Ja 479 Kāliṅgabodhijātaka
The Story about (King) Kāliṅga and the Bodhi Tree
In the present the devotees at Sāvatthi want a sign of the Buddha left behind when he goes on teaching tour. Ven. Ānanda gets permission to have a Bodhi tree planted in Jetavana, and for the Buddha to sit under it for one night. The Buddha then tells a story of how, as a Universal Monarch in a previous life, Ānanda had found the area of the Bodhi tree, and worshipped at it.
The Bodhisatta = (the brahmin) Kāliṅgabhāradvāja,
Ānanda = (the king of) Kāliṅga.
Present Source: Ja 479 Kāliṅgabodhi,
Quoted at: Ja 261 Paduma.
Keywords: Devotion, Memorial.
“King Kāliṅga.” This story the Teacher told while dwelling at Jetavana about worship of the Bodhi tree performed by elder Ānanda.
When the Tathāgata had set forth on pilgrimage, for the purpose of gathering in those who were ripe for conversion, the citizens of Sāvatthi proceeded to Jetavana, their hands full of garlands and fragrant wreaths, and finding no other place to show their reverence, laid them by the gateway of the perfumed chamber and went off. This caused great rejoicings. But Anāthapiṇḍika got to hear of it; and on the return of the Tathāgata visited elder Ānanda and said to him, “This monastery, sir, is left unprovided while the Tathāgata goes on pilgrimage, and there is no place for the people to do reverence by offering fragrant wreaths and garlands. Will you be so kind, sir, as to tell the Tathāgata of this matter, and learn from him whether or not it is possible to find a place for this purpose.” The other, quite willingly, did so, asking, “How many shrines are there?” “Three, Ānanda.” “Which are they?” “Shrines for a relic of the body, a relic of use or wear, a relic of memorial.” The last class is said to be images of the Buddha. “Can a shrine be made, sir, during your life?” “No, Ānanda, not a body-shrine; that kind is made when a Buddha enters Nibbāna. A shrine of memorial is improper because the connection depends on the imagination only. But the great Bodhi tree used by the Buddhas is fit for a shrine, be they alive or be they dead.” “Sir, while you are away on pilgrimage the great monastery of Jetavana
The elder told this to Anāthapiṇḍika, and Visākhā, and the king. Then at the gateway of Jetavana he cleared out a pit for the Bodhi tree to stand in, and said to the chief elder, Moggallāna, “I want to plant a Bodhi tree in front of Jetavana. Will you get me a fruit of the great Bodhi tree?” The elder, willingly, passed through the air to the platform under the Bodhi tree.
In the place where the Bodhi tree was to be planted the elder had placed a golden jar, and in the bottom of it was a hole; all was filled with earth moistened with fragrant water. He said: “O king, plant this seed of the Bodhi tree,” giving it to the king. But the king, thinking that his kingdom was not to be in his hands for ever, and that Anāthapiṇḍika ought to plant it, passed the seed to Anāthapiṇḍika, the great merchant. Then Anāthapiṇḍika stirred up the fragrant soil and dropped it in. The instant it dropped from his hand, before the very eyes of all, it sprang up as broad as a plough-head a Bodhi sapling, fifty cubits tall; on the four sides and upwards shot forth five great branches of fifty cubits in length, like the trunk. So stood the tree, a very lord of the forest already; a mighty miracle! The king poured round the tree jars of gold and of silver, in number eight hundred, filled with scented water, beauteous with a great quantity of blue water-lilies, and caused to be set there a long line of vessels all full, and a seat he had made of the seven precious things, golden dust he had sprinkled about it, a wall was built round the precincts, he erected a gate chamber of the seven precious things. Great was the honour paid to it.
The elder, approaching the Tathāgata, said to him, “Sir, for the people’s good, accomplish under the Bodhi tree which I have planted that height of Attainment to which you attained under the great Bodhi tree.” “What is this you say, Ānanda?” replied he. “There is no other place can support me, if I sit there and attain to that which I attained in the enclosure of the great Bodhi tree.” “Sir,” said Ānanda, “I pray you for the good of the people, to use this tree for the rapture of Attainment, in so far as this spot of ground can support the weight.” The Teacher used it during one night for the rapture of Attainment.
The elder informed the king, and all the rest, and called it by the name of the Bodhi Festival. And this tree, having been planted by Ānanda, was known by the name of Ānanda’s Bodhi tree. [In the story Anāthapiṇḍaka does the actual planting, monks not being allowed to dig the earth. We may understand it as being due to Ānanda that the tree was planted.]
At that time they began to talk of it in the Dhamma Hall. “Monks, while yet the Tathāgata lived, the venerable Ānanda caused a Bodhi tree to be planted,
In the past, in the kingdom of Kāliṅga, and in the city of Dantapura, reigned a king named Kāliṅga. He had two sons, named
Time passed by, and on his father’s death the eldest son became king, the youngest viceroy. The youngest, ever thinking that a son born of him was to be a Universal Monarch, grew arrogant on that account. This the king could not accept, so he sent a messenger to arrest Cullakāliṅga. The man came and said: “Prince, the king wishes to have you arrested, so save your life.” The prince showed the courtier charged with this mission his own signet ring, a fine rug, and his sword: these three. Then he said: “By these tokens The tokens are a familiar feature of folk-tales. We may compare the story of Theseus, with his father’s sword and sandals: Pausanias, i. 27. 8. you shall know my son, and make him king.” With these words, he sped away into the forest. There he built a hut in a pleasant place, and lived as an ascetic upon the bank of a river.
Now in the kingdom of Madda, and in the city of Sāgala, a daughter was born to the king of Madda. Of the girl, as of the prince, fortune-tellers foretold that she should live as an ascetic, but her son was to be a Universal Monarch. The kings of Jambudīpa, hearing this rumour, came together with one accord, and surrounded the city. The king thought to himself, “Now, if I give my daughter to one, all the other kings will be enraged. I will try to save her.” So with wife and daughter he fled disguised away into the forest; and after building him a hut some distance up the river, above the hut of prince Kāliṅga,
The parents, wishing to save their daughter, left her behind in the hut, and went out to gather wild fruits. While they were gone she gathered flowers of all kinds, and made them into a flower-wreath. Now on the bank of the Ganges there is a mango tree with beautiful flowers, which forms a kind of natural ladder. Upon this she climbed, and while playing managed to drop the wreath of flowers into the water. Another familiar episode in folk tales, but of Protean form. It is commonly a hair of the lady’s head that falls. See Clouston, Popular Tales and Fictions, i. 241 (India), 251, (Egypt); North Indian Notes and Queries, ii. 704; Lal Behari Day, Folk Tales of Bengal, No, 4.
One day, as prince Kāliṅga was coming out of the river after a bath, this flower-wreath caught in his hair.
He looked at it, and said: “Some woman made this, and no full-grown woman but a tender young girl. I must search for her.” So deeply in love he journeyed up the Ganges, until he heard her singing in a sweet voice, as she sat in the mango tree. He approached the foot of the tree,
When her parents returned she told them about this son of the king of Kālinga, and how he came into the forest, in all detail. They consented to give her to him. While they lived together in happy union, the princess conceived, and after ten months brought forth a son with the signs of good luck and virtue; and they named him Kāliṅga. He grew up, and learned all arts and accomplishments from his father and grandfather.
At length his father knew from the conjunctions of the stars that his brother was dead. So he called his son, and said: “My son, you must not spend your life in the forest. Your father’s brother, Mahākāliṅga, is dead; you must go to Dantapura, and receive your hereditary kingdom.”
The lad bade farewell to his parents and grandparents; and by power of his own virtue he passed through the air, and descending into the house of that courtier entered his bedchamber. “Who are you?” asked the other. “The son of Cullakāliṅga,” said he, disclosing the three tokens. The courtier told it to the palace, and all those of the court decorated the city and spread the umbrella of royalty over his head. Then the family priest, who was named Kāliṅgabhāradvāja, taught him the ten ceremonies which a Universal Monarch has to perform, and he fulfilled those duties. Then on the fifteenth day, the Uposatha, came to him from Cakkadaha the precious Wheel Jewel, from the Uposatha stock the Elephant Jewel, from the royal Valāha breed the Horse Jewel, from Vepulla the precious Jewel; and the Jewels of wife, retinue, and prince made their appearance. For an account of the Cakkavatti, and the miracles at his appearing, consult Hardy’s Manual, 126 ff. See also Rhys Davids on the Questions of Milinda, vol. i. p. 57 (he renders the last two treasurer and adviser), and Buddhist Suttas, p. 257. Then he achieved sovereignty in the whole terrestrial sphere.
One day, surrounded by a company which covered six-and-thirty leagues, and mounted upon an elephant all white, tall as a peak of Mount
Explaining this, the Teacher recited the first verse:
1. “King Kāliṅga, lord supreme,
Ruled the earth by law and right,
To the Bodhi tree once he came
On an elephant of might.”
Hereupon the king’s family priest, who was travelling with the king, thought to himself, “In the air is no hindrance; why cannot the king make his elephant go on?
By way of explaining this the Teacher recited these verses following:
2. “This Kāliṅgabhāradvāja told his king, the ascetic’s son,
As he rolled the Wheel Jewel, guiding him, obeisance done:
3. This the place the poets sing of; here, O mighty king, alight!
Here attained to Awakening perfect Buddhas, shining bright.
4. In the world, tradition has it, this one spot is hallowed ground,
Where in attitude of reverence herbs and creepers stand around. The commentator says of this maṇḍo: “As the age continues, at first it continues the same, then with the waning of the age wanes again and grows less.”
5. Come, descend and do obeisance; since as far as the ocean bound
In the fertile earth all-fostering this one spot is hallowed ground.
6. All the elephants you ownest thoroughbred by dam and sire,
Hither drive them, they will surely come thus far, but come no nigher.
7. He is thoroughbred you ride on; drive the creature as you will,
He can go not one step further: here the elephant stands still.
8. Spake the soothsayer, heard Kāliṅga; then the king to him, said he,
Driving deep the goad into him: ‘Be this truth, we soon shall see.’
9. Pierced, the creature trumpets loudly, shrill as any heron cries,
Moved, then fell upon his haunches neath the weight, and could not rise.”
Pierced and pierced again by the king, this elephant could not endure the pain, and so died; but the king knew not he was dead, and sat there still on his back. Then Kāliṅgabhāradvāja said: “O great king! Your elephant is dead; pass on to another.”
To explain this matter, the Teacher recited the tenth verse:
10. “When Kāliṅgabhāradvāja saw the elephant was dead,
He in fear and trepidation then to king Kāliṅga said:
Seek another, mighty monarch: this your elephant is dead.”
By the virtue and magical power of the king, another beast of the Uposatha breed appeared and offered his back. The king sat on his back. At that moment the dead elephant fell upon the earth.
To explain this matter, the Teacher repeated another verse:
11. “This heard, Kāliṅga in dismay
Mounted another, and straightway
Upon the earth the corpse sank down,
And the soothsayer’s word for very truth was shown.”
Thereupon the king came down from the air, and beholding the precinct of the Bodhi tree, and the miracle that was done, he praised Bhāradvāja, saying:
12. “To Kāliṅgabhāradvāja king Kāliṅga thus did say:
All you know and you understand, and you see all alway.”
Now the brahmin would not accept this praise; but standing in his own humble place, he extolled the Buddhas, and praised them.
To explain this, the Teacher repeated these verses:
13. “But the brahmin straight denied it, and thus spake unto the king:
I know truth of marks and tokens: but the Buddhas, every thing.
14. Though all-knowing and all-seeing, yet in marks they have no skill:
They know all, but know by insight: I a man of books am still.”
The king, hearing the virtues of the Buddhas, was delighted in heart; and he caused all the dwellers in the world to bring fragrant wreaths in plenty, and for seven days he made them do worship at the circuit of the Great Bodhi tree.
By way of explanation, the Teacher recited a couple of verses:
15. “Thus worshipped he the Bodhi tree Reading taṁ bodhiṁ. [The original mistakenly writes tain bodhim.] with much melodious sound
Of music, and with fragrant wreaths: a wall he set around,”
and after that the king went on his way:
16. “Brought flowers in sixty thousand carts an offering to be;
Thus king Kāliṅga worshipped the circuit of the tree.”
Having in this manner done worship to the Great Bodhi tree, he visited his parents, and took them back with him again to Dantapura; where he gave alms and did good deeds, until he was born again in the Heaven of the Thirty-Three.
The Teacher, having finished this discourse, said: “It is not now the first time, monks, that Ānanda did worship the Bodhi tree, but previously also,” and then he identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ānanda was Kāliṅga, and I myself was Kāliṅgabhāradvāja.”
last updated: November 2021