Ja 450 Biḷārikosiyajātaka
The Story about (the Wealthy Man) Biḷārikosiya (10s)
In the present one monk is very generous, and will not eat or drink without sharing first. The Buddha tells a story of how the sixth generation child in a generous family proved to be selfish, and how his forebears, reborn as gods, came to teach him the virtuous ways of his family.
The Bodhisatta = (the King of the Devas) Sakka,
Ānanda = (the heavenly musician) Pañcasikha,
Kassapa = (the charioteer) Mātali,
Moggallāna = (the sun god) Sūriya,
Sāriputta = (the moon god) Canda,
the generous monk = the wealthy man (seṭṭhi).
Past Compare: Ja 313 Khantivādi, Ja 450 Biḷārikosiya, Cp 17 Mātaṅgacariyā, Mvu iii p 455 Kṣāntivāda, Jm 28 Kṣānti.
Keywords: Generosity, Giving, Devas.
“When food is not.”
This man, we are told, having heard the preaching of the Dhamma, from the time when he embraced the dispensation was devoted to giving, eager for giving. Never a bowlful he ate unless he shared it with another; even water he would not drink, unless he gave of it to another, so absorbed was he in giving.
Then they began to talk of his good qualities in the Dhamma Hall. Entered the Teacher, and asked what they talked about as they sat there, and they told him. Sending for the monk, he asked him, “Is it true, what I hear, monk, that you are devoted to giving, eager to give?” He replied, “Yes, sir.” Said the Teacher, “Long ago, monks, this man was without faith and unbelieving; not so much as a drop of oil on the end of a blade of grass did he give to any one; then I humbled him, and converted him and made him humble, and taught him the fruit of giving; and this giving heart of his does not leave him even in another life.” So saying, he told a story of the past. Part of this tale occurs in No. 313, vol. iii.
In the past, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born in a rich man’s family; and coming of age, he acquired a property, and at his father’s death received his father’s station as merchant.
One day, as he reviewed his wealth, he thought: “My wealth is here, sure enough,
Then Sakka, King of the Devas, looked back over his doings in the past, wondered, “Does my tradition of generosity continue or no?” Pondering he perceived this, “My son continued the giving, and he is become Canda; and his son is Suriya, and his son is Mātali, and his son has
At that moment the merchant had been to wait upon the king, and having returned, was walking to and fro under the seventh gate-tower, cf. Hardy’s Manual, p. 270. looking along the road. Sakka said to the others, “Do you wait until I go in, and then follow one after another.” With these words he went forward, and standing before the rich merchant, said to him, “Ho, sir! Give me to eat!” “There is nothing to eat for you here, brahmin; go elsewhere.” “Ho, great sir! When brahmins ask for food,
1. “When food is not within the pot, the good would get, and not deny:
And you are cooking! ’Twere not good, if you would now no food supply.
2. He who remiss and niggard is, ever to give denies;
But he who virtue loves, must give, and he whose mind is wise.”
When the man had heard this, he answered, “Well, come in and sit down; and you shall have a little.” Sakka entered, repeating these verses, and sat down.
Next up came Canda, and asked for food. “There’s no food for you,” said the man, “go away!” He replied, “Great sir, there is one brahmin seated within; there must be a free meal for a brahmin, I suppose, so I will enter too.” “There is no free meal for a brahmin!” said the man, “be off with you!” Then Canda said: “Great sir, please do listen to a verse or two,” and repeated two verses: (whenever a terrified niggard gives to none, that very thing that he fears comes to him as he gives not:) This seems to be a gloss.
3. “When fear of hunger or of thirst makes niggard souls afraid,
In this world and the next those fools shall fully be repaid.
4. Therefore give alms, flee covetise, purge filth of greed away,
In the next world men’s virtuous deeds shall be their surest stay.”
Having listened to these words also, the man said: “Well, come in, and you shall have a little.” In he came, and took a seat with Sakka.
After waiting a little while, Suriya came up, and asked for food by repeating two verses:
5. “ ’Tis hard to do as good men do, to give as they can give,
Bad men can hardly imitate the life that good men live.
6. And so, when good and evil go to pass away from earth,
The bad are born in hell below, in heaven the good have birth.”
The rich man, not seeing any way out of it, said to him, “Well, come in and sit down with these brahmins, and you shall have a little.” And Mātali, after waiting a little while, came up and asked for food; and when he was told there was no food, as soon as the words were spoken, repeated the seventh verse:
7. “Some give from little, some give not though they have plenteous store:
Who gives from little, if he gave a thousand, ’twere no more.”
To him also the man said: “Well, come in and sit down.” Then after waiting a little while, Pañcasikha came up and asked for food. “There’s none, go away,” was the reply. Said he, “What a number of places I have visited! There must be a free meal for brahmins here, I think!” And he began to hold forth to him, repeating the eighth verse:
8. “Even he who lives on scraps should righteous be,
Giving from little store, though sons have he;
The hundred thousand which the wealthy give,
Are worth not one small gift from such as he.”
The rich man pondered, on hearing the speech of Pañcasikha. Then he repeated the ninth verse, to ask an explanation of the little worth of such gifts:
9. “Why is a rich and generous sacrifice
Not equal to a righteous gift in price,
How is a thousand, which the wealthy gives,
Not worth a poor man’s gift, thoogh small in size?”
In reply, Pañcasikha recited the concluding verse:
10. “Some who in evil ways do live
Oppress, and slay, then comfort give:
Their cruel sour-faced gifts are less
Than any given with righteousness.
Thus not a thousand from the wealthy can
Equal the little gift of such a man.”
Having listened to the admonition of Pañcasikha, he replied, “Well, go indoors and be seated; you shall have a little.” And he too entered, and sat with the rest.
Then the rich merchant Biḷārikosiya, beckoning to a maidservant, said to her, “Give yonder brahmins a measure apiece of rice in the husk.”
She brought the rice, and approaching them, bade them bake it, and get it cooked somewhere, and eat. “We never touch rice in the husk,” said they. “Master, they say that they never touch rice in the husk!” “Well, give them husked rice.” She brought them husked rice, and bade them take it. They said: “We accept nothing that is uncooked.” “Teacher, they accept nothing that is uncooked!” “Then cook them some cows’ food in a pot, and give them that.” She cooked in a pot a mess of cows’ food, and brought it to them. All the five of them took up each a mouthful, and put it into their mouths, but let it stick in the throat; then rolling their eyes, they became unconscious, and lay as though dead.
The serving-maid seeing this thought they must be dead, and much afraid went and told the merchant, saying: “Master, those brahmins could not swallow the cows’ food,
The merchant fetched in the passers-by from the road within, and when he had gathered a number of them together he said: “I gave these brahmins food after my own manner of eating, and they were greedy and made great lumps, and so as they ate, the food stuck in the throat, and they are dead. I call you to witness that I am guiltless.” Before the crowd thus gathered together the brahmins arose, and said, looking upon the multitude, “Behold the deceitfulness of this merchant! He gave us of his own food, said he! A mess of cow’s food is all he gave us at first, and then while we lay as dead, he caused this food to be prepared.” And they cast forth from their mouths the food which they had taken, and showed it. The crowd upbraided the merchant, crying, “Blind fool! You have broken the custom of your family; you have burnt the alms-hall; the beggars you have taken by the throat and cast forth; and now when you were giving food to these delicate brahmins, all you gave was a mess of cows’ food! As you go to the other world, I suppose you will carry the wealth of your house fast about your neck!”
At this moment, Sakka asked the crowd, “Do you know whose is the wealth of this house?” “We know not,” they replied. Said he, “You have heard tell of a great merchant of Benares, who lived in this city once upon a time, and built halls of alms house, and in generosity gave much?” “Yes,” they said,” “we have heard of him.” “I am that merchant,” he said, “and by those gifts I am now become Sakka, King of the Devas; and my son, who did not break my tradition, has become a Devaputta, Canda; and his son is Suriya, and his son is Mātali, and his son is Pañcasikha; of these, yonder is Canda, and that is Suriya, and this is Mātali the charioteer, and this again
Thus speaking, with a view to dispelling the doubts of the people there assembled, they rose up in the air, and remained poised, by their mighty power surrounding themselves with a great host, their bodies all ablaze, so that the whole city seemed to be on fire. Then Sakka addressed the crowd, “We left our heavenly glory in coming here, and we came on account of this sinner Biḷārikosiya, this last of his race, the devourer of all his race. In pity for him are we come, because we knew that this sinner had broken the tradition of his family, and burnt the alms house, and haled forth the beggars by the throat, and had violated our custom, and that by ceasing to give alms he would be born again in hell.” Thus did he discourse to the crowd, telling the potency of generosity. Biḷārikosiya put his hands together in supplication, and made a vow, “My lord, from this time forth I will no more break the family custom, but I will distribute alms; and beginning from this very day, I will never eat, without sharing with another my own supplies, even the water I drink and the tooth-cleaner which I use.”
Sakka having thus humbled him, and made him self-denying, and established him in the five precepts, went away to his own place, taking the four Devaputtas with him. And the merchant gave alms as long as he lived, and was born in the heaven of the Thirty-Three.
The Teacher, having finished this discourse, said: “Thus, monks, this monk in former times was unbelieving, and never gave even a little to any one, but I humbled him, and taught him the fruit of generosity; and that mind leaves him not, even when he enters another life.” Then he identified the Jātaka, “At that time, the generous monk was the rich man, Sāriputta was Canda, Moggallāna was Suriya, Kassapa was Mātali, Ānanda was Pañcasikha, and I myself was Sakka.”
last updated: November 2021