Ja 323 Brahmadattajātaka
The Birth Story about (King) Brahmadatta [The king is nowhere named in the story, and Brahmadatta is normally named as the king of Benares, not Pañcāla, as here.] (4s)
In the present the monks go round asking people to give them workers and goods for the huts they are building. The Buddha reproves them and tells a story of how an ascetic in bygone days had been too ashamed to ask a king for a pair of shoes and an umbrella and had dallied for twelve years before giving his request.
The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Ānanda = the king (of North Pañcāla) (rājā).
Present Source: Ja 253 Maṇikaṇṭha,
Quoted at: Ja 323 Brahmadatta, Ja 403 Aṭṭhisena,
Present Compare: Vin Sd 6 (3.144).
Keywords: Reticence, Modesty.
“Such is the quality.” This story was told by the Teacher, while dwelling in the Aggāḷava shrine near Āḷavī, concerning the regulations to be observed in the building of cells. See Suttavibhaṅga vi. 1. The introductory story has already been set forth in the Maṇikaṇṭhajātaka [Ja 253].
Some monks who lived in Āḷavī were begging from all quarters the materials for houses which they were getting made for themselves. They were for ever asking, “Give us a man, give us somebody to do servant’s work,” and so forth. Everybody was annoyed at this begging and solicitation. So much annoyed were they, that at sight of these monks they were startled and scared away.
It happened that the venerable monk Mahākassapa entered Āḷavī, and traversed the place in quest of alms. The people, as soon as they saw the elder, ran away as before. After mealtime, having returned from his rounds, he summoned the monks, and thus addressed them, “Once Āḷavī was a good place for alms; why is it so poor now?” They told him the reason.
Now the Fortunate One was at the time dwelling at the Aggāḷava shrine. The elder came to the Fortunate One, and told him all about it.
But on this occasion the Teacher said: “Is it true, monks, that you live here by your importunity in asking and begging for alms?” And when they answered, “Yes,” he reproved them and said: “Wise men of old, when offered their choice by the king, though they were longing to ask for a pair of single-soled shoes, through fear of doing violence to their sensitive and scrupulous nature, did not venture to say a word in the presence of the people, but spoke in private.” And so saying he told them a story of the past.
In the past in the Kampillaka kingdom, when a Pañcāla king was reigning in a north Pañcāla city, the Bodhisatta was born into a brahmin family, in a certain market town. And when he was grown up, he acquired a knowledge of the arts at Taxila. Afterwards taking ordination as an ascetic and dwelling in the Himālayas, he lived for a long time by what he could glean – feeding on wild fruits and roots.
And wandering into the haunts of men for the purpose of procuring salt and vinegar, he came to a city of north Pañcāla and took up his abode in the king’s garden. Next day he went into the city to beg alms, and came to the king’s gate. The king was so pleased with his deportment and behaviour that be seated him on the dais and fed him with food worthy of a king. And he bound him by a solemn promise and assigned him a lodging in the garden.
He lived constantly in the king’s house, and at the end of the rainy season, being anxious to return to the Himālayas, he thought: “If I go upon this journey, I must get a pair of single-soled shoes See Mahāvagga, v. 1. 28. Shoes with more than a single lining were not to be worn by the monks, except when they had been cast off by others. and a parasol of leaves. I will beg them of the king.” One day he came to the garden, and finding the king sitting there, he saluted him and resolved he would ask him for the shoes and parasol. But his second thought was, “A man who begs of another, saying, ‘Give me so and so,’ is apt to weep. And the other man also when he refuses, saying, ‘I have it not,’ in his turn weeps.” And that the people might not see either him or the king weeping, he thought: “We will both weep quietly in some secret place.” So he said: “Great king, I am anxious to speak with you in private.” The royal attendants on hearing this departed. Thought the Bodhisatta, “If the king should refuse my prayer, our friendship will be at an end. So I will not ask a boon of him.” That day, not venturing to mention the subject, he said: “Go now, Great king, I will see about this matter by and by.” Another day on the king’s coming to the garden, saying, as before, first this and then that, he could not frame his request. And so twelve years elapsed.
Then the king thought,
“Great king,” he said, “will you give me what I want?”
“Have you not been able, sir, for twelve years to ask for such a trifle as this?” “That is so, Great king.”
“Why, sir, did you act thus?” “Great king, the man who says ‘Give me so and so,’ sheds tears, and the one who refuses and says ‘I have it not,’ in his turn weeps. If, when I begged, you should have refused me, I feared the people might see us mingling our tears. This is why I asked for a secret interview.” Then from the beginning he repeated three verses:
1. “Such is the quality of prayer, O king,
’Twill a rich gift or a refusal bring.
2. Who beg, Pañcāla lord, to weep are fain,
They who refuse are apt to weep again.
3. Lest people see us shed the idle tear,
My prayer I whisper in your secret ear.”
The king, being charmed with this mark of respect on the part of the Bodhisatta, granted him the boon and spoke the fourth verse:
4. “Brahmin, I offer you a thousand kine,
Red kine, and eke the leader of the herd;
Hearing but now these generous words of thine,
I too in turn to generous deed am stirred.”
But the Bodhisatta said: “I do not, sire, desire material pleasures. Give me only that which I ask for.” And he took a pair of single-soled shoes and the parasol of leaves, and exhorted the king to be zealous in the dispensation and to keep the moral law and observe fast days. And though the king begged him to stay, he went off to the Himālayas, where he developed the Super Knowledges and Attainments, and was destined to birth in the Brahma Realm.
The Teacher, having ended his lesson, identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ānanda was the king, and I myself was the ascetic.”
last updated: August 2023