Ja 373 Mūsikajātaka
The Story about the (Biting) Mouse (5s)

In the present the king of Kosala’s queen has a longing to drink the king’s blood while pregnant. Despite the queen trying to miscarry the child, the king preserved the life of the child who would eventually kill him. The Buddha tells a story about a prince who wanted to kill his father, but was warded off by verses the king’s teacher had given him in foresight.

The Bodhisatta = the world-famous teacher (disāpāmokkho ācariyo).

Present Source: Ja 338 Thusa,
Quoted at: Ja 373 Mūsika.

Keywords: Murder, Patricide, Foresight.

“People cry, ‘Where is she gone.’ ” [3.142] This story the Teacher, while residing in the Bamboo Grove, told about Ajātasattu. The incident that led to the story has already been fully told in the Thusajātaka [Ja 338].

At the time of his conception there arose in his mother, the daughter of the king of Kosala, a chronic longing to drink blood from the right knee of (her husband) king Bimbisāra. Being questioned by her attendant ladies, she told them how it was with her. The king too hearing of it called his astrologers and said: “The queen is possessed of such and such a longing. What will be the issue of it?” The astrologers said: “The child conceived in the womb of the queen will kill you and seize your kingdom.” “If my son,” said the king, “should kill me and seize my kingdom, what is the harm of it?” And then he had his right knee opened with a sword and letting the blood fall into a golden dish gave it to the queen to drink. She thought: “If the son that is born of me should kill his father, what care I for him?” and endeavoured to bring about a miscarriage. The king hearing of it called her to him and said: “My dear, it is said, my son will slay me and seize my kingdom. But I am not exempt from old age and death: suffer me to behold the face of my child. Henceforth act not after this manner.” But she still went to the garden and acted as before. The king on hearing of it forbade her visits to the garden, and when she had gone her full time she gave birth to a son. On his naming-day, because he had been his father’s enemy, while still unborn, they called him prince Ajātasattu.

As he grew up with his princely surroundings, one day the Teacher accompanied by five hundred monks came to the king’s palace and sat down. The assembly of the monks with Buddha at their head was entertained by the king with choice food, both hard and soft. And after saluting the Teacher the king sat down to listen to the Dhamma. At this moment they dressed up the young prince and brought him to the king. The king welcomed the child with a strong show of affection and placed him on his lap, and fondling the boy with the natural love of a father for his child, he did not listen to the Dhamma.

Here too the Teacher observed the king at the same moment playing with his boy and also listening to the Dhamma. And knowing as he did that danger to the king will arise through his son, he said: “Sire, kings of old suspected what was open to suspicion, and kept their heirs in confinement, saying: “Let them bear rule, after our bodies have been burned on the funeral pyre.” And with this he told a story of the past.

In the past in the reign of Brahmadatta, king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin family, and became a world-famed teacher. The son of the king of Benares, prince Yava, by name, after applying himself diligently to acquire all the liberal arts from him, being now anxious to depart, bade him good-bye. The teacher, knowing by his power of divination that danger would befall the prince through his son, considered how he might remove this danger from him, and began to look about him for an apt illustration. {3.216}

Now he had at this time a horse, and a sore place appeared on its foot. And in order to give proper attention to the sore the horse was kept to the stable. Now close by was a well. And a mouse used to venture out of its hole and nibble the sore place on the horse’s foot. The horse could not stop it, and one day being unable to bear the pain, when the mouse came to bite him, he struck it dead with his hoof and kicked it into the well. The grooms not seeing the mouse said: “On other days the mouse came and bit the sore place, but now it is not to be seen. What has become of it?” The Bodhisatta witnessed the whole thing and said: “Others from not knowing ask, ‘Where is the mouse?’ But I alone know that the mouse has been killed by the horse, and dropped into the well.” And making this very fact an illustration, he composed the first verse and gave it to the young prince.

Looking about for another illustration, he saw that same horse, when the boil was healed, go out and make his way to a barley field to get some barley to eat, and thrust his head through a hole in the fence, and taking this as an illustration he composed a second verse and gave it to the [3.143] prince. But the third verse he composed by his own mother-wit and gave this also to him. And he said: “My friend, when you are established in the kingdom, as you go in the evening to the bathing tank, walk as far as the front of the staircase, repeat the first verse, and as you enter the palace in which you dwell, walk to the foot of the stairs, repeat the second verse, and as you go thence to the top of the stairs, repeat the third verse.” And with these words he dismissed him.

The young prince returned home and acted as viceroy, and on his father’s death he became king. An only son was born to him, and when he was sixteen years old he was eager to be king. And being minded to kill his father, he said to his retainers, “My father is still young. When I come to look upon his funeral pyre I shall be a worn-out old man. What good will it be for me to come to the throne then?” “My lord,” they said, “it is out of the question for you to go to the frontier and play the rebel. You must find some way or other to slay your father, and to seize upon his kingdom.” {3.217} He readily agreed, and went in the evening, and took his sword and stood in the king’s palace near the bathing tank, prepared to kill his father. The king in the evening sent a female slave called Mūsikā, saying: “Go and cleanse the surface of the tank. I shall take a bath.” She went there and while she was cleaning the bath she caught sight of the prince. Fearing that what he was about might be revealed, he cut her in two with his sword and threw the body into the tank. The king came to bathe. Everybody said: “Today the slave Mūsikā does not return. Where and whither is she gone?” The king went to the edge of the tank, repeating the first verse:

1. “People cry, ‘Where is she gone?
Mūsikā, where have you fled?
This is known to me alone:
In the well she lieth dead.’ ”

Thought the prince, “My father has found out what I have done.” And being panic-stricken he fled and told everything to his attendants. After the lapse of seven or eight days, they again addressed him and said: “My lord, if the king knew he would not be silent. What he said must have been a mere guess. Put him to death.” So one day he stood sword in hand at the foot of the stairs, and when the king came he was looking about for an opportunity to strike him. The king came repeating the second verse:

2. “Like a beast of burden still
You do turn and turn about,
You that Mūsikā Mūsikā means mouse, Yava, barley. did kill,
Fain would Yava eat, I doubt.” [3.144] {3.218}

Thought the prince, “My father has seen me,” and fled in terror. But at the end of a fortnight he thought: “I will kill the king by a blow from a shovel.” So he took a spoon-shaped instrument with a long handle and stood poising it. The king climbed to the top of the stair, repeating the third verse:

3. “You are but a weakling fool,
Like a baby with its toy,
Grasping this long spoon-like tool,
I will slay you, wretched boy.”

That day being unable to escape, he grovelled at the king’s feet and said: “Sire, spare my life.” The king after berating him had him bound in chains and cast into prison. And sitting on a magnificent royal seat shaded by a white parasol, he said: “Our teacher, a far-famed brahmin foresaw this danger to us, and gave us these three verses.” And being highly delighted, in the intensity of his joy he uttered this exalted utterance:

4. “I am not free by dwelling in the sky,
Nor by some act of filial piety.
Nay when my life was sought by this my son,
Escape from death through power of verse was won.

5. Knowledge of every kind he apt to learn,
And what it all may signify discern:
Though you should use it not, the time will be
When what you hearest may advantage you.” {3.219}

By and by on the death of the king the young prince was established on the throne.

The Teacher here brought his lesson to a close, and identified the Jātaka, “At that time the far-famed teacher was myself.”