Ja 452 Bhūripañhajātaka
The Story about the Profound Question (10s)

Alternative Title: Bhūripaññajātaka (Cst)

In the present the monks speak about the Buddha’s wisdom, and he tells this story illustrating his wisdom in a past life. A king vanquished a wise man unjustly, but when he found his advisors could not calm his fears, he sent four of his courtiers to find him and bring him back. He came and admonished him for his injustice.

The Bodhisatta = (paṇḍita) Mahosadha,
Suddhodana = his father (pitā),
Mahāmāyā = his mother (mātā),
Bimbasundarī = (his wife) Amarā.

Past Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 452 Bhūripañha.

Keywords: Justice, Loyalty.

“Is it true, indeed.” This Bhūripañhajātaka will appear in the Ummaggajātaka [Ja 546].

The king, smitten with mortal fear, sent out the next day four of his courtiers, with orders to mount each in a chariot, and to go forth from the four gates of the city, and wheresoever they should find his son, the wise Mahosadha, to show him all honour and speedily to bring him back. Three of these found not the sage; but the fourth who went out by south gate found the Great Being in the south town, who, after fetching clay and turning his master’s wheel, sat all clay-besmeared on a bundle of straw eating balls of rice dipped in a little soup. Now the reason why he did so was this: he thought that the king might suspect him of desiring to grasp the sovereign power, but if he heard that he was living by the craft of a potter this suspicion would be put away. When he perceived the courtier he knew that the man had come for himself; he understood that his prosperity would be restored, and he should eat all manner of choice food prepared by the lady Amarā: so he dropped the ball of rice which he held, stood up, and rinsed his mouth. At that moment up came the courtier: now this was one of Senaka’s faction, so he addressed him rudely as follows, “Wise Teacher, what Senaka said was useful information. Your prosperity gone, all your wisdom was unavailing; and now there you sit all besmeared with clay on a truss of straw, eating food like that!” and he recited this verse from the Bhūripañha or Question of Wisdom, Book X:

1. “Is it true, as they say, that you are one of profound wisdom? So great prosperity, cleverness, and intelligence does not serve you, thus brought to insignificance, while you eat a little soup like that.”

Then the Great Being said: “Blind fool! By power of my wisdom when I want to restore that prosperity I will do it,” and he recited a couple of verses.

2. “I make weal ripen by woe, I discriminate between seasonable and unseasonable times, hiding at my own will; I unlock the doors of profit; therefore I am content with boiled rice.

3. When I perceive the time for an effort, maturing my profit by my designs, I will bear myself valiantly like a lion, and by that mighty power you shall see me again.”

Then the courtier said: “Wise sir, the deity who lives in the parasol has put a question to the king, and the king asked the four wise men – not a man of them could solve it! Therefore the king has sent me for you.” “In that case,” said the Great Being, “do you not see the power of wisdom? At such a time prosperity is of no use, but only one who is wise.” Thus he praised wisdom. Then the courtier handed over to the Great Being the thousand pieces of money and the suit of clothes provided by the king, that he might bathe him and dress at once. The potter was terrified to think that Mahosadha the sage had been his workman, but the Great Being consoled him, saying: “Fear not, my master, you have been of great help to me.” Then he gave him a thousand pieces; and with the mud-stains yet upon him mounted in the chariot and went to town.

The courtier told the king of his arrival. “Where did you find the sage, my son?” “My lord, he was earning his livelihood as a potter in the south town; but as soon as he heard that you had sent for him, without bathing, the mud yet staining his body, he came.” The king thought: “If he were my enemy he would have come with pomp and retinue; he is not my enemy.” Then he gave orders to take him to his house, and bathe him, and adorn him, and to bid him come back with the pomp that should be provided. This was done. He returned, and entered, and gave the king greeting, and stood on one side. The king spoke kindly to him, then to test him spoke this verse:

4. “Some do no wrong because they are wealthy, but others do no wrong for fear of the taint of blame. You are able, if your mind desired much wealth. Why do you not do me harm?”

The Bodhisatta said:

5. “Wise men do not sinful deeds for the sake of the pleasure that wealth gives. Good men, even though struck by misfortune and brought low, neither for friendship nor for enmity will renounce the right.”

Again the king recited this verse, the mysterious saying of a Khattiya:

6. “He who for any cause, small or great, should upraise himself from a low place, thereafter would walk in righteousness.”

And the Great Being recited this verse with an illustration of a tree:

7. “From off a tree beneath whose shade a man should sit and rest,
’Twere treachery to lop a branch. False friends we do detest.”

Then he went on, “Sire, if it is treachery to lop a branch from a tree which one has used, what are we to say of one who kills a man? Your majesty has given my father great wealth, and has shown me great favour: how could I be so treacherous as to injure you?” Thus having demonstrated altogether his loyalty he reproached the king for his fault:

When any man has disclosed the right to any, or has cleared his doubts, the other becomes his protection and refuge; and a wise man will not destroy this friendship.

Now admonishing the king he spoke these two verses:

8. “The idle sensual layman I detest,
The false ascetic is a rogue confessed.
A bad king will a case unheard decide;
Wrath in the sage can ne’er be justified.

9. The warrior prince takes careful thought, and well-weighed verdict gives,
When kings their judgment ponder well, their fame for ever lives.”