Ja 377 Setaketujātaka (6s)
The Story about (the False Ascetic) Setaketu
In the present one monk gets his living in dishonest ways. When the Buddha finds out he tells a story of a false ascetic who was angry with an outcaste, and how he was taught appearances do not equal deeds.
The Bodhisatta = the family priest (purohita),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
Sāriputta = the outcaste (outcaste),
the deceitful monk = (the false ascetic) Setaketu.
Present Source: Ja 487 Uddāla,
Quoted at: Ja 89 Kuhaka, Ja 138 Godha, Ja 173 Makkaṭa, Ja 175 Ādiccupaṭṭhāna, Ja 336 Brahāchatta, Ja 377 Setaketu.
Keywords: Anger, Fraud, False asceticism.
“Friend, be not angry.” The Teacher told this tale at Jetavana, of a deceitful monk. The occasion of the story will appear in the Uddālajātaka [Ja 487].
This story the Teacher told, while dwelling in Jetavana, about a dishonest monk. This man, even though dedicated to the dispensation that leads to safety, notwithstanding to gain life’s necessaries fulfilled the threefold cheating practice [seeking requisites, seeking honour and hinting].
The monks brought to light all the evil parts in the man as they conversed together in the Dhamma Hall, “Such a one, monks, after he had dedicated himself to this dispensation which leads to safety, yet lives in deceit!” The Teacher came in, and would know what they talked of there. They told him. Said he, “This is not now the first time; he was deceitful before,” and so saying he told a story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a far-famed teacher and taught the sacred texts to five hundred pupils. The senior of them, Setaketu by name, was born of a brahmin family from the north, and was very proud on account of his caste. One day he went out of the town with other pupils, and when coming in again he saw an
1. “Friend, be not angry, anger is not good:
Wisdom is more than you have seen or heard:
By quarter parents may be understood,
And teacher is denoted by the word.
2. The householder who gives food, clothes and drink,
Whose doors are open, he a quarter is:
And quarter in the highest sense, we think,
Is that last state where misery shall be bliss.” This rests on fanciful puns on the names of the four quarters.
So the Bodhisatta explained the quarters to the young brahmin: but he thinking: “I was put between an outcaste’s feet,” left that place and going to Taxila learned all the arts from a far-famed teacher. With that teacher’s permission he left Taxila, and wandered learning all practical arts. Coming to a frontier village he found five hundred ascetics
3. “With uncleansed teeth, and goatskin garb and hair
All matted, muttering holy words in peace:
Surely no human means to good they spare,
They know the Truth, and they have won Release.”
The priest heard this and spoke the fourth verse:
4. “A learned sage may do ill deeds, O king:
A learned sage may fail to follow right:
A thousand Vedas will not safety bring,
Failing just works, or save from evil plight.”
When the king heard this, he took away his favour from the ascetics. Setaketu thought: “This king took a liking to the ascetics, but this priest has destroyed it as if he had cut it with an axe: I must talk to him,” so talking to him he spoke the fifth verse:
5. “A learned sage may do ill deeds, O king:
A learned sage may fail to follow right
You say: ‘Then Vedas are a useless thing:
Just works with self-restraint are requisite.’ ”
The priest hearing this, spoke the sixth verse:
6. “Nay, Vedas are not useless utterly:
Though works with self-restraint true Dhamma is:
Study of Vedas lifts man’s name on high,
But ’tis by conduct that he reaches bliss.”
So the priest refuted Setaketu’s Dhamma. He made them all laymen, gave them shields and weapons, and appointed them to be attendants on the
After the lesson the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “At that time Setaketu was the cheating monk, the outcaste was Sāriputta, and the king’s priest was myself.”
last updated: November 2021