Ja 499 Sivijātaka See Avadānaśātaka, iv. 4 (34), and the note on p. 127 of Feer’s translation (Musée Guimet); Milinda-pañha, iv. i. 42 (p. 179 of the translation).
The Story about (King) Sivi (20s)
In the present the king of Kosala gives an incomparable gift to the Buddha and the Saṅgha. The Buddha tells a story of a king who was not content with giving material gifts but determined to give even of his own body. When Sakka came he asked for an eye, and he gave both his eyes, and later received divine eyes in return.
The Bodhisatta = king Sivi (Sivirājā),
Ānanda = (king) Sivi’s physician (sīvikavejja),
Anuruddha = (the King of the Devas) Sakka,
the Buddha’s followers = the rest of the cast (sesaparisā).
Present Source: DN-a 19 Mahāgovindasutta,
Quoted at: Ja 424 Āditta, Ja 495 Dasabrāhmaṇa, Ja 499 Sivi,
Past Compare: Cp 8 Sivirājacariyā, Jm 2 Śibi.
Keywords: Generosity, Truth,
“If there be any human.” This story the Teacher told while dwelling at Jetavana, about the gift incomparable. The circumstances have been fully told in Book VIII under the Sovīrajātaka [Ja 424]. [Ja 424 Ādittajātaka is here called the Sovīra Birth; at Dasabrāhmaṇajātaka, Ja 495 it was called the Socira Birth. I include the story here.]
It seems at one time almsfood arose in due order for the Fortunate One in Rājagaha, Sāvatthi, Sāketa, Kosambī, Bārāṇasī, and therein, some said: “Having spent a hundred pieces, I will give a gift,” and having written it on a leaf, it was pinned to the door of the monastery. Others said: “I will give two hundred.” Others said: “I will give five hundred.” Others said: “I will give a thousand.” Others said: “I will give two thousand.” Others said: “I will give five, ten, twenty, fifty.” Others said: “I will give a hundred thousand.” Others said: “I will give two hundred thousand,” and having written it on a leaf, it was pinned to the door of the monastery. Receiving the opportunity while the Buddha was walking on a walk through the countryside, they said: “I will give a gift,” and after filling their carts, the countryfolk followed along.
They spoke like this, “At that time the people of the country after filling the carts with salt, oil, rice and sweetmeats, followed along close behind the Fortunate One, saying: ‘In due order wherever we can get an opportunity, there we will give them food,’ and everything is to be understood as in the story in the Khandhakas of the Vinaya. Just so was the unmatched gift achieved.
Having walked on a walk through the countryside, at that time it seems the Fortunate One arrived at Jetavana, and the king invited him and gave a gift. On the second day the city folk gave a gift. But their gift was greater than the king’s, and then next day his was greater than the city folks,’ thus after a number of days had passed the king thought: “These city folk day by day give exceedingly, if the lord of the earth, the king, is defeated by the gifts of the city folk, he will be blamed.” Then queen Mallikā told a skilful means to him.
Having made a pavilion with beautiful boards in the royal courtyard, and covered it with blue lotuses, having arranged five hundred seats, and placed five hundred elephants in front of the seats, each elephant held a white parasol over each of the monks. And two by two on the side of the seats, adorned with all decorations, young noblewomen ground up the four kinds of incense. At the conclusion she placed a measure of incense in the middle, while the other noblewoman rolled it with the hand holding the blue lotuses. Thus each monk was surrounded by noblewomen, and other women, adorned with all decorations, who, having taken a fan, were fanning them, and others, who having taken a water strainer, strained the water, and others who took away the fallen water.
For the Fortunate One there were four invaluable things: a foot stand, a stool, a bolster, and a jewelled parasol, these were the four invaluable things.
The gifts for the last to come in the Saṅgha were valued at a hundred thousand.
But here the king, on the seventh day, gave all the requisites and asked for thanks; but the Teacher went away without thanking him. After breakfast the king went to the monastery, and said: “Why did you return no thanks, sir?” The Teacher said: “The people were impure, your majesty.” He went on to declare the Dhamma, reciting the verse that begins,
“The miserly go not to the world of the gods,
Fools surely do not praise giving,
But the wise one rejoices in giving,
And through that he is happy hereafter.” Dhp 177. [Only the first line is quoted in the text. I include a complete translation here.]
The king, pleased at heart, did reverence to the Tathāgata by presenting an outer robe of the Sivi country, worth a thousand pieces of money; then he returned to the city.
Next day they were talking of it in the Dhamma Hall, “Sirs, the king of Kosala gave the gift incomparable: and, not content with that, when the One with Ten Powers had discoursed to him, the king gave him a Sivi garment worth a thousand pieces! How insatiate the king is in giving, sure enough!” The Teacher came in, and asked what they talked about as they sat there: they told him. He said: “Monks, things external are acceptable, true: but wise men of old, who gave gifts till all Jambudīpa rang again with the fame of it, each day distributing as much as six hundred thousand pieces, were unsatisfied with external gifts; and, remembering the proverb, ‘Give what is dear you will receive what is dear,’ they even pulled out their eyes and gave to those that asked.” With these words, he told a story of the past.
In the past, when the mighty king Sivi reigned in the city of Ariṭṭhapura in the kingdom of Sivi, the Great Being was born as his son. They called his name prince Sivi. When he grew up, he went
Once on the day of the full moon, the state umbrella had been uplifted early in the morning, and he sat on the royal throne thinking over the gifts he had given. Thought he to himself, “Of all outside things there is nothing I have not given; but this kind of giving does not content me. I want to give something which is a part of myself. Well, this day when I go to the alms-hall, I vow that if any one ask not something from outside me, but name that part of myself, even if he should mention my very heart, I will cut open my breast with a spear, and as though I were drawing up a water-lily, stalk and all, from a calm lake, I will pull forth my heart dripping with blood-clots and give it him: if he should name the flesh of my body, I will cut the flesh off my body and give it, as though I were graving with a graving tool: let him name my blood, I will give him my blood, dropping it in his mouth or filling a bowl with it: or again, if one say, I can’t get my household work done, come and do me a slave’s part at home, then I will leave my royal dress and stand without, proclaiming myself a slave, and slave’s work I will do: should any men demand my eyes, I will tear out my eyes and give them, as one might take out the pith of a palm tree.” Thus he thought within him:
“If there be any human gift that I have never made,
Be it my eyes, I’ll give it now, all firm and unafraid.”
Then he bathed himself with sixteen pitchers of perfumed water, and adorned him in all his magnificence, and after a meal of choice food he mounted upon a richly caparisoned elephant
Sakka, perceiving his resolution, thought: “King Sivi has determined to give his eyes to any chance comer who may ask. Will he be able to do it, or no?” He determined to try him; and, in the form of a brahmin old and blind, he posted himself on a high place, and when the king came to his alms-hall he stretched out his hand and stood crying, “Long live the king!” Then the king drove his elephant towards him, and said: “What do you say, brahmin?” Sakka said to him, “O great king! In all the inhabited world there is no spot where the fame of
1. “To ask an eye the old man comes from far, for I have none:
O give me one of yours, I pray, then we shall each have one.”
When the Great Being heard this, he thought: “Why that is just what I was thinking in my palace before I came! What a fine chance! My heart’s desire will be fulfilled today; I shall give a gift which no man ever gave yet.” And he recited the second verse:
2. “Who taught you hitherward to wend your way,
O mendicant, and for an eye to pray?
The chief portion of a man is this,
And hard for men to part with, so they say.”
(The succeeding verses are to be read two and two, as may easily be seen.)
3. “Sujampati among the gods, the same
Here among men called Maghavā by name,
He taught me hitherward to wend my way,
Begging, and for an eye to urge my claim.
4. ’Tis the all-chief gift for which I pray. Vanibbako in line 3 seems to be written by dittography. Some genitive would be looked for, and Fausböll’s vanibbino may be right; the form occurs in iii. 312.4 (Pali).
Give me an eye! O do not say me nay!
Give me an eye, that chief gift of gifts,
So hard for men to part with, as they say!”
5. “The wish that brought you hitherward, the wish that did arise
Within you, be that wish fulfilled. Here, brahmin, take my eyes.
6. One eye you did request of me: behold, I give you two!
Go with good sight, in all the people’s view;
So be your wish fulfilled and now come true.”
So much the king said. But, thinking it not meet that he should root out his eyes and bestow them there and then, he brought the brahmin indoors with him, and sitting on the royal throne, sent for a surgeon named Sīvaka. “Take out my eye,” he then said.
Now all the city rang with the news, that the king wished to tear out his eyes and give them to a brahmin. Then the commander-in-chief, and all the other officials, and those beloved of the king, gathered together from city and harem, and recited three verses, that they might turn the king from his purpose:
7. “O do not give thine eye, my lord; desert us not, O king!
Give money, pearls and coral give, and many a precious thing:
8. Give thoroughbreds caparisoned, forth be the chariots rolled,
O king, drive up the elephants all fine with cloth of gold:
9. These give, O king! That we may all preserve you safe and sound,
Your faithful people, with our cars and chariots ranged around.”
Hereupon the king recited three verses:
10. “The soul which, having sworn to give, is then unfaithful found,
Puts his own neck within a snare low hidden on the ground.
11. The soul which, having sworn to give, is then unfaithful found,
More sinful is than wrong, and he to Yama’s house The commentator explains this to mean hell. is bound.
12. Unasked give nothing; neither give the thing he asketh not,
This therefore which the brahmin asks, I give it on the spot.”
Then the courtiers asked, “What do you desire in giving your eyes?” repeating a verse:
13. “Life, beauty, joy, or strength – what is the prize,
O king, which motive for your deed supplies?
Why should the king of Sivi-land supreme
For the next world’s sake thus give up his eyes?”
The king answered them in a verse:
14. “In giving thus, not glory is my goal,
Not sons, not wealth, or kingdoms to control:
This is the good old way of holy men;
Of giving gifts enamoured is my soul.” The commentator adds: “The supreme Buddha, while explaining the Cariyāpiṭaka to Sariputta, Captain of the Dhamma, to make clear the saying that omniscience was dearer even than both eyes,” quoted two lines from the Cariyāpiṭaka, p. 78, 16-17, Na me dessā [ubho cakkhū, attānaṁ me na desiyaṁ, sabbaññūtaṁ piyaṁ mayhaṁ, tasmā cakkhuṁ adāsahan-ti. i. B. Horner’s translation: the two eyes were not disagreeable to me nor was myself disagreeable to me. Omniscience was dear to me, therefore I gave the eye(s).]
To the Great Being’s words the courtiers answered nothing; so the Great Being addressed Sīvaka the surgeon in a verse:
15. “A friend and comrade, Sīvaka, are you:
Do as I bid you – you have skill enow –
Take Reading laddha tvaṁ as two words. out my eyes, for this is my desire,
And in the beggar’s hands bestow them now.”
But Sīvaka said: “Bethink you, my lord! To give one’s eyes is no light thing.” “Sīvaka, I have considered;
The king’s women and the courtiers fell at his feet, crying, “My lord, do not sacrifice your eyes!” loudly they wept and wailed. The king endured the pain, and said: “My friend, be quick.” “Very well, my lord,” said the physician; and with his left hand grasping the eyeball took a knife in his right, and severing the tendon, laid the eye in the Great Being’s hand. This scene appears to be represented on the Stūpa of Bharhut: see Cunningham, Plate xlviii. 2. He, gazing with his left eye at the right and enduring the pain, said: “Brahmin, come here.” When the brahmin came near, he went on, “The eye of omniscience is dearer than this eye a hundred fold, aye a thousand fold: there you have my reason for this action,” and he gave it to the brahmin, who raised it and placed it in his own eye socket. There it remained fixed by his power like a blue lotus in bloom.
When the Great Being with his left eye saw that eye in his head, he cried, “Ah, how good is this my gift of an eye!”
The Teacher, explaining this, repeated a verse and a half:
16. “So Sivi spurred on Sīvaka, and he fulfilled his mind.
He drew the king’s eyes out, and to the brahmin these consigned:
And now the brahmin had the eyes, and now the king was blind.”
In a short while the king’s eyes began to grow; as they grew, and before they reached the top of the holes, a lump of flesh rose up inside like a ball of wool, filling the cavity; they were like a doll’s eyes, but the pain ceased. The Great Being remained in the palace a few days. Then he thought: “What has a blind man to do with ruling? I will hand over my kingdom to the courtiers, and go into my park, and become an ascetic, and live as a holy man.” He summoned his courtiers, and told them what he intended to do. “One man,” said he, “shall be with me, to wash my face, and so forth, and to do all that is proper, and you must fasten a cord to guide me to the retiring places.” Then calling for his charioteer, he bade him prepare the chariot. But the courtiers would not allow him to go in the chariot; they brought him out in a golden litter, and set him down by the lake side, and then, guarding him all around, returned. The king sat in the litter thinking of his gift.
At that moment Sakka’s throne became hot; and he pondering perceived the reason. “I will offer the king a boon,” he thought, “and make his eye well again.” So to that place he came; and not far off from the Great Being, he walked up and down, up and down.
To explain this the Teacher recited these verses:
17. “A few days past; the eyes began to heal, and sound to appear:
The fostering king of Sivi then sent for his charioteer.
18. Prepare the chariot, charioteer; to me then make it known:
I go to park and wood and lake with lilies overgrown.
19. He sat him in a litter by the waterside, and here
Sujampati, the king of gods, great Sakka, did appear.”
“Who is that?”cried the Great Being, when he heard the sound of the footsteps. Sakka repeated a verse:
20. “Sakka, the king of gods, am I; to visit you I came:
Choose you a boon, O royal sage! Whate’er your wish may name.”
The king replied with another verse:
21. “Wealth, strength, and treasure without end, these I have left behind:
O Sakka, death and nothing more I want: for I am blind.”
Then Sakka said: “Do you ask death, king Sivi, because you wish to die, or because you are blind?” “Because I am blind, my lord.” “The gift is not everything in itself, your majesty, it is given with an eye to the future. Yet there is a motive relating to this visible world. Now you were asked for one eye, and gave two; make an Assertion of Truth about it.” Then he began a verse:
22. “O warrior, lord of biped kind, declare the thing that’s true:
If you the truth declare, your eye shall be restored to you.”
On hearing this, the Great Being replied, “If you wish to give me an eye, Sakka, do not try any other means, but let my eye be restored as a consequence of my gift.” Sakka said: “Though they call me Sakka, King of the Devas, your majesty, yet I cannot give an eye to any one else; but by the fruit of the gift by you given, and by nothing else, your eye shall be restored to you.” Then the other repeated a verse, maintaining that his gift was well given:
23. “Whatever sort, whatever kind of suitor shall draw near,
Whoever comes to ask of me, he to my heart is dear:
If these my solemn words be true, now let my eye appear!”
Even as he uttered the words, one of his eyes grew up in the socket. Then he repeated a couple of verses to restore the other:
24. “A brahmin came to visit me, one of my eyes to crave:
Unto that brahmin mendicant the pair of them I gave.
25. A greater joy and more delight that action did afford.
If these my solemn words be true, be the other eye restored!”
On the instant appeared his second eye. But these eyes of his were neither natural nor divine. An eye given by Sakka as the brahmin, cannot be natural, we know; on the other hand, a divine eye cannot be produced in anything that is injured.
26. “O fostering king of Sivi land, these holy hymns of thine
Have gained for you as bounty free this pair of eyes divine.
27. Through rock and wall, o’er hill and dale, whatever bar may be,
A hundred leagues on every side those eyes of thine shall see.”
Having uttered these verses, poised in the air before the multitude, with a last counsel to the Great Being that he should be vigilant, Sakka returned to the world of gods. And the Great Being, surrounded by his retinue, went back in great pomp to the city, and entered the palace called Candaka.
The news that he had got his eyes again spread abroad all through the kingdom of Sivi. All the people gathered together to see him, with gifts in their hands. “Now all this multitude is come together,” thought the Great Being, “I shall praise my gift that I gave.” He caused a great pavilion to be put up at the palace gate, where he seated himself upon the royal throne, with the white umbrella spread above him. Then the drum was sent beating about the city, to collect all the trade guilds. This should strictly be -seṇiyo: perhaps all the officers or soldiers, compare ii. 12. 8, 52. 21. Then he said: “O people of Sivi! Now you have beheld these divine eyes, never eat food without giving something away!” and he repeated four verses, declaring the Dhamma:
28. “Who, if he’s asked to give, would answer no,
Although it be his best and choicest prize?
People of Sivi thronged in concourse, ho!
Come hither, see the gift of God, my eyes!
29. Through rock and wall, o’er hill and dale, whatever bar may be,
A hundred leagues on every side these eyes of mine can see.
30. Self-sacrifice in all men mortal living,
Of all things is most fine:
I sacrificed a mortal eye; and giving,
Received an eye divine.
31. See, people! See, give ere you eat, let others have a share.
This done with your best will and care,
Blameless to heaven you shall repair.”
In these four verses he declared the Dhamma; and after that, every fortnight, on the holy day, even every fifteenth day, he declared the Dhamma in these same verses without cessation to a great gathering of people. Hearing which, the people gave alms and did good deeds, and went to swell the hosts of heaven.
When the Teacher had ended this discourse, he said: “Thus monks, wise men of old gave to any chance comer, who was not content with outside gifts, even their own eyes, taken out of their head.” Then he identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ānanda was Sīvaka the physician, Anuruddha was Sakka, the Buddha’s followers were the people, and I myself was king Sivi.”
last updated: November 2021