Ja 305 Sīlavīmaṁsanajātaka
The Story about the Enquiry into Virtue (4s)

In the present some newly ordained monks are having lustful thoughts in the nighttime. The Buddha has the monks gathered together and tells them a story of a teacher who promised to give his daughter in marriage to those who stole finery for her in secret. One of his students couldn’t bring himself to steal anything, as he knew no wrong doing is ever really done in secret – and he won the daughter.

The Bodhisatta = the wise brahmin student (paṇḍitamāṇavo),
Sāriputta = his teacher (ācariya).

Present Compare: Ja 305 Sīlavīmaṁsana, Ja 459 Pānīya,
Past Compare: Jm 12 Brāhmaṇa.

Keywords: Theft, Wrong-doing, Secrecy.

“In truth there is.” {3.18} This story the Teacher told while dwelling at Jetavana, about the rebuking of wrong. The circumstances will be set forth in the Pānīyajātaka [Ja 459] in the Eleventh Book. The following is a brief summary of it. [There is in fact not much to add to the summary given here, so I cannot include any further details.]

Five hundred monks living in Jetavana, at the close of the middle watch of the night, entered into an argument on the pleasures of sense. Now the Teacher through all the six divisions of night and day keeps a continual watch over the monks, even as a one-eyed man carefully guards his eye, a father his only son, or a yak its tail. In the night time, with his supernatural vision regarding Jetavana, he beheld these monks, as it were, like robbers that had found their way into some great king’s palace. And opening his perfumed chamber he summoned Ānanda and bade him assemble the monks in the part that Anāthapiṇḍika paved with gold pieces laid side by side, [DPPN: koṭisanthāra was probably the name given to that part of the Jetavana grounds just outside the Buddha’s own apartments. it may have been so called in reference to the fact that Anāthapiṇḍika bought the land by spreading on it ten million gold coins “kahāpana-koṭi-santhārena,” see Ja 148, Introduction.] and prepare a seat for him at the door of the perfumed chamber. Ānanda did as he was commanded and told the Teacher. Then the Teacher, sitting down on the seat prepared for him, addressed the monks collectively and said: “Monks, wise men of old thought there was no such thing as secrecy in wrong-doing and so refrained from it,” and he told them a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life in a brahmin family, and when he was of age, he was taught science by a world-renowned teacher of that city, being at the head of a class of five hundred students. Now his teacher had a grown-up daughter. And he thought: “I will test the virtue of these youths and will give her in marriage to him that most excels in virtue.”

So one day he thus addressed his pupils, “My friends, I have a grown-up daughter, and I intend to give her in marriage, but I must have proper dresses and ornaments for her. Do steal some without your friends discovering it, and bring them to me. Whatever no one has seen you take I will accept, but if you allow anything you bring to be seen, I shall refuse it.” They agreed, saying: “Very well,” and from that day they stole dresses and ornaments without their friends’ knowledge [3.13] and brought them to him. And the teacher arranged whatever each pupil brought in a separate place. But the Bodhisatta stole nothing.

Then the teacher said, {3.19} “But you, my friend, bring me nothing.” “True, Teacher,” he replied. “Why is this, my friend?” he asked. “You accept nothing,” he answered, “unless it is taken secretly. But I find there is no such thing as secrecy in wrong-doing.”

And to illustrate this truth he repeated these two verses:

1. “In truth there is no act of wrong, that in this world may hidden lie,
That which the fool a secret deems, the spirits of the wood espy.

2. Concealment nowhere may be found, nor can a void exist for me,
E’en where no being is in sight, while I am there, no void can be.”

The Teacher, being pleased with his words, said: “Friend, there is no lack of wealth in my house, but I was anxious to marry my daughter to a virtuous man, and I acted thus to prove these youths. But you alone are worthy of my daughter.” Then he adorned his daughter and gave her in marriage to the Bodhisatta, but to his other pupils he said: “Take back all that you brought me to your several homes again.”

Then the Teacher said: “It was thus, monks, that the wicked pupils by their dishonesty failed to win this woman, while this one wise youth by his virtuous conduct obtained her as his wife.” And after Fully Awakening he gave utterance to yet two other verses:

3. “Dujjacca, The Commentator explains that these were the names of six leading disciples amongst those that yielded to temptation. Sujacca, Nando and Sukhavaḍḍhita,
Vajja and Addhuvasīla, for a wife, went astray;

4. The brahmin abandoning wrong, perfected in all things,
Won a bride by his courage while holding on to the Truth.” {3.20}

The Teacher, having brought this solemn lesson to an end, declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka. At the conclusion of the Truths these five hundred monks became an Arahat, “At that time Sāriputta was the Teacher, and I myself was the wise youth.”