Ja 284 Sirijātaka
The Story about (Good) Luck (3s)

In the present a Devatā works to dissuade her landlord, Anāthapiṇḍika, from his allegiance to the Buddha, and is expelled from her home for the trouble. To make up she recovers three great fortunes her host had lost. A brahmin then tries, but fails to steal, Anāthapiṇḍika’s luck. When the Buddha hears of this he tells a story about an elephant trainer who had his share of a bird who could bring good luck and three days later became king.

The Bodhisatta (Sammāsambuddha) = the family ascetic (kulūpakatāpasa),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā).

Present Source: Ja 40 Khadiraṅgārajātaka,
Quoted at: Ja 284 Siri, Ja 340 Visayha.

Keywords: Fortune, Destiny, Devas, Animals, Birds.

“Whatever riches they who strive.” This story the Teacher told about a brahmin who stole good luck. {2.410} The circumstances of this birth-tale are given above in the Khadiraṅgajātaka [Ja 40].

For Anāthapiṇḍika, who had lavished fifty-four crores on the dispensation of the Buddha over the monastery alone, and who valued naught else save only the Three Jewels, used to go every day while the Teacher was at Jetavana to attend the Great Services – once at daybreak, once after breakfast, and once in the evening. There were intermediate services too; but he never went empty-handed, for fear the novices and lads should look to see what he had brought with him. When he went in the early morning, he used to have rice-gruel taken up; after breakfast, ghee, butter, honey, molasses, and the like; and in the evening, he brought perfumes, garlands and cloths. So much did he expend day after day, that his expense knew no bounds. Moreover, many traders borrowed money from him on their bonds – to the amount of eighteen crores; and the great merchant never called the money in. Furthermore, another eighteen crores of the family property, which were buried in the riverbank, were washed out to sea, when the bank was swept away by a storm; and down rolled the brazen pots, with fastenings and seals unbroken, to the bottom of the ocean. In his house, too, there was always rice standing ready for 500 monks – so that the merchant’s house was to the Saṅgha like a pool dug where four roads meet, yes, like mother and father was he to them. Therefore, even the Supreme Buddha used to go to his house, and the Eighty Chief Elders too; and the number of other monks passing in and out was beyond measure.

Now his house was seven stories high and had seven portals; and over the fourth gateway dwelt a Devatā who was a heretic. When the Supreme Buddha came into the house, she could not stay in her abode on high, but came down with her children to the ground-floor; and she had to do the same whenever the Eighty Chief Elders or the other elders came in and out. Thought she, “So long as the ascetic Gotama and his disciples keep coming into this house I can have no peace here; I can’t be eternally coming downstairs to the ground floor. I must contrive to stop them from coming any more to this house.” So one day, when the business manager had retired to rest, she appeared before him in visible shape.

“Who is that?” said he. “It is I,” was the reply, “the Devatā who lives over the fourth gateway.” “What brings you here?” “You don’t see what the merchant is doing. Heedless of his own future, he is drawing upon his resources, only to enrich the ascetic Gotama. He engages in no commerce; he undertakes no business. Advise the merchant to attend to his business, and arrange that the ascetic Gotama with his disciples shall come no more into the house.”

Then said he, “Foolish Devatā, if the merchant does spend his money, he spends it on the dispensation of the Buddha, which leads to safety. Even if he were to seize me by the hair and sell me for a slave, I will say nothing. Begone!”

Another day, she went to the merchant’s eldest son and gave him the same advice. And he flouted her in just the same manner. But to the merchant himself she did not so much as dare to speak on the matter.

Now by dint of unending munificence and of doing no business, the merchant’s incomings diminished and his estate grew less and less; so that he sank by degrees into poverty, and his table, his dress, and his bed and food were no longer what they had once been. Yet, in spite of his altered circumstances, be continued to entertain the Saṅgha, though he was no longer able to feast them. So one day when he had made his bow and taken his seat, the Teacher said to him, “Householder, are gifts being given at your house?” “Yes, sir,” said he, “but there’s only a little sour husk-porridge, left over from yesterday.” “Be not distressed, householder, at the thought that you can only offer what is unpalatable. If the heart be good, the food given to Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas, and their disciples, cannot but be good too. And why? Because of the greatness of the fruit thereof. For he who can make his heart acceptable cannot give an unacceptable gift – as is to be testified by the following passage:

For, if the heart have faith, no gift is small
To Buddhas or to their disciples true.

’Tis said no service can be reckoned small
That’s paid to Buddhas, lords of great renown.

Mark well what fruit rewarded that poor gift
Of pottage – dried-up, sour, and lacking salt.” The first two lines are from the Vimānavatthu, page 44.

Also, he said this further thing, “Householder, in giving this unpalatable gift, you are giving it to those who have entered on the Noble Eightfold Path. Whereas I, when in Velāma’s time I stirred up all Jambudīpa by giving the seven things of price, and in my largesse poured them forth as though I had made into one mighty stream the five great rivers – I yet found none who had reached the Three Refuges or kept the Five Precepts; for rare are those who are worthy of offerings. Therefore, let not your heart be troubled by the thought that your gift is unpalatable.” And so saying, he repeated the Velāmakasutta [AN 9.20].

Now that Devatā who had not dared to speak to the merchant in the days of his magnificence, thought that now he was poor he would hearken to her, and so, entering his chamber at dead of night she appeared before him in visible shape, standing in mid-air. “Who’s that?” said the merchant, when he became aware of her presence. “I am the Devatā, great merchant, who dwells over the fourth gateway.” “What brings you here?” “To give you counsel.” “Proceed, then.” “Great merchant, you take no thought for your own future or for your own children. You have expended vast sums on the dispensation of the ascetic Gotama; in fact, by long-continued expenditure and by not undertaking new business you have been brought by the ascetic Gotama to poverty. But even in your poverty you do not shake off the ascetic Gotama! The ascetics are in and out of your house this very day just the same! What they have had of you cannot be recovered. That may be taken for certain. But henceforth don’t you go yourself to the ascetic Gotama and don’t let his disciples set foot inside your house. Do not even turn to look at the ascetic Gotama but attend to your trade and traffic in order to restore the family estate.”

Then he said to her, “Was this the counsel you wanted to give me?” “Yes, it was.”

Said the merchant, “The One with Ten Powers has made me proof against a hundred, a thousand, yes against a hundred thousand Devatās such as you are! My faith is strong and steadfast as Mount Sineru! My substance has been expended on the dispensation that leads to safety. Wicked are your words; it is a blow aimed at the dispensation of the Buddhas by you, you wicked and impudent wretch. I cannot live under the same roof with you; be off at once from my house and seek shelter elsewhere!”

Hearing these words of that converted man and elect disciple, she could not stay, but repairing to her dwelling, took her children by the hand and went forth. But though she went, she was minded, if she could not find herself a lodging elsewhere, to appease the merchant and return to dwell in his house; and in this mind she went to the tutelary deity of the city and with due salutation stood before him. Being asked what had brought her there, she said: “My lord, I have been speaking imprudently to Anāthapiṇḍika, and he in his anger has turned me out of my home. Take me to him and make it up between us, so that he may let me live there again.” “But what was it you said to the merchant?” “I told him for the future not to support the Buddha and the Saṅgha, and not to let the ascetic Gotama set foot again in his house. This is what I said, my lord.” “Wicked were your words; it was a blow aimed at the dispensation. I cannot take you with me to the merchant.” Meeting with no support from him, she went to the Four Great Kings of the world. And being repulsed by them in the same manner, she went on to Sakka, King of Devas, and told him her story, beseeching him still more earnestly, as follows, “Deva, finding no shelter, I wander about homeless, leading my children by the hand. Grant me of your majesty some place wherein to dwell.”

And he too said to her, “You have done wickedly; it was a blow aimed at the Conqueror’s dispensation. I cannot speak to the merchant on your behalf. But I can tell you one way whereby the merchant may be led to pardon you.” “Pray tell me, Deva.” “Men have had eighteen crores of the merchant on bonds. Take the semblance of his agent, and without telling anybody repair to their houses with the bonds, in the company of some young Yakkhas. Stand in the middle of their houses with the bond in one hand and a receipt in the other, and terrify them with your Yakkha power, saying, ‘Here’s your acknowledgment of the debt. Our merchant did not move in the matter while he was affluent; but now he is poor, and you must pay up the money you owe.’ By your Yakkha power obtain all those eighteen crores of gold and fill the merchant’s empty treasuries. He had another treasure buried in the banks of the river Aciravatī, but when the bank was washed away, the treasure was swept into the sea. Get that back also by your supernatural power and store it in his treasuries. Further, there is another sum of eighteen crores lying unowned in such and such a place. Bring that too and pour the money into his empty treasuries. When you have atoned by the recovery of these fifty-four crores, ask the merchant to forgive you.” “Very good, Deva,” said she. And she set to work obediently, and did just as she had been bidden. When she had recovered all the money, she went into the merchant’s chamber at dead of night and appeared before him in visible shape standing in the air.

The merchant asking who was there, she replied, “It is I, great merchant, the blind and foolish Devatā who lived over your fourth gateway. In the greatness of my infatuate folly I knew not the virtues of a Buddha, and so came to say what I said to you some days ago. Pardon me my fault! At the instance of Sakka, King of Devas, I have made atonement by recovering the eighteen crores owing to you, the eighteen crores which had been washed down into the sea, and another eighteen crores which were lying unowned in such and such a place – making fifty-four crores in all, which I have poured into your empty treasure-chambers. The sum you expended on the monastery at Jetavana is now made up again. While I have nowhere to dwell, I am in misery. Bear not in mind what I did in my ignorant folly, great merchant, but pardon me.”

As before, the heretical spirit that lived in the gate tower of Anāthapiṇḍika’s house, doing penance, brought four and fifty crores of gold and filled the store-rooms, and became a friend of the great man. He led her before the Teacher. The Teacher discoursed to her. She heard, and entered on the First Path. Thenceforward the great man’s honour was great as before.

Now there was living in Sāvatthi a brahmin, versed in lucky marks, who thought on this wise. “Anāthapiṇḍika was poor, and then became famous. What if I make as though I went to see him, and steal his luck?” So to the house he went, and was welcomed hospitably. After exchanging civilities, the host asked why he had come. The brahmin was looking about to see where the man’s luck lay. Now Anāthapiṇḍika had a white chicken, white as a scoured shell, which he kept in a golden cage, and in the comb of this chicken lay the great man’s luck. The brahmin looked about and spied where the luck lay. “Noble sir,” said he, “I teach magic charms to five hundred young fellows. We are plagued by a chicken that crows at the wrong time. Your chicken crows at the right time. For him I have come; will you give him to me?” “Yes,” said the other: and at the instant the word was uttered, the hick left the cockscomb, and settled in a jewel put away in the pillow. The brahmin observed that the luck had gone into this jewel, and asked for it too. As soon as the owner agreed to give it, the luck left the jewel, and settled in a club for self-defence which lay upon the pillow. The brahmin saw it and asked again. “Take it, and take your leave,” said the owner; and in an instant the luck left the club, and settled on the head of the owner’s chief wife, who was named the lady Puññalakkhaṇā. The thievish brahmin thought, when he saw this, “This is an inalienable article which I cannot ask for.”

Then he told the great man, “Noble sir,” said he, “I came to your house to steal your luck. The luck was in the comb of your [2.280] chicken. But when you gave me the chicken, the luck passed into this jewel; when you gave me the jewel it passed into your stick; when you gave the stick to me, it went out of it {2.411} and passed into the head of the lady Puññalakkhaṇā. Surely this is inalienable, I can never get it. It is impossible to steal your luck – keep it, then!” and rising from his seat, he departed.

Anāthapiṇḍika determined to tell the Tathāgata; so he came to the monastery, and after respectfully greeting him, sat on one side, and told the Buddha all about it. The Teacher listened, and said: “Householder, now-a-days the luck of one man does not go to another. But formerly the luck belonging to those of small wit went to the wise,” and he told him a story of the past.

In the past, when Brahmadatta reigned in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born into a brahmin family in the realm of Kāsi. On growing up, he was educated at Taxila, and lived among his family; but when his parents died, much distressed he retired to the life of a recluse in the Himālayas, and there he cultivated the Super Knowledges and Attainments.

A long time passed, and he came down to inhabited parts for salt and savouring, and took up his quarters in the gardens of the king of Benares. Next day, on his begging rounds, he came to the door of an elephant-trainer. This man took a fancy to his ways and manners, fed him, and gave him lodging in his own grounds, waiting upon him continually.

Now it happened just then that a man whose business it was to gather firewood failed to get back to town from the woods in time. He lay down for the night in a temple, placing a bundle of sticks under his head for a pillow. At this temple there were a number of chickens quite free, which had perched close by on a tree. Towards morning, one of them, who was roosting high, let fall a dropping on the back of a bird below. “Who dropped that on me?” cried this one. “I did,” cried the first. “And why?” “Didn’t think,” said the other; and then did it again. Hereupon they both began to abuse each other, crying, “What power have you? what power have you?” At last the lower one said: “Anybody who kills me, and eats my flesh roasted on the coals, {2.412} gets a thousand pieces of money in the morning!” And the one above answered, “Pooh, pooh, don’t boast about a little thing like that! Anybody who eats my fleshy parts will become king; if he eats my outside, he’ll become commander-in-chief or chief queen, according as he’s man or woman; if he eats the flesh by my bones, he’ll get the post of Royal Treasurer, if he be a householder; or, if a holy man, will become the king’s favourite!”

The stick-picker heard all this, and pondered. “Now if I become king, there’ll be no need of a thousand pieces of money.” Quietly he climbed the tree, caught the topmost chicken and killed him: he fastened [2.281] him in a fold of his dress, saying to himself, “Now I’ll be king!” As soon as the gates were opened, in he walked. He plucked the fowl, and cleaned it, and gave it to his wife, bidding her make the meat nice for eating. She got ready the meat with some rice, and set it before him, bidding her lord eat.

“Good wife,” said he, “there’s great virtue in this meat. By eating it I shall become king, and you my queen!” So they took the meat and rice down to the Ganges bank, intending to bathe before eating it. Then, putting meat and rice down upon the bank, in they went to bathe.

Just then a breeze stirred up the water, which washed away the meat. Down the river it floated, till it came in sight of an elephant-trainer, a great personage, who was giving his elephants a bath lower down. “What have we here?” said he, and picked it up. “It’s fowl and rice, my lord,” was the reply. He bade wrap it up, and seal it, and sent it home to his wife, with a message to open it for him when he returned.

The stick-picker also ran off, with his belly puffed out with sand and water which he had swallowed.

Now a certain ascetic, who had divine vision, the favourite family priest of the elephant-trainer, was thinking to himself, “My patron friend does not leave his post with the elephants. When will he attain promotion?” As he thus pondered, he saw this man by his divine eye, and perceived what was doing. He went on before, and sat in the patron’s house.

When the master returned, {2.413} he greeted him respectfully and sat down on one side. Then, sending for the parcel, he ordered food and water to be brought for the ascetic. The ascetic did not accept the food which was offered him; but said: “I will divide this food.” The master gave him leave. Then separating the meat into portions, he gave to the elephant-trainer the fleshy parts, the outside to his wife, and took the flesh about the bones for his own share. After the meal was over, he said: “On the third day from this you will become king. Take care what you do!” and away he went.

On the third day a neighbouring king came and beleaguered Benares. The king told his elephant-trainer to dress in the royal robes, bidding him go mount his elephant and fight. He himself put on a disguise, and mingled with the ranks; swift came an arrow, and pierced him, so that he perished then and there. The trainer, learning that the king was dead, sent for a great quantity of money, and beat the drum, proclaiming, “Let those who want money, advance, and fight!” The warrior host in a twinkling slew the hostile king.

After the king’s obsequies the courtiers deliberated who was to be [2.282] made king. They said: “While our king was yet alive, he put his royal robes upon the elephant-trainer. This very man has fought and won the kingdom. To him the kingdom shall be given!” And they consecrated him king, and his wife they made the chief queen. The Bodhisatta became his confidant.

After this discourse the Teacher, after Fully Awakening, gave utterance to the two verses following:

1. “Whatever riches they who strive amain
Without the aid of luck can ever gain,
All that, by favour of the goddess Luck,
Both skilled and unskilled equally obtain.

2. All the world over many meet our sight,
Not only good, but creatures different quite,
Whose lot it is fruition to possess
Of wealth in store which is not theirs by right.” {2.414}

After this the Teacher added, “Good air, these beings have no other resource but their merit won in previous births; this enables you to obtain treasures in places where there is no mine.” Then he recited the following discourse. Khuddakapāṭha, p. 14. [i.e. Nidhikaṇḍasutta, Khp 8, vs 10-16.]

“There is a treasury of all good things
Which both to gods and men their wishes brings.
Fine looks, voice, figure, form, and sovereignty
With all its pomp, lies in that treasury.

Lordship and government, imperial bliss,
The crown of heaven, within that treasure is.
All human happiness, the joys of heaven,
Nibbāna’s self, from out that store is given.

True ties of friendship, wisdom’s liberty,
Firm self-control, lies in that treasury.
Emancipation, understanding, training fit
To make Paccekabuddhas come from it.

Thus hath this merit a virtue magical;
The wise and steadfast praise it one and all.” {2.415}

Lastly the fowl repeated the third verse, explaining the treasures in which lay the luck of Anāthapiṇḍika,

3. “A fowl, a gem, a club, a wife
All these with lucky marks were rife.
For all these treasures, be it known,
A good and sinless man did own.”

Then he identified the Jātaka, “Elder Ānanda was the king, and the family priest was the Supreme Buddha.”