Ja 470 Kosiyajātaka
The Story about (the Miser) Kosiya (12s)

There is no story of the present. The Buddha tells a story of a man who, although born in a family of generous givers, was a miser and how his forebears, now gods, persuaded him to follow in the family traditions.

The Bodhisatta = (the King of the Devas) Sakka,
Ānanda = (his charioteer) Mātali,
Moggallāna = (the god) Canda,
Kassapa = (the god) Suriya,
Anuruddha = (the heavenly musician) Pañcasikha,
the generous monk = (the miser) Kosiya.

Past Source: Ja 535 Sudhābhojana,
Quoted at: Ja 470 Kosiya.

Keywords: Generosity, Deeds, Devas.

The Kosiyajātaka will be given under the Sudhābhojanajātaka [Ja 535].

In the past when Brahmadatta was king of Benares there lived a wealthy householder possessed of eighty crores and the king conferred on him the office of Treasurer. Being thus honoured by the king and highly esteemed by citizens and country folk alike, he was one day dwelling upon his worldly prosperity, and he thought: “This glory was not won by me by slothfulness and sinful acts in a former existence but was attained by accomplishing deeds of virtue; it behoves me to make my safety sure in the future.” So he sought the king’s presence and addressed him thus, “In my house, sire, is treasure amounting to eighty crores: accept it from me.” And when the king said: “I have no need of your riches; I have abundant wealth: henceforth take and do whatever you like with it,” he said: “Can I, sire, bestow my money in generosity?” The king said: “Do as you please,” and he had six alms halls built, one at each of the four city gates, one in the heart of the city and one at the door of his dwelling-house, and by a daily expenditure of six hundred thousand pieces of money he set on foot almsgiving on a grand scale, and so long as he lived he dispensed alms and instructed his sons, saying: “See that you do not break away from this tradition of mine, of giving alms,” and at the close of his life he was reborn as Sakka.

His son, in like manner giving alms, was reborn as Canda, Canda’s son as Suriya, Suriya’s son as Mātali, Mātali’s son as Pañcasikha. Now Pañcasikha’s son, the sixth in descent, was the Treasurer was named Maccharikosiya (the Miser Kosiya) and he still owned eighty crores. But he thought: “My forefathers were fools. They flung away the wealth that was so sorely scraped together, but I will guard my treasure. I will not give a penny to a soul.” And he demolished and burned down the alms-hall and became a confirmed miser. So the beggars assembled at his gate and stretching forth their arms cried with a loud voice, “O Lord High Treasurer, do not away with the tradition of your forefathers, but give alms.” On hearing this the people blamed him, saying: “Maccharikosiya has done away with the tradition of his family.” Being ashamed he set a watch to prevent the beggars from standing at his gate, and being thus left utterly destitute they never again set eyes upon his door.

Thenceforth he continued to accumulate money, but he neither enjoyed it himself nor shared it with his wife and children. He lived on rice with red powder, served with sour gruel, and wore coarse garments, being merely the filaments of roots and stalks of berries, shading his head with a parasol of leaves, and he rode upon a crazy old chariot, yoked to worn-out oxen. Thus all this wicked fellow’s money was as it were a coconut found by a dog.

Now one day when he was going to wait upon the king he thought he would take the sub-treasurer with him, and at the moment when he reached his house he found the sub-treasurer seated in the midst of his wife and children, and eating some rice porridge prepared with powdered sugar to sweeten it and cooked with fresh ghee. On seeing Maccharikosiya he rose from his seat and said: “Come and sit on this couch, Lord High Treasurer, and have some rice porridge with me.” When he saw the rice porridge, his mouth watered and he longed to partake of it, but the thought occurred to him, “If I should take some porridge, when the sub-treasurer comes to my house I shall have to make him some return of hospitality and in this way my money will be wasted. I will not eat it.” Then on being pressed again and again he refused, saying: “I have already dined; I am sated.” But while the sub-treasurer was enjoying his food, he sat looking on with his mouth watering, and when the meal was ended he repaired with him to the palace.

On returning home he was overwhelmed with a craving for rice porridge, but thought: “If I should say I want to eat rice porridge, a lot of people would also want to eat it and a quantity of husked rice and the like would be wasted. I will not say a word to a creature.” So night and day he passed his time thinking of nothing but porridge, but from fear of spending his money he told no one and kept his craving to himself. But being unable to bear with it he gradually grew paler and paler, and so through fear of wasting his substance he spoke of his craving to no one, and by and by becoming very weak he lay down, hugging his bed. Then his wife came to see him and stroking his back with her hand she inquired, “Is my lord ill?” “Ill yourself!” he cried, “I am quite well.” “My lord, you have grown pale. Have you anything on your mind? Is the king displeased or have you been treated with disrespect by your children? Or have you conceived a craving for something?” “Yes, I have a craving.” “Tell me what it is, my lord.” “Can you keep a secret?” “Yes, I will be silent about any cravings that ought to be kept secret.”

But even so, through fear of wasting his substance he had not the courage to tell her, but eventually being repeatedly pressed by her he said: “My dear, one day I saw the sub-treasurer eating rice porridge prepared with ghee, honey, and powdered sugar, and from that day I have had a craving to eat the same kind of porridge.” “Poor wretch, are you so badly off? I will cook porridge enough for all the inhabitants of Benares.” Then he felt just as if he had been struck on the head with a stick. Being angry with her he said: “I am well aware that you are very rich. If it comes from your family, you may cook and give rice porridge to the whole city.” “Well then I will make and cook enough for the dwellers in a single street.” “What have you to do with them? Let them eat what belongs to them.” “Then I will make enough for seven households taken at random here and there.” “What are they to you?” “Then I will cook it for the attendants in this house.” “What are they to you?” “Well, then, I will cook for our kinsfolk only.” “What are they to you?” “Then I will cook, my lord, for you and me.” “And pray who are you? It is not allowable in your case.” “I will cook it for you only, my lord.” “Pray do not cook it for me: if you cook it in the house, a lot of people will look for it. But just give me a measure of husked rice, a quartern of milk, a pound of sugar, a pot of honey and a cooking vessel, and going into the forest I will there cook and eat my porridge.” She did so, and bidding a slave take it all he ordered him to go and stand in such and such a place. Then sending the slave forward, all alone he made himself a veil and in this disguise he went there and by the river side at the foot of a shrub he had an oven made and firewood and water brought to him and he said to the slave, “Go and stand in yonder road and, if you see anyone, make a sign to me, and when I call you come back to me.” Sending off the slave he made a fire and cooked his porridge.

At that moment Sakka, king of heaven, contemplating the splendid city of the gods, ten thousand leagues in extent, and the golden street sixty leagues long, and Vejayanta reared a thousand leagues high, and Sudhammā compassing five hundred leagues, and his throne of yellow marble, sixty leagues in extent, and his white umbrella with its golden wreath, five leagues in circumference, and his own person accompanied with a glorious array of twenty-five millions of Devakaññās – contemplating, I say, all this glory of his he thought: “What can I have done to have attained to such honour as this?” And he saw in his mind’s eye the almsgiving he had established when he was Lord High Treasurer at Benares, and then he thought: “Where are my descendants born?” and considering the matter he said: “My son Canda was born in a Devaputta form, and his son was Suriya.” And marking the birth of all of them, “What,” he cried, “has been the fate of the son of Pañcasikha?” And on reflection he saw that the tradition of the race had been done away with, and the thought occurred to him, “This wicked fellow being stingy neither enjoys his wealth himself nor gives anything to others: the tradition of the race has been destroyed by him. When he dies he will be reborn in hell. By admonishing him and by re-establishing my tradition I will show him how to be reborn in the city of the gods.”

So he summoned Canda and the rest and saying: “Come, we will visit the haunts of men: the tradition of our family has been abolished by Maccharikosiya, the alms halls have been burned down and he neither enjoys wealth himself nor gives anything to others, but now being desirous of eating porridge and thinking: “If it is cooked in the house, the porridge will have to be given to someone else as well,” he has gone into the forest and is cooking it all alone. We will go and convert him and teach him the fruits of generosity. If however he were asked by all of us at once to give us some food, he would fall dead on the spot. I will go first and when I have asked him for porridge and have taken my seat, then do you come, one after another, disguised as brahmins, and beg of him.”

So saying he himself in the likeness of a brahmin approached him and cried, “Ho! Which is the road to Benares?” Then Maccharikosiya said: “Have you lost your wits? Do you not even know the way to Benares? Why are you coming this way? Get you gone from hence.” Sakka, pretending not to hear what he said, came close up to him, asking him what he said. Then he bawled, “I say, you deaf old brahmin, why are you coming this way? Go yonder.” Then Sakka said: “Why do you bawl so loud? Here I see smoke and a fire, and rice porridge is cooking. It must be some occasion for entertaining brahmins. I too when the brahmins are being fed will take somewhat. Why are you driving me away?” “There is no entertainment of brahmins here. Be off with you.” “Then why are you so angry? When you eat your meal, I will take a little.” He said: “I will not give you even a single lump of boiled rice. This scanty food is only just enough to keep me alive, and even this was got by begging. You go and look for your food elsewhere” and this he said in reference to the fact of his having asked his wife for the rice – and he spoke this verse:

1. “No huckster I to buy or vend,
No stores are mine to give or lend:
This dole of rice ’twas hard to gain,
’Tis scarce enough to serve us twain.”

On hearing this Sakka said: “I too with honey-sweet voice will repeat a verse for you; hearken to me,” and though he tried to stop him, saying: “I do not want to hear your verse,” Sakka repeated a couple of verses:

2. “From little one should little give, from moderate means likewise,
From much give much: of giving nought no question can arise.

3. This then I tell you, Kosiya, give alms from what is thine:
Eat not alone, no bliss is his that by himself shall dine,
By generosity you may ascend the noble path divine.”

On hearing his words he said: “This is a gracious saying of thine, brahmin; when the porridge is cooked, you shall receive a little. Pray, take a seat.” Sakka sat down on one side. When he was seated, Canda in like manner drew nigh and starting a conversation in the same way, though Maccharikosiya kept trying to stop him, he spoke a couple of verses:

4. “Vain is your sacrifice and vain the craving of your heart,
Should you eat food and grudge to give your guest some little part.

5. This then I tell you, Kosiya, give alms from what is thine:
Eat not alone, no bliss is his that by himself shall dine,
By generosity you may ascend the noble path divine.”

On hearing his words, the miser very reluctantly said: “Well, sit down, and you shall have a little porridge.” So he went and sat down near Sakka. Then Suriya in like manner drew nigh and starting a conversation in the same way, though the miser tried to stop him, he spoke a couple of verses:

6. “Real your sacrifice nor vain the craving of your heart,
Should you not eat your food alone, but give your guest a part.

7. This then I tell you, Kosiya, give alms from what is thine:
Eat not alone, no bliss is his that by himself shall dine,
By generosity you may ascend the noble path divine.”

On hearing his words the miser with great reluctance said: “Well, sit down, and you shall have a little.” So Suriya went and sat by Canda. Then Mātali in like manner drew nigh and starting a conversation, though the miser tried to stop him, spoke these verses:

8. “Who offers gifts to lake or flood of Gayā’s stream that laves
Or Timbaru or Doṇa shrine with rapid-flowing waves,

9. Herein gains fruit of sacrifice and craving of his heart,
If with a guest he shares his food nor sits and eats apart.

10. This then I tell you, Kosiya, give alms from what is thine:
Eat not alone, no bliss is his that by himself shall dine,
By generosity you may ascend the noble path divine.”

On hearing his words also, overwhelmed as it were with a mountain peak, he reluctantly said: “Well, sit down, and you shall have a little.” Mātali came and sat by Suriya. Then Pañcasikha in like manner drew nigh and starting a conversation, though the miser tried to stop him, spoke a couple of verses:

11. “Like fish that swallows greedily hook fastened to a line
Is he who with a guest at hand all by himself shall dine.

12. This then I tell you, Kosiya, give alms from what is thine:
Eat not alone, no bliss is his that by himself shall dine,
By generosity you may ascend the noble path divine.”

Maccharikosiya on hearing this, with a painful effort and groaning aloud, said: “Well, sit down, and you shall have a little.” So Pañcasikha went and sat by Mātali. And when these five brahmins had just taken their seats, the porridge was cooked. Then Kosiya taking it from the oven told the brahmins to bring their leaves. Remaining seated as they were they stretched forth their hands and brought leaves of a creeper from the Himālayas. Kosiya on seeing them said: “I cannot give you any porridge in these large leaves of yours: get some leaves of the acacia and similar trees.” They gathered such leaves and each one was as big as a warrior’s shield. So he helped all of them to some porridge with a spoon. By the time he had helped the last of all, there was still plenty left in the pot. After serving the five brahmins he himself sat down, holding the pot.