Ja 368 Tacasārajātaka
The Story about the Bamboo Fetters (5s)

In the present Devadatta tries to have the Buddha killed. The latter tells a story of how a false doctor tried to get a child bitten by a snake so he could cure them and take the gain. The snake, however, bit him, not the child, and he died. In this version the children are taken before the king and tried.

The Bodhisatta = the wise boy (paṇḍitadāraka),
the monks = the boys (dārakā),
Ānanda = the king of Benares (Bārāṇasirājā).

Past Source: Ja 367 Sāliya,
Quoted at: Ja 368 Tacasāra,
Past Compare: Dhp-a IX.9 Kokasunakhaluddaka.

Keywords: Malice, Wisdom.

“Fallen into hand of foes.” {3.204} This story the Teacher, while dwelling at Jetavana, told concerning the Perfection of Wisdom. It was then the Teacher said: “Not only is the Tathāgata wise this one time, but he was wise before, and had skill in means” And herewith he related a story of the past.

In the past in the reign of Brahmadatta, king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in the household of a village proprietor. The whole story runs on exactly like that of the previous birth.

A poor old doctor at that time who had no practice strayed out of the village to this spot, and saw a snake asleep in the fork of a tree, with its head tucked in. He thought: “There is nothing to be got in the village. I will cajole these boys and make the snake bite them, and then I shall get something for curing them.” So he said to the Bodhisatta, “If you were to see a young hedgehog, would you seize it?” “Yes, I would,” said he.

“See, here is one lying in the fork of this tree,” said the old man.

The Bodhisatta, not knowing it was a snake, climbed up the tree and seized it by the neck, but when he found it was a snake, he did not allow it to turn upon him, but getting a good grip of it, he hastily flung it from him. It fell on the neck of the old doctor, and coiling round him, it bit him so severely that its teeth met in his flesh and the old man fell down dead on the spot, and the snake made its escape.

But in this version when the doctor was dead, his village neighbours said: “These youths have [3.135] caused the man’s death. We will bring them before the king.” And they bound them in fetters and led them to Benares. The Bodhisatta in the course of his journey admonished the other lads and said to them, “Do not be afraid. Even when you are brought into the presence of the king, show yourselves fearless and happy in your mind. The king will first of all talk with us, and afterwards I shall know what to do.” They readily acquiesced in what he said, and acted accordingly. When the king found them calm and happy, he said: “These poor wretches have been bound in chains and brought here as murderers, and although they have come to such misery, they are without fear and even happy. I will ask them the reason why they are not troubled.”

And he repeated the first verse:

1. “Fallen into hand of foes
And with bamboo fetters bound,
How can you conceal your woes,
And with smiling face be found?”

On hearing this the Bodhisatta uttered the remaining verses:

2. “There is no good however slight,
That man from groans and mourning e’er will gain;
His adversaries feel delight,
When they behold a foe o’ercome with pain. {3.205}

3. But enemies with grief are filled
When with bold front he goes to meet his fate,
And blenches not, as one well-skilled
All things with judgment to discriminate.

4. Be it by muttered spell or charm,
By lavish gifts, or help of powerful kin,
That he may best escape from harm,
A man should strive some vantage ground to win.

5. But should he fail to reach success,
With others’ aid or by himself alone,
He should not grieve but acquiesce;
Fate is too strong, his utmost he has done.” {3.206}

The king on hearing the Bodhisatta’s exposition of the Dhamma, investigated the matter, and discovering the innocence of the boys, he had their fetters removed, and bestowed much honour on the Great Being, and made him his temporal and spiritual adviser and his valued minister. He also conferred honour on the other youths and appointed them to various offices.

When the Teacher had brought this lesson to an end, he identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ānanda was the king of Benares, the lesser elders were the other youths, and I myself was the wise youth.”