Ja 283 Vaḍḍhakisūkarajātaka
The Story about the Carpenter’s Boar (3s)
Alternative Title: Vaḍḍhakīsūkarajātaka (Cst)
In the present after Ajātasattu killed his father he fell into fighting with his uncle, Pasenadi. The latter kept getting defeated till his courtiers overheard two monks discussing the art of war. The Buddha tells a story about boars that were living in terror of a tiger, until one boar came along who taught them how to band together and fight off their foe. They also disposed off a false ascetic who plotted against them.
The Bodhisatta = the Tree Devatā (Rukkhadevatā),
(the elder monk) Dhanuggahatissa = the old boar (vaḍḍhakīsūkara).
Past Compare: Ja 283 Vaḍḍhakisūkara, Ja 492 Tacchasūkara.
Keywords: War, Strategy, Devas, Animals.
“The best, the best you always.”
Then the king asked his courtiers, “We are constantly being beaten; what is to be done?” “My lord,” they said, “the venerable fathers are skilled in incantations. We must hear the word of the monks who dwell in Jetavana.” Then the king dispatched couriers, bidding them listen to the converse of the monks at a suitable time.
Now at the time there were two old elders living in a leaf-hut close to the monastery, whose names were elder Utta and elder Dhanuggahatissa.
The elder Dhanuggahatissa discussed the nature of war. “War, sir,” said he, “consists of three kinds: the lotus army, the wheel army, and the wagon army. These are technical terms in Sanskrit also (padmavyūho, śakaṭa°, cakra°); see Manu 7. 188, 7. 187, and B. R. dict. s.v. The ‘wheel’ explains itself: the ‘wagon’ was a wedge-shaped phalanx; the ‘lotus,’ as noted by Bühler (translation of Manu in Sacred Books of the East page 246), is “equally extended on all sides and perfectly circular, the centre being occupied by the king.” If those who wish to capture Ajātasattu will post garrisons in two hill-forts right away in the hills, and pretend that they are weak, and watch till they get him among the hills, and bar his passage, leap out from the two forts and take him in front and in the rear, and shout aloud, they will quickly have him like a landed fish, like a frog in the fist; and so they will be able to secure him.” All this the couriers told their king. The king caused the drum to be beaten for the attack, arranged his army wagon-wise, took Ajātasattu alive; his daughter, princess Vajirā he gave in marriage to his sister’s son, and dismissed her with the Kāsi village for her bath-money.
This event became known among the Saṅgha. One day, they were all talking about it in the Dhamma Hall, “Friend, I hear that the king of Kosala conquered Ajātasattu through the instructions of Dhanuggahatissa.” The Teacher
In the past, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a Tree Devatā. At that time there were some carpenters settled in a village near Benares. One of them, on going into the forest to get wood, found a young boar fallen in a pit, which he took home and kept. He grew big, with curved tusks, and was a well-mannered creature. Because the carpenter kept him, he went by the name of Carpenter’s Boar [Vaḍḍhakisūkara]. When the carpenter was chopping up a tree, the boar used to turn the tree over with his snout, and with his teeth fetch hatchet and adze, chisel and mallet, and pull along the measuring line by the end. The carpenter was afraid somebody might eat him up; so he took him and let him go in the forest. The boar ran into the forest, looking for a safe and pleasant place to live in; and at last he espied a great cave up in a mountain side, with plenty of bulbs, and roots, and fruits, a pleasant living-place. Some hundreds of other boars saw him and approached him.
Said he to them, “You are just what I am looking for, and here I have found you. This seems a nice place; and here I mean to live now with you.”
“A nice place it certainly is,” they said, “but dangerous.”
“Ah,” said he, “as soon as I saw you, I wondered how it was that those who dwell in so plentiful a place could be so meagre in flesh and blood. What is it you are afraid of?”
“There is a tiger comes in the morning, and every one he sees he seizes and carries off.” “Does this always happen, or only now and then?” “Always.” “How many tigers are there?” “Only one.” “What – one alone too many for all of you!” “Yes, sir.”
“I’ll catch him, if you only do what I tell you. Where does this tiger live?” “On that hill yonder.”
So at night he drilled the boars and prepared them for war; explaining to them the science.
The tiger awoke. “Time now!” thought he. He trotted up till he caught sight of them; then stopped still upon the plateau, glaring at the crowd of boars. “Glare back!” cried the Carpenter’s Boar, with a signal to the rest. They all glared. The tiger opened his mouth, and drew a long breath: the boars all did the same. The tiger relieved himself: so did the boars. Thus whatever the tiger did, the boars did after him.
“Why, what’s this!” the tiger wondered. “They used to take to their heels as soon as they saw me – indeed, they were too much frightened even to run. Now so far from running, they actually stand up against me! Whatever I do, they mimic. There’s a fellow yonder on a commanding position: he it is who has organised the rabble. Well, I don’t see how to get the better of them.” And he turned away and went back to his lair.
Now there was a sham ascetic, who used to get a share of the tiger’s prey. This time the tiger returned empty-handed. Noticing this, the ascetic repeated the following verse.
1. “The best, the best you always brought before
When you went hunting after the wild boar.
Now empty-handed you consume with grief,
Today where is the strength you had of yore?”
At this address, the tiger repeated another verse:
2. “Once they would hurry-scurry all about
To find their holes, a panic-stricken rout.
But now they grunt in serried ranks compact:
Invincible, they stand and face me out.”
“Oh, don’t be afraid of them!” urged the ascetic. “One roar and one leap will frighten them out of their wits, and send them pell-mell.” The tiger yielded to this insistence. Plucking up his courage, he went back and stood upon the plateau.
Carpenter’s Boar stood between the two pits. “See Teacher! Here’s the scoundrel again!” cried the boars. “Oh, don’t be afraid,” said he, “we have him now.”
With a roar the tiger leapt upon Carpenter’s Boar. At the very instant he sprang,
But the boars were still uneasy. “What’s the matter now?” asked our hog, who had noticed their movements.
“Teacher,” they said, “it’s all very well to kill one tiger, but the sham ascetic can bring ten tigers more!” “Who is he?” “A wicked ascetic.”
“The tiger I have killed; do you suppose a man can hurt me? Come along, and we’ll get hold of him.” So they all set forth.
Now the man had been wondering why the tiger was so long in coming. “Could the boars have caught him?” he thought. At last he started to meet him on the way; and as he went, there came the boars! He snatched up his belongings, and off he ran. The boars tore after him. He threw away his encumbrances, and with all speed climbed up a fig tree.
“Now, Teacher, it’s all up!” cried the herd. “The man has climbed a tree!”
“What tree?” their leader asked.
They replied, “A fig tree.”
“Oh, very well,” said the leader. “The sows must bring water, the young ones dig about the tree, the tuskers tear at the roots, and the rest surround it and watch.” They did their several tasks as he bade them; he meanwhile charged full at a great thick root,
Now they perched Carpenter’s Boar on the tree-trunk. They filled the dead man’s shell with water, and sprinkled the boar to consecrate him for their king; a young sow they consecrated to be his consort.
This, the saying goes, is the origin of the custom still observed. When people make a king now-a-days, he is placed on a fine chair of fig-wood, and sprinkled out of three shells.
A Devatā that dwelt in that forest beheld this marvel. Appearing
3. “Honour to all the tribes assembled be!
A wondrous union I myself did see!
How tuskers once a tiger overcame
By federal strength and tusked unity!”
After this discourse the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “Dhanuggaha the elder was the Carpenter’s Boar, and I was the Tree Devatā.”
last updated: November 2021