Ja 409 Daḷhadhammajātaka
The Story about (King) Daḷhadhamma (7s)
In the present one elephant has grown old and the king now neglects her past service, until the Buddha reminds him of it. The Buddha then tells a similar story from the past, and how a war elephant was later used to pull a dung cart. The Bodhisatta admonished the king to remember service done and treat her with respect.
The Bodhisatta = the minister (amacca),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā),
(the female elephant) Bhaddavatikā = the elephant (oṭṭhibyādhi).
Keywords: Gratitude, Service, Animals.
“I carried for the king.”
The Teacher said: “Go you, I will speak to the king and get your old honour restored,” and he went to the door of the king’s dwelling. The king made Buddha enter, and gave great entertainment in the palace to the assembly of monks following Buddha. When the meal was over, the Teacher gave thanks to the king and asked, “O king, where is Bhaddavatikā?” “Lord, I know not.” “O king, after giving honour to servants, it is not right to take it away in their old age, it is right to be grateful and thankful; Bhaddavatikā is now old, she is worn with age and unprotected, and she lives by eating ketaka fruit in the wood; it is not meet for you to leave her unprotected in her old age,” so telling Bhaddavatikā’s merits and saying: “Restore all her former honours,”
This became known in the assembly of the monks, and the monks discussed it in their meeting. The Teacher, coming and hearing that this was their subject, said: “Monks, this is not the first time that the Buddha has by telling her merits got her former honours restored,” and he told a story of the past.
In the past there was a king named Daḷhadhamma reigning in Benares. At that time the Bodhisatta was born in a minister’s family, and when he grew up he served the king. He received much honour from the king, and stood in the place of the most valued minister. The king had a certain female elephant, Morris, Journal of the Pali Text Society for 1887, p. 150: but possibly the word means female camel. endowed with might and very strong. She went a hundred leagues in one day, she did the duties of messenger
Then when she was weak from age the king took away all her honour. From that time she was unprotected and lived by eating grass and leaves in the forest. Then one day when the vessels in the king’s court were not sufficient, the king sent for a potter, and said: “The vessels are not sufficient.” “O king, I have no oxen to yoke in carts to bring cow-dung (for baking clay).” The king hearing this tale said: “Where is our female elephant?” “O king, she is wandering at her own will.” The king gave her to the potter, saying: “Henceforth do you yoke her and bring cow-dung.” The potter said: “Good, O king,” and did so.
Then one day she, coming out of the city, saw the Bodhisatta coming in, and falling at his feet, she said, lamenting, “Lord, the king in my youth considered me very serviceable and gave me great honour;
1. “I carried for the king of old; was he not satisfied?
With weapons at my breast I faced the fight with mighty stride.
2. My feats in battle done of old does not the king forget,
And such good services I did for couriers as were set?
3. Helpless and kinless now am I; surely my death is near,
To serve a potter when I’m come as his dung-carrier.”
The Bodhisatta, hearing her tale, comforted her, saying: “Grieve not, I will tell the king and restore your honour,” so entering the city, he went to the king after his morning meal and took up the talk, saying: “Great king, did not a female elephant, named so and so, enter battle at such and such places with weapons bound on her breast, and on such a day with a writing on her neck did she not go a hundred leagues on a message? You gave her great honour; where is she now?” “I gave her to a potter for carrying dung.” Then the Bodhisatta said: “Is it right, great king, for you to give her to a potter to be yoked in a cart?” And for admonition he spoke four verses;
4. “By selfish hopes men regulate the honours that they pay;
As you the elephant, they throw the outworn slave away.
5. Good deeds and services received whenever men forget,
Ruin pursues the business still on which their hearts are set.
6. Good deeds and services received if men do not forget,
Success attends the business still on which their hearts are set.
7. To all the multitude around this blessed truth I tell;
Be grateful all, and for reward you long in heaven shall dwell.”
With this beginning the Bodhisatta gave instruction to all gathered there. Hearing this the king gave the old elephant her former honour, and established in the Bodhisatta’s instruction gave alms and did works of merit and became destined for heaven.
After the lesson, the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “At that time the female elephant was Bhaddavatikā, the king Ānanda, the minister was I myself.”
last updated: November 2021