Ja 358 Culladhammapālajātaka
The Short Story about (Prince) Dhammapāla (5s)

Alternative Title: Cūḷadhammapālajātaka (Cst)

In the present Devadatta tries to have the Buddha killed. The latter tells a story of how in a previous birth a prince, dear to his mother’s heart, had been cruelly tortured and executed by a jealous king, who later fell into hell.

The Bodhisatta = prince Dhammapāla (Dhammapālakumāra),
Mahāpajāpatigotamī = queen Candā (Candādevī),
Devadatta = the king (of Benares) (rājā).

Present Source: Ja 358 Culladhammapāla,
Quoted at: Ja 367 Sāliya.

Keywords: Violence, Cruelty.

“Mahāpatāpa’s wretched queen.” This story the Teacher, when dwelling in the Bamboo Grove, told concerning the going about of Devadatta to slay the Bodhisatta. In all other births Devadatta failed to excite so much as an atom of fear in the Bodhisatta, {3.178} but in the Culladhammapālajātaka [Ja 358], when the Bodhisatta was only seven months old, he had his hands and feet and head cut off and his body encircled with sword cuts, as it were with a garland. In the Daddarajātaka [Ja 438] [This is an alternative name for Ja 438 Tittirajātaka.] he killed him by twisting his neck, and roasted his flesh in an oven and ate it. In the Khantivādijātaka [Ja 313] he had him scourged with two thousand strokes of a whip, and ordered his hands and feet and ears and nose to be cut off, and then had him seized by the hair of his head and dragged along, and when he was stretched at full length on his back, he kicked him in the belly and made off, and that very day the Bodhisatta died. But both in the Cullanandakajātaka [Ja 222] and the Vevaṭiyakapijātaka [Ja 516] [See Ja 222 Cullanandiyajātaka, and Ja 516 Mahākapijātaka.] he merely had him put to death. Thus did Devadatta for a long time go about trying to slay him, and continued to do so, even after he became a Buddha.

So one day they raised a discussion in the Hall of [3.118] Dhamma, saying: “Sirs, Devadatta is continually forming plots to slay the Buddhas. Being minded to kill the Supreme Buddha, he instigated archers to shoot him, he threw down a rock upon him, and let loose the elephant Nālāgiri on him.” When the Teacher came and inquired what subject the monks were assembled to discuss, on hearing what it was he said: “Monks, not only now, but formerly too he went about to kill me, but now he fails to excite a particle of fear in me, though formerly when I was prince Dhammapāla he brought about my death, though I was his own son, by encircling my body with sword cuts, as it were with a garland.” And so saying, he related a story of the past.

In the past when Mahāpatāpa was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as the son of his queen-consort Candā and they named him Dhammapāla. When he was seven months old, his mother had him bathed in scented water and richly dressed and sat playing with him. The king came to the place of her abode. And as she was playing with the boy, being filled with a mother’s love for her child, she omitted to rise up on seeing the king. He thought: “Even now this woman is filled with pride on account of her boy, and does not value me a straw, but as the boy grows up, she will think, ‘I have a man for my son,’ and will take no notice of me. I will have him put to death at once.” So he returned home, and sitting on his throne summoned the executioner into his presence, with all the instruments of his office. {3.179} The man put on his yellow robe and wearing a crimson wreath laid his axe upon his shoulder, and carrying a block and a bowl in his hands, came and stood before the king, and saluting him said: “What is your pleasure, sire?”

“Go to the royal closet of the queen, and bring here Dhammapāla,” said the king.

But the queen knew that the king had left her in a rage, and laid the Bodhisatta on her bosom and sat weeping. The executioner came and giving her a blow in the back snatched the boy out of her arms and took him to the king and said: “What is your pleasure, sire?” The king had a board brought and put down before him, and said: “Lay him down on it.” The man did so. But queen Candā came and stood just behind her son, weeping. Again the executioner said: “What is your pleasure, sire?” “Cut off Dhammapāla’s hands,” said the king. Queen Candā said: “Great king, my boy is only a child, seven months old. He knows nothing. The fault is not his. If there be any fault, it is mine. Therefore bid my hands to be cut off.” And to make her meaning clear, she uttered the first verse:

1. “Mahāpatāpa’s wretched queen,
’Tis I alone to blame have been.
Bid Dhammapāla, sire, go free,
And off with hands of luckless me.” [3.119]

The king looked at the executioner. “What is your pleasure, sire?” “Without further delay, off with his hands,” said the king. At this moment the executioner took a sharp axe, and lopped off the boy’s two hands, as if they had been young bamboo shoots. {3.180} The boy, when his hands were cut off, neither wept nor lamented, but moved by patience and generosity bore it with resignation. But the queen Candā put the tips of his fingers in her lap and stained with blood went about lamenting. Again the executioner asked, “What is your pleasure, sire?” “Off with his feet,” said the king. On hearing this, Candā uttered the second verse:

2. “Mahāpatāpa’s wretched queen,
’Tis I alone to blame have been.
Bid Dhammapāla, sire, go free,
And off with feet of luckless me.”

But the king gave a sign to the executioner, and he cut off both his feet. Queen Candā put his feet also in her lap, and stained with blood, lamented and said: “My lord Mahāpatāpa, his feet and hands are cut off. A mother is bound to support her children. I will work for wages and support my son. Give him to me.” The executioner said: “Sire, is the king’s pleasure fulfilled? Is my service finished?” “Not yet,” said the king. “What then is your pleasure, sire?” “Off with his head,” said the king. Then Candā repeated the third verse:

3. “Mahāpatāpa’s wretched queen,
’Tis I alone to blame have been.
Bid Dhammapāla, sire, go free,
And off with head of luckless me.”

And with these words she offered her own head. Again the executioner asked, “What is your pleasure, sire?” “Off with his head,” said the king. So he cut off his head and asked, “Is the king’s pleasure fulfilled?” “Not yet,” said the king. “What further am I to do, sire?” “Catching him with the edge of the sword,” said the king, “encircle him with sword cuts as it were with a garland.” Then he threw the body of the boy up into the air, and catching it with the edge of his sword, encircled him with sword cuts, as it were with a garland, and scattered the bits on the dais. Candā placed the flesh of the Bodhisatta in her lap, and as she sat on the dais lamenting, she repeated these verses: {3.181}

4. “No friendly councillors advise the king,
Slay not the heir that from your loins did spring:

5. No loving kinsmen urge the tender plea,
Slay not the boy that owes his life to thee.”

Moreover after speaking these two verses queen Candā, pressing both her hands upon her heart, repeated the third [This is odd to say the least. Both the English and Burmese editions have the same reading, and both editions mark this as being, not the third, but the sixth, verse.] verse: [3.120]

6. “You, Dhammapāla, were by right of birth
The lord of earth:
Your arms, once bathed in oil of sandalwood,
Lie steeped in blood.
My fitful breath, alas, is choked with sighs
And broken cries.”

While she was thus lamenting, her heart broke, as a bamboo snaps, when the grove is on fire, and she fell dead on the spot. The king too being unable to remain on his throne fell down on the dais. An abyss was cleft asunder in the ground, and straightaway he fell into it. Then the solid earth, though many myriads more than two hundred thousand leagues in thickness, being unable to bear with his wickedness, clave asunder and opened a chasm. A flame arose out of the Avīci hell, and seizing upon him, wrapped him about, as with a royal woollen garment, {3.182} and plunged him into Avīci. His ministers performed the funeral rites of Candā and the Bodhisatta.

The Teacher, having brought this discourse to an end, identified the Jātaka, “At that time Devadatta was the king, Mahāpajāpatī was Candā, and I myself was prince Dhammapāla.”