Ja 418 Aṭṭhasaddajātaka
The Story about Eight Sounds (8s)
In the present the king of Kosala hears the cries during the night and is worried what they mean. His brahmins tell him that he needs to give a large animal sacrifice to ward of danger. The Buddha tells of a similar event in a past life, and how he had explained them to the king, and had all the animals released.
The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Sāriputta = the brahmin student (māṇava),
Ānanda = the king (of Benares) (rājā).
Keywords: Fear, Sacrifice, Animals.
“A pool so deep.” The Teacher told this tale while dwelling in Jetavana, concerning an indistinguishable terrific sound heard at midnight by the king of Kosala. The occasion is like that already described in the Lohakumbhijātaka [Ja 314].
The king of Kosala of those days, they say, one night heard a cry uttered by four inhabitants of hell – the syllables du, sa, na, so, one from each of the four. In a previous existence, tradition says, they had been princes in Sāvatthi, and had been guilty of adultery. After misconducting themselves with their neighbours’ wives, however carefully guarded they might be, and indulging their amorous propensities, their evil life had been cut short by the Wheel of Death, near Sāvatthi. They came to life again in Four Iron Cauldrons. After being tortured for sixty thousand years they had come up to the top, and on seeing the edge of the Cauldron’s mouth they thought to themselves, “When shall we escape from this misery?” And then all four uttered a loud cry, one after another. The king was terrified to death at the noise, and sat waiting for break of day, unable to stir.
At dawn the brahmins came and inquired after his health. The king replied, “How, my masters, can I be well, who today have heard four such terrible cries.” The brahmins waved their hands. “What is it, my masters?” said the king. The brahmins assure him that the sounds are ominous of great violence. “Do they admit of remedy, or not?” said the king. “You might say not,” said the brahmins, “but we are well-trained in these matters, sire.” “By what means,” said the king, “will you avert these evils?” “Sire,” they replied, “there is one great remedy in our power, and by offering the fourfold sacrifice of every living creature we will avert all evil.” “Then be quick,” said the king, “and take all living creatures by fours – men, bulls, horses, elephants, down to quails and other birds – and by this fourfold sacrifice restore my peace of mind.” The brahmins consented, and taking whatever they required, they dug a sacrificial pit and fastened their numerous victims to their stakes, and were highly excited at the thought of the dainties they were to eat, and the wealth they would gain, and went about backwards and forwards, saying: “Sir, I must have so and so.”
The queen Mallikā came and asked the king, why the brahmins went about so delighted and smiling. The king said: “My queen, what have you to do with this? You are intoxicated with your own glory, and you do not know how wretched I am.” “How so, sire?” she replied. “I have heard such awful noises, my queen, and when I asked the brahmins what would be the result of my hearing these cries, they told me I was threatened with danger to my kingdom or my property or my life, but by offering the fourfold sacrifice they would restore my peace of mind, and now in obedience to my command, they have dug a sacrificial pit and are gone to fetch whatever victims they require.” The queen said: “Have you, my lord, consulted the chief brahmin in the Deva world as to the origin of these cries?” “Who, lady,” said the king, “is the chief brahmin in the Deva world?” “The Great Gotama,” she replied, “the Supreme Buddha.” “Lady,” he said: “I have not consulted the Supreme Buddha.” “Then go,” she answered, “and consult him.”
The king hearkened to the words of the queen and after his morning meal he mounted his state chariot and drove to Jetavana. Here after saluting the Teacher he thus addressed him, “Venerable sir, in the night season I heard four cries and consulted the brahmins about it. They undertook to restore my peace of mind, by the fourfold sacrifice of every kind of victim, and are now busy preparing a sacrificial pit.”
At this time however, when the king said: “Lord, what does the hearing of these sounds import to me?” the Teacher answered, “Great king, be not afraid, no danger shall befall you owing to these sounds, such terrible indistinguishable
In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin family worth eighty crores. When he grew up he learned the arts at Taxila. After his parents’ death he reviewed all their treasures, got rid of all his wealth by way of generosity, forsook desires, went to the Himālayas and became an ascetic and entered on the Absorptions and Super Knowledges. After a time he came to the haunts of men for salt and vinegar, and reaching Benares dwelt in a garden.
At that time the king of Benares when seated on his royal bed at midnight heard eight sounds, first, a crane made a noise in a garden near the palace; second, immediately after the crane, a female crow made a noise from the gateway of the elephant-house;
The king was terrified at hearing these eight sounds, and next day consulted the brahmins. The brahmins said: “Great king, there is danger for you, let us offer sacrifice out of the palace,” and getting his leave to do their pleasure, they came in joy and delight and began the work of sacrifice. Now a young pupil of the oldest sacrificial brahmin was wise and learned, he said to his master, “Teacher, do not cause such a harsh and cruel slaughter of so many creatures.” “Pupil, what do you know about it? Even if nothing else happens, we shall get much fish and flesh to eat.” “Teacher, do not, for the belly’s sake, an action which will cause rebirth in hell.” Hearing this, the other brahmins were angry with the pupil for endangering their gains. The pupil in fear said: “Very well, devise a means then of getting fish and flesh to eat,” and left the city looking for some pious ascetic able to prevent the king from sacrificing.
He entered the royal garden and seeing the Bodhisatta, he saluted him and said: “Have you no compassion for creatures? The king has ordered a sacrifice which will bring death on many creatures, ought you not to bring about the release of such a multitude?” “Young brahmin, I do not know the king of this land, nor he me.” “Sir, do you know what will be the consequence of those sounds the king heard?” “I do.” “If you know,
The young brahmin went swiftly to the king’s court, and when he was asked his business, he said: “Great king, a certain ascetic knows the issue of those sounds you heard, he is sitting on the royal seat in your garden, and says he will tell you if you ask him, you should do so.” The king went swiftly, saluted the ascetic, and after friendly greeting he sat down and asked, “Is it true that you know the issue of the sounds I have heard?” “Yes, great king.” “Then pray tell me.” “Great king, there is no danger connected with those sounds, there is a certain crane in your old garden; it was without food, and half dead with hunger made the first sound,” and so by his knowledge giving precisely the crane’s meaning he uttered the first verse:
1. “A pool so deep and full of fish they called this place of yore,
The crane-king’s residence it was, my ancestors’ before,
And though we live on frogs today, we never leave its shore.”
“That, great king, was the sound the crane made in the pangs of hunger, if you wish to set it free from hunger, have the garden cleaned and fill the tank with water.” The king told a minister to have this done.
“Great king, there is a female crow who lives in the doorway of your elephant house, she made the second sound, grieving for her son, you need have no fear from it,” and so he uttered the second verse:
2. “Oh! Who of wicked Bandhura? The single eye will rend
My nest, my nestlings and myself, oh! who will now befriend?”
Then he asked the king for the name of the chief groom in the elephant-house. “His name, sir, is Bandhura.” “Has he only one eye, O king?” “Yes, sir.” “Great king, a certain crow has built her nest over the doorway of your elephant-house; there she laid her eggs, there her young in due time were hatched, every time the groom enters or leaves the stable on his elephant, he strikes with his hook at the crow and her nestlings, and destroys the nest, the crow in distress wishes to tear his eye and spoke as she did. If you are well-disposed to her, send for Bandhura and prevent him from destroying the nest.” The king sent for him, rebuked and removed him, and gave the elephant to another.
“On the peak of your palace-roof, great king, there is a wood-insect; it had eaten all the fig-wood there and could not eat the harder wood, lacking food and unable to get away, it made the third sound in lamentation, you need have no fear from it,” and so by his knowledge giving precisely the insect’s meaning he spoke the third verse:
3. “I’ve eaten all the fig-wood round as far as it would go,
Hard wood a weevil likes it not, though other food runs low.”
The king sent a servant and by some means had the weevil set free.
“In your habitation, great king, is there a certain tame cuckoo?” “There is, sir.” “Great king, that cuckoo was pining for the forest when it remembered its former life, “How can I leave this cage, and go to my dear forest?” and so made the fourth sound, you need have no fear from it,” and so he spoke the fourth verse:
4. “Oh to leave this royal dwelling! Oh to gain my liberty,
Glad at heart to roam the wood, and build my nest upon the tree.”
So saying, he added, “The cuckoo is pining, great king, set her free.” The king did so.
“Great king, is there a tame deer in your habitation?” “There is, sir.” “He was chief of the herd, remembering his hind and pining for love of her he made the fifth sound, you need have no fear from it,” and he spoke the fifth verse:
5. “Oh to leave this royal dwelling! Oh to gain my liberty,
Drink pure water of the fountain, lead the herd that followed me!”
The Great Being caused this deer too to be set free and went on, “Great king, is there a tame monkey in your habitation?” “There is, sir.” “He was chief of a herd in the Himālayas, and he was fond of the society of female monkeys, he was brought here by a hunter named Bharata, pining and longing for his old haunts he made the sixth sound, you need have no fear from it,” and he spoke the sixth verse:
6. “Filled and stained was I with passions, with desire infatuate,
Bharata the hunter took me; may I bring you happy fate!”
The Great Being caused the monkey too to be set free, and went on, “Great king, is there a Kinnara living in your habitation?” “There is, sir.” “He is thinking of what he did with his wife
7. “When the darkness gathered thickly on the mountain summit lone,
Stumble not, she gently warned me, with your foot against a stone.”
So the Great Being explained why the Kinnara had made the sound, and caused him to be set free, and went on, “Great king, there was an eighth sound, an exalted utterance. A certain Paccekabuddha in the Nandamūla cave knowing that the conditions of life were now at an end for him came to
8. “Surely I see the end of birth,
I ne’er again the womb shall see,
My last existence on the earth
Is o’er, and all its misery.”
With this exalted utterance he reached your park and passed into Nibbāna at the foot of a Sāl tree in full flower, come, great king, and perform his funeral rites.” So the Great Being took the king to the place where the Paccekabuddha entered into Nibbāna and showed him the body. Seeing the body, the king with a great army paid honour with perfumes and flowers and the like. By the Bodhisatta’s advice he stopped the sacrifice, gave all the creatures their lives, made proclamation by drum through the city that there should be no slaughter, caused sacred festival to be held for seven days, had the Paccekabuddha’s body burnt with great honour on a pyre heaped with perfumes and made a stūpa where four high roads meet. The Bodhisatta preached Dhamma to the king and exhorted him to diligence, then he went to the Himālayas and there did meditate on the Divine Abidings, [Brahmavihāra: mettā, karuṇā, muditā, upekkhā.] and without a break in his Absorption became destined for the Brahmā Realm.
After the lesson, the Teacher said: “Great king, there is no danger at all to you from that sound, stop the sacrifice and give all these creatures their lives,” and having caused proclamation to be made by drum that their lives were spared, he identified the Jātaka, “At that time the king was Ānanda, the pupil was Sāriputta, and the ascetic was myself.”
last updated: November 2021