Ja 334 Rājovādajātaka
The Story about Advice to a King (4s)

In the present the Buddha admonishes the king of Kosala that he should rule righteously, and all will be well with the kingdom. He also tells a story of how an ascetic in the past showed a king how, when he ruled justly, the fruits had flavour, but when he ruled unjustly they turned bitter.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā).

Present Source: Ja 521 Tesakuṇa,
Quoted at: Ja 334 Rājovāda, Ja 396 Kukku, Ja 520 Gaṇḍatindu.

Keywords: Justice, Virtue.

“The bull through floods.” [3.73] {3.110} This story was told by the Teacher when at Jetavana concerning the admonition of a king. The introductory story will be found in full in the Tesakuṇajātaka [Ja 521].

This story the Teacher, while dwelling at Jetavana, told by way of admonition to the king of Kosala. Now this king came to hear the preaching of the Dhamma and the Teacher addressed him in the following terms, “A king, sire, ought to rule his kingdom righteously, for whenever kings are unrighteous, then also are his officers unrighteous.” And admonishing him in the right way... he pointed out the suffering and the blessing involved in following or abstaining from evil courses, and expounded in detail the misery resulting from sensual pleasures, comparing them to dreams and the like, saying: “In the case of these men,

No bribe can move relentless death, no kindness mollify,
No one in fight can vanquish death. For all are doomed to die.

But in this version of it the Teacher said: “Kings of old, sire, hearkening to the words of the wise, ruled justly and attained to the heavenly world.” And at the request of the king he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin family. And when he came of age, he was trained in all the arts, and adopting the ascetic life he developed the Super Knowledges and Attainments, and took up his abode in a pleasant quarter of the Himālayas, living on wild fruits and roots.

At this time the king being anxious to find out his own defects, went about inquiring if there was any one who would tell him his faults. And not finding any one to speak to his dispraise, either within doors or without, either within the city or outside it, he wandered about the countryside in disguise, thinking: “How will it be in the country?” And not meeting with any one there to speak to his dispraise, and hearing men speak only of his merits, he thought: “How will it be in the Himālayas region?” And he went into the forest and wandered about till he reached the hermitage of the Bodhisatta, where after saluting him, and addressing him in a friendly manner he took a seat on one side. At that moment the Bodhisatta was eating some ripe figs which he had brought from the wood. They were luscious and sweet, like powdered sugar. He addressed the king and said: “Venerable sir, pray eat this ripe fig and drink some water.”

The king did so, and asked the Bodhisatta, “Why, venerable sir, is this ripe fig so exceedingly sweet?”

“Venerable sir,” he replied, “the king now exercises his rule with justice and equity. That is why it is so sweet.” {3.111}

“In the reign of an unjust king, does it lose its sweetness, sir?”

“Yes, venerable sir, in the time of unjust kings, oil, honey, molasses and the like, as well as wild roots and fruits, lose their sweetness and flavour, and not these only but the whole realm becomes bad and flavourless; but when the rulers are just, these things become sweet and full of flavour, and the whole realm recovers its tone and flavour.” [3.74]

The king said: “It must be so, venerable sir,” and without letting him know that he was the king, he saluted the Bodhisatta and returned to Benares. And thinking to prove the words of the ascetic, he ruled unjustly, saying to himself, “Now I shall know all about it,” and after the lapse of a short time he went back and saluting the Bodhisatta, sat respectfully on one side. The Bodhisatta using exactly the same words, offered him a ripe fig, which proved to be bitter to his taste. Finding it to be bitter he spat it out, saying: “It is bitter, sir.”

Said the Bodhisatta, “Venerable sir, the king must be unjust, for when rulers are unjust, everything beginning with the wild fruits in the wood, lose all their sweetness and flavour.” And hereupon he recited these verses:

1. “The bull through floods a devious course will take,
The herd of cows all straggling in his wake:

2. So if a leader tortuous paths pursue,
To base ends will he guide the vulgar crew,
And the whole realm an age of license rue.

3. But if the bull a course direct should steer,
The herd of cows straight follow in his rear.

4. So should their chief to righteous ways be true,
The common folk injustice will eschew,
And through the realm shall holy peace ensue.” {3.112}

The king after hearing the Bodhisatta’s exposition of the Dhamma, let him know he was the king and said: “Venerable sir, formerly it was due to me alone that the figs were first sweet and then bitter, but now I will make them sweet again.” Then he saluted the Bodhisatta and returned home, and ruling righteously restored everything to its original condition.

The Teacher, having ended his lesson, identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ānanda was the king, and I myself was the ascetic.”