Ja 414 Jāgarajātaka
The Story about being Wakeful (7s)
In the present a virtuous layman spends the night in walking meditation and saves the caravan he is with from thieves. The Buddha tells a story of an ascetic and his conversation about wakefulness, and its true meaning.
The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Uppalavaṇṇā = Devatā.
Keywords: Wakefulness, Vigilance, Devas.
“Who is it that wakes.”
The lay brother practised walking meditation at the root of a tree near the leader of the caravan. Five hundred robbers planned to plunder the caravan; with various weapons in their hands they surrounded it and waited. Seeing the lay brother at his walk they stood waiting to begin plundering when he should go to sleep. He went on walking all night.
At dawn the robbers threw away the sticks and stones and other weapons they had picked up; they went away, saying: “Master caravan-leader, you are owner of your property because you have got your life owing to that man who keeps awake so diligently; you should pay honour to him.” The caravan men rising betimes saw the stones and other things thrown away by the robbers and gave honour to the lay brother, recognising that they owed their lives to him. The lay brother went to his destination and did his business; then he returned to Sāvatthi and went on to Jetavana; there he saluted and did homage to the Tathāgata and sat at his feet, and on his invitation to declare himself, he told the tale. The Teacher said: “Lay brother, it is not you alone who have gained special merit by waking and watching, wise men of old did the same.” And so at the lay brother’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. When he grew up he learned all the arts at Taxila, and after returning lived as a householder. After a time he left his house and became an ascetic; soon he reached the Absorptions and Super Knowledges, and living in the Himālayas quarter in the standing and walking attitudes only, he walked all night without sleeping.
1. “Who is it that wakes when others sleep and sleeps while others wake?
Who is it can read my riddle, who to this will answer make?”
The Bodhisatta, hearing the Devatā’s voice, spoke this verse:
2. “I am he who wakes while others sleep, and sleeps while others wake.
I am he who can read your riddle, I to you can answer make.”
The Devatā put a question again in this verse:
3. “How is it you wake while others sleep, and sleep while others wake?
How is it you read my riddle, how this answer do you make?”
He explained the point;
4. “Some men forget that virtue lies in stern sobriety,
When such are sleeping I’m awake, O spirit of the tree.
5. Passion and vice and ignorance in some have ceased to be;
When such are waking then I sleep, Devatā of the tree.
6. So it is I wake while others sleep, and sleep while others wake;
So it is I read your riddle, so to you I answer make.”
When the Great Being gave this answer, the spirit was pleased and spoke the last verse in his praise;
7. “Good it is you wake while others sleep, and sleep while others wake;
Good your reading of my riddle, good the answer that you make.”
And so making the Bodhisatta’s praises, the spirit entered its abode in the tree.
After the lesson, the Teacher identified the Jātaka, “At that time, the Devatā was Uppalavaṇṇā, the ascetic was myself.”
last updated: November 2021