Ja 403 Aṭṭhisenajātaka
The Story about (the Brahmin) Aṭṭhisena (7s)

Alternative Title: Aṭṭhisenajātaka (Cst)

In the present the monks go round importuning people to give them workers and goods for the huts they are building. The Buddha reproves them and tells a story of an ascetic of old who, even when offered a kingdom refused it, as he did an offer of kine, as ascetics have no need of these things.

The Bodhisatta = (the brahmin) Aṭṭhisena,
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā).

Present Source: Ja 253 Maṇikaṇṭha,
Quoted at: Ja 323 Brahmadatta, Ja 403 Aṭṭhisena,
Present Compare: Vin Sd 6 (3.144),
Past Compare: Mvu iii p 541 Asthisena.

Keywords: Asceticism, Modesty. Contentment.

“Aṭṭhisena, many beggars.” [3.216] The Teacher told this when dwelling in the shrine called Aggāḷava near Āḷavi, concerning the regulations for the building of cells. See above, p. 52. The occasion was told in the Maṇikaṇṭhajātaka [Ja 253] above.

Some monks who lived in Āḷavī were begging from all quarters the materials for houses which they were getting made for themselves. They were for ever asking, “Give us a man, give us somebody to do servant’s work,” and so forth. Everybody was annoyed at this begging and solicitation. So much annoyed were they, that at sight of these monks they were startled and scared away.

It happened that the venerable monk Mahākassapa entered Āḷavī, and traversed the place in quest of alms. The people, as soon as they saw the elder, ran away as before. After mealtime, having returned from his rounds, he summoned the monks, and thus addressed them, “Once Āḷavī was a good place for alms; why is it so poor now?” They told him the reason.

Now the Fortunate One was at the time dwelling at the Aggāḷava shrine. The elder came to the Fortunate One, and told him all about it. The Teacher convened the monks touching this matter. “I hear,” said he, “that you are building houses and worrying everybody for help. Is this true?” They said it was.

The Teacher addressed the monks, saying: “Monks, formerly {3.352} before Buddha was born in the world, monastics of other dispensations, even though offered their choice by kings, never asked for alms, holding that begging from others was not agreeable or pleasant,” and so he told a story of the past time.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin household in a certain village, and they called his name young Aṭṭhisena. When he grew up, he learned all the arts at Taxila, and afterwards seeing the misery of desires he took the ascetic life, and reaching the Absorptions, Super Knowledges and Attainments, he dwelt long in the Himālayas; then coming down among men to get salt and vinegar, he reached Benares, and after staying in a garden he came for alms the next day to the king’s court. The king, being pleased with his bearing and manner, sent for him, and sat him on a seat on the terrace, giving him good food; then receiving his thanks he was pleased, and exacting a promise, made the Bodhisatta dwell in the royal garden, and went to wait on him two or three times each day.

One day, being pleased with his preaching of the Dhamma, he gave him a choice, saying: “Tell me whatever you desire, beginning from my kingdom.” The Bodhisatta did not say, “Give me so and so.” Others ask for whatever they desire, saying: “Give me this,” and the king gives it, if not attached to it. One day the king thought: “Other suitors and mendicants ask me to give them so and so; but the noble Aṭṭhisena, ever since I offered him a choice, asks for nothing; he is wise and has skill in means; I will ask him.” So one day after the early meal he sat on one side, and asking him as to the cause of other men’s making suits and his own making none, he spoke the first verse:

1. “Aṭṭhisena, many beggars, though they’re strangers utterly,
Throng to me with their petitions; why have you no suit for me?” [3.217] {3.353}

Hearing him the Bodhisatta spoke the second verse:

2. “Neither suitor, nor rejector of a suit, can pleasant be;
That’s the reason, be not angry, why I have no suit to thee.”

Hearing his words the king spoke three verses;

3. “He who lives by sueing, and has not at proper season sued,
Makes another fall from merit, fails to gain a livelihood.

4. He who lives by sueing, and has aye at proper season sued,
Makes another man win merit, gains himself a livelihood.

5. Men of wisdom are not angry when they see the suitors throng;
Speak, my holy friend; the boon you ask for can never be wrong.” {3.354}

So the Bodhisatta, even though given the choice of the kingdom, made no suit. When the king’s wish had been so expressed, the Bodhisatta to show him the ascetics’ way said: “O great king, these suits are preferred by men of worldly desires and householders, not by ascetics; from their ordination ascetics must have a pure life unlike a householder,” and so showing the ascetics’ way, he spoke the sixth verse:

6. “Sages never make petitions, worthy laymen ought to know;
Silent stands the noble suitor; sages make petition so.” {3.355}

The king hearing the Bodhisatta’s words said: “Sir, if a wise attendant of his own knowledge gives what ought to be given to his friend, so I give to you such and such a thing,” and so he spoke the seventh verse:

7. “Brahmin, I offer you a thousand kine,
Red kine, and eke the leader of the herd;
Hearing but now those generous deeds of thine,
I too in turn to generous deeds am stirred.”

When he said this, the Bodhisatta refused, saying: “Great king, I took the ascetic life free from defilement; I have no need of cows.” The king abode by his admonition; doing alms and other good works he became destined for heaven, and not falling away from his meditation, was reborn in the Brahmā Realm.

After the lesson, the Teacher declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, After the Truths many were established in the fruition of the First Path. “At that time the king was Ānanda, Aṭṭhisena was myself.”