Ja 500 Sirimandajātaka
The Story about Poor and Rich (20s)

Alternative Title: Sirīmantajātaka (Cst); Sirimantajātaka (Comm)

There is no story of the present given. The king is impressed with his son, the wise Mahosadha, but he decides to determine which is better: wealth or wisdom. His wisest advisor argues in favour of wealth, but Mahosadha successfully makes out the case for wisdom being the greater.

The Bodhisatta = the wise (paṇḍita) Mahosadha,
Suddhodana = his father (pitā).

Past Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 500 Sirimanda.

Keywords: Wisdom, Truth.

“Of wisdom full.” [4.257] This Question of Poor and Rich will be given at large in the Mahā-ummagga [Ja 546].

Queen Udumbarā knew that the others had got their knowledge of the question through the sage; and thought she, “The king has given the same reward to all five, like a man who makes no difference between peas and beans. Surely my brother should have had a special reward.” So she went and asked the king, “Who discovered the riddle for you, sir?” “The five wise men, madam.” “But my lord, through whom did the four get their knowledge?” “I do not know, madam.” “Sire, what do those men know! It was the sage – who wished that these fools should not be ruined through him, and taught them the problem. Then you give the same reward to them all. That is not right; you should make a distinction for the sage.”

The king was pleased that the sage had not revealed that they had their knowledge through him, and being desirous of giving him an exceeding great reward, he thought: “Never mind: I will ask my son another question, and when he replies, I will give him a great reward.” Thinking of this he hit on the Question of Poor and Rich.

One day, when the five wise men had come to wait upon him, and when they were comfortably seated, the king said: “Senaka, I will ask a question.” “Do, sire.” Then he recited the first verse in the Question of Poor and Rich:

1. “Endowed with wisdom and bereft of wealth, or wealthy and without wisdom – I ask you this question, Senaka: Which of these two do clever men call the better?”

Now this question had been handed down from generation to generation in Senaka’s family, so he replied at once:

2. “Verily, O king, wise men and fools, men educated or uneducated, do service to the wealthy, although they be high-born and he be base-born. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is mean, and the wealthy is better.’ ”

The king listened to this answer: then without asking the other three, he said to the sage Mahosadha who sat by:

3. “You also I ask, lofty in wisdom, Mahosadha, who knows all the Dhamma: A fool with wealth or a wise man with small store, which of the two do clever men call the better?”

Then the Great Being replied, “Hear, O king:

4. The fool commits sinful acts, thinking In this world I am the better; he looks at this world and not at the next, and gets the worst of it in both. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is better than the wealthy fool.’ ”

This said, the king looked at Senaka, “Well, you see Mahosadha says the wise man is the best.” Senaka said: “Your majesty, Mahosadha is a child; even now his mouth smells of milk. What can he know?” and he recited this verse:

5. “Science does not give riches, nor does family or personal beauty. Look at that idiot Gorimanda greatly prospering, because Luck favours the wretch. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is mean, the wealthy is better.’ ”

Hearing this the king said: “What now, Mahosadha my son?” He answered, “My lord, what does Senaka know? He is like a crow where rice is scattered, like a dog trying to lap up milk: he sees himself but sees not the stick which is ready to fall upon his head. Listen, my lord,” and he recited this verse:

6. “He that is small of wit, when he gets wealth, is intoxicated: struck by misfortune he becomes stupefied: struck by ill luck or good luck as chance may come, he writhes like a fish in the hot sun. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is better than the wealthy fool.’ ”

“Now then, master!” said the king on hearing this. Senaka said: “My lord, what does he know? Not to speak of men, it is the fine tree full of fruit which the birds go after,” and he recited this verse:

7. “As in the forest, the birds gather from all quarters to the tree which has sweet fruit, so to the rich man who has treasure and wealth crowds flock together for their profit. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is mean, the wealthy is the better.’ ”

“Well, my son, what now?” the king asked. The sage answered, “What does that pot-belly know? Listen, my lord,” and he recited this verse:

8. “The powerful fool does not well to win treasure by violence; roar loud as he will, they drag the simpleton off to hell. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is better than the wealthy fool.’ ”

Again the king said: “Well, Senaka?” to which Senaka replied:

9. “Whatsoever streams pour themselves into the Ganges, all these lose name and kind. The Ganges falling into the sea, is no longer to be distinguished. So the world is devoted to wealth. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is mean, the rich is better.’ ”

Again the king said: “Well, sage?” and he answered, “Hear, O king!” with a couple of verses:

10. “This mighty ocean of which he spoke, whereinto always flow rivers innumerable, this sea beating incessantly on the shore can never pass over it, mighty ocean though it be.

11. So it is with the chatterings of the fool: his prosperity cannot overpass the wise. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is better than the prosperous fool.’ ”

“Well, Senaka?” said the king. “Hear, O king!” said he, and recited this verse:

12. “A wealthy man in high position may lack all self-control, but if he says anything to others, his word has weight in the midst of his kinsfolk; but wisdom has not that effect for the man without wealth. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is mean, the rich is better.’ ”

“Well, my son?” said the king again. “Listen, sire! What does that stupid Senaka know?” and he recited this verse:

13. “For another’s sake or his own the fool and small of wit speaks falsely; he is put to shame in the midst of company, and hereafter he goes to misery. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is better than the wealthy fool.’ ”

Then Senaka recited a verse:

14. “Even if one be of great wisdom, but without rice or grain, and needy, should he say anything, his word has no weight in the midst of his kinsfolk, and prosperity does not come to a man for his knowledge. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is mean, the rich is better.’ ”

Again the king said: “What say you to that, my son?” And the sage replied, “What does Senaka know? He looks at this world, not the next,” and he recited this verse:

15. “Not for his own sake nor another’s does the man of great wisdom speak a lie; he is honoured in the midst of the assembly, and hereafter he goes to happiness. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is better than the wealthy fool.’ ”

Then Senaka recited a verse:

16. “Elephants, kine, horses, jewelled earrings, women, are found in rich families; these all are for the enjoyment of the rich man without Supernormal Powers. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is mean, the rich is better.’ ”

The sage said: “What does he know?” and continuing to explain the matter he recited this verse:

17. “The fool, who does thoughtless acts and speaks foolish words, the unwise, is cast off by Fortune as a snake casts the old skin. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is better than the wealthy fool.’ ”

“What now?” asked the king then; and Senaka said: “My lord, what can this little boy know? Listen!” and he recited this verse, thinking that he would silence the sage:

18. “We are five wise men, venerable sir, all waiting upon you with gestures of respect; and you are our lord and master, like Sakka, lord of all creatures, King of the Devas. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is mean, the rich is better.’ ”

When the king heard this he thought: “That was neatly said of Senaka; I wonder whether my son will be able to refute it and to say something else.” So he asked him, “Well, wise sir, what now?” But this argument of Senaka’s there was none able to refute except the Bodhisatta; so the Great Being refuted it by saying: “Sire, what does this fool know? He only looks at himself and knows not the excellence of wisdom. Listen, sire,” and he recited this verse:

19. “The wealthy fool is but the slave of a wise man, when questions of this kind arise; when the sage solves it cleverly, then the fool falls into confusion. Beholding this I say: ‘The wise is better than the wealthy fool.’ ”

As if he drew forth golden sand from the foot of Sineru, as though he brought the full moon up in the sky, so did he set forth this argument, so did the Great Being show his wisdom. Then the king said to Senaka, “Well, Senaka, cap that if you can!” But like one who had used up all the corn in his granary, he sat without answer, disturbed, grieving.

If he could have produced another argument, even a thousand verses would not have finished this Jātaka. But when he remained without an answer, the Great Being went on with this verse in praise of wisdom, as though he poured out a deep flood:

20. “Verily wisdom is esteemed of the good; wealth is beloved because men are devoted to enjoyment. The knowledge of the Buddhas is incomparable, and wealth never surpasses wisdom.”

Hearing this the king was so pleased with the Great Being’s solution of the question, that he rewarded him with riches in a great shower, and recited a verse:

21. “Whatsoever I asked he has answered me, Mahosadha the only preacher of the Dhamma. A thousand kine, a bull and an elephant, and ten chariots drawn by thoroughbreds, and sixteen excellent villages, here I give you, pleased with your answer to the question.”