Ja 365 Ahiguṇḍikajātaka
The Story about the Snake Catcher (5s)

Alternative Title: Ahituṇḍikajātaka (Cst)

In the present one elderly monk ordains a novice, but is unkind to him, and the novice disrobes. Having enticed him back into robes, he is again unkind. The Buddha tells a story of a snake trainer who had a monkey he used to beat until he escaped one day and refused to return.

The Bodhisatta = the grain merchant (dhaññavāṇija),
the novice = the monkey (makkaṭa),
the old monk = the snake catcher (ahituṇḍika),

Keywords: Bad treatment, Escape.

“Lo! Here we lie.” This story the Teacher, while living at Jetavana, told concerning an aged monk. The story has already been related in full in the Sālakajātaka [Ja 85]. [However, nothing occurs in the earlier story that isn’t told here.]

In this version also the old man after ordaining a village lad abuses and strikes him. The lad escaped and returned to the world. {3.198} The old man once more admitted him to orders, and acted just as before. The youth, after he had for the third time returned to the world, on being again solicited to come back, would not so much as look the old man in the face.

The matter was talked over in the Dhamma Hall, how that a certain elder could live neither with his novice nor without him, while the boy after seeing the old man’s temper, being a sensitive youth, would not even look at him. The Teacher came [3.131] and asked what was the subject of discussion. When they told him, he said: “Not only now, monks, but formerly also this same youth was a sensitive novice, who after observing the elder’s faults would not so much as look at him.” And so saying he told a story of the past.

In the past in the reign of Brahmadatta, king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a corn merchant’s family. And when he was grown up, he got his living by selling corn.

Now a certain snake-charmer caught a monkey and trained him to play with a snake. And when a festival was proclaimed at Benares, he left the monkey with the corn merchant and roamed about for seven days, making sport with the snake. The merchant meanwhile fed the monkey with food both hard and soft. On the seventh day the snake-charmer got drunk at the festival merry-making, and came back and struck the monkey three times with a piece of bamboo, and then taking him with him to a garden, he tied him up and fell asleep. The monkey got loose from his chain, and climbing up a mango tree, sat there eating the fruit. The snake-charmer on waking up saw the monkey perched on the tree and thought: “I must catch him by flattering him.” And in talking with him he repeated the first verse:

1. “Lo! Here we lie, my pretty one,
Like gambler by the dice undone.
Let fall some mangoes: well we know,
Our living to your tricks we owe.”

The monkey, on hearing this, uttered the remaining verses:

2. “Your praises, friend, unmeaning sound;
A pretty monkey ne’er was found. {3.199}

3. Who in the stores, when drunk, I pray,
Did starve and beat me sore today?

4. When I, snake-charmer, call to mind
The bed of pain where I reclined,
Though I should some day be a king,
No prayer from me this boon should wring,
Your cruelty remembering.

5. But if a man is known to live
Content at home, is apt to give,
And springs of gentle race, the wise
With such should form the closest ties.”

With these words the monkey was lost in a crowd of fellow-monkeys. Another reading gives, “was lost in a thicket of trees”.

The Teacher here ended his lesson and identified the Jātaka, “At that time the old man was the snake-charmer, the novice was the monkey, and I myself was the corn merchant.”