Ja 466 Samuddavāṇijajātaka
The Story about the Merchant (who Traveled) the Ocean (12s)

In the present both Devadatta and the families that supported him are doomed through their opposition to the Buddha. The latter tells a story of some carpenters who, having sailed to an island, offended the Yakkhas who inhabited the place, who then threatened to destroy them; some listened and some ignored the warnings and were destroyed by a tsunami.

The Bodhisatta = the wise carpenter (paṇḍitavaḍḍhakī),
Devadatta = the foolish carpenter (bālavaḍḍhakī),
Sāriputta = the Devaputta Dhammika (Righteous) (Dhammikadevaputta),
Kokālika = the Devaputta Adhammika (Unrighteous) (Adhammikadevaputta).

Present Compare: Dhp-a I.12 Devadattassa vatthu.

Keywords: Greed, Gains, Devas.

“Others sow.” {4.158} This story the Teacher told while dwelling at Jetavana, about Devadatta, when he had gone down into hell, taking with him five hundred families. [4.99]

Now Devadatta, when the chief disciples Sāriputta and Moggallāna. had gone away, taking his followers with them, cf. Hardy, Buddhism, p. 328. being unable to swallow his pain, spat up hot blood from his mouth, and departed; then tormented by great agony, as he remembered the virtues of the Tathāgata, he said to himself, “For nine months I have thought evil of the Tathāgata, but in the Teacher’s heart is never a sinful thought for me; in the eighty chief elders is no malice towards me; by my own deeds that I have done I am become all forlorn, and I am renounced by the Teacher, by the great elders, by elder Rāhula chief of my family, Devadatta was brother-in-law of the Buddha. and by all the royal clans of the Sakyas. I will go to the Teacher, and reconcile myself with him.” So beckoning to his followers, he caused himself to be carried in a litter, and travelling always by night he made his way to the city of Kosala.

Ānanda the elder told the Teacher, saying: “Devadatta is coming, they say, to make his peace with you.” “Ānanda, Devadatta shall not see me.” Again when he had arrived at the city of Sāvatthi, the elder told it to the Teacher; and the Fortunate One replied as before. When he was at the gate of Jetavana, and moving towards the Jetavana lake, his wrongdoing came to a head: a fever arose in his body, and desiring to bathe and drink, he commanded them to let him out of the litter, that he might drink. No sooner had he alighted, and stood upon the ground, and before he could refresh himself, the great earth gaped, a flame arose from the nethermost hell of Avīci and surrounded him. Then he knew that his wrong deeds had come to a head, and remembering the virtues of the Tathāgata, he repeated this verse: [Milindapañhā 4.3.]

With these my bones to that supreme Being,
Marked with one hundred lucky marks, all-seeing,
God, more than God, who man’s bull-spirit tames,
With my soul to Buddha I am fleeing!

But in the very act of taking refuge, he was doomed to the hell Avīci. And there were five hundred families of his attendants, which families following him reviled the One with Ten Powers, and abused him, and in the Avīci hell were born, they also. Thus he went to Avīci, taking with him five hundred families.

So one day they were talking in the Dhamma Hall, “Monk, the sinful Devadatta, {4.159} through greed of gain, set his anger without cause against the Supreme Buddha, and with no regard for the terrors of the future, with five hundred families was doomed to hell.” The Teacher entered and asked of what they were speaking, and they told him. Said he, “Monks, Devadatta being greedy of gain and honour had no eye for the terrors of the future; and in former times, as now, regarding not the terrors of the future, he with his followers through greed of present happiness came to utter ruin.” So saying, he told them a story.

In the past, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, there stood near Benares a great town of carpenters, containing a thousand families. The carpenters from this town used to profess that they would make a bed, or a chair, or a house, and after receiving a large advance from men’s hands, they proved able to make nothing whatever. The people used to upbraid every carpenter they met with, and interfered [4.100] with them. So those debtors were so much harassed that they could live there no longer. “Let us go into some foreign land,” they said, “and find some place or other to dwell in,” so to the forest they went.

They cut down trees, they built a mighty ship, and launched her in the river, and took her away from that town, and at a distance of some three-quarters of a league See vol. ii. p. 147, note. [Which reads: Gāvutaddhayojanamatte. It may possibly mean ‘an eighth.’] they laid her up. Then in the middle of the night they returned to the town to fetch their families, whom they conveyed on board ship, and then proceeded in due course to the ocean. There they sailed at the wind’s will, until they reached an island that lay in the midst of the sea. Now in that island grew all manner of wild plants and wild fruit trees, rice, sugar-cane, banana, mango, Jambu plum, jack, coconut, and what not. There was another man who had been shipwrecked and had taken possession of that island before them, and lived therein, eating the rice and enjoying the sugar-cane and all the rest, by which he had grown stout and sturdy; naked he went, and his hair and beard were grown long. The carpenters thought: “If yonder island is haunted of Yakkhas, we shall all perish; so we will explore it.” Then seven brave and strong men, {4.160} armed them with the five kinds of weapons, Sword, spear, bow, shield, axe. disembarked and explored that island.

At that moment the castaway had just broken his fast, and drunk of the juice of the sugar-cane, and in high contentment was lying on his back in a lovely spot, cool in the shade on some sand which glistered like silver plate; and he was thinking: “No such happiness as this have they who dwell in Jambudīpa, that plough and sow; better to me is this island than Jambudīpa!” He uttered this exalted utterance, and was at the height of bliss.

The Teacher, to explain how this castaway uttered this exalted utterance, repeated the first verse:

1. “Others sow and others plough,
Living by the sweat o’ the brow;
In my realm they have no share:
Jambudīpa? This better far!”

The scouts who were exploring the isle caught the sound of his singing, and said: “It seems the voice of man that we hear; let us make acquaintance with him.” Following the sound, they came upon the man, but his aspect horrified them. “It is a Yakkha!” they cried, and put arrow to bow. When the man saw them, he was in fear of being wounded, so he called out, “I am no Yakkha, sirs, but a man: spare my [4.101] life!” “What!” they said, “do men go all naked and defenceless like you?” and asked him again and again, only to receive the same answer, that he was a man.

At last they approached him, and all began to talk pleasantly together, and the newcomers asked how he came there. The other told them the truth of it. “As a reward for your good deeds you have come here,” said he, “this is a first-rate island. No need here to work with your hands for a living; of rice and sugar-cane, and all the rest, there is no end here, and all growing wild; you may live here without anxiety.” “Is there nothing else,” they asked, {4.161} “to hinder our living here?” “No fear is there but this, the isle is haunted by Amanussas, and the Amanussas would be incensed to see the excretions of your bodies; so when you would relieve yourselves, dig a hole in the sand and hide it there. That is the only danger; there is no other; only always be careful on this point.”

Then they took up their abode in the place.

But among these thousand families there were two master workmen, one at the head of each five hundred of them; and one of these was foolish and greedy of the best food, the other wise and not bent on getting the best of everything.

In course of time as they continued to dwell there, all grew stout and sturdy. Then they thought: “We have not been merry men this long time, There seems to be something wrong with the text: as it stands, the meaning is: “For a long time these have not been heroes.” But the word sūro is used idiomatically, sūro hutvā “as bold as brass,” i. 262. 30, ii. 119. 22. It might well be used of “Dutch courage.” – Or perhaps surā (brandy) in some form may lurk here. we will make some toddy from the juice of the sugar-cane.” So they caused the strong drink to be made, and being drunken, sang, danced, sported, then in thoughtlessness relieved themselves here, there, and everywhere without hiding it, so that they made the island foul and disgusting.

The deities were incensed because these men made their playing-place all foul. “Shall we bring the sea over it,” they deliberated, “and cleanse the island? This is the dark fortnight; now our gathering is broken up. Well, on the fifteenth day from now, at the first of the full moon, at the time of the moon’s rising, we will bring up the sea and make an end of them all.” Thus they fixed the day. At this a righteous Devaputta who was one of them thought: “I would not that these should perish before my eyes.” So in his compassion, at the time when the men were sitting at their doors in pleasant converse, after their evening meal, he made the whole island one blaze of light, and adorned in all splendour stood poised in the air towards the north, and spoke to them thus, “O you carpenters! The deities are angry with you. Dwell no longer in this place, for in half a month from this time, the [4.102] deities will bring up the sea, {4.162} and destroy you one and all. Therefore flee from this place.” And he repeated the second verse:

2. “In thrice five days the moon will rise to view:
Then from the sea a mighty flood is due
This mighty island to o’erwhelm: then haste,
Elsewhere take shelter, that it hurt not you.”

With this advice, he returned to his own place. He gone, another comrade of his, a cruel Devaputta, thought: “Perhaps they will follow his advice and escape; I will prevent their going, and bring them all to utter destruction.” So adorned in divine splendour, he made a great blaze of light over the whole place, and approaching them, remained poised in the air towards the south, as he asked, “Has there been a Devaputta here?” “There has,” was the reply. “What did he tell you?” They answered, “Thus and thus, my lord.” He then said: “This god does not wish you to live here, and in anger speaks. Go not elsewhere, but stay even here.” And with these words, he repeated two verses:

3. “To me by many signs it is made clear,
That mighty ocean flood of which you hear
Shall never this great island overwhelm:
Then take your pleasure, grieve not, never fear.

4. Here you have lit upon a wide abode,
Full of all things to eat, of drink and food;
I see no danger for you: come, enjoy
Unto all generations this your good.” {4.163}

Having thus in these two verses offered to relieve their anxiety, he departed. When he was gone, the foolish carpenter lifted up his voice, and paying no heed to the saying of the righteous Devaputta, he cried, “Let your honours listen to me!” and addressed all the carpenters in the fifth verse:

5. “That god, who from the southern quarter clear
Cries out, ‘All safe!’ From him the truth we hear;
Fear or fear not, the northern knows no whit:
Why grieve, then? Take your pleasure – never fear!”

On hearing him, the five hundred carpenters who were greedy of good things inclined to the counsel of the foolish carpenter. But then the wise carpenter refused to hearken to his saying, and addressing the carpenters repeated four verses:

6. “While these two Yakkhas ’gainst each other cry,
One calling fear, and one security,
Come hear advice, lest soon and out of hand
You all together perish utterly.

7. Let us join all to build a mighty bark,
A vessel stout, and place within this ark
All fittings: if this southern spoke the truth,
And the other said but folly, off the mark. [4.103]

8. This vessel for us good at need shall be;
Nor will we leave this isle incontinent;
But if the northern god spake truthfully,
The southern did but foolishness present – {4.164}
Then in the ship we all embark together,
And where our safety lies, all hie us there.

9. Take not for best or worst what first you hear;
But whoso lets all pass within the ear,
And then deliberating takes the mean,
That man to safest harbourage will steer.” This metaphor is not in the Pāli.

After this, he again said: “Come now, let us follow the words of both the deities. Let us build a ship, and then if the words of the first be true, into that ship we will climb and depart; but if the words of the other be true, we will put the ship out of the way, and dwell here.” When he had thus spoken, said the foolish carpenter: {4.165} “Go to! You see a crocodile in a teacup! You are far too slow! The first Devaputta spake in anger against us, the second in affection. If we leave this choicest of isles, whither shall we go? But if you needs must go, take your tail with you, and make your ship, we want no ship, we!”

The wise man with those that followed him, built a ship, and put all the fittings aboard, and he and the whole company stood in the ship. Then on the day of the full moon, at the time of moon-rising, up front the ocean a wave arose, and knee-deep it swept over the whole island. The wise man, when he observed the rising of the wave, cast loose the ship. Those of the foolish carpenter’s party, five hundred families they were, sat still, saying to one another, “A wave has arisen, to sweep over the island, but it will be no deeper.” Then the ocean-wave rose waist-deep, man-deep, deep as a palm tree, as seven palm trees, and over the whole island it rolled. The wise man, having skill in means, not snared by greed of good things, departed in safety; but the foolish carpenter, greedy of good things, not regarding the fear of the future, with five hundred families was destroyed.

The other three verses, full of instruction, illustrating this matter, are verses spoken after Fully Awakening:

10. “As through mid-ocean, by the deeds they did,
The traders they escaped in happiness:
So wise men, comprehending what lies hid
Within the future, will no jot transgress.

11. Fools in their folly, eaten up with greed
Who future dangers do not comprehend,
Sink overwhelmed, in face of present need,
As these in middest-ocean found their end. [4.104] {4.166}

12. Accomplish then the deed before the need,
Let not lack hurt me of the needful thing.
Who timely do the necessary deed
Come time, come never into suffering.”

When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he said: “Not now for the first time, monks, but formerly also, has Devadatta been ensnared by pleasures of the present, and without a look to the future, has come to destruction with all his companions.” So saying, he identified the Jātaka, “At that time, Devadatta was the foolish carpenter, Kokālika was the unrighteous Devaputta that stood in the southern region, Sāriputta was the Devaputta who stood in the northern part, and I was myself the wise carpenter.”