Ja 369 Mittavindajātaka See also Divyāvadāna, p. 603.
The Story about (the Merchant) Mittavindaka (5s)

Alternative Title: Mittavindakajātaka (Cst)

In the present one monk, though taught the way of a monastic, refuses to listen, and wants to live according to his own ideas. The Buddha tells how in a previous life the same person had been disobedient to his mother, and had suffered greatly as a result.

The Bodhisatta = the Devaputta (Devaputta),
the disobedient monk = Mittavindaka.

Present Source: Ja 427 Gijjha,
Quoted at: Ja 116 Dubbaca, Ja 161 Indasamānagotta, Ja 369 Mittavinda, Ja 439 Catudvāra,
Past Compare: Ja 41 Losaka, Ja 82 Mittavinda, Ja 104 Mittavinda, Ja 369 Mittavinda, Ja 439 Catudvāra.

Keywords: Wilfulness, Greed, Retribution, Devas.

“What was the evil.” [3.136] This story the Teacher while living at Jetavana told concerning an unruly monk. The incident that led to the story will be found in the Mahāmittavindajātaka [Ja 439]. [The Mahāmittavindajātaka is otherwise known as the Ja 439 Catudvārajātaka; it refers the reader to Ja 427 Gijjhajātaka, for the Introductory story, which I include here. I also include the opening of the story of the past, which is omitted from this retelling.]

This story the Teacher told at Jetavana concerning a disobedient monk. He was, they say, of gentle birth, and though ordained in the dispensation that leads to safety, was admonished by his well-wishers, masters, teachers, and fellow-students to this effect, “Thus must you advance and thus retreat; thus look at or away from objects; thus must the arm be stretched out or drawn back; thus are the inner and outer garment to be worn; thus is the bowl to be held, and when you have received sufficient food to sustain life, after self-examination, thus are you to partake of it, keeping guard over the door of the senses; in eating you are to be moderate and exercise watchfulness; you are to recognize such and such duties towards monks who come to or go from the monastery; these are the fourteen sets of monastic duties, and the eighty great duties to be duly performed; these are the thirteen ascetic practices; all these are to be scrupulously performed.” Yet was he disobedient and impatient, and did not receive instruction respectfully, but refused to listen to them, saying: “I do not find fault with you. Why do you speak thus to me? I shall know what is for my good, and what is not.”

Then the monks, hearing of his disobedience, sat in the Dhamma Hall, telling of his faults. The Teacher came and asked them what it was they were discussing, and sent for the monk and said: “Is it true, monk, that you are disobedient?” And when he confessed that it was so, the Teacher said: “Why, monk, after being ordained in so excellent a dispensation that leads to safety, do you not listen to the voice of your well-wishers? Formerly too you disobeyed the voice of the wise, and were blown into atoms by the Veramba wind.” And herewith he told a story of the past.

In the past, in the days of Kassapa, the One with Ten Powers, there dwelt in Benares a merchant, whose wealth was eighty crores of money, having a son named Mittavindaka. The mother and father of this lad had entered upon the First Path, but he was wicked, an unbeliever.

When by and by the father was dead and gone, the mother, who in his stead managed their property, thus said to her son, “My son, the state of man is one hard to attain; give alms, practise virtue, keep the holy day, give ear to the Dhamma.” Then said he, “Mother, no almsgiving or such like for me; never name them to me; as I live, so shall I fare hereafter.” On a certain full-moon holy day, as he spoke in this fashion, his mother answered, “Son, this day is set apart as a high holy day. Today take upon you the holy day vows; visit the cloister, and all night long listen to the Dhamma, and when you come back I will give you a thousand pieces of money.”

For desire of this money the son consented. As soon as he had broken his fast he went to the monastery, and there he spent the day; but at night, to ensure that not one word of the Dhamma should reach his ear, he lay down in a certain place, and fell asleep. On the next day, very early in the morning, he washed his face, and went to his own house and sat down.

Now the mother thought within herself, “Today my son after hearing the Dhamma will come back early in the morning, bringing with him the elder who has preached the Dhamma.” So she made ready gruel, and food hard and soft, and prepared a seat, and awaited his coming. When she saw her son coming all alone, “Son,” said she, “why have you not brought the preacher with you?” “No preacher for me, mother!” says he. “Here then,” said the woman, “you drink this gruel.” “You promised me a thousand pieces, mother,” he says, “first give this to me, and afterward I will drink.” “Drink first, my son, and then you shall have the money.” Said he, “No, I will not drink till I get the money.” Then his mother laid before him a purse of a thousand pieces. And he drank the gruel, took the purse with a thousand pieces, and went about his business; and so thereafter, until in no long time he had gained two million.

Then it came into his mind that he would equip a ship, and do business with it. So he equipped a ship, and said to his mother, “Mother, I mean to do business in this ship.” Said she, “You are my only son, and in this house there is plenty of wealth; the sea is full of dangers. Do not go!” But he said: “Go I will, and you cannot prevent me.” “Yes, I will prevent you,” she answered, and took hold of his hand; but he thrust her hand away, and struck her down, and in a moment he was gone, and under way.

On the seventh day, because of Mittavindaka, the ship stood immovable upon the deep. Lots were cast, and thrice was the lot found in the hand of Mittavindaka. Then they gave him a raft; and saying: “Let not many perish for the sole sake of this one,” they cast him adrift upon the deep. In an instant the ship sprang forth with speed over the deep.

And he upon his raft came to a certain island. There in a crystal palace he espied four female spirits of the dead. They used to be in woe seven days and seven in happiness. In their company he experienced bliss divine. Then, when the time came for them to undergo their penance, they said: “Master, we are going to leave you for seven days; while we are gone, bide here, and be not distressed.” So saying they departed.

But he, full of longing, again embarked upon his raft, and passing over the ocean came to another isle; there in a palace of silver he saw eight other spirits. In the same way, he saw upon another island, sixteen in a palace all of jewels, and on yet another, thirty-two that were in a golden hall. With these, as before, he dwelt in divine blessedness, and when they went away to their penance, sailed away once more over the ocean; till at last he beheld a city with four gates, surrounded by a wall. That, they say, is the Ussada hell, the place where many beings, condemned to hell, endure their own deeds: but to Mittavindaka it appeared as though a beautiful city.

Now this Mittavindaka, when cast into the sea, showed himself very covetous, and going on to still greater excess came to the place of torment inhabited by beings doomed to hell. And he made his way into the Ussada hell, taking it to be a city, and there he got a wheel as sharp as a razor fixed upon his head. Then the Bodhisatta in the shape of a Devaputta went on a mission to Ussada. On seeing him, Mittavindaka repeated the first verse in the form of a question:

1. “What was the evil wrought by me,
Thus to provoke the curse of heaven,
That my poor head should ever be
With circling wheel of torture riven?” {3.207}

The Bodhisatta, on hearing this, uttered the second verse:

2. “Forsaking homes of joy and bliss,
That decked with pearls, with crystal this,
And halls of gold and silver sheen,
What brought you to this gloomy scene?”

Then Mittavindaka replied in a third verse:

3. “Far fuller joys I there shall gain
Than any these poor worlds can show.
This was the thought that proved my bane
And brought me to this scene of woe.”

The Bodhisatta then repeated the remaining verses:

4. “From four to eight, to sixteen thence, and so
To thirty-two insatiate greed does grow.
Thus on and on you, greedy soul, were led
Till doomed to wear this wheel upon your head.

5. So all, pursuing covetous desire,
Insatiate still, yet more and more require:
The broadening path of appetite they tread,
And, like you, bear this wheel upon their head” [3.137]

But while Mittavindaka was still speaking, the wheel fell upon him and crushed him, so that he could say no more. But the Devaputta returned straight to his celestial abode. {3.208}

The Teacher, his lesson ended, identified the Jātaka, “At that time the unruly monk was Mittavindaka, and I myself was the Devaputta.”