Ja 408 Kumbhakārajātaka
The Story about the Potter (7s)

In the present some monks harbor wrong thoughts. The Buddha tells a story of four kings who from reading the signs gave up their kingdoms and became Paccekabuddhas, of a potter who entertained them, and how his wife ordained, and after raising his children he did so too.

The Bodhisatta = the wanderer (paribbājaka),
Rāhulamātā = the female wanderer (paribbājikā),
Rāhula = their son (putta),
Uppalavaṇṇā = their daughter (dhītā).

Present Source: Ja 408 Kumbhakāra,
Quoted at: Ja 370 Palāsa, Ja 412 Koṭisimbali, Ja 459 Pānīya,
Present Compare: Ja 305 Sīlavīmaṁsana.

Keywords: Wrong thoughts, Renunciation, Paccekabuddhas.

“A mango in a forest.” [3.228] The Teacher told this when dwelling in Jetavana, concerning overcoming wrong. The occasion will appear in the Pānīyajātaka [Ja 459]. [But that Jātaka refers us to this one for the details!] At that time in Sāvatthi five hundred friends, who had become ascetics, dwelling in the House of the Golden Pavement, had lustful thoughts at midnight. The Teacher regards his disciples three times a night and three times a day, six times every night and day, as a jay guards her egg, or a yak-cow her tail, or a mother her beloved son, or a one-eyed man his remaining eye; so in the very instant he overcame wrong which was beginning. He was observing Jetavana on that midnight and knowing the monks’ conduct and their thoughts, he considered, “This wrong among these monks if it grows will destroy the foundation for becoming an Arahat. I will this moment repudiate this wrong and show them how to become an Arahat,” so leaving the perfumed chamber he called Ānanda, {3.376} and bidding him collect all the monks dwelling in the place, he got them together and sat down on the seat prepared for Buddha. He said: “Monks, it is not right to live in the power of defiled thoughts; a wrong if it grows brings great ruin like an enemy; a monk ought to rebuke even a little wrong; wise men of old seeing even a very slight cause, rebuked a defiled thought that had begun and so became Paccekabuddhas,” and so he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a potter’s family in a suburb of Benares; when he grew up he became a householder, had a son and daughter, and supported his wife and children by his potter’s handicraft. At that time in the Kaliṅga kingdom, in the city of Dantapura, the king named Karaṇḍu, going to his garden with a great retinue, saw at the garden-gate a mango tree laden with sweet fruit; he stretched out his hand from his seat on the elephant and seized a bunch of mangoes; then entering the garden he sat on the royal seat and ate a mango, giving some to those worthy of favours. From the time when the king took one, ministers, brahmins, and householders, thinking that others should also do so, took down and ate mangoes from that tree. Coming again and again they climbed the tree, and beating it with clubs and breaking the branches down and off, they ate the fruit, not leaving even the unripe.

The king amused himself in the garden for the day, and at evening as he came by on the royal elephant he dismounted on seeing the tree, and going to its root he looked up and thought: “In the morning this tree stood beautiful with its burden of fruit and those who gazed upon it could not be satisfied; now it stands not beautiful with its fruit broken down and off.” Again looking from another place [3.229] he saw another mango tree barren, and thought: “This mango tree stands beautiful in its barrenness like a bare mountain of jewels; the other from its fruitfulness {3.377} fell into misfortune; the householder’s life is like a fruitful tree, the ascetic life like a barren tree; the wealthy have fear, the poor have no fear; I too would be like the barren tree.” So taking the fruit tree as his subject, he stood at the root; and considering the three signs Impermanence, suffering, unreality. and perfecting spiritual insight, he became a Paccekabuddha, and reflecting, “The envelope of the womb is now fallen from me, rebirth in the three existences is ended, the filth of transmigration is cleansed, the ocean of tears dried up, the wall of bones broken down, there is no more rebirth for me,” he stood as if adorned with every ornament.

Then his ministers said: “You stand too long, O great king.” “I am not a king, I am a Paccekabuddha.” “Paccekabuddhas are not like you, O king.” “Then what are they like?” “Their hair and beards are shaved, they are dressed in yellow robes, they are not attached to family or tribe, they are like clouds torn by wind or the moon’s orb freed from Rāhu, and they dwell in the Himālayas in the Nandamūla cave; such, O king, are the Paccekabuddhas.” At that moment the king threw up his hand and touched his head, and instantly the marks of a householder disappeared, and the marks of a monastic came into view,

Three robes, bowl, razor, needles, strainer, belt,
A pious monk those eight marks should own,

the requisites, as they are called, of a monastic became attached to his body. Standing in the air he preached to the multitude, and then went through the sky to the mountain cave Nandamūla in the Upper Himālayas.

In the kingdom of Kandahar in the city Taxila, the king named Naggaji on a terrace, in the middle of a royal couch, saw a woman who had put a jewelled bracelet on each hand and was grinding perfume as she sat near; he thought: “These jewelled bracelets do not rub or jingle when separate,” and so sat watching. Then she, putting the bracelet from the right hand {3.378} on the left hand and collecting perfume with the right, began to grind it. The bracelet on the left hand rubbing against the other made a noise. The king observed that these two bracelets made a sound when rubbing against each other, and he thought: “That bracelet when separate touched nothing, it now touches the second and makes a noise; just so living beings when separate do not touch or make a noise, when they become two or three they rub against each other and make a din; now I rule the inhabitants in the two kingdoms of Kashmir and Kandahar, and I too ought to dwell like the single bracelet ruling myself and not ruling another,” so making the rubbing of the bracelets his topic, seated as he [3.230] was, he realised the three characteristics, attained spiritual insight, and became a Paccekabuddha. Standing in the air he preached to the multitude, and then went through the sky to the mountain cave Nandamūla in the Upper Himālayas.

In the kingdom of Videha, in the city of Mithila, the king, named Nimi, after breakfast, surrounded by his ministers, stood looking down at the street through an open window of the palace. A hawk, having taken some meat from the meat-market, was flying up into the air. Some vultures or other birds, surrounding the hawk on each side, went on pecking it with their beaks, striking it with their wings and beating it with their feet, for the sake of the meat. Not enduring to be killed, the hawk dropped the flesh, another bird took it; the rest leaving the hawk fell on the other; when he relinquished it, a third took it; and they pecked him also in the same way. The king seeing those birds thought: “Whoever took the flesh, sorrow befell him; whoever relinquished it, happiness befell him; whoever takes the five pleasures of sense, sorrow befalls him, happiness the other man; these are common to many; now I have sixteen thousand women; I ought to live in happiness leaving the five pleasures of sense, as the hawk relinquishing the morsel of flesh.” Considering this wisely, {3.379} standing as he was, he realised the three characteristics, attained spiritual insight, and became a wise Paccekabuddha. Standing in the air he preached to the multitude, and then went through the sky to the mountain cave Nandamūla in the Upper Himālayas.

In the kingdom of Uttarapañcāla, in the city of Kampilla, the king, named Dummukha, after breakfast, with all his ornaments and surrounded by his ministers, stood looking down on the palace-yard from an open window. At the instant they opened the door of a cow-pen; the bulls coming from the pen set upon one cow in lust; and one great bull with sharp horns seeing another bull coming, possessed by the jealousy of lust, struck him in the thigh with his sharp horns. By the force of the blow his entrails came out, and so he died. The king seeing this thought: “Living beings from the state of beasts upwards become sorrowful from the power of lust; this bull through lust has reached death; other beings also are disturbed by lust; I ought to abandon the sensual desires that disturb those beings,” and so standing as he was he realised the three characteristics, attained spiritual insight and became a wise Paccekabuddha. Standing in the air he preached to the multitude, and then went through the sky to the mountain cave Nandamūla in the Upper Himālayas

Then one day those four Paccekabuddhas, considering that it was time for their rounds, left the Nandamūla cave, having cleansed their teeth by chewing betel in the Lake Anotatta, and having attended to their needs in Manosilā, they took the bowl and robe, and by Supernormal Powers flying in the air, and treading on clouds of the five colours, they alighted not far from a suburb of Benares. In a convenient spot they put on the robes, took the bowl, and entering the suburb they went the rounds for alms till they came to the Bodhisatta’s house-door. The Bodhisatta seeing them was delighted and making them enter his house he made them sit on a seat prepared, he respectfully [3.231] gave them water and served them with excellent food, hard and soft. Then sitting on one side he saluted the eldest of them, saying: “Sir, your ascetic life appears very beautiful; your senses are very calm, your complexion is very clear; what topic of thought {3.380} made you take to the ascetic life and ordination?” and as he asked the eldest of them, so also he came up to the others and he asked them also. Then those four saying: “I was so and so, king of such and such a city, in such and such a kingdom,” and so on, in that way each told the causes of his retiring from the world and spoke one verse each in order;

1. “A mango in a forest did I see
Full-grown, and dark, fruitful exceedingly;
And for its fruit those men did the tree break,
’Twas this inclined my heart the bowl to take.”

2. “A bracelet, polished by a hand renowned,
A woman wore on each wrist without sound;
One touched the other and a noise did wake;
’Twas this inclined my heart the bowl to take.”

3. “Birds in a flock a bird unfriended tore,
Who all alone a lump of carrion bore;
The bird was smitten for the carrion’s sake
’Twas this inclined my heart the bowl to take.”

4. “A bull in pride among his fellows paced;
High rose his back, with strength and beauty graced;
From lust he died; a horn his wound did make;
’Twas this inclined my heart the bowl to take.” {3.381}

The Bodhisatta, hearing each verse, said: “Good, sir; your topic is suitable,” and so commended each Paccekabuddha; and having listened to the discourse delivered by those four, he became disinclined to a householder’s life. When the Paccekabuddhas went away, after breakfast seated at his ease, he called his wife and said: “Wife, those four Paccekabuddhas left kingdoms to be monks and now live without wrong, without hindrance, in the bliss of the ascetic life; while I make a livelihood by earnings; what have I to do with a householder’s life? Do you take the children and stay in the house,” and he spoke two verses;

5. “Kaliṅga’s king Karaṇḍu, Gandhāra’s Naggaji,
Pañcāla’s ruler Dummukha, Videha’s great Nimi,
Have left their thrones and live the monastic life sinlessly.

6. Here their godlike forms they show
Each one like a blazing fire;
Bhaggavi, I too will go,
Leaving all that men desire.” {3.382}

Hearing his words she said: “Husband, ever since I heard the discourse of the Paccekabuddhas I too have no happiness in the house,” and she spoke a verse: [3.232]

7. “ ’Tis the appointed time, I know;
Better teachers may not be;
Bhaggava, I too will go,
Like a bird from hand set free.”

The Bodhisatta hearing her words was silent. She was deceiving the Bodhisatta, as she was anxious to take the ascetic life before him; so she said: “Husband, I am going to the water-tank, do you look after the children,” and taking a pot as if she had been going there, she went away and coming to the ascetics outside the town she was ordained by them.

The Bodhisatta finding that she did not return attended to the children himself. Afterwards when they grew up a little and could understand for themselves, in order to teach them, {3.383} when cooking rice he would cook one day a little hard and raw, one day a little underdone, one day well-cooked, one day sodden, one day without salt, another with too much. The children said: “Father, the rice today is not-boiled, today it is sodden, today well cooked; today it is without salt, today it has too much salt.” The Bodhisatta said: “Yes, dears,” and thought: “These children now know what is raw and what is cooked, what has salt and what has none; they will be able to live in their own way; I ought to become ordained.” Then showing them to their kinsfolk he was ordained to the ascetic life, and dwelt outside the city. Then one day the female ascetic begging in Benares saw him and saluted him, saying: “Sir, I believe you killed the children.” The Bodhisatta said: “I don’t kill children; when they could understand for themselves I became ordained; you were careless of them and pleased yourself by being ordained,” and so he spoke the last verse:

8. “Having seen they could distinguish salt from saltless, boiled from raw,
I became a monk; leave me, we can each follow the law.”

So exhorting the female ascetic he took leave of her. She taking the exhortation saluted the Bodhisatta and went to a place that pleased her. After that day they never saw each other. The Bodhisatta reaching supernatural knowledge became destined to the Brahmā Realm.

After the lesson, the Teacher declared the Truths, and identified the Jātaka, After the Truths five hundred monks became Arahats. “At that time the daughter was Uppalavaṇṇā, the son was Rāhula, the female ascetic Rāhula’s mother, and the ascetic was myself.”