Book VI. Chanipāta
The Section with Six Verses

Ja 376 Avāriyajātaka
The Story about (the Ferryman) Avāriya (6s)

In the present one monk is going on a visit to the Buddha, and a ferryman who is angry with him ensures he gets a soaking. The Buddha tells a story of a ferryman who refused good advice and lost all he had.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
the ferryman = the same in the past (nāvika).

Keywords: Anger, Self-control.

“Ne’er be angry.” [3.151] {3.228} The Teacher told this tale while dwelling at Jetavana, about a ferryman. This man, they say, was foolish and ignorant: he knew not the qualities of the Three Jewels and of all excellent beings: he was hasty, rough and violent. A certain country monk, wishing to wait on the Buddha, came one evening to the ferry on the Aciravatī and said to the ferryman, “Lay brother, I wish to cross, let me have your boat.” “Sir, it is too late, stay here.” “Lay brother, I cannot stay here, take me across.” The ferryman said angrily, “Come then, ascetic,” and took him into the boat: but he steered badly and made the boat ship water, so that the monk’s robe was wet, and it was dark before he put him on the farther bank. When the monk reached the monastery, he could not wait on the Buddha that day. Next day he went to the Teacher, saluted and sat on one side. The Teacher gave greeting and asked when he had come. “Yesterday.” “Then why do you not wait on me till today?” When he heard his reason, the Teacher said: “Not only now, but of old also that man was rough: and he annoyed wise men of old, as he did you.” And when asked he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin family. When he grew up, he was educated in all the arts at Taxila, {3.229} and became an ascetic. After living long on wild fruits in the Himālayas, he came to Benares for salt and vinegar: he stayed in the royal garden and next day went into the city to beg. The king saw him in the palace-yard and being pleased with his behaviour caused him to be brought in and fed: then he took a promise and made him dwell in the garden: and he came daily to pay respect. The Bodhisatta said to him, “O great king, a king should rule his kingdom with righteousness, eschewing the four evil courses, being zealous and full [3.152] of patience and kindness and compassion,” and with such daily exhortation he spoke two verses:

1. “Ne’er be angry, prince of warriors; ne’er be angry, lord of earth:
Anger ne’er requite with anger: thus a king is worship-worth.

2. In the village, in the forest, on the sea or on the shore,
Ne’er be angry, prince of warriors: ’tis my counsel evermore.” [The first line of the second verse is also found at Dhp 98.]

So the Bodhisatta spoke these verses to the king every day. The king was pleased with him and offered him a village whose revenue was a hundred thousand pieces: but he refused. In this way the Bodhisatta lived for twelve years. Then he thought: “I have stayed too long, I will take a journey through the country and return here,” so without telling the king and only saying to the gardener, “Friend, I weary, I will journey in the country and return, pray do you tell the king,” {3.230} he went away and came to a ferry on the Ganges. There a foolish ferryman named Avāriyapitā lived: he understood neither the merits of good men nor his own gain and loss: when folk would cross the Ganges, he first took them across and then asked for his fare; when they gave him none, he quarrelled with them, getting much abuse and blows but little gain, so blind a fool was he.

Concerning him, the Teacher after Fully Awakening spoke the third verse:

3. “The father of Avāriya,
His boat’s on Ganges wave:
He ferries first the folk across,
And then his fare he’ll crave:
And that is why he earns but strife,
A thriftless, luckless, cheat!”

The Bodhisatta came to this ferryman and said: “Friend, take me to the other bank.” He said: “Ascetic, what fare will you pay me?” “Friend, I will tell you how to increase your wealth, your welfare, and your virtue.” The ferryman thought: “He will certainly give me something,” so he took him across and then said: “Pay me the fare.” The Bodhisatta said: “Very well, friend,” and so telling him first how to increase his wealth, he spoke this verse:

4. “Ask your fare before the crossing, never on the further shore:
Different minds have folk you ferry, different after and before.” {3.231}

The ferryman thought: “This will be only his admonition to me, now he will give me something else,” but the Bodhisatta said: “Friend, you have there the way to increase wealth, now hear the way to increase welfare and virtue,” so he spoke a verse of admonition:

5. “In the village, in the forest, on the sea, and on the shore,
Ne’er be angry, my good boatman; ’tis my counsel evermore.” [3.153]

So having told him the way to increase welfare and virtue, he said: “There you have the way to increase welfare, and the way to increase virtue.” Then that stupid one, not reckoning his admonition as anything, said: “Ascetic, is that what you give me as my fare?” “Yes, friend.” “I have no use for it, give me something else.” “Friend, except that I have nothing else.” “Then why did you go on my boat?” he said, and threw the ascetic down on the bank, sitting on his chest and striking his mouth.

The Teacher said: “So you see that when the ascetic gave this admonition to the king he got the boon of a village, and when he gave the same admonition to a stupid ferryman he got a blow in the mouth: therefore when one gives this admonition it must be given to suitable people, not to unsuitable,” and so after Fully Awakening he then spoke a verse:

6. “For counsel good the king bestowed the revenue of a town:
The boatman for the same advice has knocked the giver down.”

As the man was striking the ascetic, his wife came with his rice, and seeing the ascetic, she said: “Husband, this is an ascetic of the king’s court, do not strike him.” He was angry, and saying: “You forbid me to strike this false ascetic!” he sprang up and struck her down. The plate of rice fell and broke, and the fruit of her womb miscarried. The people gathered round him and {3.232} crying, “Murdering rascal!” they bound him and brought him to the king. The king tried him and caused him to be punished.

The Teacher after Fully Awakening explaining the matter spoke the last verse:

7. “The rice was spilt, his wife was struck, child killed before its birth,
To him, like fine gold to a beast, counsel was nothing worth.”

When the Teacher had ended his lesson, he declared the Truths: after the Truths the brother was established in the fruit of the First Path: and he identified the Jātaka, “At that time the ferryman was the ferryman of today, the king was Ānanda, the ascetic was myself.”