Ja 380 Āsaṅkajātaka
The Story about (the Lotus-Born Maiden) Āsaṅkā (6s)

In the present one monk who ordains after his marriage gradually comes once again under his wife’s power. The Buddha tells how a king spent three years trying to find the name of an ascetic’s divine daughter, and eventually was united with her.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
the dissatisfied monk = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
his former wife = (the lotus-born maiden) Āsaṅkā.

Present Source: Ja 423 Indriyajātaka,
Quoted at: Ja 13 Kaṇḍinajātaka, Ja 145 Rādhajātaka, Ja 191 Ruhakajātaka, Ja 318 Kaṇaverajātaka, Ja 380 Āsaṅkajātaka, Ja 523 Alambusājātaka.

Keywords: Temptation, Perseverance, Devas.

“In heavenly garden.” [3.161] The Teacher told this tale while dwelling at Jetavana, concerning the temptation of a monk by his former wife. The occasion will appear in the Indriyajātaka [Ja 423].

The story is that a young man of good family at Sāvatthi heard the Teacher’s preaching, and thinking it impossible to lead a holy life, perfectly complete and pure, as a householder, he determined to become an ascetic in the dispensation which leads to safety and so make an end of misery. So he gave up his house and property to his wife and children, and asked the Teacher to ordain him. The Teacher did so. As he was the junior in his going about for alms with his teachers and instructors, and as the monks were many, he got no chair either in laymen’s houses or in the refectory, but only a stool or a bench at the end of the novices, his food was tossed him hastily on a ladle, he got gruel made of broken lumps of rice, solid food stale or decaying, or sprouts dried and burnt; and this was not enough to keep him alive. He took what he had got to the wife he had left: she took his bowl, saluted him, emptied it and gave him instead well-cooked gruel and rice with sauce and curry.

The monk was captivated by the love of such flavours and could not leave his wife. She thought she would test his affection. One day she had a countryman cleansed with white clay and set down in her house with some others of his people whom she had sent for, and she gave them something to eat and drink. They sat eating and enjoying it. At the house-door she had some bullocks bound to wheels and a cart set ready. She herself sat in a back room cooking cakes. Her husband came and stood at the door. Seeing him, one old servant told his mistress that there was an elder at the door. “Salute him and bid him pass on.”

But though he did so repeatedly, he saw the monk remaining there and told his mistress. She came, and lifting up the curtain to see, she cried, “This is the father of my sons.” She came out and saluted him: taking his bowl and making him enter she gave him food: when he had eaten she saluted again and said: “Sir, you are a saint now: we have been staying in this house all this time; but there can be no proper householder’s life without a master, so we will take another house and go far into the country: be zealous in your good works, and forgive me if I am doing wrong.” For a time her husband was as if his heart would break. Then he said: “I cannot leave you, do not go, I will come back to my worldly life; send a layman’s garment to such and such a place, I will give up my bowl and robes and come back to you.” She agreed. The monk went to his monastery, and giving up his bowl and robes to his teachers and instructors he explained, in answer to their questions, that he could not leave his wife and was going back to worldly life.

The Teacher found that the monk was discontent owing to thoughts of his wife, so he said: “Sir, this woman does you harm: formerly also for her sake you sacrificed an army of the four divisions and dwelt in the Himālayas three years in much misery,” so he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin family at a village of that country. When he grew up, he learned the arts {3.249} at Taxila, became an ascetic and reaching the Super Knowledges and Attainments lived on roots and fruits in the Himālayas.

At that time a being of perfect merit fell from the Heaven of the Thirty-Three and was conceived as a girl inside a lotus in a pool: and when the other lotuses grew old and fell, that one grew great and stood. The ascetic coming to bathe saw it and thought: “The other lotuses fall, but this one is grown great and stands; why is this?” So he put on his bathing-dress and crossed to it, then opening the lotus he saw the girl.

Feeling towards her as to a daughter he took her to his hut and tended her. When she came to sixteen years, she was beautiful, and in her beauty excelled the hue of man, but attained not the hue of gods. Sakka came to wait on the Bodhisatta. He saw the maiden, asked and was told the way in which she was found, and then asked, “What ought she to receive?” “A dwelling-place and supply of raiment, ornament and food, O sir.” He answered, “Very well, lord,” and created a crystal palace for her dwelling, made for her a bed, raiment and ornament, food and drink divine. The palace descended and rested on the ground when she was going up; when she had gone up it ascended and stayed in the air. She did various services to the Bodhisatta as she lived in the palace. A forester saw this and asked, “What is this person to you, lord?” “My daughter.” So he went to Benares and told the king, “O king, I have seen in the Himālayas a certain ascetic’s daughter of such beauty.” The king was caught by hearing this, and making the forester his guide he went with an army of the four divisions to that place, and pitching a camp he took the forester and his retinue of ministers and entered the hermitage. {3.250} He saluted the Bodhisatta and said: “Lord, women are a stain to the ascetic life; I will tend your daughter.” [3.162]

Now the Bodhisatta had given the maiden the name Āsaṅkā because she was brought to him by his crossing the water owing to his doubt (āsaṅkā), “What is in this lotus?” He did not say to the king directly, “Take her and go,” but said: “If you know this maiden’s name, O great king, take her and go.” “Lord, if you tell it, I shall know.” “I shall not tell it, but when you know it take her and depart.” The king agreed, and thenceforth considered along with his ministers, “What may be her name?” He put forward all names hard to guess and talked with the Bodhisatta, saying: “Such and such will be her name,” but the Bodhisatta said nay and refused him.

So a year passed while the king was considering. Lions and other beasts seized his elephants and horses and men, there was danger from snakes, danger from flies, and many died worn out with cold. The king said to the Bodhisatta, “What need have I of her?” and took his way. The maiden Āsaṅkā stood at an open crystal window. The king seeing her said: “We cannot find your name, live here in the Himālayas, we will depart.” “Great king, if you go you will never find a wife like me. In the Heaven of the Thirty-Three, in the Cittalatā garden, there is a creeper named Āsāvatī: in its fruit a divine drink is born, and they who drink of it once are intoxicated for four months and lie on a divine couch: it bears fruit once in a thousand years and the Devaputtas, though given to strong drink, {3.251} bear with their thirst for that divine drink saying: “We shall reap fruit from this,” and come constantly throughout the thousand years to watch the plant saying: “Is it well?” But you grow discontented in one year: he who wins the fruit of his hope is happy, be not discontented yet,” and so she spoke three verses:

1. “In heavenly garden grows Āsāvatī;
Once in a thousand years, no more, the tree
Bears fruit: for it the gods wait patiently.

2. Hope on, O king, the fruit of hope is sweet:
A bird hoped on and never own’d defeat.

3. His wish, though far away, he won complete:
Hope on, O king: the fruit of hope is sweet.”

The king was caught by her words: he gathered his ministers again and guessed at the name, making ten guesses each time till another year was past. But her name was not among the ten, and so the Bodhisatta refused him. Again the king said: “What need have I of her?” and took his way.

She showed herself at the window, and the king said: “You stay, we will depart.” {3.252} “Why depart, great king?” “I cannot find your name.” “Great king, why can you not find it? Hope is not without success; a crane staying on a hill-top won his wish: why can you not win it? Endure, great king. A crane had its feeding-ground in a lotus-pool, but flying up lit on a hill-top: he stayed there that day and next day thought: “I am happily settled on this hill-top: if without going down I stay here finding food and drinking water and so dwell this day, Oh, it [3.163] would be delightful.” That very day Sakka, king of heaven, had crushed the Asuras and being now lord in the heaven of the Thirty-Three was thinking: “My wishes have come to the pitch of fulfilment, is there any one in the forest whose wishes are unfulfilled?” So considering, he saw that crane and thought: “I will bring this bird’s wishes to the pitch of fulfilment,” not far from the crane’s place of perch there is a stream, and Sakka sent the stream in full flood to the hill-top: so the crane without moving ate fish and drank water and dwelt there that day; then the water fell and went away; so, great king, the crane won fruition of that hope of his, and why will you not win it? Hope on,” she said, with the rest of the verse.

The king, hearing her tale, was caught by her beauty and attracted by her words: he could not go away, but gathering his ministers, and getting a hundred names {3.253} spent another year in guessing with these hundred names. At the end of three years he came to the Bodhisatta and asked, “Will that name be among the hundred, lord?” “You do not know it, great king.” He saluted the Bodhisatta, and saying: “We will go now,” he took his way. The maiden Āsaṅkā again stood by a crystal window. The king saw her and said: “You stay, we will depart.” “Why, great king?” “You satisfy me with words, but not with love: caught by your sweet words I have spent here three years, now I will depart,” and he uttered these verses:

4. “You please me but with words and not in deed:
The scentless flower, though fair, is but a weed.

5. Promise fair without performance on his friends one throws away,
Never giving, ever hoarding: such is friendship’s sure decay.

6. Men should speak when they will act, not promise what they cannot do:
If they talk without performing, wise men see them through and through.

7. My troops are wasted, all my stores are spent,
I doubt my life is spoilt: ’tis time I went.” {3.254}

The maiden Āsaṅkā hearing the king’s words said: “Great king, you know my name, you have just said it; tell my father my name, take me and go,” so talking with the king, she said:

8. “Prince, you have said the word that is my name:
Come, king: my father will allow the claim.”

The king went to the Bodhisatta, saluted and said: “Lord, your daughter is named Āsaṅkā.” “From the time you know her name, take her and go, great king.” He saluted the Bodhisatta, and coming to the crystal palace he said: “Lady, your father has given you to me, come now.” “Come, great king, I will get my father’s leave,” she said, and coming down from the palace she saluted the Bodhisatta, got his consent and came to the king. The king took her to Benares and lived happily with her, increased with sons and daughters. The Bodhisatta continued in unbroken meditation and was reborn in the Brahmā Realm. [3.164]

After the lesson, the Teacher declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, After the Truths, the monk was established in the Fruition of the First Path, “Āsaṅkā was the former wife, the king was the discontented monk, the ascetic was myself.”