Ja 423 Indriyajātaka
The Story about the Senses (8s)

In the present one monk who ordains after his marriage gradually comes once again under his wife’s power. The Buddha tells how, in the past, he had been a great ascetic who had lost his powers till his master guided him back to the right path.

The Bodhisatta = (the ascetic) Sarabhaṅga (aka Jotipāla),
Moggallāna = (the ascetic) Kisavaccha,
Ānanda = (the ascetic) Anusissa,
Kaccāna = (the ascetic) Kāḷadevala,
Anuruddha = (the ascetic) Pabbata,
Kassapa = (the ascetic) Meṇḍissara,
Sāriputta = (the ascetic) Sālissara,
the dissatisfied monk = (the ascetic) Nārada,
his former wife = the beauty of the town (Nāgarasobhiṇī).

Quoted at: Ja 13 Kaṇḍinajātaka, Ja 145 Rādhajātaka, Ja 191 Ruhakajātaka, Ja 318 Kaṇaverajātaka, Ja 380 Āsaṅkajātaka, Ja 523 Alambusājātaka,
Past Compare: Ja 423 Indriya, Ja 522 Sarabhaṅga, Mvu iii p 460 Śarabhaṅga.

Keywords: Temptation, Perseverance.

“Who through desire.” The Teacher told this tale while dwelling in Jetavana, concerning temptation by the wife of one’s former days. The story is that a young man of good family at Sāvatthi heard the Teacher’s preaching, and thinking it impossible to lead a holy life, perfectly complete and pure, as a householder, he determined to become an ascetic in the dispensation which leads to safety and so make an end of misery. So he gave up his house and property to his wife and children, and asked the Teacher to ordain him. The Teacher did so. As he was the junior in his going about for alms with his teachers and instructors, and as the monks were many, he got no chair either in laymen’s houses or in the refectory, but only a stool or a bench at the end of the novices, his food was tossed him hastily on a ladle, he got gruel made of broken lumps of rice, solid food stale or decaying, or sprouts dried and burnt; and this was not enough to keep him alive. {3.462} He took what he had got to the wife he had left, she took his bowl, saluted him, emptied it and gave him instead well-cooked gruel and rice with sauce and curry.

The monk was captivated by the love of such flavours and could not leave his wife. She thought she would test his affection. One day she had a countryman cleansed with white clay and set down in her house with some others of his people whom she had sent for, and she gave them something to eat and drink. They sat eating and enjoying it. At the house-door she had some bullocks bound to wheels and a cart set ready. She herself sat in a back room cooking cakes. Her husband came and stood at the door. Seeing him, one old servant told his mistress that there was an elder at the door. “Salute him and bid him pass on.”

But though he did so repeatedly, he saw the monk remaining there and told his mistress. She came, and lifting up the curtain to see, she cried, “This is the father of my sons.” She came out and saluted him, taking his bowl and making him enter she gave him food, when he had eaten she saluted again and said: “Sir, you are a saint now, we have been staying in this house all this time; but there can be no proper householder’s life without a master, so we will take another house and go far into the country, be zealous in your good works, and forgive me if I am doing wrong.” For a time her husband was as if his heart would break. Then he said: “I cannot leave you, do not go, I will come back to my worldly life, send a layman’s garment to such and such a place, I will give up my bowl and robes and come back to you.” She agreed. The monk went to his monastery, and giving up his bowl and robes to his teachers and instructors he explained, in answer to their questions, that he could not leave his wife and was going back to worldly life.

Against his will they took him to the Teacher and told him that he was discontent and wished to go back to worldly life. The Teacher said: “Is this tale true?” “It is, Lord.” “Who causes you to fall back?” “My wife.” “Monk, that woman is the cause of evil to you, formerly also through her you fell from the four stages of Absorption [3.277] and became very miserable, then through me you were delivered from your misery and regained the power of meditation you had lost,” and then he told a story of the past. {3.463}

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as the son of the king’s family priest and his brahmin wife. On the day of his birth there was a blazing of weapons all over the city, and so they called his name young Jotipāla.

When he grew up, he learned all the arts at Taxila and showed his skill in them to the king, but he gave up his position, and without telling anyone he went out by the back door, and entering a forest became an ascetic in the Kaviṭṭhaka hermitage, called Sakkadattiya. He attained the Absorptions and Super Knowledges. As he dwelt there many hundreds of sages waited on him. He was attended by a great company and had seven chief disciples. Of them the sage Sālissara left the Kaviṭṭhaka hermitage for the Suraṭṭha country, and dwelt on the banks of the river Sātodikā with many thousand sages in his company, Meṇḍissara with many thousand sages dwelt near the town of Lambacullaka in the country of king Pajaka, Pabbata with many thousand sages dwelt in a certain forest-country, Kāḷadevala with many thousand sages dwelt in a certain wooded mountain in Avantī and the Deccan, Kisavaccha dwelt alone near the city of Kumbhavatī in the park of king Daṇḍaki, the ascetic Anusissa was attendant on the Bodhisatta and stayed with him, Nārada, the younger brother of Kāḷadevala, dwelt alone in a cave-cell amid the mountainous country of Arañjara in the Central Region.

Now not far from Arañjara there is a certain very populous town. In the town there is a great river, in which many men bathe, and along its banks sit many beautiful courtesans tempting the men. The ascetic Nārada saw one of them and being enamoured of her, forsook his meditations and {3.464} pining away without food lay in the bonds of love for seven days. His brother Kāḷadevala by reflection knew the cause of this, and came flying through the air into the cave. Nārada saw him and asked why he had come. “I knew you were ill and have come to tend you.” Nārada repelled him with a falsehood, “You are talking nonsense, falsehood, and vanity.” The other refused to leave him and brought Sālissara, Meṇḍissara, and Pabbatissara. He repelled them all in the same way. Kāḷadevala went flying to fetch their master Sarabhaṅga and did fetch him. When the Teacher came, he saw that Nārada had fallen into the power of the senses, and asked if it were so. Nārada rose at the words and saluted, and confessed. The Teacher said: “Nārada, those who fall into the power of the senses waste away in misery in this life, and in their next existence are born in hell,” and so he spoke the first verse:

1. “Who through desire obeys the senses’ sway,
Loses both worlds and pines his life away.” [3.278]

Hearing him, Nārada answered, “Teacher, the following of desires is happiness, why do you call such happiness misery?” Sarabhaṅga said: “Listen, then,” and spoke the second verse:

2. “Happiness and misery ever on each other’s footsteps press,
You have seen their alternation, seek a truer happiness.” {3.465}

Nārada said: “Teacher, such misery is hard to bear, I cannot endure it.” The Great Being said: “Nārada, the misery that comes has to be endured,” and spoke the third verse:

3. “He who endures in troubled time with troubles to contend
Is strong to reach that final bliss where all our troubles end.”

But Nārada answered, “Teacher, the happiness of love’s desire is the greatest happiness, I cannot abandon it.” The Great Being said: “Virtue is not to be abandoned for any cause,” and spoke the fourth verse: {3.466}

4. “For love of sensual desires, for hopes of gain, for miseries, great and small,
Do not undo your saintly past, and so from virtue fall.”

Sarabhaṅga having thus showed forth the Dhamma in four verses. Kāḷadevala in admonition of his younger brother spoke the fifth verse:

5. “Know The Commentator takes sādhu with all the clauses, the meaning then would be: Good are the cares of household life, ’tis good to give away, Not to be proud when riches grow, nor grieved when they decay. the worldly life is trouble, victual should be freely lent.
No delight in gathering riches, no distress when they are spent.”

The sixth verse is one spoken by the Teacher after Fully Awakening concerning Devala’s admonition of Nārada:

6. “So far Black Both kāḷo and asito mean black: this person is the Asita, the Simeon of the Buddhist nativity; cf. vol. i. 54. Devala most wisely spoke,
None worse than he who bows to senses’ yoke.” {3.467}

Then Sarabhaṅga spoke in warning, “Nārada, listen to this, he who will not do at first what is proper to be done, must weep and lament like the young man who went to the forest,” and so he told a story of the past.

In the past in a certain town of Kāsi there was a certain young brahmin, beautiful, strong, stout as an elephant. His thoughts were, “Why should I keep my parents by working on a farm, or have a wife and children, or do good works of generosity and so forth? I won’t keep anybody nor do any good work; but I will go into the forest and keep myself by killing deer.” So with [3.279] the five kinds of weapons he went to the Himālayas and killed and ate many deer.

In the Himālayas region he found a great defile, surrounded by mountains, on the banks of the river Vidhavā, and there he lived on the flesh of the slain deer, cooked on hot coals. He thought: “I shall not always be strong; when I grow weak I shall not be able to range the forest, now I will drive many kinds of wild animals into this defile, close it up by a gate, and then without roaming the forest I shall kill and eat them at my pleasure,” and so he did.

As time passed over him, that very thing came to pass, and the experience of all the world befell him, he lost control over his hands and feet, he could not move freely here and there, he could not find his food or drink, his body withered, he became the ghost of a man, he showed wrinkles furrowing his body like the earth in a hot season; ill-favoured and ill-knit, he became very miserable. In like manner as time passed, the king of Sivi, named Sivi, had a desire to eat flesh roasted on coals in the forest, so he gave over his kingdom to his ministers, and with the five kinds of weapons he went to the forest and ate the flesh of the deer he slew, in time he came to that spot and saw that man. Although afraid, he summoned courage to ask who he was. “Lord, I am the ghost of a man, reaping the fruit of the deeds I have done, who are you?” “The king of Sivi.” “Why have you come here?” {3.468} “To eat the flesh of deer.” He said: “Great king, I have become the ghost of a man because I came here with that object,” and telling the whole story at length and explaining his misfortune to the king, he spoke the remaining verses:

7. “King, ’tis with me as if I’d been with foes in bitter strife,
Labour, and skill in handicraft, a peaceful home, a wife,
All have been lost to me, my works bear fruit in this my life.

8. Worsted a thousandfold I am, kinless and reft of stay,
Strayed from the noble Dhamma, like ghost I’m fallen away.

9. This state is mine because I caused, instead of joy, distress,
Girt as it were with flaming fire, I have no happiness.” {3.469}

With that he added, “O king, through desire of happiness I caused misery to others and have even in this life become the ghost of a man, do not you commit evil deeds, go to thine own city and do good deeds of generosity and the like.” The king did so and completed the path to heaven.

The ascetic was roused by the teacher Sarabhaṅga’s account of this case. He became agitated, and after saluting and gaining his teacher’s pardon, by focusing on the Meditation Object he regained the Absorptions he had lost. Sarabhaṅga refused him leave to stay there, and took him back with him to his own hermitage.

After the lesson, the Teacher declared the Truths and identified the Jātaka, After the Truths the discontented monk was established in the fruition of the First Path. “At that time Nārada was the discontented monk, Sālissara was Sāriputta, Meṇḍissara was Kassapa, Pabbata was Anuruddha, Kāḷadevala was Kaccāna, Anusissa was Ānanda, Kisavaccha was Moggallāna, and Sarabhaṅga was myself.”