Ja 390 Mayhakajātaka
The Story about the Mayhaka (Bird) (6s)
In the present one miserly merchant dies and the king inherits his wealth, and asks the Buddha why he was so rich on the one hand, and so miserly on the other. The Buddha first tells a story of how in a previous life he had given to a Paccekabuddha, but had later regretted it. Then the Buddha tells another story in which a brother killed his adopted son in order to gain his inheritance, and he was reproved by the boy’s father, and mended his ways.
The Bodhisatta = the elder brother (jeṭṭhaka),
the visiting wealthy man = the younger brother (kaniṭṭha).
Keywords: Miserliness, Greed, Animals, Birds, Devas.
“Did we joy.”
All his life he did nothing with gifts or the other merits, and when he died he was born in the hell Roruva. His substance was heirless, and the king’s men carried it into the palace in seven days and nights. After it was carried in, the king went after breakfast to Jetavana, and saluted the Teacher. When he was asked why he did not wait regularly on Buddha, he answered, “Lord, a stranger merchant has died at Sāvatthi, seven days have been spent in carrying his wealth, to which he left no heir, into my house, but though he had all that wealth he neither enjoyed it himself nor gave it to others, his wealth was like lotus-tanks guarded by Yakkhas. One day he fell into the jaws of death after refusing to enjoy the flavour of choice meats and the like. Now why did that selfish and undeserving man gain all that wealth, and for what reason did he not incline his thoughts to the enjoyment of it?” This was the question he put to the Teacher. “Great king, the reason why he gained his wealth and yet did not enjoy it, was this,” and so at his request the Teacher told a story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, there was an unbelieving selfish merchant in Benares, he gave nothing to any one, he provided for no one. One day going to wait on the king he saw a Paccekabuddha, named Tagarasikhi, begging, and saluting him he asked, “Sir, have you got alms?” The Paccekabuddha said: “Am I not begging, merchant?”
Now giving is rich in fruit only to one who can make the three thoughts perfect:
Did we joy to feel the wish to give,
Give the gift, and give it cheerfully,
Ne’er regret the giving while we live,
Children born of us would never die. [Ja 447]
Joy before the bounty’s given, giving cheerfully,
Pleasure at the thought thereafter, that is perfect generosity. [AN 6.37, Pv 305]
So the stranger merchant gained much wealth, by reason of his giving alms to Tagarasikhi, but he could not enjoy his wealth because he could not make his after-thought pure. “Lord, why did he have no son?” The Teacher said: “O king, this was the cause of his having no son,” and so at his request he told a story of the past.
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a merchant’s family worth eighty crores. When he grew up, at his parents’ death he provided for his younger brother and carried on the house; he made an alms-chamber at the house-door and lived as a householder giving much in alms. One son was born to him; and when the son could walk on his feet, he saw the misery of desires and the blessing of renunciation, so handing over all his substance
The younger brother took that one son: but seeing him grow up he thought: “If my brother’s son lives, the estate will be divided into two parts, I will kill my brother’s son.” So one day, sinking him in a river, he killed him. After he had bathed and come home, his brother’s wife asked him, “Where is my boy?” “He was disporting himself in the river; I looked for him but could not see him.” She wept and said nothing. The Bodhisatta, knowing of this matter, thought: “I will make this business public,” and so going through the air and lighting at Benares in fair raiment under and upper, he stood at the door; not seeing the alms-chamber, he thought: “That wicked man has destroyed the chamber.” The younger brother, hearing of his coming, came and saluted the Bodhisatta and taking him up to the roof gave him good food to eat. And when the meal was over, seated for friendly talk he said: “My son does not appear: where is he?” “Dead, my lord.” “In what way?” “At a bathing place: but I do not know the exact way.” “Not know, you wicked man! Your deed was known to me, did you not kill him in that way? Will you be able to keep that wealth when destroyed by kings and others? What difference is there, between you and the Mayhaka bird?” So the Bodhisatta expounding the Dhamma with the ease of a Buddha spoke these verses:
1. “There is a bird called Mayhaka, in mountain cave it lives:
On pipal trees with ripening fruit, ‘Mine, mine,’ the cry it gives.
2. The other birds, while thus he plains, in flocks about him fly:
They eat the fruit, but still goes on the Mayha’s plaintive cry.
3. And even so a single man enormous wealth may win,
And yet may not divide it fair between himself and kin.
4. Not once enjoyment does he reap, of raiment or of food,
Of perfumes or flower garlands; nor does his kinsfolk good.
5. ‘Mine, mine,’ he whimpers as he guards his treasures greedily:
But kings, or robbers, or his heirs that wish to see him die
Pillage his wealth: yet still goes on the miser’s plaintive cry.
6. A wise man, gaining riches great, is helpful to his kin:
’Tis thus he’ll win repute on earth and heaven hereafter win.”
So the Great Being expounding to him the Dhamma made him renew the alms-giving, and going to the Himālayas pursued meditation without interruption and so went to the Brahmā Realm.
After the lesson, the Teacher said: “So, great king, the stranger merchant had neither son nor daughter for all that time because he killed his brother’s son,” and then he identified the Jātaka, “The younger brother was the stranger merchant, the elder was myself.”
last updated: November 2021