Ja 314 Lohakumbhijātaka Compare Buddhaghosha’s Parables, No. 15: “Story of the Four Thuthe’s Sons.” King Pasenadī Kosala in this story was meditating the wrong David did against Uriah the Hittite, and was deterred from his purpose by the awful vision related in this Jātaka. See also Turnour’s Maháwanso, i. iv. 18. A king in a dream sees his soul cast into the Lohakumbhī Hell.
The Story about the Iron Pot (4s)
In the present the king of Kosala hears cries during the night and is worried what they mean. His brahmins tell him that he needs to give a large animal sacrifice to ward off danger. The Buddha tells of a similar event in a past life, and how the cries had been interpreted as the cries of those in hell, and how he had averted a useless sacrifice.
The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Sāriputta = the elder brahmin student who stayed with the family priest (purohitassa jeṭṭhantevāsikamāṇavo).
Keywords: Hell beings, Retribution.
“Due share of wealth.” This story the Teacher, while living at Jetavana, told concerning a king of Kosala. The king of Kosala of those days, they say, one night heard a cry uttered by four inhabitants of hell – the syllables du, sa, na, so, one from each of the four. In a previous existence, tradition says, they had been princes in Sāvatthi, and had been guilty of adultery. After misconducting themselves with their neighbours’ wives, however carefully guarded they might be, and indulging their amorous propensities, their evil life had been cut short by the Wheel of Death, near Sāvatthi. They came to life again in four iron cauldrons. After being tortured for sixty thousand years they had come up to the top, and on seeing the edge of the cauldron’s mouth they thought to themselves, “When shall we escape from this misery?” And then all four uttered a loud cry, one after another. The king was terrified to death at the noise, and sat waiting for break of day, unable to stir.
At dawn the brahmins came and inquired after his health. The king replied, “How, my masters, can I be well,
The queen Mallikā came and asked the king, why the brahmins went about so delighted and smiling. The king said: “My queen, what have you to do with this? You are intoxicated with your own glory, and you do not know how wretched I am.” “How so, sire?” she replied. “I have heard such awful noises, my queen, and when I asked the brahmins what would be the result of
The king hearkened to the words of the queen and after his morning meal he mounted his state chariot and drove to Jetavana. Here after saluting the Teacher he thus addressed him, “Venerable sir, in the night season I heard four cries and consulted the brahmins about it.
“Nothing whatever,” said the Teacher. “Certain beings in hell, owing to the agony they suffer, cried aloud. These cries,” he added, “have not been heard by you alone. Kings of old heard the same. And when they too, after consulting their brahmins, were anxious to offer sacrifices of slain victims, on hearing what wise men had to say, they refused to do so. The wise men explained to them the nature of these cries, and bade them let loose the crowd of victims and thus restored their peace of mind.” And at the request of the king he told a story of bygone days.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin family, in a certain village of Kāsi. And when he was of mature years, renouncing the pleasures of sense and embracing the ascetic life he developed the Spiritual Knoweldges and Absorption, and enjoying the delights of Absorption took up his abode in a pleasant grove in the Himālayas.
The king of Benares at this time was fearfully alarmed by hearing those four sounds uttered by four beings who dwelt in hell. And when told by brahmins in exactly the same way that one of three dangers must befall him, he agreed to their proposal to put a stop to it by the fourfold sacrifice. The family priest with the help of the brahmins provided a sacrificial pit, and a great crowd of victims was brought up and fastened to the stakes. Then the Bodhisatta, guided by a feeling of loving-kindness, regarding the world with his divine eye, when he saw what was going on, said: “I must go at once and see to the well-being of all these creatures.” And then by his Supernormal Powers flying up into the air, he alighted in the garden of the king of Benares, and sat down on the royal slab of stone, looking like an image of gold.
The chief disciple of the family priest approached his teacher and asked, “Is it not written, Teacher, in our Vedas that there is no happiness for those who take the life of any creature?” The priest replied, “You are to bring here the king’s property, and we shall have abundant dainties to eat. Only hold your peace.” And with these words he drove his pupil away.
But the youth thought,
The Bodhisatta agreed, and the youth went and told the king all about it, and brought him back with him. The king saluted the Bodhisatta and sitting on one side asked him if it were true that he knew the origin of these noises. “Yes, your majesty,” he said. “Then tell me, venerable sir.” “Sire,” he answered, “these men in a former existence were guilty of gross misconduct with the carefully guarded wives of their neighbours near Benares, and therefore were reborn in Four Iron Cauldrons. Where after being tortured for thirty thousand years in a thick corrosive liquid heated to boiling point, they would at one time sink till they struck the bottom of the cauldron, and at another time rise to the top like a foam bubble, See Milindapañha, 357. but after those years they found the mouth of the cauldron, and looking over the edge they all four desired to give utterance to four complete verses, but failed to do so. And after getting out just one syllable each, they sank again in the iron cauldrons.
1. “Due share of wealth we gave not; an evil life we led:
We found no sure safe island in joys that now are fled.”
And when he failed to utter it, the Bodhisatta of his own knowledge repeated the complete verse. And similarly with the rest. The one that uttered merely the syllable “sa” wanted to repeat the following verse:
2. “Sad fate of those that suffer! Ah! When shall come release?
Still after countless aeons, hell’s tortures never cease.”
And again in the case of the one that uttered the syllable “na,” this was the verse he wished to repeat:
3. “Nay endless are the sufferings to which we’re doomed by fate;
The ills we wrought upon the earth ’tis ours to expiate.”
And the one that uttered the syllable “so” was anxious to repeat the following:
4. “Soon shall I passing forth from hence, attain to human birth,
And richly dowered with virtue rise to many a deed of worth.”
The Bodhisatta, after reciting these verses one by one, said: “The dweller in hell, sire, when he wanted to utter a complete verse, through the greatness of his wrong doing, was unable to do it. And when he thus experienced the result of his wrong doing he cried aloud. But fear not; no danger shall come nigh to you, in consequence of hearing this cry.” Thus did he reassure the king. And the king proclaimed by beat of his golden drum that the vast host of victims was to be released, and the sacrificial pit destroyed. And the Bodhisatta, after thus providing for the safety of the numerous victims, stayed there a few days, and then returning to the same place, without any break in his Absorption, was reborn in the Brahmā Realm.
The Teacher, having ended his lesson, identified the Jātaka, “Sāriputta at that time was the young priest, I myself was the ascetic.”
last updated: November 2021