Ja 392 Bhisapupphajātaka
The Story about the Lotus Flower (6s)

Alternative Title: Siṅghapupphajātaka (Cst)

In the present one monk is blamed by a Devatā for smelling a flower. The Buddha tells a similar story from the past, in which a Devadhītā explains she does not reprehend ordinary thieves, but, because of his profession as an ascetic, his behaviour needs to be beyond reproach.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Uppalavaṇṇā = Devadhītā.

Keywords: Theft, Probity, Devas.

“You were never.” The Teacher told this tale while dwelling in Jetavana, concerning a certain monk. The story is that the monk had left Jetavana and dwelt in the Kosala kingdom near a certain wood: one day he went down into a lotus-pool, {3.308} and seeing a lotus in flower he stood to leeward and smelt [3.192] it. Then the Devatā who dwelt in that part of the forest frightened him saying: “Sir, you are a thief of odours, this is a kind of theft.” He went back in a fright to Jetavana, and saluted the Teacher and sat down. “Where have you been staying, monk?” “In such and such a wood, and the Devatā frightened me in such and such a way.” The Teacher said: “You are not the first who have been frightened by a Devatā when smelling a flower; sages of old have been frightened in like manner,” and at the monk’s request he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin family of a village in Kāsi: when he grew up he learned the arts at Taxila, and afterwards became an ascetic and lived near a lotus-pool. One day he went down into the pool and stood smelling a lotus in full flower. A Devadhītā who was in a hollow in a trunk of a tree alarming him spoke the first verse:

1. “You were never given that flower you smell, though it’s only a single bloom;
’Tis a species of larceny, venerable sir, you are stealing its perfume.”

Then the Bodhisatta spoke the second verse:

2. “I neither take nor break the flower: from afar I smell the bloom.
I cannot tell on what pretence you say I steal perfume.”

At the same moment a man was digging in the pool for lotus-fibres and breaking the lotus-plants. The Bodhisatta seeing him said: “You call a man thief if he smells the flower from afar: {3.309} why do you not speak to that other man?” So in talk with her he spoke the third verse:

3. “A man who digs the lotus-roots and breaks the stalks I see:
Why don’t you call the conduct of that man disorderly?”

The Devatā, explaining why she did not speak to him, spoke the fourth and fifth verses:

4. “Disgusting like a nurse’s dress are men disorderly:
I have no speech with men like him, but I deign to speak to you.

5. When a man is free from evil stains and seeks for purity,
A wrong like a hair-tip shows on him like a dark cloud in the sky.”

So alarmed by her the Bodhisatta in emotion spoke the sixth verse:

5. “For sure, Yakkha, you know me well, to pity me you deign:
If you see me do the like offence, pray speak to me again.”

Then the Devadhītā spoke to him the seventh verse:

7. “I am not here to serve you, no hireling folk are we:
Find, monk, for yourself the path to reach felicity.” [3.193] {3.310}

So exhorting him she entered her own abode. The Bodhisatta entered on the Absorptions and was reborn in the Brahmā Realm.

The lesson ended, the Teacher declared the Truths, and identified the Jātaka, at the end of the Truths, the monk was established in the fruit of the First Path. “At that time the Devadhītā was Uppalavaṇṇā, the ascetic myself.”