Ja 442 Saṅkhajātaka
The Story about (the Brahmin) Saṅkha (10s)
Alternative Title: Saṅkhabrāmaṇajātaka (Comm)
In the present one layman gives gifts of shoes to the Buddha and the monastics. The Buddha tells a story of a merchant who gave shoes to a Paccekabuddha, and was subsequently saved from the ocean by a deity, and given a magic ship.
The Bodhisatta = the brahmin Saṅkha (Saṅkhabrāhmaṇa),
Ānanda = the attendant (upaṭṭhākapurisa),
Uppalavaṇṇā = Devadhītā (Maṇimekhalā).
Past Compare: Cp 2 Saṅkhacariyā.
Keywords: Giving, Generosity, Devas.
“O learned brahmin.”
At Sāvatthi, it is said, a certain lay brother having heard the Tathāgata’s discourse, being pleased at heart, gave an invitation for the morrow; at his door he set up a pavilion, richly decorated, and sent to say that it was time. The Teacher came attended by five hundred monks, and sat in the gorgeous seat appointed for him. The layman, having made rich presents to the company of monks headed by the Buddha, bade them again for the morrow; and so for seven days he invited them, and offered gifts, and on the seventh gave them all a monk’s requisites. In this presentation he offered a special gift of shoes. The pair of shoes offered to the Buddha were worth a thousand pieces of money, those offered to the two chief disciples Sāriputta and Moggallāna. were worth five hundred, and shoes to the value of a hundred were given to each of the five hundred monks who remained. And after this presentation made of all that the monks need, he sat down before the Fortunate One, along with his company. Then the Teacher returned thanks in a voice of much sweetness, “Layman, most generous is your gift; be joyful. In olden days, before the Buddha came into the world, there were those who by giving one pair of shoes to a Paccekabuddha, in consequence of that gift found a refuge on the sea where refuge there is none; and you have given to the whole of Buddha’s company all that a monk can need – how can it be, but that your gift of shoes should prove a refuge to you?” and at his request, he told a story of the past.
In the past, this Benares was named Molinī. While Brahmadatta reigned in Molinī as king, a certain brahmin Saṅkha, rich, of great wealth, had built alms halls in six places, one at each of the four city gates, one in the midst of it, one by his own door. Daily he gave in alms six hundred thousand pieces of money, and to wayfarers and beggars he did much bounty.
One day he thought to himself, “My store of wealth once gone, I shall have nothing to give. While it is still available I will take ship, and sail for the Gold Country, Said to be the district of Burmah and Siam [i.e. Myanmar and Thailand], “the Golden Chersonese.” See Childers, p. 492. whence I will bring back wealth.” So he caused a ship to be built; filled it with merchandise; and said he, as he bade farewell to wife and child,
At that moment, a Paccekabuddha on Mount Gandhamādana, meditating, saw him on his way to get wealth, and he thought: “A great man is journeying to get wealth: will there be anything on the sea to hinder him, or no? There will. If he sees me he will present me with shoes and sunshade; and in consequence of this gift of shoes, he will find refuge when his vessel is wrecked upon the sea. I will help him.” So passing through the air, he alighted not far from the traveller, and moved to meet him, treading the sand hot as a layer of burning embers in the fierce wind and sunshine. “Here,” thought the brahmin, “is a chance of gaining merit; here I must sow a seed this day.” In high delight he made haste to meet and greet him. “Sir,” says he, “be so kind as to come aside from the road awhile, under this tree.” Then as the man came in beneath the tree, he brushed up the sand for him, and spread his upper robe, and made him sit down; with water perfumed and purified he washed his feet, anointed him with sweet scented oil; from his own feet he took off the shoes, wiped them clean and anointed them with scented oil, and put them on him, and presented him with shoes and sunshade, bidding him wear the one, and spread the other overhead as he went his ways. The other, to please him, took the gift, and as the brahmin gazed upon him for the increase of his faith, flew up and went on his way again to Gandhamādana.
The Bodhisatta on his part, glad at heart, proceeded to the harbour, and took ship. When they were come to the high seas, on the seventh day the ship sprang a leak, and they could not bale the water clear. All the people in fear for their lives made a great outcry, calling each upon his own god. Again the reader will be reminded of Jonah (i. 5). Compare also the scene in Erasmus’ dialogue Naufragium.
Now at that time a Devadhītā named Maṇimekhalā, which by interpretation is Jewel-zone, had been commanded by the four lords of the world, “If by shipwreck any ill befall men who have gone to the Three Refuges, or are endued with virtue, or who worship their parents, you should save them,” and to protect any such, the deity took station upon the sea. In her divine power she kept no outlook for seven days, but on the seventh day, scanning the sea, she saw the virtuous brahmin Saṅkha, and thought she, “It is now the seventh day since that man was cast into the sea: were he to die, great would be my blame.” So troubled at heart the deity filled a golden plate full of all manner of divine meats, and hastening wind-swift towards him, came to a stop before him in mid-air, saying: “Seven days, brahmin, have you taken no food: eat this!” The brahmin looked at her, and replied, “Take your food away, for I am keeping fast.”
His attendant, who came behind, saw not the deity, but heard only the sound; and he thought: “The brahmin babbles, I think, being of tender frame, and from his seven days’ fasting, being in pain and in fear of death: I will comfort him.” And he repeated the first verse:
1. “O learned brahmin, full of sanctity,
Pupil of many a holy teacher, why
All out of reason do vain babbling use,
When none is here, save me, to make reply?”
The brahmin heard, and knowing that he had not seen the deity, he said: “Good fellow, ’tis not fear of death; but I have another here to converse with me,” and he repeated the second verse:
2. “ ’Tis a fair radiant presence, gold-besprent,
That offers me food for my nourishment,
All bravely set upon a plate of gold:
To her I answer ‘No,’ with heart content.”
Then the man repeated the third verse:
3. “If such a wondrous being one should see,
A man should ask a blessing hopefully.
Arise, beseech her, holding up clasped hands:
Say, are you human, or a deity?”
“You say well,” said the brahmin, and asked his question by repeating the fourth verse:
4. “As you beholdest me in kindly way
And ‘Take and eat this food’ to me do say,
I ask you, lady, excellent in might,
Are you a Devī, or a woman, pray?”
Thereupon the Devadhītā repeated two verses:
5. “A Devī excellent in might am I;
And to mid-ocean hitherward did hie,
Full of compassion and in heart well-pleased,
For your sake come in this extremity.
6. Here food, and drink, and place of rest behold,
Vehicles various and manifold;
You, Saṅkha, I make lord of every thing
Which for desirable your heart may hold.”
On hearing this the Great Being thought it over. “Here is this Devadhītā (thought he), in the middle of the ocean, offering me this thing and that thing. Why does she wish to offer them to me? Is it for any virtuous act of mine, or by her own power, she does it? Well, I will ask the question.” And he asked it in the words of the seventh verse:
7. “Of all my sacrifice and offering
You are the queen, and thine the governing;
You of fair slender waist, you beauteous-browed: In line 29 read subbhu suvilākamajjhe: cp. Commentary.
What deed of mine hath brought to fruit this thing?”
The Devadhītā listened to him, thinking: “This brahmin has put his question, I suppose, because he imagines I know not what good deed he has done. I will just tell him.” So she told him, in the words of the eighth verse:
8. “A solitary, on the burning way,
Weary and footsore, thirsty, you did stay,
O brahmin Saṅkha, for a gift of shoes:
That gift your Cow of Plenty is this day.”
When the Great Being heard this, he thought to himself, “What! In this impracticable ocean the gift of shoes given by me has become a give-all to me! Ah, lucky was my gift to the Paccekabuddha!” Then, in great contentment, he repeated the ninth verse:
9. “A ship of planks well built let there be,
Sped by fair winds, impervious to the sea;
No place is here for other vehicle;
This very day take me to Molinī.” Benares.
The Devadhītā, well pleased at hearing these words, caused a ship to appear, made of the seven things of price; in length it was eight hundred cubits, in width six hundred cubits, twenty fathoms in depth; it had three masts made of sapphire, cordage of gold, silver sails, and of gold were also the oars and the rudders. This vessel the deity filled with the seven precious things; then embracing the brahmin, set him aboard the gorgeous ship. She did not notice the attendant; howbeit the brahmin
The Teacher, after Fully Awakening, uttered the final verse:
10. “She pleased, delighted, with a happy cheer,
A vessel marvellous caused to appear;
Then, taking Saṅkha with his serving man,
To that most lovely city brought them near.”
And the brahmin all his life long dwelt at home, distributing bounty without end, and observing virtue; and at the end of his days he with his man went to swell the host of heaven.
When the Teacher had made an end of this discourse he declared the Truths: now at the conclusion of the Truths the layman entered upon the First Path: and he thus identified the Jātaka, “At that time Uppalavaṇnā was the Devadhītā [Maṇimekhalā], Ānanda was the attendant, and I myself was the brahmin Saṅkha.”
last updated: November 2021