Ja 316 Sasajātaka See R. Morris, Folk-Lore Journal, ii. 336 and 370. On the wide-spread prevalence of the legend of the Hare in the Moon, see T. Harley’s Moon-Lore, p. 60.
The Story about the (Wise) Hare (4s)
Alternative Title: Sasapaṇḍitajātaka (Cst)
In the present one landowner generously provides requisites for the Saṅgha. The Buddha commends him and tells a story of how four animal friends treated a guest on the feast day, with the fourth, a hare, offering up his own body to satisfy his guest, and had his image imprinted on the moon.
The Bodhisatta = the wise hare (sasapaṇḍita),
Anuruddha = (the King of the Devas) Sakka,
Sāriputta = the monkey (makkaṭa),
Moggallāna = the jackal (sigāla),
Ānanda = the otter (udda).
Past Compare: Cp 10 Sasapaṇḍitacariyā, Jm 6 Śaśa,.
Keywords: Generosity, Self-sacrifice, Animals.
“Seven red fish.” This story was told by the Teacher while living at Jetavana, about a gift of all the Buddhist requisites. A certain landowner at Sāvatthi, they say, provided all the requisites for the Saṅgha with Buddha at its head, and setting up a pavilion at his house door, he invited all the
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a young hare and lived in a wood. On one side of this wood was the foot of a mountain, on another side a river, and on the third side a border-village. The hare had three friends – a monkey, a jackal and an otter. These four wise creatures lived together
And so in the course of time the Bodhisatta one day observing the sky, and looking at the moon knew that the next day would be the Uposatha, and addressing his three companions he said: “Tomorrow is the Uposatha. Let all three of you take upon you the moral precepts, and observe the holy day. To one that stands fast in moral practice, generosity brings a great reward. Therefore feed any beggars that come to you by giving them food from your own table.” They readily agreed, and each returned to his own place of dwelling.
On the morrow quite early in the morning, the otter sallied forth to seek his prey and went down to the bank of the Ganges. Now it came to pass that a fisherman had landed seven red fish, and stringing them together on a line, he had taken and buried them in the sand on the river’s bank. And then he dropped down the stream, catching more fish. The otter scenting the buried fish, dug up the sand till he came upon them, and pulling them out cried aloud thrice, “Does any one own these fish?” And not seeing any owner he took hold of the line with his teeth and laid the fish in the jungle where he dwelt, intending to eat them at a fitting time. And then he lay down, thinking how virtuous he was! The jackal too sallied forth in quest of food and found in the hut of a field-watcher two spits, a lizard and a pot of milk-curd. And after thrice crying aloud, “To whom do these belong?” and not finding an owner, he put on his neck the rope for lifting the pot, and grasping the spits and the
The monkey also entered the clump of trees, and gathering a bunch of mangoes laid them up in his part of the jungle, meaning to eat them in due season, and then lay down, thinking how virtuous he was.
But the Bodhisatta in due time came out, intending to graze on the kusa grass, and as he lay in the jungle, the thought occurred to him, “It is impossible for me to offer grass to any beggars that may chance to appear, and I have no oil or rice and such like. If any beggar shall appeal to me, I shall have to give him my own flesh to eat.” At this splendid display of virtue, Sakka’s white marble throne manifested signs of heat. Sakka on reflection discovered the cause and resolved to put this royal hare to the test. First of all he went and stood by the otter’s dwelling-place, disguised as a brahmin, and being asked why he stood there, he replied, “Wise sir, if I could get something to eat, after keeping the fast, I would perform all my monastic duties.” The otter replied, “Very well, I will give you some food,” and as he conversed with him he repeated the first verse:
1. “Seven red fish I safely brought to land from Ganges flood,
O brahmin, eat your fill, I pray, and stay within this wood.”
The brahmin said: “Let be till tomorrow. I will see to it by and by.” Next he went to the jackal, and when asked by him why he stood there, he made the same answer. The jackal, too, readily promised him some food, and in talking with him repeated the second verse:
2. “A lizard and a jar of curds, the keeper’s evening meal,
Two spits to roast the flesh withal I wrongfully did steal:
Such as I have I give to you: O brahmin, eat, I pray,
If you should deign within this wood a while with us to stay.”
Said the brahmin, “Let be till tomorrow. I will see to it by and by.” Then he went to the monkey, and when asked what he meant by standing there, he answered just as before. The monkey readily offered him some food, and in conversing with him gave utterance to the third verse:
3. “An icy stream, a mango ripe, and pleasant greenwood shade,
’Tis thine to enjoy, if you can dwell content in forest glade.”
Said the brahmin, “Let be till tomorrow. I will see to it by and by.” And he went to the wise hare, and on being asked by him why he stood there, he made the same reply. The Bodhisatta on hearing what he wanted was highly delighted, and said: “Brahmin, you have done well in coming to me for food. This day will I grant you a boon that I have never granted before, but you shall not break the moral law by taking
4. “Nor sesame, nor beans, nor rice have I as food to give,
But roast with fire my flesh I yield, if you with us would live.”
Sakka, on hearing what he said, by his miraculous power caused a heap of burning coals to appear, and came and told the Bodhisatta. Rising from his bed of kusa grass and coming to the place, he thrice shook himself that if there were any insects within his coat, they might escape death. Then offering his whole body as a free gift he sprang up, and like a royal swan, alighting on a cluster of lotuses, joyfully he fell on the heap of live coals. But the flame failed even to heat the pores of the hair on the body of the Bodhisatta, and it was as if he had entered a region of frost.
Then he addressed Sakka in these words, “Brahmin, the fire you have kindled is icy-cold: it fails to heat even the pores of the hair on my body. What is the meaning of this?” “Wise sir,” he replied, “I am no brahmin. I am Sakka, and I have come to put your virtue to the test.” The Bodhisatta said: “If not only you, Sakka, but all the inhabitants of the world were to try me in this matter of generosity, they would not find in me any unwillingness to give,” and with this the Bodhisatta uttered a cry of exultation like a lion roaring. Then said Sakka to the Bodhisatta, “O wise hare, be your virtue known throughout a whole aeon.” And squeezing the mountain, with the essence thus extracted, he daubed the sign of a hare on the orb of the moon. And after depositing the hare on a bed of young kusa grass, in the same wooded part of the jungle, Sakka returned to his own place in heaven.
The Teacher, when he had ended his lesson, revealed the Truths and identified the Jātaka. At the conclusion of the Truths the householder, who gave as a free-gift all the Buddhist requisites, attained fruition of the First Path. “At that time Ānanda was the otter, Moggallāna was the jackal, Sāriputta the monkey, and I myself was the wise hare.”
last updated: November 2021