Ja 350 Devatāpañhajātaka
The Story about the Deva’s (Four) Questions (4s)

The Devas who lived in the king’s parasol asked the king four questions, and he agreed to ask his brahmin seers, but they did not know the answers. Only the wise Mahosadha could answer correctly.

The Bodhisatta = (paṇḍita) Mahosadha.

Present Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 350 Devatāpañha.

Keywords: Wisdom, Clever answers, Devas.

This Question will be found in the Ummaggajātaka [Ja 546].

...the king caused the Great Being to sit on the royal throne under the white parasol outspread, and himself sitting on a low seat he said: “Wise sir, the deity who dwells in the white parasol asked me four questions. I consulted the four wise men and they could not find them out: solve me the questions, my son!” “Sire, be it the deity of the parasol, or be they the Four Great Kings, or be they who they may; let who will ask a question and I will answer it.”

So the king put the question as the Devatā had done, and said:

1. “He strikes with hands and feet, he beats the face; and he, O king, is dearer than a husband.”

When the Great Being had heard the question, the meaning became as clear as though the moon had risen in the sky. “Listen, O king!” he said: “When a child on the mother’s lap happy and playful beats his mother with hands and feet, pulls her hair, beats her face with his fist, she says, ‘Little rogue, why do you beat me?’ And in love she presses him close to her breast unable to restrain her affection, and kisses him; and at such a time he is dearer to her than his father.” Thus did he make clear this question, as though he made the sun rise in the sky; and hearing this the Devatā showed half her body from the aperture in the royal parasol, and said in a sweet voice, “The question is well solved!” Then she presented the Great Being with a precious casket full of divine perfumes and flowers, and disappeared.

The king also presented him with flowers and so forth, and asked him the second question, reciting the second verse:

2. “She abuses him roundly, yet wishes him to be near: and he, O king, is dearer than a husband.”

The Great Being said: “Sire, the child of seven years, who can now do his mother’s bidding, when he is told to go to the field or to the bazaar, says, ‘If you will give me this or that sweetmeat I will go;’ she says, ‘Here my son,’ and gives them; then he eats them and says, ‘Yes, you sit in the cool shade of the house and I am to go out on your business!’ He makes a grimace, or mocks her with gestures, and won’t go. She is angry, picks up a stick and cries: ‘You eat what I give you and then won’t do anything for me in the field!’ She scares him, off he runs at full speed; she cannot follow and cries: ‘Get out, may the thieves chop you up into little bits!’ So she abuses him roundly as much as she will; but what her mouth speaks she does not wish at all, and so she wishes him to be near. He plays about the livelong day, and at evening not daring to come home he goes to the house of some kinsman. The mother watches the road for his coming, and sees him not, and thinking that he did not return has her heart full of pain; with tears streaming from her eyes she searches the houses of her kinsfolk, and when she sees her son she hugs and kisses him and squeezes him tight with both arms, and loves him more than ever, as she cries, ‘Did you take my words in earnest?’ Thus, sire, a mother ever loves her son more in the hour of anger.” Thus he explained the second question: the Devatā made him the same offering as before and so did the king.

Then the king asked him the third question in another verse:

3. “She reviles him without cause, and without reason reproaches; yet he, O king, is dearer than a husband.”

The Great Being said: “Sire, when a pair of lovers in secret enjoy their love’s delights, and one says to the other, ‘You don’t care for me, your heart is elsewhere I know!’ All false and without reason, chiding and reproaching each other, then they grow dearer to each other. That is the meaning of the question.” The Devatā made the same offering as before, and so did the king; who then asked him another question, reciting the fourth verse:

4. “One takes food and drink, clothes and lodging – verily the good men carry them off: yet they, O king, are dearer than a husband.”

He replied, “Sire, this question has reference to righteous mendicant brahmins. Pious families that believe in this world and the next give to them and delight in giving: when they see such brahmins receiving what is given and eating it, and think, ‘It is to us they came to beg, our own food which they eat’ – they increase affection towards them. Thus verily they take the things, and wearing on the shoulder what has been given, they become dear.” When this question had been answered the Devatā expressed her approval by the same offering as before, and laid before the Great Being’s feet a precious casket full of the seven precious things, praying him to accept it; the king also delighted made him commander in chief. Henceforward great was the glory of the Great Being.