Ja 353 Dhonasākhajātaka
The Story about the Extended Bough (5s)
Alternative Title: Venasākhajātaka (Cst)
In the present one king has a palace built, and has the architect blinded afterwards. The Buddha tells a story of how a wise man had warned a prince about his violent behaviour, but in his ambition when raised to king he put out the eyes of many other kings, and then suffered blindness himself in retribution.
The Bodhisatta = the world-famous teacher (disāpāmokkhācariyo),
Devadatta = (the family priest) Piṅgiya,
Prince Bodhi = the king of Benares (Bārāṇasirājā).
Keywords: Cruelty, Retribution, Devas.
“Though you are now.”
This circumstance became known in the assembly of the monks. Then they raised a discussion in the Dhamma Hall, saying: “Sirs, young prince Bodhi had the eyes of such and such an artisan put out. Surely he is a harsh, cruel, and violent man.” The Teacher came and asked what was the topic the monks were debating as they sat together, and hearing what it was he said: “Not only now, but formerly too such was his nature, and of old in like manner he put out the eyes of a thousand warriors and, after slaying them, he offered up their flesh as a sacrifice.” And so saying he told them a story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta became a world-renowned teacher at Taxila, and youths of the warrior and brahmin castes came from all Jambudīpa, to be taught the arts by him. The son of the king of Benares too, prince Brahmadatta, was taught the three Vedas by him. Now he was by nature harsh, cruel, and violent. The Bodhisatta, by his power of divination knowing his character, said: “My friend, you are harsh, cruel, and violent, and verily power that is attained by a man of violence is shortlived: when his power is gone from him, he is like a ship that is wrecked at sea. He reaches no sure haven. Therefore be not of such a character.” And by way of admonition he repeated two verses:
1. “Though you are now with peace and plenty blessed,
Such happy fate may short-lived prove to be:
Should riches perish, be not sore distressed,
Like storm-tossed sailor wrecked far out at sea.
2. Each one shall fare according to his deed,
And reap the harvest as he sows the seed,
Whether of goodly herb, or maybe noxious weed.”
Then he bade his teacher farewell and returned to Benares, and after exhibiting his proficiency in the arts to his father, he was established in the vice-royalty and on his father’s death he succeeded to the kingdom. His family priest, Piṅgiya by name, was a harsh and cruel man. Being greedy of fame, he thought: “What if I were to cause all the rulers of
And the king marched forth with a great army and invested the city of a certain king and took him prisoner. And by similar means he gained the sovereignty of all Jambudīpa, and with a thousand kings in his train, he went to seize upon the kingdom of Taxila. The Bodhisatta repaired the walls of the city and made it impregnable to its enemies. And the king of Benares had a canopy set up over him and a curtain thrown round about him, at the foot of a big banyan tree on the banks of the Ganges. And having a couch spread for him, he took up his quarters there. Fighting in the plains of Jambudīpa he had taken captive a thousand kings, but failing in his attack on Taxila, he asked his priest, “Teacher, though we have come here with a host of captive kings, we cannot take Taxila. What now are we to do?”
“Great king,” he answered, “put out the eyes of the thousand kings
The king readily assented and concealing mighty wrestlers behind the curtain, he summoned each king separately, and when the wrestlers had squeezed them in their arms till they had reduced them to a state of insensibility, he had their eyes put out, and after they were dead, he took the flesh and caused the carcases to be carried away by the Ganges. Then he made the offering, as described above, and had the drum beaten and went forth to battle. Then came a certain Yakkha from his watch-tower and tore out the right eye of the king. Severe pain set in, and maddened by the agony he suffered, he went and lay down at full length upon the couch prepared for him at the foot of the banyan tree. At this moment a vulture took a sharp-pointed bone, and perched on the top of the tree, in eating the flesh it let drop the bone, and the sharp point falling as with iron spikes on the king’s left eye, destroyed that eye too. At this moment he recalled the words of the Bodhisatta and said: “Our teacher when he said ‘These mortals experience results corresponding to their deeds, even as fruit corresponds with the seed,’ spoke, I suppose, with all this before his mind’s eye.” And in his lamentation he addressed Piṅgiya in two verses:
3. “Ah! Now at last I recognize the truth
The teacher taught me in my heedless youth:
Wrong not, he cried, or else the evil deed
To thine own punishment may one day lead.
4. Beneath this tree’s extended boughs and shade
Libation due of sandal oil was made.
’Twas here I slew a thousand kings, and lo!
The pangs they suffered then, I now must undergo.”
Thus lamenting, he called to mind his queen-consort, and repeated this verse:
5. “O Ubbarī, my queen of swarthy hue,
Lithe as a shoot of fair moringa tree,
That do your limbs with sandal oil bedew,
How should I live, bereft of sight of you?
Yea death itself than this less grievous far would be!”
While he was still murmuring these words, he died and was born again in hell. The priest so ambitious of power could not save him, nor could he save himself by his own power, and as soon as he died, his army broke up and fled.
The Teacher, having ended his lesson, thus identified the Jātaka, “At that time the young prince Bodhi was the marauding king, Devadatta was Piṅgiya, and I myself was the world-famed teacher.”
last updated: November 2021