Ja 459 Pānīyajātaka
The Story about (Stealing) Water

Alternative Title: Paññāsajātaka, Paññājātaka (Comm)

In the present some monks harbor wrongful thoughts. The Buddha tells a story of how the wise of old, having done a small wrong, regretted it greatly, gained insight, and became Paccekabuddhas.

The Bodhisatta = the king (of Kāsi, or Benares) (rājā),
Rāhulamātā = the queen (devī).

Present Source: Ja 408 Kumbhakāra,
Quoted at: Ja 370 Palāsa, Ja 412 Koṭisimbali, Ja 459 Pānīya,
Present Compare: Ja 305 Sīlavīmaṁsana,
Past Compare: Mvu ii p 289 Śiriprabha.

Keywords: Virtue, Renunciation, Devas.

“The water-draught.” [4.71] This story the Teacher told, while dwelling in Jetavana, about the subduing of evil passions.

At one time, we learn, five hundred citizens of Sāvatthi, being householders and friends of the Tathāgata, had heard the Dhamma and had renounced the world, and been ordained as monastics. Living in the house of the Golden Pavement, at midnight they indulged in thoughts of wrong. (All the details are to be understood as in a previous story.) [Ja 408 Kumbhakārajātaka. I include the story here.]

The Teacher regards his disciples three times a night and three times a day, six times every night and day, as a jay guards her egg, or a yak-cow her tail, or a mother her beloved son, or a one-eyed man his remaining eye; so in the very instant he overcame wrong which was beginning. He was observing Jetavana on that midnight and knowing the monks’ conduct and their thoughts, he considered, “This wrong among these monks if it grows will destroy the foundation for becoming an Arahat. I will this moment repudiate this wrong and show them how to become Arahats,” so leaving the perfumed chamber he called Ānanda, and bidding him collect all the monks dwelling in the place, he got them together and sat down on the seat prepared for Buddha.

At the command of the Fortunate One, the Saṅgha was assembled by the venerable Ānanda. The Teacher sat in the appointed seat, and without asking them, “Do you indulge in thoughts of wrongdoing?” he addressed them comprehensively and in general terms, “Monks, there is no such thing as a petty wrong. A monk must check all defilements as they each arise. Wise men of old, before the Buddha came, subdued their defilements and attained to the knowledge of a Paccekabuddha.” With these words, he told there a story of the past. {4.114}

In the past, when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, there were two friends in a certain village in the kingdom of Kāsi. These had gone afield, taking with them vessels for drinking, which they laid out of the way as they broke the clods, and when they were thirsty, went and drank water out of them. One of them, on going for a drink, conserved the water in his own pot, and drank out of the pot of the other. In the evening, when he came out from the woodland, and had bathed, he stood thinking. “Have I done any wrong today,” he thought, “either by the door of the body, or any other?” i.e. word, or thought. Then he remembered how he drank the stolen water, and grief came upon him, and he cried, “If this thirst grows upon me, it will bring me to some evil birth! I will subdue my wrongs.” So with this stolen draught of water for cause, That is, he made this the subject of his meditation (ārammaṇaṁ), and thus sunk into an ecstatic trance. he gradually acquired supernatural insight, and attained the knowledge of a Paccekabuddha; and there he stood, reflecting upon the knowledge which he had attained.

Now the other man, having bathed, got up, saying: “Come, friend, let us go home.” Said the other, “Go home you, home is nothing to me, I am a Paccekabuddha.” “Pooh! Are Paccekabuddhas like you?” “What are they like, then?” “Hair two fingers long, they wear yellow robes, they live in Nandamūla cave high up in the Himālayas.” The other stroked his head, and in that very moment the marks of a layman disappeared, [4.72] a pair of red cloths were wrapped round him, a waist-band yellow like a flash of lightning was tied about him, the upper robe of the colour of red lac was thrown over one shoulder, a dust-heap ragged cloth dingy as a storm-cloud lay on his shoulder, a bee-brown earthen bowl dangled from over his left shoulder; there he stood poised in mid-air, and having delivered a discourse, he rose and did not descend until he came to the mountain cave of Nandamūla.

Another man, who also lived in a village of Kāsi, a landowner, was sitting in the bazaar, when he saw a man approach leading his wife. Seeing her (and she was a woman of surpassing beauty) he broke the moral principles, and looked upon her; then again he thought: “This desire, if it increases, will cast me into some evil birth.” Being exercised in mind, he developed supernatural insight, and attained the knowledge of a Paccekabuddha; then poised in the air, he delivered a discourse, {4.115} and he also went to the Nandamūla cave. Cf., Vidabbhajātaka, vol. i. no. 48.

Villagers of a place in Kāsi were likewise two, a father and a son, who were going on a journey together. At the entering in of a forest robbers were posted. These robbers, if they took a father and son together, would keep the son with them, and send the father away, saying: “Bring back a ransom for your son,” or if two brothers, they kept the younger and sent the elder away; or if teacher and pupil, they kept the teacher and sent the pupil – and the pupil for love of learning would bring money and release his teacher. Now when this father and son saw the robbers lying in wait, the father said: “Don’t you call me ‘father,’ and I will not call you ‘son.’ ” And so they agreed. So when the robbers came up, and asked how they stood to one another, they replied, “We are nothing to one another,” thus telling a premeditated lie. When they came out of the forest, and were resting after the evening bath, the son examined his own virtue, and remembering this lie, he thought: “This wrong, if it increases, will plunge me in some evil birth. I will subdue my wrongdoing!” Then he developed supernatural insight, and attained to the knowledge of a Paccekabuddha, and poised in the air delivered a discourse to his father, and he too went to the Nandamūla cave.

In a village of Kāsi also lived a village headman, who laid an interdict upon all slaughter. Now when the time came when offering was wont to be made to the spirits, a great crowd gathered, and said: “My lord! This is the time for sacrifice: let us slay deer and swine and other animals, and make offering to the Yakkhas,” he replied, “Do as you have done previously.” The people made a great slaughter. The man seeing a great quantity of fish and flesh, thought to himself, “All these living creatures the men have slain, and all because of my word alone!” He repented: and as he stood [4.73] by the window, he developed supernatural insight, and attained to the knowledge of a Paccekabuddha, and poised in the air delivered a discourse, then he too went to the Nandamūla cave.

Another village headman who lived in the kingdom of Kāsi, prohibited the sale of strong drink. A crowd of people cried out to him, “My lord, what shall we do? It is the time-honoured drinking festival!” He replied, “Do as you have always done previously.” {4.116} The people made their festival, and drank strong drink, and fell quarrelling; there were broken legs and arms, and cracked crowns, and ears torn off, and many a penalty was inflicted for it. The village headman seeing this, thought to himself, “If I had not permitted this, they would not have suffered this misery.” Even for this trifle he felt remorse: then he developed supernatural insight, and attained the knowledge of a Paccekabuddha, poised in the air he discoursed, and bade them be vigilant, then he too went to the Nandamūla cave.

Some time afterwards, the five Paccekabuddhas all alighted at the gate of Benares, seeking for alms. Their upper robe and lower robe neatly arranged, with gracious address they went on their rounds, and came to the gate of the king’s palace. The king was much pleased to behold them; he invited them into his palace, and washed their feet, anointed them with fragrant oil, set before them savoury food both hard and soft, and sitting on one side, thus addressed them, “Sirs, that you in your youth have embraced the ascetic life, is beautiful; at this age, you have become ascetics, and you see the misery of evil sensual desires. What was the cause of your action?” They replied as follows:

1. “The water-draught of my own friend, although a friend, I stole:
Loathing the wrong which I had done, I afterwards was fain
To leave the world, an eremite, lest I do wrong again.”

2. “I looked upon another’s wife; lust rose within my soul:
Loathing the wrong which I had done, I afterwards was fain
To leave the world, an eremite, lest I do wrong again.”

3. “Thieves caught my father in a wood: to whom I did forth tell
That he was other than he was – a lie, I knew it well:
Loathing the wrong which I had done, I afterwards was fain
To leave the world, an eremite, lest I do wrong again.”

4. “The people at a drinking-feast full many beasts did kill,
And not against my will:
Loathing the wrong which I had done, I afterwards was fain
To leave the world, an eremite, lest I do wrong again.”

5. “Those persons who in former times of liquors drank their fill,
Now carried out a drinking-bout, whence many suffered ill, {4.117}
And not against my will:
Loathing the wrong which I had done, I afterwards was fain
To leave the world, an eremite, lest I do wrong again.”

These five verses they repeated one after the other.

When the king had heard the explanation of each, he uttered his praise, saying: “Sirs, your asceticism becomes you well.” [4.74]

The king was delighted at the discourse of these men. He bestowed upon them cloth for outer and inner garments, and medicines, then let the Paccekabuddhas go away. They thanked him, and returned to the place whence they came. Ever after that the king loathed the pleasures of sense, was free from desire, ate Ought we to read abhuñjitvā, “did not care to eat”? his choice and dainty food, but to women he would not speak, would not look at them, rose up disgusted at heart and retired to his magnificent chamber, and there he sat: stared at a white wall until focusing on the Meditation Object, he attained Absorption. In this rapture rapt, he recited a verse in dispraise of desire:

6. “Come, out on lust, I say, unsavoury, thorn-beset!
Never, though long I followed wrong, such joy as this I met!” {4.118}

Then his chief queen thought to herself, “That king heard the discoursing of the Paccekabuddhas, and now he never speaks to us, but buries himself despondent in his magnificent chamber. I must take him in hand.” So she came to the door of that lordly chamber, and standing at the door, heard the king’s exalted utterances, in dispraise of desire. She said: “O mighty king, you speak ill of desire! But there is no joy like the joy of sweet desire!” Then in praise of desire she repeated another verse:

7. “Great is the joy of sweet desire: no greater joy than love:
Who follow this attain the bliss of paradise above!”

Hearing this, the king made reply, “Perish, vile jade! What say you? Whence comes the joy of desire? There are miseries which come to pay for it,” with which he uttered the remaining verses in dispraise:

8. “Ill-tasting, painful is desire, there is no worser woe:
Who follow wrong are sure to win the pains of hell below.

9. Than sword well whetted, or a blade implacable, athirst,
Than knives deep driven in the heart, desires are more accursed.

10. A pit as deep as men are tall, where live coals blazing are,
A ploughshare heated in the sun – desires are worser far.

11. A poison very venomous, an oil of little ease, “Extracted oil”? (cf. Suśruta, i. 181). Apparently some kind of poison.
Or that vile thing to copper clings Verdigris. – desires are worse than these.” {4.119}

Thus the Great Being discoursed to his consort. Then he gathered his courtiers, and said: “O courtiers, do you manage the kingdom: I am about to renounce the world.” Amidst the wailing and lamentation of a great multitude, he rose before them, and poised in the air, delivered a discourse. Then along the path of the wind he past to the furthest Himālayas, and in a delightful spot built a [4.75] hermitage; there he lived the life of a sage, until at the end of his days he became destined for the Brahmā Realm.

The Teacher, having ended this discourse, added, “Monks, there is no such thing as a petty wrong: the very smallest wrong must be checked by a wise man.” Then he declared the Truths, and identified the Jātaka; now at the conclusion of the Truths the five hundred monks became Arahats. “At that time the Paccekabuddhas attained Nibbāna, Rāhula’s mother was the queen consort, and I myself was the king.”