Ja 363 Hirijātaka
The Story about Shame (5s)
In the present a wealthy man from the border lands sends merchandise to Sāvatthi, asking his correspondent Anāthapiṇḍika to help exchange it, which he did. When the good man sends his produce to the border lands, however, his entourage is despised. Later, when another caravan arrives from the border it is pillaged and destroyed in revenge. The Buddha explains similar events that happened in a previous life.
The Bodhisatta = the wealthy man from Benares (Bārāṇasiseṭṭhi),
the border dweller = the same in the past (paccantavāsī).
Present Source: Ja 90 Akataññu,
Quoted at: Ja 363 Hiri.
Keywords: Reciprocity, Honour.
“Who spite of honour.”
On the borders, so the tale goes, there lived a merchant, who was a correspondent and a friend of Anāthapiṇḍika’s, but they had never met. There came a time when this merchant loaded five hundred carts with local produce and gave orders to the men in charge to go to the great merchant Anāthapiṇḍika, and barter the wares in his correspondent’s shop for their value, and bring back the goods received in exchange. So they came to Sāvatthi, and found Anāthapiṇḍika. First making him a present, they told him their business. “You are welcome,” said the great man, and ordered them to be lodged there and provided with money for their needs. After kindly enquiries after their master’s health, he bartered their merchandise and gave them the goods in exchange. Then they went back to their own district, and reported what had happened.
Shortly afterwards, Anāthapiṇḍika similarly dispatched five hundred carts with merchandise to the very district in which they dwelt; and his people, when they had got there, went, present in hand, to call upon the border merchant. “Where do you come from?” said he. “From Sāvatthi,” replied they; “from your correspondent, Anāthapiṇḍika.” “Anyone can call himself Anāthapiṇḍika,” said he with a sneer; and taking their present, he bade them begone, giving them neither lodging nor a gift. So they bartered their goods for themselves and brought back the wares in exchange to Sāvatthi, with the story of the reception they had had.
Now it chanced that this border merchant dispatched another caravan of five hundred carts to Sāvatthi; and his people came with a present in their hands to wait upon Anāthapiṇḍika. But, as soon as Anāthapiṇḍika’s people caught sight of them, they said: “Oh, we’ll see, sir, that they are properly lodged, fed, and supplied with money for their needs.” And they took the strangers outside the city and bade them unyoke their carts at a suitable spot, adding that rice and a gift would come from Anāthapiṇḍika’s house. About the middle watch of the night, having collected a band of serving-men and slaves, they looted the whole caravan, carried off every garment the men had got, drove away their oxen, and took the wheels off the carts, leaving the latter but removing the wheels. Without so much as a shirt among the lot of them, the terrified strangers sped away and managed to reach their home on the border. Then Anāthapiṇḍika’s people told him the whole story. “This capital story,” said he, “shall be my gift to the Teacher today,” and away he went and told it to the Teacher.
“This is not the first time, sir,” said the Teacher, “that this border merchant has shown this disposition; he was just the same in days gone by.” Then, at Anāthapiṇḍika’s request, he told the following story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a very wealthy merchant in that city. And he too had as a correspondent a border merchant whom he had never seen and all came to pass as above.
In this version when the merchant of Benares was told that the followers of the foreign merchant were robbed of all their property and, after losing everything they possessed, had to take to flight, he said: “Because they failed to do what they ought for the strangers who came to them, they find no one ready to do them a good turn.” And so saying he repeated these verses:
1. “Who spite of honour, while he plays the part
Of humble servant, loathes you in his heart,
Poor in good works and rich in words alone –
Ah! Such a friend you surely would not own.
2. Be you in deed to every promise true,
Refuse to promise what you can not do;
Wise men on empty braggarts look askew.
3. No friend suspects a quarrel without cause,
For ever watching to discover flaws:
But he that trustful on a friend can rest,
As little child upon its mother’s breast,
Will ne’er by any stranger’s deed or word,
Be separated from his bosom’s lord.
4. Who draws the yoke of human friendship well,
Of bliss increased and honoured life can tell:
5. But one that tastes the joys of calm repose,
Drinking sweet draughts of Truth – he only knows
Escape from defilements and all his woes.”
Thus did the Great Being, disgusted by coming into contact with evil associates, through the power of solitude, bring his teaching to a climax and lead men to the deathless and great Nibbāna.
The Teacher, his lesson ended, thus identified the Jātaka, “At that time I myself was the merchant of Benares.”
last updated: November 2021