Ja 475 Phandanajātaka
The Story about the Phandana Tree (13s)

In the present the Sākiyans and the Koliyans are come to war over the supply of water. The Buddha tells a story of how a lion got angry with a tree, and arranged with a woodman to have it chopped down, while the deity of the tree arranged with the same woodman to have the lion killed, they both losing out.

The Bodhisatta = the Devatā who lived in the tree in the grove (vanasaṇḍe nivutthadevatā).

Present Source: Ja 536 Kuṇāla,
Quoted at: Ja 475 Phandana,
Present Compare: Ja 74 Rukkhadhamma,
Past Source: Ja 475 Phandana,
Quoted: Ja 536 Kuṇāla (Present).

Keywords: Quarrels, Revenge, Devas, Animals.

“O man, who stand.” This story the Teacher told on the bank of the river Rohiṇī, about a family quarrel. The circumstances will be described at large under the Kuṇālajātaka [Ja 536].

This was a story told by the Teacher, while dwelling beside lake Kuṇāla, concerning five hundred monks who were overwhelmed with discontent. Here follows the story in due order. The Sākiya and Koliya tribes had the river Rohinī which flows between the cities of Kapilavatthu and Koliya confined by a single dam and by means of it cultivated their crops. In the month Jeṭṭhamūla when the crops began to flag and droop, the labourers from amongst the dwellers of both cities assembled together. Then the people of Koliya said: “Should this water be drawn off on both sides, it will not prove sufficient for both us and you. But our crops will thrive with a single watering; give us then the water.” The people of Kapilavatthu said: “When you have filled your garners with corn, we shall hardly have the courage to come with ruddy gold, emeralds and copper coins, and with baskets and sacks in our hands, to hang about your doors. Our crops too will thrive with a single watering; give us the water.” “We will not give it,” they said. “Neither will we,” said the others.

As words thus ran high, one of them rose up and struck another a blow, and he in turn struck a third and thus it was that what with interchanging of blows and spitefully touching on the origin of their princely families they increased the tumult. The Koliya labourers said: “Be off with your people of Kapilavatthu, men who like dogs, jackals, and such like beasts, cohabited with their own sisters. What will their elephants and horses, their shields and spears avail against us?” The Sākiya labourers replied, “Nay, do you, wretched lepers, be off with your children, destitute and ill-conditioned fellows, who like brute beasts had their dwelling in a hollow jujube tree (koli). What shall their elephants and horses, their spears and shields avail against us?”

So they went and told the councillors appointed to such services and they reported it to the princes of their tribes. Then the Sākiyas said: “We will show them how strong and mighty are the men who cohabited with their sisters,” and they sallied forth, ready for the fray. And the Koliyas said: “We will show them how strong and mighty are they who dwelt in the hollow of a jujube tree,” and they too sallied forth ready for the fight.

But other teachers tell the story thus, “When the female slaves of the Sākiyas and Koliyas came to the river to fetch water, and throwing the coils of cloth that they carried on their heads upon the ground were seated and pleasantly conversing, a certain woman took another’s cloth, thinking it was her own; and when owing to this a quarrel arose, each claiming the coil of cloth as hers, gradually the people of the two cities, the serfs and the labourers, the attendants, headmen, councillors and viceroys, all of them sallied forth ready for battle.” But the former version being found in many commentaries and being plausible is to be accepted rather than this one.

Now it was at eventide that they would be sallying forth, ready for the fray. At that time the Fortunate One was dwelling at Sāvatthi, and at dawn of day while contemplating the world he beheld them setting out to the fight, and on seeing them he wondered whether if he were to go there the quarrel would cease, and he made up his mind and thought: “I will go there and, to quell this feud, I will relate three Jātaka Stories, and after that the quarrelling will cease. Then after telling two Jātaka Stories, to illustrate the blessings of union, I will teach them the Attadaṇḍasutta [Snp 4.15] and after hearing my sermon the people of the two cities will each of them bring into my presence two hundred and fifty youths, and I shall admit them to the Saṅgha and there will be a huge gathering.”

Thus after performing his toilet, he went his rounds in Sāvatthi for alms, and on his return, after taking his meal, at eventide he issued forth from his Perfumed Chamber and without saying a word to any man he took his bowl and robe and went by himself and sat cross-legged in the air between the two hosts. And seeing it was an occasion to startle them, to create darkness he sat there emitting (dark-blue) rays from his hair. Then when their hearts were troubled he revealed himself and emitted the six-coloured rays.

The people of Kapilavatthu on seeing the Fortunate One thought: “The Teacher, our noble kinsman, is come. Can he have seen the obligation laid upon us to fight?” “Now that the Teacher has come, it is impossible for us to discharge a weapon against the person of an enemy,” and they threw down their arms, saying: “Let the Koliyas slay us or roast us alive.” The Koliyas acted in exactly the same way. Then the Fortunate One alighted and seated himself on a magnificent Buddha throne, set in a charming spot on a bed of sand, and he shone with the incomparable glory of a Buddha. The kings too saluting the Fortunate One took their seats.

Then the Teacher, though he knew it right well, asked, “Why are you come here, mighty kings?” “Venerable sir,” they answered, “we are come, neither to see this river, nor to disport ourselves, but to get up a fight.” “What is the quarrel about, sires?” “About the water.” “What is the water worth?” “Very little, venerable sir.” “What is the earth worth?” “It is of priceless value.” “What are warrior chiefs worth?” “They too are of priceless value.” “Why on account of some worthless water are you for destroying chiefs of high worth? Verily, there is no satisfaction in this quarrel, but owing to a feud, sire, between a certain Tree Devatā and a black lion a grudge was set up, which has reached down to this present aeon,” and with these words he told them the Phandanajātaka [Ja 475].

On this occasion the Teacher addressed himself to the kinsmen, O king, and said.

In the past, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, there stood outside the city a village of carpenters. In it was a brahmin carpenter, who gained his livelihood by bringing wood from the forest, and making carts.

At that time there was a great plassey The phandana is a tree of the same kind as the palāṣa [or Plassey], “butea frondosa.” tree in the region of the Himālayas. {4.208} A black lion used to go and lie at its root when hunting for food. One day a wind smote the tree, and a dry branch fell, and came down upon his shoulder. The blow gave him pain, and in fear he speedily rose up, and sprang away; then turning, he looked on the path he came by, and seeing nothing, thought: “There is no other lion or tiger, nor any in pursuit. Well, I think, the deity of that tree cannot deal with my lying there. I will find out if so it be.” So thinking, he grew angry out of season, and struck the tree, and cried, “Not a leaf on your tree did I eat, not a branch did I break; you can put up with other creatures abiding here, and you cannot put up with me! What is wrong with me? Wait [4.130] a few days, and I will tear you out root and branch, I will get you chopped up chipmeal!” Thus he upbraided the deity of the tree, and then away he went in search of a man.

At that time the brahmin carpenter aforesaid with two or three other men, had come in a wagon to that neighbourhood to get wood for his trade as a cartwright. He left his wagon in a certain spot, and then adze and hatchet in hand went searching for trees. He happened to come near this plassey tree. The lion seeing him went and stood under the tree, for, he thought: “Today I must see the back of my enemy!” But the cartwright looking this way and that fled from the neighbourhood of the tree. “I will speak to him before he gets quite away,” thought the lion, and repeated the first verse:

1. “O man, who stand with axe in hand, within this woodland haunt,
Come tell me true, I ask of you, what tree is it you want?”

“Lo, a miracle!” said the man, on hearing this address, “I swear, I never yet saw beast that could talk like a man. {4.209} Of course he will know what kinds of wood are good for the cartwright. I’ll ask him.” Thus thinking, he repeated the second verse:

2. “Up hill, down dale, along the plain, a king you range the wood:
Come tell me true, I ask of you – what tree for wheels is good?”

The lion listened, and said to himself, “Now I shall gain my heart’s desire!” then he repeated the third verse:

3. “Not Sāl, acacia, not mare’s-ear, Vatica Robusta: so called from the shape of its leaves. much less a shrub dhavo: Grislea Tomentosa. is good;
There is a tree they call plassey, and there’s your best wheel-wood.”

The man was pleased to hear this, and thought: “A happy day it was brought me into the woodland. Here’s a creature in the shape of a beast to tell me what wood is good for the wheelwright! Hey, but that’s fine!” So he questioned the lion in the fourth verse:

4. “What is the fashion of the leaves, what sort the trunk to see,
Come tell me true, I ask of you, that I may know that tree?”

In reply the lion repeated two verses:

5. “This is the tree whose branch you see droop, bend, but never break;
This is the plassey, on whose roots my standing-place I take.

6. For spoke or felloe, pole of car, or wheel, or any part,
This plassey tree will do for you in making of a cart.”

After this declaration, the lion moved aside, joy in his heart. The cartwright began to fell the tree. Then the Tree Devatā thought: “I never dropped anything on that beast; he fell in a rage out of season, and now he [4.131] is for destroying my home, and I too shall be destroyed. {4.210} I must find some way of destroying his majesty.” So assuming the shape of a woodman, he came up to the cartwright, and said to him, “Ho man! A fine tree you have there! What will you do with it when it is down?” “Make a cart wheel.” “What! Has any one told you that tree is good for a cart?” “Yes, a black lion.” “Very good, well said black lion. You can make a fine cart out of that tree, says he. But I tell you that if you flay off the skin from a black lion’s neck, and put it around the outer edge of the wheel, like a sheath of iron, just a strip four fingers wide, the wheel will be very strong, and you will gain a great deal by it.” “But where can I get the skin of a black lion?” “How stupid you are! The tree stands fast in the forest, and won’t run away. You go and find the lion who told you about this tree, and ask him in what part of the tree you are to cut, and bring him here. Then while he suspects nothing, and points out this place or that, wait till he sticks his jaw out, and smite him as he speaks with your sharpest axe, kill him, take the skin, eat the best of the flesh, and fell the tree at your leisure.” Thus he indulged his wrath.

To explain this matter, the Teacher repeated the following verses:

7. “Thus did at once the plassey tree his will and wish make clear:
I too a message have to tell: O Bhāradvāja, hear!

8. ‘From shoulder of the king of beasts cut off four inches wide,
And put it round the wheel, for so more strong it will abide.’

9. So in a trice the plassey tree, indulging in his ire,
On lions born and those unborn brought down destruction dire.”

The cartwright hearing the Tree Devatā’s directions, cried out, “Ah, this is a lucky day for me!” He killed the lion, cut down the tree, and away he went. {4.211}

The Teacher explained the matter by reciting:

10. “Thus plassey tree contends with beast, The word is īso, “lord,” i.e. lion, king of beasts. So above. and beast with tree contends,
So each with mutual dispute to death the other sends.

11. So among men, where’er a feud or quarrel does arise,
They, as the beast and tree did now, cut capers peacock-wise. The commentator explains that men expose themselves in a quarrel, as peacocks expose their privy parts. This is perhaps an allusion to No. 32.

12. This tell I you, that well is you what time you are at one:
Be of one mind, and quarrel not, as beast and tree have done. [4.132]

13. Learn peace with all men; this the wise all praise; and who is fain
Of peace and righteousness, he sure will final peace attain.”

When they heard the discourse of the king, they were reconciled.

The Teacher, having brought this discourse to an end, identified the Jātaka, “At that time, I was the deity who lived in that wood, and saw the whole business.”