all we had on food, trusting that you would give us the elephant when we asked for it.
To this the Bodhisatta made answer, “Brahmins, if all your wealth has been exhausted in getting this elephant, never mind – I give him to you with all his splendour.” Thus comforting them, he repeated these two verses:
2. “Whether or no you serve for livery,
Whatever creature shall come here to me,
As my preceptors taught me long ago,
All that come here shall always welcome be.
3. This elephant to you for gift I bring:
’Tis a king’s portion, worthy of a king!
Take him, with all his trappings, golden chain,
Driver and all, and go your ways again.”
Thus spake the Great Being, mounted upon his elephant’s back; then, dismounting, he said to them, “If there is a spot on him unadorned, I will adorn it and then give him to you.” Thrice he went about the creature, turning towards the right, and examined him; but he found no spot on him without adornment. Then he put the trunk into the brahmins’
Then the king asked again, “What can be the reason?”
They said: “Dhanañjaya, the Kuru king, observes the Kuru righteousness; therefore in his realms it rains every ten or fifteen days. That is the power of the king’s goodness. If in this animal there is any good, how little it must be!” Then said the king, “Take this elephant, caparisoned as he is, with all his belongings, and give it back to the king. Write upon a golden plate the Kuru righteousness which he observes, and bring it here.” With these words he dispatched the brahmins and courtiers.
These came before the king, and restored his elephant, saying: “My lord, even when your elephant came,
“Friends,” says the king, “indeed I did once observe this righteousness; but now I am in doubt about this very point. This righteousness does not bless my heart now: therefore I cannot give it you.”
Why, you may ask, did not virtue bless the king any longer? Well, every third year, in the month of Kattikā October-November. the kings used to hold a festival, called the Kattikā Festival. While keeping this feast, the kings used to deck themselves out in great magnificence, and dress up like gods; they stood in the presence of a Yakkha named Cittarāja [King of Many Colours], and they would shoot to the four points of the compass arrows wreathed in flowers, and painted in divers colours. This king then, in keeping the feast, stood on the bank of a lake, in the presence of Cittarāja, and shot arrows to the four quarters. They could see whither three of the arrows went; but the fourth, which was shot over the water, this they saw not. Thought the king, “Perchance the arrow which I have shot has fallen upon some fish!” As this doubt arose, the thought of life-taking made a flaw in his virtue; that is why his virtue did not bless him as before. This the king told them; and added, “Friends, I am in doubt about myself, whether or no I do observe the Kuru righteousness; but my mother keeps it well. You can get it from her.”
“But, O king,” they said, “you had no intent to take life. Without the intent of the heart there is no taking of life. Give us the Kuru righteousness which you have kept!”
“Write, then,” said he. And he caused them to write upon the plate of gold, ‘Slay not the living; take not what is not given;
“Still, it does not bless me; you had better learn it from my mother.”
The messengers saluted the king, and visited the queen-mother. “Lady,” they said, “they say you keep the Kuru righteousness: pass it on to us!”
Said the queen-mother, “My sons, indeed I did once keep this righteousness, but now I have my doubts. This righteousness does not make me happy, so I cannot give it to you.” Now we are told that she had two sons, the elder being king, and the younger viceroy. A certain king sent to the Bodhisatta perfumes of fine sandalwood worth a hundred thousand pieces, and a golden neckband worth a hundred thousand. And he, thinking to do his mother honour, sent the whole to her. Thought she, “I do not perfume myself with sandalwood, I do not wear necklets. I will give them to my sons’ wives.” Then the thought occurred to her, “My elder son’s wife is my lady; she is the chief queen: to her will I give the gold necklet; but the wife of the younger is a poor creature – to her I will give the sandal perfume.” And so to the one she gave the necklet, and the perfume gave she to the other. Afterward she bethought her, “I keep the Kuru righteousness; whether they be poor or whether they be not poor is no matter. It is not seemly that I should pay court to the elder. Perchance by not doing this I have made a flaw in my virtue!” And she began to doubt; that is why she spoke as she did.
The messengers said: “When it is in your hands, a thing is given even as you will. If you have scruples about a thing so small as that, what other wrong would you ever do? Virtue is not broken by a thing of that kind.
“All the same, my sons,” said the queen-mother, “I am not happy in this righteousness. But my daughter-in-law observes it well. Ask her for it.”
So they took their leave respectfully, and asked the daughter in the same way as before. And, as before, she replied, “I cannot, for I keep it myself no longer!” Now one day as she sat at the lattice window, looking down she saw the king making a solemn procession about the city; and behind him on the elephant’s back sat the viceroy. She fell in love with him, and thought: “What if I were to strike up a friendship with him, and his brother were to die, and then he were to become king, and take me to wife!” Then it flashed across her mind, “I who keep the Kuru righteousness, who am married to a husband, I have looked with love
Then they said: “Wrong is not the mere uprising of a thought. If you feel remorse for so small a thing as this, what transgression could you ever commit? Not by such a small matter is virtue broken; give us this righteousness!” And she likewise told it to them, and they wrote it upon a golden plate. But she said: “However, my sons, my virtue is not perfect. But the viceroy observes these rules well; go you and receive them from him.”
Then again they repaired to the viceroy, and as before asked him for the Kuru righteousness. Now the viceroy used to go and pay his devotions to the king at evening; and when they came to the palace courtyard, in his carriage, if he wished to eat with the king, and spend the night there, he would throw his reins and goad upon the yoke; and that was a sign for the people to depart; and next morning early they would come again, and stand awaiting the viceroy’s departure. And the charioteer
“But,” they said, “you never had the wish to plague those people. What is not intended is not counted to one’s score. If you feel remorse for so small a thing, in what would you ever transgress?” So they received from him too the knowledge of this righteousness, and wrote it on their golden plate. “However,” said he, “this righteousness is not perfected in me. But my family priest keeps it well; go, ask him for it.” Then again they went on to the family priest.
Now the family priest one day had been going to wait upon the king. On the road he saw a chariot; sent to the king by another king, coloured like the young sun. “Whose chariot is it?” he asked. “It is sent for the king,” they said. Then he thought: “I am an old man; if the king were to give me that chariot, how nice it would be to ride about in it!” When he
But the messengers said: “Not by mere uprising of covetise is virtue broken. If you feel a scruple in so small a matter, what real transgression would you ever do?” And from him also they received the righteousness, and wrote it on their golden plate. “Still, this goodness does not bless me now,” said he, “but the royal driver Some difference there must be between rajjugāhaha-amacco and sāratthi (the same words occur in Dhp. p. 416). I would suggest that the former is the more important, and may answer to the Greek παραιβάτης, Sanskrit savyēṣṭher. [Additional note from Vol. IV:] Fick explains the rajjugāhakaamacco as a kind of royal surveyor for tax purposes, which suits the context. The rajju will be his chain, symbol of office (Soc. Glied. 7 note). carefully practises it. Go and ask him.” So they found the royal driver, and asked him.
Now the driver one day was measuring a field. Tying a cord to a stick, he gave one end to the owner of the field to hold, and took the other himself. The stick tied to the end of the cord which he held came to a crab’s lurk-hole. He thought: “If I put the stick in the hole, the crab in the hole will be hurt: if I put it on the other side, the king’s property will lose; and if I put it on this side, the farmer will lose. What’s to be done?” Then he thought again, “The crab ought to be in his hole; but if he were, he would show himself,” so he put the stick in the hole. The crab made a clicking sound inside. Then he thought: “The stick must have struck upon the crab, and it must have killed him! I observe the Kuru righteousness, and now here’s a flaw in it!”
Said the messengers, “You had no wish to kill the crab. What is done without intent is not counted to the score; if you feel a scruple about so small a matter, what real transgression would you ever do?” And they took the righteousness from his lips likewise, and wrote it on their golden plate. “However,” said he, “though this does not bless me, the charioteer practises it carefully; go and ask him.”
So they took their leave, and sought out the charioteer. Now the charioteer one day drove the king into his park in the carriage. There the king took his pleasure during the day, and at evening returned, and entered the chariot. But before he could get back to the city, at the time of sunset a storm cloud arose. The charioteer, fearing the king might get wet, touched up the team with the goad: the steeds sped swiftly home.
Ever since, going to the park or coming from it, from that spot they went at speed. Why was this? Because they thought there must be some danger at this spot, and that was why the charioteer had touched them with the goad. And the charioteer thought: “If the king is wet or dry, ’tis no fault of mine; but I have given a touch of the goad out of season to these well-trained steeds, and so they run at speed again and again till they are tired, all by my doing. And I observe the Kuru righteousness! Surely there’s a flaw in it now!” This he told the messengers, and said: “For this cause I am in doubt about it, and I cannot give it to you.”
“But,” they said, “you did not mean to tire the horses, and what is done without meaning is not set down to the score. If you feel a scruple about so small a matter, what real transgression could you ever commit?” And they learned the righteousness from him also,
So to this rich man they came, and asked him. Now he one day had gone to his paddy field, and seeing a head of rice bursting the husk, went about to tie it up with a wisp of rice; and taking a handful of it, he tied the head to a post. Then it occurred to him, “From this field I have yet to give the king his due, and I have taken a handful of rice from an untithed field! I, who observe the rules of Kuru righteousness! Surely I must have broken them!” And this matter he told to the messengers, saying: “Now I am in doubt about this righteousness, and so I cannot give it to you.”
“But,” they said, “you had no thought of thieving; without this one cannot be proclaimed i.e. in the Saṅgha (ñatti is a ‘resolution’). guilty of theft. If you feel scruples in such a small matter, when will you ever take what belongs to another man?” And from him too they received the righteousness, and wrote it down on their golden plate. He added, “Still, though I am not happy in this matter, the Master of the Royal Granaries keeps these rules well. Go, ask him for them.” So they betook them to the Master of the Granaries.
Now this man, as he sat one day at the door of the granary, causing the rice of the king’s tax to be measured, took a grain from the heap which was not yet measured, and put it down for a marker. At that moment rain began to fall. The official counted up the markers, so many, and then swept them all together and dropped them upon the heap which had been measured. Then he ran in quickly and sat in the gate-house. “Did I throw the markers on the measured heap or the unmeasured?” he wondered; and the thought came into his mind –
But the messengers said: “You had no thought of theft, and without this no one can be declared guilty of dishonesty. If you feel scruples in a small matter like this, when would you ever steal any thing belonging to another?” And from him too they received the righteousness, and wrote it on their golden plate. “But,” added he, “although this virtue is not perfect in me, there is the gatekeeper, who observes it well: go and get it from him.” So they went off and asked the gatekeeper.
Now it so happened that one day, at the time for closing the city gate, he cried aloud three times. And a certain poor man, who had gone into the woodland gathering sticks and leaves with his youngest sister, hearing the sound came running up with her. Says the door keeper, “What! Don’t you know that the king is in the city? Don’t you know that the gate of this town is shut betimes? Is that why you go out into the woods, making love?” Said the other, “No, master, it is not my wife, but my sister.” Then the porter thought: “How unseemly to address a sister as a wife! And I keep the rules of the Kurus; surely I must have broken them now!” This he told the messengers, adding, “In this way I have my doubts whether I really keep the Kuru righteousness, and so I cannot give it to you.”
But they said: “You said it because you thought so;
Then he said: “But though this virtue does not bless me, there is a courtesan who keeps it well; go and ask her.” And so they did. She refused as the others had done, for the following reason. Sakka, King of the Devas, designed to try her goodness; so putting on the shape of a youth, he gave her a thousand pieces, saying: “I will come by and by.” Then he returned to heaven, and did not visit her for three years. And she, for honour’s sake, for three years took not so much as a piece of betel from another man. By degrees she got poor; and then she thought: “The man who gave me a thousand pieces has not come these three years; and now I have grown poor. I cannot keep body and soul together. Now I must go tell the Chief Justices, and get my wage as before.” So to the court she came, and said: “There was a man three years ago gave me a thousand pieces, and never came back; whether he be dead I know not. I cannot keep body and soul together; what am I to do, my lord’?” Said he, “If he does not come for three years, what can you do? Earn your wage as before.” As soon as she left the court, after this award, there came a man who offered her a thousand. As she held out her hands to take it, Sakka showed himself. Said she, “Here is the man who gave me
To this the messengers replied, “Merely to hold out the hand is not a breach of virtue: that virtue of yours is the highest perfection!” And from her, as from the rest, they received the rules of virtue, and wrote them on their golden plate. They took it with them to Dantapura, and told the king how they had fared.
Then their king practised the Kuru precepts, and fulfilled the five precepts. And then in all the realm of Kāliṅga the rain fell; the three fears were allayed; the land became prosperous and fertile. The Bodhisatta all his life long gave alms and did good, and then with his subjects went to fill the heavens.
When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he declared the Truths, and explained the Jātaka tale. At the conclusion of the Truths, some entered the First Path, some the Second, some entered the Third, and some became Arahats. And the Jātaka tale is thus explained:
Uppalavaṇṇā was the courtesan,
Puṇṇa the porter, and the driver was
Kaccāna; Kolita, the measurer;
The rich man, Sāriputta; he who drove
The chariot, Anuruddha; and the priest
Was Kassapa the elder; he that was
The viceroy, now is Nandapaṇḍita;
Rāhula’s mother has the queen-consort,
The queen-mother was Māyā; and the king
Was the Bodhisatta. Thus is it clear.
last updated: November 2021