Book VII. Sattanipāta
The Section with Seven Verses

Ja 396 Kukkujātaka
The Story about (One and a Half) Cubit (Peak) (7s)

In the present the Buddha admonishes the king of Kosala that he should rule righteously, and all will be well with the kingdom. He then tells a story of how a wise minister once used skilful parables to guide a king who had gone astray.

The Bodhisatta = the wise minister (paṇḍitāmacca),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā).

Present Source: Ja 521 Tesakuṇa,
Quoted at: Ja 334 Rājovāda, Ja 396 Kukku, Ja 520 Gaṇḍatindu.

Keywords: Justice, Virtue.

“The peak’s a cubit.” [3.197] {3.317} – The Teacher told this while dwelling in Jetavana, concerning the admonition of a king. The occasion will appear in the Tesakuṇajātaka [Ja 521].

This story the Teacher, while dwelling at Jetavana, told by way of admonition to the king of Kosala. Now this king came to hear the preaching of the Dhamma and the Teacher addressed him in the following terms, “A king, sire, ought to rule his kingdom righteously, for whenever kings are unrighteous, then also are his officers unrighteous.” And admonishing him in the right way as related in the Catukkanipāta [Ja 334] he pointed out the suffering and the blessing involved in following or abstaining from evil courses, and expounded in detail the misery resulting from sensual pleasures, comparing them to dreams and the like, saying: “In the case of these men,

No bribe can move relentless death, no kindness mollify,
No one in fight can vanquish death. For all are doomed to die.

And when they depart to another world, except their own virtuous action they have no other sure refuge, so that they must inevitably forsake low associations, and for their reputation’s sake they must not be careless, but be earnest and exercise rule in righteousness, even as kings of old, before Buddha arose, abiding in the admonition of the wise, ruled righteously and departing attained to the heavenly city,” and at the request of the king he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was his councillor in things temporal and spiritual. The king was set on the way of the evil courses, ruled his kingdom unrighteously and collected wealth by oppressing the people. The Bodhisatta wishing to admonish him went about looking for a parable. Now the king’s bedchamber was unfinished and the roof was not complete upon it; the rafters supported a peak but were only just set in position. The king had gone and taken his pleasure in the park; when he came to his house he looked up and saw the round peak, fearing it would fall upon him he went and stood outside, then looking up again he thought: “How is that peak resting so? And how are the rafters?” and asking the Bodhisatta he spoke the first verse; {3.318}

1. “The peak’s a cubit and a half in height,
Eight spans will compass it in circuit round,
Of siṁsapa and sāra built aright;
Why does it stand so sound?”

Hearing him the Bodhisatta thought: “I have now got a parable to admonish the king,” and spoke these verses;

2. “The thirty rafters bent, of sāra wood,
Set equally, encompass it around,
They press it tightly, for their hold is good;
’Tis set aright and sound. [3.198]

3. So is the wise man, girt by faithful friends,
By steadfast counsellors and pure;
Never from height of fortune he descends,
As rafters hold the peak secure.” {3.319}

While the Bodhisatta was speaking, the king considered his own conduct, “If there is no peak, the rafters do not stand fast; the peak does not stand if not held by the rafters; if the rafters break, the peak falls; and even so a bad king, not holding together his friends and ministers, his armies, his brahmins and householders, if these break up, is not held by them but falls from his power; a king must be righteous.”

At that instant they brought him a citron as a present. The king said to the Bodhisatta, “Friend, eat this citron.” The Bodhisatta took it and said: “O king, people who know not how to eat this make it bitter or acid; but wise men who know take away the bitter, and without removing the acid or spoiling the citron-flavour they eat it,” and by this parable he showed the king the means of collecting wealth, and spoke two verses;

4. “The rough-skinned citron bitter is to eat,
If it remain untouched by carver’s steel;
Take but the pulp, O king, and it is sweet;
You spoil the sweetness if you add the peel.

5. Even so the wise man without violence,
Gathers king’s dues in village and in town,
Increases wealth, and yet gives no offence;
He walks the way of right and of renown.” {3.320}

The king taking counsel with the Bodhisatta went to a lotus-tank, and seeing a lotus in flower, with a hue like the new-risen sun, not defiled by the water, he said: “Friend, that lotus grown in the water stands undefiled by the water.” Then the Bodhisatta said: “O king, so should a king be,” and spoke these verses in admonition;

6. “Like the lotus in the pool,
White roots, waters pure, sustain it;
In the sun’s face flowering full,
Dust nor mud nor wet can stain it.

7. So the man whom virtues rule,
Meek and pure and good we style him;
Like the lotus in the pool
Stain of wrong cannot defile him.” {3.321}

The king hearing the Bodhisatta’s admonition afterwards ruled his kingdom righteously, and doing good actions, generosity and the rest, became destined for heaven.

After the lesson, the Teacher declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, “At that time the king was Ānanda, the wise minister myself.”