Ja 441 Catuposathikajātaka
The Story about the Four Fast Days (10s)
Alternative Title: Catuposathikajātaka (Cst)
In the present the monks are talking about the Buddha’s wisdom. The Buddha tells a story of four supporters who, hearing of different heavenly realms, were reborn in them. On a fast day they all came to a park to observe the precepts, and there they sought who was the most virtuous amongst them, a question that was settled by the wise Vidhura.
The Bodhisatta = the wise Vidhura (Vidhurapaṇḍita),
Ānanda = the king of the Kurus Dhanañjaya (Dhanañjayakorabyarājā),
Anuruddha = (the King of the Devas) Sakka,
Moggallāna = the king of the Supaṇṇas (Supaṇṇarāja),
Sāriputta = Varuṇa, the king of the Nāgas (Varuṇanāgarājā).
Present and Past Source: Ja 545 Vidhura,
Quoted: Ja 441 Catuposathika.
Keywords: Renunciation, Austerity, Devas.
The Teacher told this tale while dwelling in Jetavana, concerning the Perfection of Wisdom. One day the monks raised a discussion in the Dhamma Hall, saying: “Sirs, the Teacher has great and wide wisdom, he is ready and quick-witted, he is sharp and keen-witted and able to crush the arguments of his opponents, by the power of his wisdom he overthrows the subtle questions propounded by noble sages and reduces them to silence, and having established them in the three refuges and the moral precepts, causes them to enter on the path which leads to immortality.” The Teacher came and asked what was the topic which the monks were debating as they sat together; and on hearing what it was he said: “It is not wonderful, monks, that the Tathāgata, having attained the Perfection of Wisdom, should overthrow the arguments of his opponents and convert nobles and others. For in the earlier ages, when he was still seeking for supreme knowledge, he was wise and able to crush the arguments of his opponents. Yea verily in the time of Vidhurakumāra, on the summit of the Black Mountain which is sixty leagues in height, by the force of my wisdom I converted the Yakkha general, Puṇṇaka, and reduced him to silence and made him give his own life as a gift,” and so saying he told a story of the past.
In the past in the Kuru kingdom in the city of Indapatta a king ruled named Dhanañjayakoravya. He had a minister named the wise Vidhura who gave his instructions concerning temporal and spiritual matters; and having a sweet tongue and great eloquence in discoursing on the Dhamma, he bewitched all the kings of Jambudīpa by his sweet discourses concerning the Dhamma as elephants are fascinated by a favourite lute. Nor did he suffer them to depart to their own kingdoms, but dwelt in that city in great glory, teaching the Dhamma to the people with all the power of a Buddha.
Now there were four rich brahmin householders in Benares, friends, who, having seen the misery of desires, went into the Himālayas and embraced the ascetic life, and having entered upon the Super Knowledges and Attainments, continued to dwell a long time there, feeding on the forest roots and fruits, and then, as they went their rounds to procure salt and sour condiments, came to beg in the city Kālacampā in the kingdom of Aṅga.
There four householders who were friends, being pleased with their behaviour, having paid them respect and taken their begging vessels, waited upon then with choice food, each in his own house, and taking their promise arranged a home for them in their garden. So the four ascetics having taken their food in the houses of the four householders, went away to pass the day, one going to the heaven of the Thirty-Three, another to the world of the Nāgas, another to the world of the Supaṇṇas, and the fourth to the park Migācira belonging to the Koravya king.
Now he who spent his day in the world of the gods, after beholding Sakka’s glory, described it in full to his attendant, and so too did he who spent his day in the Nāga and Supaṇṇa world, and so too he who spent his day in the park of the Koravya king Dhanañjaya; each described in full the glory of that respective king.
So these four attendants desired these heavenly abodes, and having performed gifts and other works of merit, at the end of their lives, one was born as Sakka, another was born with a wife and child in the Nāga world, another was born as the Supaṇṇa king in the palace of the Simbali lake, and the fourth was conceived by the chief queen of king Dhanañjaya; while the four ascetics were reborn in the Brahmā Realm.
The Koravya prince grew up, and on his father’s death assumed his kingdom and ruled in righteousness, but he was famed for his skill in dice. He listened to the instruction of the wise Vidhura and gave alms and kept the moral law and observed the fast. One day when he had undertaken the fast, he went into the garden, determining to practise pious meditation, and, having seated himself in a pleasant spot, he performed the duties of an ascetic. Sakka also, having undertaken to keep the fast, found that there were obstacles in the world of the gods, so he went into that very garden in the world of men, and, having seated himself in a pleasant spot, performed the duties of an ascetic. Varuṇa also, the Nāga king, having undertaken to keep the fast, found that there were obstacles in the Nāga world, so he went into that same garden, and, having seated himself in a pleasant place, performed the duties of an ascetic. The Supaṇṇa king also, having undertaken to keep the fast, found that there were obstacles in the Supaṇṇa world, so he went into that same garden, and, having seated himself in a pleasant spot, performed the duties of an ascetic.
Then these four, having risen from their places at evening time, as they stood on the bank of the royal lake, came together and looked at one another, and, being filled with their old kindly affection, they awakened their former friendship and sat down with a pleasant greeting. Sakka sat down on a royal seat, and the others seated themselves as befitted the dignity of each.
Then Sakka said to them, “We are all four kings – now what is the preeminent virtue of each?” Then Varuṇa the Nāga king replied, “My virtue is superior to that of you three,” and when they inquired why, he said: “This Supaṇṇa king is our enemy, whether before or after we are born, yet even when I see him, such a destructive enemy of our race, I never feel any anger; therefore my virtue is superior,” and he then uttered the first verse of the Catuposathajātaka [Ja 441]:
1. “The good man who feels no anger towards one who merits anger and who never lets anger arise within him, he who even when angered does not allow it to be seen – him they indeed call an ascetic.”
“These are my qualities; therefore my virtue is superior.”
The Supaṇṇa king, hearing this, said: “This Nāga is my chief food; but since, even though I see such food at hand, I endure my hunger and do not commit evil for the sake of food, my virtue is superior,” and he uttered this verse:
2. “He who bears hunger with a pinched belly, a self-restrained ascetic who eats and drinks by rule, and commits no evil for the sake of food – him they indeed call an ascetic.”
Then Sakka the King of the Devas said: “I left behind various kinds of heavenly glory, all immediate sources of happiness, and came to the world of mankind in order to maintain my virtue – therefore my virtue is superior,” and he uttered this verse:
3. “Having abandoned all sport and pleasure, he utters no false word in the world, he is averse to all outward pomp and carnal desire – such a man they indeed call an ascetic.”
Thus did Sakka describe his own virtue.
Then king Dhanañjaya said: “I today have abandoned my court and my harem with sixteen thousand dancing girls, and I practise an ascetic’s duties in a garden; therefore my virtue is superior,” and he added this verse:
4. “Those who with full knowledge abandon all that they call their own and all the workings of lust, he who is self-restrained, resolute, unselfish, and free from desire – him they indeed call an ascetic.”
Thus they each declared their own virtue as superior, and then they asked Dhanañjaya, “O king, is there any wise man in your court who could solve this doubt?” “Yes, O kings, I have the wise Vidhura, who fills a post of unequalled responsibility and declares civil and ecclesiastical law, he will solve our doubt, we will go to him.” They at once consented. So they all went out of the garden and proceeded to the hall for monastic assemblies, and, having ordered it to be adorned, they seated the Bodhisatta on a high seat, and, having offered him a friendly greeting, sat down on one side and said: “O wise sir! A doubt has risen in our minds, do you solve it for us:
5. We ask you the minister of lofty wisdom: a dispute has arisen in our utterances – do you consider and solve our perplexities today, let us through you today escape from our doubt.”
The wise man, having heard their words, replied, “O kings, how shall I know what you said well or ill concerning your virtue, as you uttered the verses in your dispute?” and he added this verse:
6-7. “Those wise men who know the real state of things and who speak wisely at the proper time – how shall they, however wise, draw out the meaning of verses which have not been uttered to them? How does the Nāga king speak, how Garuḷa, the son of Vinatā? Or what says the king of the Gandhabbas? Or how speaks the most noble king of the Kurus?”
Then they uttered this verse to him:
8. “The Nāga king preaches forbearance, Garuḷa the son of Vinatā gentleness, the king of the Gandhabbas abstinence from carnal lust, and the most noble king of the Kurus freedom from all hindrances.”
Then the Great Being, having heard their words, uttered this verse:
9. “All these sayings are well spoken – there is nothing here uttered amiss; and he in whom these are properly fitted like the spokes in the nave of a wheel – he, who is endowed with these four virtues, is called an ascetic indeed.”
Thus the Great Being declared the virtue of each of them to be one and the same. Then the four, when they heard him, were well pleased, and uttered this verse in his praise:
10. “You are the best, you are incomparable, you are wise, a guardian and knower of the Dhamma: having grasped the problem by your wisdom, you cut the doubts in your skill as the ivory-workman the ivory with his saw.”
Thus all the four were pleased with his explanation of their question. Then Sakka rewarded him with a robe of heavenly silk, Garuḷa with a golden garland, Varuṇa the Nāga king with a jewel, and king Dhanañjaya with a thousand cows, etc.; then Dhanañjaya addressed him in this verse:
11. “I give you a thousand cows and a bull and an elephant, and these ten chariots drawn with thoroughbred horses, and sixteen excellent villages, being well pleased with your solution of the question.”
Then Sakka and the rest, having paid all honour to the Great Being, departed to their own abodes.
last updated: November 2021