Ja 297 Kāmavilāpajātaka
The Story about Idle Talk concerning Sensuality (3s)

In the present one monk is overcome by passion and wishes to return to the lay life. The Buddha tells a story of one man who was impaled and the message he sent back to his wife expressing his longing and passing his wealth to her.

The Bodhisatta = the Deva who witnessed the deed (Devaputtena taṁ kāraṇaṁ diṭṭhaṁ),
the wife = the same in the past (bhariyā).

Present and Past Source: Ja 147 Puppharatta,
Quoted at: Ja 297 Kāmavilāpa.

Keywords: Desire, Devas, Attachment.

“O bird, that fliest.” {2.443} This story the Teacher told at Jetavana, about a man who pined for his former wife. The circumstances which called it forth are Reading kathitaṁ. explained in the Puppharattajātaka [Ja 147], and a story of the past in the Indriyajātaka [Ja 423]. [The only story that fits is not from Ja 423, but from Ja 147, which is also used for the Introduction. I include it here.] [2.303]

This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about a monk who was overcome by passion. Being questioned by the Teacher, he admitted his frailty, explaining that he longed for the wife of his mundane life, “For, oh sir!” said he, “she is so sweet a woman that I cannot live without her.”

“Monk,” said the Teacher, “she is harmful to you. She it was that in former days was the means whereby you were impaled on a stake; and it was for bewailing her at your death that you were reborn in hell. Why then do you now long after her?” And so saying, he told the following story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born an Air Devatā. Now in Benares there was held the night-festival of Kattikā; the city was decorated like a city of the gods, and the whole people kept holiday. And a poor man had only a couple of coarse cloths which he had washed and pressed till they were in a hundred, nay, a thousand creases. But his wife said: “My husband, I want a safflower-coloured cloth to wear outside and one to wear underneath, as I go about at the festival hanging round your neck.”

“How are poor people like us to get safflowers?” said he. “Put on your nice clean attire and come along.”

“If I can’t have them dyed with safflower, I don’t want to go at all,” said his wife. “Get some other woman to go to the festival with you.”

“Now why torment me like this? How are we to get safflowers?”

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” retorted the woman. “Are there no safflowers in the king’s conservatories?”

“Wife,” said he, “the king’s conservatories are like a pool haunted by a Rakkhasa. There’s no getting in there, with such a strong guard on the watch. Give over this fancy, and be content with what you’ve got.”

“But when it’s night-time and dark,” said she, “what’s to stop a man’s going where he pleases?”

As she persisted in her entreaties, his love for her at last made him give way and promise she should have her wish. At the hazard of his own life, he sallied out of the city by night and got into the conservatories by breaking down the fence. The noise he made in breaking the fence roused the guard, who turned out to catch the thief. They soon caught him and with blows and curses put him in fetters. In the morning he was brought before the king, who promptly ordered him to be impaled alive. Off he was hauled, with his hands tied behind his back, and led out of the city to execution to the sound of the execution-drum, and was impaled alive.

The man was impaled alive. As he hung there, he looked up and saw a crow flying through the air; and, thinking nothing of the bitter pain, he hailed the crow, to send a message to his dear wife, repeating these verses following:

1. “O bird, that fliest in the sky!
O winged bird, that fliest high!
Tell my wife, with thighs so fair:
Long will seem the time to her.

2. She knows not sword and spear are set:
Full wroth and angry she will fret.
That is my torment and my fear,
And not that I am hanging here.

3. My lotus-mail I have put by,
And jewels in my pillow lie,
And soft Benares cloth beside.
With wealth let her be satisfied.” {2.444}

With these lamentations, he died.

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he declared the Truths, and identified the Jātaka, now at the conclusion of the Truths, the lovesick monk attained the fruition of the First Path. “The wife then was the wife now; but the Devaputta who saw this, was I myself.”