Book XVI. Tiṁsanipāta
The Section with Thirty Verses (511-520)

Ja 511 Kiṁchandajātaka
The Story about What is (Your) Intention (30s)

In the present the lay people take upon themselves the Uposatha precepts. The Buddha tells a story of a family priest who used to take bribes, but once kept half a fast day, and the rewards he got for his actions when reborn as a Peta.

The Bodhisatta = the ascetic (tāpasa),
Uppalavaṇṇā = Devadhītā.

Keywords: Deeds, Rewards, Devas.

“Why do you.” [5.1] {5.1} This story the Teacher told, while dwelling at Jetavana, about the observance of the Uposatha precepts. On the observance of poya (uposatha) days cf. Hardy’s Eastern Monachism, p. 237: “fasting” includes doing no wrong to one’s neighbour.

Now one day when a number of lay brethren and sisters, who were keeping the Uposatha, came to hear the Dhamma, and were seated in the Dhamma Hall, the Teacher asked them if they were keeping the Uposatha precepts, and on their saying that they were, he added, “And you do well to observe the Uposatha precepts: men of old, in consequence of keeping half the Uposatha, attained to great glory,” and at their request he told a tale of the past.

In the past at Benares Brahmadatta ruled his kingdom righteously, and being a believer he was zealous in the observance of the duties of the Uposatha, in the keeping of the Precepts and in generosity. He also induced his ministers and the rest to take upon them vows of generosity and the like. But his family priest was a backbiter, greedy of bribes, and a giver of unrighteous judgments. The king on the Uposatha summoned his councillors and bade them keep the fast. The priest did not take upon himself the duties of the Uposatha; so when he had in the day been taking bribes and giving false judgments, and then had come to court to pay his respects, the king, after first asking each of his ministers if he were keeping the fast, questioned the priest, saying: “And are you, sir, fasting?” He told a lie and said “Yes,” and left the palace. Then a certain minister rebuked him, saying: “Surely you are not keeping the fast?” He said: “I took food early in the day, but when I go home I shall rinse my mouth and taking upon myself the duties of the Uposatha, {5.2} I will eat nothing in the evening, and all night I will keep the moral law, and in this way I shall have kept half the Uposatha.” “Very good, sir,” they said. And he went home and did so.

Now one day as he was seated at judgment, a certain woman, who kept the moral precepts, had a [5.2] case on, and not being able to go home, she thought: “I will not transgress the observance of the Uposatha,” and as the time drew near, she began to rinse her mouth. At that moment a lump of ripe mangoes was brought to the brahmin. He perceived that the woman was keeping the fast and said: “Eat this and so keep the fast.” She did so. So much for the action of the brahmin. By and by he died and was born again in the Himālayas, in a lovely spot on the bank of the Kosiki branch of the Ganges, in a mango-grove, three leagues in extent, on a splendid royal couch in a golden palace. He was born again like one just awakened from sleep, well dressed and adorned, of exceeding beauty of form, and accompanied by sixteen thousand Devakaññā. All night long he enjoys this glory, for by being born as a Peta in a phantom palace cf. vol. i. p. 240. 5 (Pali). [A Vemānikapeta appears to one who, when reborn, has alternate pleasure and pain according to his previous deeds.] his reward is corresponding to his deed.

So at the approach of dawn he entered a mango-grove, and at the moment of his entrance his divine body disappeared, he assumed a form as big as a palm tree, eighty cubits high, and his whole body was ablaze like a Flame of the Forest in full flower. He had but one finger on each hand, while his nails were as big as spades, and with these nails he dug into the flesh on his back and tearing it out ate it, and mad with the pain he suffered, he gave utterance to a loud cry.

At sunset this body vanished and his divine form reappeared. Heavenly dancing girls, with various musical instruments in their hands, attended upon him, and in the enjoyment of great honour he ascended to a divine palace in a charming mango-grove. Thus did he, as the result of giving a mango fruit to a woman who was keeping a fast, acquire a mango-grove, three leagues in extent, but, in consequence of receiving bribes and giving false judgments, {5.3} he tears and eats the flesh from off his own back, while, owing to the fact of his having kept half the fast, he enjoys glory every night, surrounded by an escort of sixteen thousand dancing nymphs.

About this time the king of Benares, conscious of the sinfulness of desires, adopted the ascetic life and took up his abode in a hut of leaves, in a pleasant spot on the lower Ganges, subsisting on what he could pick up. Now one day a ripe mango from that grove, the size of a large bowl, fell into the Ganges and was carried by the stream to a spot opposite the landing place used by this ascetic. As he was rinsing his mouth, he saw the mango floating in mid-stream, and crossing over he took and brought it to his hermitage and placed it in the cell where his sacred fire was kept. cf. Mahāvagga, i. 15. 2. Then, splitting it up with a knife, he ate just enough to support life, and covering up the rest with the leaves of the plantain tree, he repeatedly day by day ate of it, as long as it lasted. And when it was all consumed, he could not eat any other kind of fruit, but being a slave to his appetite for dainties, he vowed he would eat only ripe mango, and [5.3] going down to the river bank he sat looking at the stream, determined never to get up till he had found a mango. So he fasted there for six consecutive days, and sat looking for the fruit, till he was dried up by the wind and heat. Now on the seventh day a Devatā of the river, by reflecting on the matter, found out the reason of his action, and thinking: “This ascetic, being the slave of his appetite, has sat fasting seven days, looking at the Ganges, it is wrong to deny him a ripe mango, for without it he will perish; I will give him one.” So she came and stood in the air above the Ganges, and conversing with him uttered the first verse:

1. “Why do you on this river bank through summer heat remain?
Brahmin, what is your secret hope? What purpose would you gain?” {5.4}

The ascetic on hearing this repeated nine verses:

2. “Afloat upon the stream, fair nymph, a mango I did see;
With outstretched hand I seized the fruit and brought it home with me.

3. So sweet it was in taste and smell, I deemed it quite a prize;
Its comely shape might vie with biggest water-jar in size.

4. I hid it mid some plantain leaves, and sliced it with a knife;
A little served as food and drink to one of simple life.

5. My store is spent, my pangs appeased, but still I must regret,
In other fruits that I may find, no relish I can get.

6. I pine away; that mango sweet I rescued from the wave
Will bring about my death, I fear. No other fruit I crave.

7. I’ve told you why it is I fast, though dwelling by a stream
Whose broadening waves with every fish that swims are said to teem.

8. And now I pray you tell to me, and flee you not in fear,
O lovely maiden, who you are, and wherefore you are here.

9. Fair are the handmaids of the gods, like burnished gold are they,
Graceful as tiger brood along their mountain slopes that play.

10. Here also in the world of men are women fair to see,
But none amongst or gods or men may be compared to you.
I ask you then, O lovely nymph, endowed with heavenly grace,
Declare to me your name and kin and whence derived your race.” {5.5}

Then the Devadhītā uttered eight verses:

11. “O’er this fair stream, by which you sit, O brahmin, I preside,
And dwell in the great depths below, ’neath Ganges’ rolling tide.

12. All clad with forest growth I own a thousand mountain caves,
Whence flow as many flooded streams to mingle with my waves. {5.6}

13. Each wood and grove, to Nāgas dear, sends forth full many a rill,
And yields its store of waters blue, my ample course to fill.

14. Oft borne upon these tribute streams are fruits from every tree,
Jambu plums, breadfruit, dates and figs, with mangoes one may see.

15. And all that grows on either bank and falls within my reach,
I claim as lawful prize, and none my title may impeach.

16. Well knowing this, hearken to me, O wise and learned king,
Cease to indulge your heart’s desire – renounce the cursed thing. [5.4]

17. O ruler fair of broad domains, your act I cannot praise,
To long for death, in prime of youth, great folly, sure, betrays.

18. Gandhabbas, Petas, Devas, men, all know your deed and name,
And saints who by their holiness attain on earth to fame –
Yea, all that wise and famous are, your sinful act proclaim.” {5.7}

Then the ascetic uttered four verses:

19. “One who knows how frail our life is, and how transient things of sense,
Never thinks to slay another, but abides in innocence.

20. Honoured once by saints in council, owner of a virtuous name,
Now with sinful men conversing, you do win an evil fame.

21. Were I on your banks to perish, nymph with comely form endowed,
Ill repute would rest upon you, like the shadow of a cloud.

22. Therefore, goddess fair, I pray you, every sinful deed eschew,
Lest, a bye-word of the people, you have cause my death to rue.” {5.8}

On hearing him, the Devadhītā replied in five verses:

23. “Well I know the secret longing, thine to bear so patiently,
And I yield myself your servant and the mango give to thee.
Lo! Foregoing sinful pleasures, pleasures hard to be resigned,
You have gained, to keep for ever, holiness and peace of mind.

24. He that, freed from early bondage, hugs the chains he once forswore,
Rashly treading ways unholy, ever does wrong more and more.

25. I will grant your earnest craving, and will bid your troubles cease,
Guiding you to cool recesses, where you may abide in peace.

26. Herons, mynah birds and cuckoos, with the ruddy geese that love
Nectar from the bloom to gather, swans aloft in troops that move,
Paddy-birds and lordly peacocks, with their song awake the grove.

27. Saffron and kadamba blossoms lie as chaff upon the ground,
Ripest dates, the palms adorning, hang in clusters all around,
And, amidst the loaded branches, see how mangoes here abound!” {5.9}

And singing the praises of the place she transported the ascetic there, and, bidding him eat mangoes in this grove till he had satisfied his hunger, she went her way. The ascetic, eating mangoes till he had appeased his appetite, rested awhile. Then, as he wandered in the grove, he spied this Peta in a state of suffering and he had not the heart to utter a word to him, but at sunset he beheld him attended by nymphs and in the enjoyment of heavenly glory and addressed him in three verses:

28. “All the night anointed, feted, with a crown upon your brow,
Neck and arms bedecked with jewels – all the day in anguish you!

29. Many thousand nymphs attend you. What a magic power is this!
How amazing thus to vary from a state of woe unto bliss!

30. What has led to your undoing? What the wrong that you do rue?
Why from thine own back do ever eat the flesh each day anew?” {5.10}

The Peta recognized him and said: “You do not recognize me, but I was once your family priest. This happiness that I enjoy in the night is due to you, as the result of my keeping half the Uposatha; while the [5.5] suffering I experience by day is the result of the evil that I wrought. For I was set by you on the seat of judgment, and I took bribes and gave false decisions, and was a backbiter, and in consequence of the evil that I wrought by day, I now undergo this suffering,” and he uttered a couple of verses:

31. “Once in holy lore delighting I in sensous toils was cast,
Working evil for my neighbour, through the lengthening years I passed.

32. He that shall, backbiting others, love on their good name to prey,
Flesh from his own back will ever rend and eat, as I today.”

And so saying, he asked the ascetic why he had come here. The ascetic told all his story at length. “And now, venerable sir,” the Peta said, “will you stay here or go away?” “I will not stay, I will return to my hermitage.” The Peta said: “Very well, venerable sir, I will constantly supply you with a ripe mango,” and by an exercise of his magic power he transported him to his hermitage, and, bidding him dwell there contentedly, he exacted a promise from him and went his way. Thenceforth the Peta constantly supplied him with the mango fruit. The ascetic, in the enjoyment of the fruit, focused on the Meditation Object and attained Absorption and was destined to the Brahmā Realm. {5.11}

The Teacher, having finished his lesson to the lay folk, revealed the Truths and identified the Jātaka. At the conclusion of the Truths, some attained to the First Path, some to the Second, and others to the Third Path. “At that time the Devadhītā was Uppalavaṇṇā, the ascetic was myself.”