Ja 508 Pañcapaṇḍitajātaka
The Story about the Five Wise Men (20s)

Alternative Title: Paribhindanakathā (Comm)

There is no story of the present. In the past the king’s four wise men, out of jealousy, seek to entrap Mahosadha, the king’s wise son with a question about secrecy. Mahosadha’s advice though turns out to be better than the advice given by the wise men.

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

Past Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 508 Pañcapaṇḍita.

Keywords: Wisdom, Advice, Devas.

The Jātaka of the Five Wise Men will be given in the Mahā-ummagga [Ja 546].

Again these four said: “This common fellow is waxen greater: what are we to do?” Senaka said to them, “All right, I know a plan. Let us go to the fellow and ask him, ‘To whom is it right to tell a secret?’ If he says, ‘To no one,’ we will speak against him to the king and say that he is a traitor.” So the four went to the wise man’s house, and greeted him, and said: “Wise sir, we want to ask you a question.” “Ask away,” said he. Senaka said: “Wise sir, wherein should a man be firmly established?” “In the truth.” “That done, what is the next thing to do?” “He must make wealth.” “What next after that?” “He must learn good counsel.” “After that what next?” “He must tell no man his own secret.” “Thank you, sir,” they said, and went away happy, thinking: “This day we shall see the fellow’s back!” Then they entered the king’s presence and said to him, “Sire, the fellow is a traitor to you!”

The king replied, “I do not believe you, he will never be traitor to me.” “Believe it, sire, for it is true! But if you do not believe, then ask him to whom a secret ought to be told; if he is no traitor, he will say, ‘To so and so;’ but if he is a traitor he will say, ‘A secret should be told to no one;’ when your desire is fulfilled, then you may speak. Then believe us, and be suspicious no longer.” Accordingly one day when all were seated together he recited the first verse of the Wise Man’s Question from Book XV:

1. “The five wise men are now together, and a question occurs to me, listen: to whom should a secret be revealed, whether good or bad?”

This said, Senaka, thinking to bring the king over to their side, repeated this verse:

2. “Do you declare your mind, O lord of the earth! You are our supporter and bear our burdens. The five clever men will understand your wish and pleasure, and will then speak, O master of men!”

Then the king in his human infirmity recited this verse:

3. “If a woman be virtuous, and faithful, subservient to her husband’s wish and will, affectionate, a secret should be told whether good or bad to the wife.”

“Now the king is on my side!” thought Senaka, and pleased he repeated a verse, explaining his own course of conduct:

4. “He who protects a sick man in distress and who is his refuge and support, may reveal to his friend a secret whether good or bad.”

Then the king asked Pukkusa, “How does it seem to you, Pukkusa? To whom should a secret be told?” and Pukkusa recited this verse:

5. “Old or young or betwixt, if a brother be virtuous and trusty, to such a brother a secret may be told whether good or bad.”

Next the king asked Kāvinda, and he recited this verse:

6. “When a son is obedient to his father’s heart, a true son, of lofty wisdom, to that son a secret may be revealed whether good or bad.”

And then the king asked Devinda, who recited this verse:

7. “O lord of men! If a mother cherishes her son with loving fondness, to his mother he may reveal a secret whether good or bad.”

After asking them the king asked, “How do you look upon it, wise sir?” and he recited this verse:

8. “Good is the secrecy of a secret, the revealing of a secret is not to be praised. The clever man should keep it to himself while it is not accomplished; but after it is done he may speak when he will.”

When the sage had said this the king was displeased: then the king looked at Senaka and Senaka looked at the king. This the Bodhisatta saw, and recognized the fact, that these four had once before slandered him to the king, and that this question must have been put to test him. Now while they were talking the sun had set, and lamps had been lit. “Hard are the ways of kings,” he thought, “what will happen no one can tell; I must depart with speed.” So he rose from his seat, and greeted the king, and went away thinking: “Of these four, one said it should be told to a friend, one to a brother, one to a son, one to a mother: they must have done or seen something; or I think, they have heard others tell what they have seen. Well, well, I shall find out today.” Such was his thought.

Now on other days, these four on coming out of the palace used to sit on a trough at the palace door, and talk of their plans before going home: so the sage thought that if he should hide beneath that trough he might learn their secrets. Lifting the trough accordingly, he caused a rug to be spread beneath it and crept in, giving directions to his men to fetch him when the four wise men had gone away after their talk. The men promised and departed. Meanwhile Senaka was saying to the king, “Sire, you do not believe us, now what do you think?” The king accepted the word of these tale-tellers without investigation, and asked in terror, “What are we to do now, wise Senaka?” “Sire, without delay, without a word to anyone, he must be killed.” “O Senaka, no one cares for my interests but you. Take your friends with you and wait at the door, and in the morning when the fellow comes to wait upon me, cleave his head with a sword.” So saying he gave them his own precious sword. “Very good, my lord, fear nothing, we will kill him.” They went out saying: “We have seen the back of our enemy!” and sat down on the trough.

Then Senaka said: “Friends, who shall strike the fellow?” The others said: “You, our teacher,” laying the task on him. Then Senaka said: “You said, friends, that a secret ought to be told to such and such a person: was it something you had done, or seen, or heard?” “Never mind that, teacher: when you said that a secret might be told to a friend, was that something which you had done?” “What does that matter to you?” he asked. “Pray tell us, teacher,” they repeated. He said: “If the king come to know this secret, my life would be forfeit.” “Do not fear, teacher, there’s no one here to betray your secret, tell us, teacher.” Then, tapping upon the trough, Senaka said: “What if that clodhopper is under this!” “O teacher! The fellow in all his glory would not creep into such a place as this! He must be intoxicated with his prosperity. Come, tell us.”

Senaka told his secret and said: “Do you know such and such a harlot in this city?” “Yes, teacher.” “Is she now to be seen?” “No, teacher.” “In the Sāl-grove I lay with her, and afterwards killed her to get her ornaments, which I tied up in a bundle and took to my house and hung up on an elephant’s tusk in such a room of such a storey: but use them I cannot until it has blown over. This crime I have disclosed to a friend, and he has not told a soul; and that is why I said a secret may be told to a friend.” The sage heard this secret of Senaka’s and bore it in mind.

Then Pukkusa told his secret. “On my thigh is a spot of leprosy. In the morning my young brother washes it, puts a salve on it and a bandage, and never tells a soul. When the king’s heart is soft he cries, ‘Come here, Pukkusa,’ and he often lays his head on my thigh. But if he knew he would kill me. No one knows this except my young brother; and that is why I said, ‘A secret may be told to a brother.’ ”

Kāvinda told his secret. “As for me, in the dark fortnight on the Uposatha a Yakkha named Naradeva takes possession of me, and I bark like a mad dog. I told my son about this; and he, when he sees me to be possessed, fastens me up indoors, and then he leaves me shutting the door, and to hide my noises he gathers a party of people. That is why I said that a secret might be told to a son.”

Then they all three asked Devinda, and he told his secret. “I am inspector of the king’s jewels; and I stole a wonderful lucky gem, the gift of Sakka to king Kusa, and gave it to my mother. When I go to Court she hands it to me, without a word to anyone; and by reason of that gem I am pervaded with the spirit of good fortune when I enter the palace. The king speaks to me first before any of you, and gives me each day to spend eight rupees, or sixteen, or thirty-two, or sixty-four. If the king knew of my having that gem concealed I’m a dead man! That is why I said that a secret might be told to a mother.”

The Great Being took careful note of all their secrets; but they, after disclosing their secrets as if they had ripped up their bellies and let the entrails out, rose up from the seat and departed, saying: “Be sure to come early and we will kill the churl.”

When they were gone the sage’s men came and turned up the trough and took the Great Being home. He washed and dressed and ate; and knowing that his sister queen Udumbarī would that day send him a message from the palace, he placed a trusty man on the look-out, bidding him send in at once anyone coming from the palace. Then he lay down on his bed.

At that time the king also was lying upon his bed and remembering the virtue of the sage. “The sage Mahosadha has served me since he was seven years old, and never done me wrong. When the Devatā asked me her questions but for the sage I had been a dead man. To accept the words of revengeful enemies, to give them a sword and bid them slay a peerless sage, this I ought never to have done. After tomorrow I shall see him no more!” He grieved, sweat poured from his body, possessed with grief his heart had no peace. Queen Udumbarī, who was with him on his couch, seeing him in this frame, asked, “Have I done any offence against you? Or has any other thing caused grief to my lord?” and she repeated this verse:

9. “Why are you perplexed, O king? We hear not the voice of the lord of men! What do you ponder thus downcast? There is no offence from me, my lord.”

Then the king repeated a verse:

10. “They said, the wise Mahosadha must be slain; and condemned by me to death is the most wise one. As I think on this I am downcast. There is no fault in you, my queen.”

When she heard this, grief crushed her like a rock for the Great Being; and she thought: “I know a plan to console the king: when he goes to sleep I will send a message to my brother.” Then she said to him, “Sire, it is your doing that the churl’s son was raised to great power; you made him commander-in-chief. Now they say he has become your enemy. No enemy is insignificant; killed he must be, so do not grieve.” Thus she consoled the king; his grief waned and he fell asleep. Then up rose the queen and went to her chamber, and wrote a letter to this effect. “Mahosadha, the four wise men have slandered you; the king is angry, and tomorrow has commanded that you be slain in the gate. Do not come to the palace tomorrow morning; or if you do come, come with power to hold the city in your hand.” She put the letter within a sweetmeat, and tied it up with a thread, and put it in a new jar, perfumed it, sealed it up, and gave it to a handmaid, saying: “Take this sweetmeat and give it to my brother.” She did so. You must not wonder how she got out in the night; for the king had previously given this boon to the queen, and therefore no one hindered her. The Bodhisatta received the present and dismissed the woman, who returned and reported that she had delivered it. Then the queen went and lay down by the king. The Bodhisatta opened the sweetmeat, and read the letter, and understood it, and after deliberating what should be done went to rest.

Early in the morning, the other four wise men sword in hand stood by the gate, but not seeing the sage they became downcast, and went in to the king. “Well,” said he, “is the clodhopper killed?” They replied, “We have not seen him, sire.” And the Great Being at sunrise got the whole city into his power, set guards here and there, and in a chariot with a great host of men and great magnificence came to the palace gates. The king stood looking out of an open window. Then the Great Being got down from his chariot and saluted him; and the king thought: “If he were my enemy, he would not salute me.” Then the king sent for him, and sat upon his throne.

The Great Being came in and sat on one side: the four wise men also sat down there. Then the king made as if he knew nothing and said: “My son, yesterday you left us and now you come again; why do you treat me thus negligently?” and he repeated this verse:

11. “At evening you went, now you come. What have you heard? What does your mind fear? Who commanded you, O most wise? Come, we are listening for the word: tell me.”

The Great Being replied, “Sire, you listened to the four wise men and commanded my death, that is why I did not come,” and reproaching him repeated this verse:

12. “ ‘The wise Mahosadha must be slain:’ if you told this last night secretly to your wife, your secret was disclosed and I heard it.”

When the king heard this he looked angrily at his wife thinking that she must have sent word of it on the instant. Observing this the Great Being said: “Why are you angry with the queen, my lord? I know all the past, present, and future. Suppose the queen did tell your secret: who told me the secrets of master Senaka, and Pukkusa, and the rest of them? But I know all their secrets,” and he told Senaka’s secret in this verse:

13. “The sinful and wicked deed which Senaka did in the Sāl-grove he told to a friend in secret, that secret has been disclosed and I have heard it.”

Looking at Senaka, the king asked, “Is it true?” “Sire, it is true,” he replied, and the king ordered him to be cast into prison. Then the sage told Pukkusa’s secret in this verse:

14. “In the man Pukkusa, O king of men, there is a disease unfit for a king’s touching: he told it in secret to his brother. That secret has been disclosed and I have heard it.”

The king looking upon him asked, “Is it true?” “Yes, my lord,” said he; and the king sent him also to prison. Then the sage told Kāvinda’s secret in this verse:

15. “Diseased is that man, of evil nature, possessed of Naradeva. He told it in secret to his son: this secret has been disclosed and I have heard it.”

“Is it true, Kāvinda?” the king asked; and he answered, “It is true.” Then the king sent him also to prison. The sage now told Devinda’s secret in this verse:

16. “The noble and precious gem of eight facets, which Sakka gave to your grandfather, that is now in Devinda’s hands, and he told it to his mother in secret. That secret has been disclosed and I have heard it.”

“Is it true, Devinda?” the king asked; and he answered, “It is true.” So he sent him also to prison.

Thus they who had plotted to slay the Bodhisatta were all in bonds together. And the Bodhisatta said: “This is why I say, a man should tell his secret to no one; those who said that a secret ought to be told, have all come to utter ruin.” And he recited these verses, proclaiming a higher Dhamma:

17. “The secrecy of a secret is always good, nor is it well to divulge a secret. When a thing is not accomplished the wise man should keep it to himself: when he has accomplished his aim let him speak as he will.

18. One should not disclose a secret thing, but should guard it like a treasure; for a secret thing is not well revealed by the prudent.

19. Not to a woman would the wise man tell a secret, not to a foe, nor to one who can be enticed by self-interest, nor for affection’s sake.

20. He who discloses a secret thing unknown, through fear of broken confidence must endure to be the other’s slave.

21. As many as are those who know a man’s secret, so many are his anxieties: therefore one should not disclose a secret.

22. Go apart to tell a secret by day; by night in a soft whisper: for listeners hear the words, therefore the words soon come out.”

When the king heard the Great Being speak he was angry, and he thought: “These men, traitors themselves to their king, make out that the wise man is traitor to me!” Then he said: “Go drive them out of the town, and impale them or cleave their heads!” So they bound their hands behind them, at every street corner gave them a hundred blows. But as they were dragged along, the sage said: “My lord, these are your ancient ministers, pardon them their fault!” The king consented, and gave them to be his slaves. He set them free at once. Then the king said: “Well, they shall not live in my dominion,” and ordered that they should be banished. But the sage begged him to pardon their blind folly, and appeased him, and persuaded him to restore their positions. The king was much pleased with the sage: if this were his tender mercy towards his foes, what must it be to others! Thenceforward the four wise men, like snakes with their teeth drawn and their poison gone, could not find a word to say, we are told.