Ja 515 Sambhavajātaka
The Story about (the Wise) Sambhava (30s)

In the present the monks speak about the Buddha’s wisdom, and he tells this story illustrating his wisdom in a past life when a king, desiring to be instructed in goodness and truth, sought wise men throughout his realm, but they were unable to answer him. Eventually he obtained his answer from the Bodhisatta, a wise boy just seven years old.

The Bodhisatta = the wise Sambhava (Sambhavapaṇḍita),
Anuruddha = (the family priest) Sucirata,
Kassapa = (his friend) Vidhura,
Moggallāna = (his son) Bhadrakāra,
Sāriputta = the young brahmin Sañcaya (Sañjaya) (Sañcayamāṇava),
Ānanda = the king (of the Kurus) Dhanañjaya (Dhanañjayarājā).

Present Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 177 Tiṇḍuka, Ja 387 Sūci, Ja 402 Sattubhasta, Ja 515 Sambhava, Ja 528 Mahābodhi.
Keyword: Wisdom, Virtue, Devas.

“This rule.” This story the Teacher when residing at Jetavana told concerning the Perfection of Wisdom. The circumstances leading to the introductory story will be set forth in the Mahā-ummaggajātaka [Ja 546].

One day the monks sat in the Dhamma Hall and described the Tathāgata’s Perfection of Wisdom, “Monks, the Tathāgata is greatly wise, his wisdom is vast, ready, swift, sharp, crushing heretical doctrines, after having converted, by the power of his own knowledge, the brahmins Kūṭadanta and the rest, the ascetics Sabhiya and the rest, the thieves Aṅgulimāla and the rest, the Yakkhas Āḷavaka and the rest, the Devas Sakka and the rest, and the Brahmās Baka and the rest, made them humble, and ordained a vast multitude as ascetics and established them in the fruition of the paths of sanctification.” The Teacher came up and asked what they were discoursing about, and when they told him, he replied, “Not only now is the Tathāgata wise – in the past also, before his knowledge was fully mature, he was full of all wisdom, as he went about for the sake of wisdom and knowledge,” and then he told a story of the past.

In the past a king called Dhanañjaya Korabya reigned in the city of Indapatta in the Kuru kingdom. A brahmin named Sucīrata was his priest and adviser in things temporal and spiritual. The king ruled his kingdom righteously, in the exercise of generosity and other good works. Now one day he prepared a question about the gift of Dhamma, and having seated the brahmin Sucīrata and paid him due honour, he put his question to him in the form of four verses:

1. “This rule and lordship I disdain,
Sucīrata, for I would fain
Be great, and o’er the wide world reign. [5.32]

2. By right alone – wrong I eschew –
For whatsoe’er is good and true
Kings above all men should pursue.

3. By this for ever free from blame,
Here and hereafter, we may claim
’Midst gods and men a glorious name.

4. Know, brahmin, that I fain would do
Whate’er is deemed both good and true,
So pray, when asked, declare to me
The good and true, what they may be.” {5.58}

Now this was a profound question, falling within the range of a Buddha. This is a question one should put to an Omniscient Buddha, and, failing him, to a Bodhisatta who is seeking the Gift of Omniscience. But Sucīrata, by reason of his not being a Bodhisatta, could not solve the question, and, so far from assuming an air of wisdom, he confessed his incompetency in the following verse:

5. “No one but Vidhura, Vidhura, the commentary explains, was the chaplain of the king of Benares. O king,
Hath power to tell this wondrous thing,
What is, my lord, the good and true,
That you are ever fain to do.”

The king on hearing his words said: “Go then, brahmin, at once,” and he gave him a present to take with him, and in his eagerness to get him off, he repeated this verse:

6. “Lo! Straight this weight of gold, my friend,
By you to Vidhura I send;
Meet gift for sage who best can show
The good and true that I would know.” {5.59}

And with these words he gave him a tablet of gold, worth a hundred thousand pieces of money, on which to write the answer to the question, a chariot to travel in, an army to escort him, and a present to offer, and straightaway dispatched him. Issuing from the city of Indapatta, not going straight to Benares, he first visited all places wheresoever sages dwell, and, not finding any one in all Jambudīpa to solve the question, he gradually approached Benares. Taking up his abode there, he went with a few followers to the house of Vidhura, at the time of the early meal, and having announced his arrival, he was invited in and found Vidhura at breakfast in his own house.

The Teacher, to make the matter clear, repeated the seventh verse:

7. “Then straight in haste did Bhāradvāja Bhāradvāja is the family name of Sucīrata. wend
His way to Vidhura, and found his friend
Sitting at home, and ready to partake
Of simple fare, his early fast to break.” [5.33]

Now Vidhura was a friend of his youth, and had been educated in the family of the same master, so after partaking of the meal with him, when breakfast was over, and Sucīrata was comfortably seated, on being asked by Vidhura, “What brings you here, friend?” he told him why he had come and repeated the eighth verse:

8. “I come at far-famed Kuru king’s behest,
Sprung from Yudhiṭṭhila, The Kurus were descended from Yudhiṣṭhira. and this his quest,
To ask you, Vidhura, to tell to me
The good and true, what it may surely be.” {5.60}

At that time the brahmin thinking to collect the ideas of a number of people pursues his quest, like to one piling up as it were a very Ganges flood, and there is no time for solving the problem. So stating the case he repeated the ninth verse:

9. “O’erwhelmed by such a mighty theme
As ’twere by Gange’s flooded stream,
I cannot tell what this may be,
The good and true you seek from me.”

And so saying he added, “I have a clever son, far wiser than I am: he will make it clear to you. Go to him.” And he repeated the tenth verse:

10. “A son I have, my very own,
’Mongst men as Bhadrakāra known;
Go seek him out, and he’ll declare
To you what truth and goodness are.”

On hearing this Sucīrata, after leaving Vidhura’s house, went to the dwelling of Bhadrakāra, and found him seated at breakfast in the midst of his people.

The Teacher, to clear up the matter, repeated the eleventh verse:

11. “Then Bhāradvāja hastily
To Bhadrakāra’s home did hie,
Where amidst friends, all gathered round,
Seated at ease the youth was found.”

On his arrival there he was hospitably received by the youth Bhadrakāra with the offer of a chair and gifts, and taking his seat, on being asked why he had come, he repeated the twelfth verse: {5.61}

12. “I come at far-famed Kuru king’s behest,
Sprung from Yudhiṭṭhila, and this his quest,
To ask you, Bhadrakāra, to show me
Goodness and truth, what they may surely be.”

Then Bhadrakāra said to him, “Just now, sir, I am intent on an intrigue with another man’s wife. My mind is ill at ease, so I cannot [5.34] answer your question, but my young brother Sañjaya has a clearer intellect than I have. Ask him: he will answer your question.” And in order to send him there, he repeated two verses:

13. “Good venison I leave, a lizard to pursue:
How then should I know aught about the good and true?

14. I’ve a young brother, you must know,
Named Sañjaya. So, brahmin, go
And seek him out, and he’ll declare
To you what truth and goodness are.”

He at once set out for the house of Sañjaya, and was welcomed by him and on being asked why he had come he told him the reason.

The Teacher, to make the matter clear, uttered two verses:

15. “Then Bhāradvāja hastily
To home of Sañjaya did hie,
Where amidst friends, all gathered round,
Seated at ease the youth was found.

16. I come at far-famed Kuru king’s behest,
Sprung from Yudhiṭṭhila, and this his quest,
To ask you, Sañjaya, to show to me
Goodness and truth, what they may surely be.”

But Sañjaya also was engaged in an intrigue and said to him, “Sir, I am in pursuit of another man’s wife, and going down to the Ganges {5.62} I cross over to the other side. Evening and morning as I cross the stream, I am in the jaws of death; therefore my mind is disturbed, and I shall not be able to answer your question, but my young brother Sambhava, a boy of seven years, is a hundred thousand times superior to me in knowledge. He will tell you: go and ask him.”

The Teacher, to make the matter clear, repeated two verses:

17. “Death opens wide his jaws for me,
Early and late. How tell to you
Of truth and goodness, what they be?

18. I’ve a young brother, you must know,
Called Sambhava. So, brahmin, go,
And seek him out. He will declare
To you what truth and goodness are.” [5.35]

On hearing this Sucīrata thought: “This question must be the most wonderful thing in the world. I fancy no one is equal to answering it,” and so thinking he repeated two verses:

19. “This marvel strange I like not me,
Nor sire nor sons, none of the three,
Knows how to solve this mystery.

20. If you thus fail, can this mere youth
Know aught of goodness and of truth?”

On hearing this Sañjaya said: “Sir, do not regard young Sambhava as a mere boy. If there is no one that can answer your question, go and ask him.” And, describing the qualities of the youth by similes that illustrated the case, he repeated twelve verses: {5.63}

21. “Ask Sambhava nor scorn his youth,
He knows right well and he can tell
Of goodness and of truth.

22. As the clear moon outshines the starry host,
Their meaner glories in his splendour lost,

23. E’en so the stripling Sambhava appears
To excel in wisdom far beyond his years;
Ask Sambhava nor scorn his youth,
He knows right well and he can tell
Of goodness and of truth.

24. As charming April does all months outvie
With budding flowers and woodland greenery,

25. E’en so the stripling Sambhava appears
To excel in wisdom far beyond his years;
Ask Sambhava nor scorn his youth,
He knows right well and he can tell
Of goodness and of truth.

26. As Gandhamādana, its snowy height
With forest clad and heavenly herbs bedight,
Diffusing light and fragrance all around,
For myriad gods a refuge sure is found,

27. E’en so the stripling Sambhava appears
To excel in wisdom far beyond his years;
Ask Sambhava nor scorn his youth,
He knows right well and he can tell
Of goodness and of truth.

28. As glorious fire, ablaze through some morass
With wreathing spire, insatiate, eats the grass
Leaving a blackened path, where’er it pass,

29. Or as a ghee-fed flame in darkest night
On choicest wood does whet its appetite,
Shining conspicuous on some distant height,

30. E’en so the stripling Sambhava appears
To excel in wisdom far beyond his years;
Ask Sambhava nor scorn his youth,
He knows right well and he can tell
Of goodness and of truth.

31. An ox by strength, a horse by speed,
Displays his excellence of breed,
A cow by milk in copious flow,
A sage by his wise words we know.

32. E’en so the stripling Sambhava appears
To excel in wisdom far beyond his years;
Ask Sambhava nor scorn his youth,
He knows right well and he can tell
Of goodness and of truth.” {5.64}

While Sañjaya was singing the praises of Sambhava, Sucīrata thought: “I will find out by putting the question to him,” so he asked, “Where is your young brother?” Then he opened the window and [5.36] stretching forth his hand, he said: “You see yonder boy with a complexion like gold, playing with other youths in the street before the door of the mansion? That is my young brother. Go up to him and ask him; he will answer your question with all the charm of a Buddha.” Sucīrata, on hearing his words, descended from the mansion, and drew near to the boy at the very moment that he was standing with his garment loose and thrown over his shoulder, {5.65} and picking up some dirt with both hands.

The Teacher, to explain the matter, repeated a verse:

33. “Then Bhāradvāja hastily
To home of Sambhava did hie,
And there out in the public way
The little boy was found at play.”

The Great Being, when he saw the brahmin come and stand before him, asked, “Friend, what brings you here?” He replied, “Dear youth, I am wandering through all Jambudīpa, and not finding any one competent to answer the question I put to him, I have come to you.” The boy thought: “There is a question, they say, that has not been decided in all Jambudīpa. He has come to me. I am old in knowledge.” And becoming ashamed he dropped the dirt that he held in his hand, readjusted his garment and said: “Brahmin, ask on, and I will tell you with the fluent mastery of a Buddha,” and in his omniscience he invited him to choose what he would ask. Then the brahmin asked his question in the form of a verse:

34. “I come at far-famed Kuru king’s behest,
Sprung from Yudhiṭṭhila, and this his quest,
To ask you, Sambhava, to show to me
Goodness and truth, what they may surely be.”

What he wanted became clear to Sambhava, as it were the full moon in the middle of the sky. “Then listen to me,” he said, and answering the question as to the gift of Dhamma he uttered this verse:

35. “I’ll tell you, sir, and tell aright,
E’en as a man of wisdom might,
The king shall know the good and true,
But who knows what the king will do?”

And as he stood in the street and taught the Dhamma with a voice sweet as honey, the sound spread over the whole of the city of Benares, to twelve leagues on every side. Then the king and all his viceroys and other rulers assembled together, and the Great Being in the midst of the multitude set forth his exposition of the Dhamma. [5.37] {5.66}

Having thus promised in this verse to answer the question, he now gave the answer as to the gift of Dhamma:

36. “In answer to the king, Sucīrata, proclaim,
Tomorrow and today are never quite the same;
I bid you then, O king Yudhiṭṭhila, be wise
And prompt to seize whate’er occasion may arise.

37. I fain would have you too, Sucīrata, suggest
A thought in which his mind may profitably rest,
A king all wicked ways should carefully eschew,
Nor, like bewildered fool, an evil course pursue.

38. To loss of his own soul he never should transgress,
Nor e’er be guilty of deeds of unrighteousness,
Himself ne’er be engaged in any evil way,
Nor ever in wrong path a brother lead astray.

39. These points to carry out whoso does rightly know,
Like waxing moon, as king in fame does ever grow.

40. A shining light to friends and dear unto his kin,
And, when his body fails, the sage to heaven will win.” {5.67}

The Great Being thus, like to one making the moon to rise in the sky, answered the brahmin’s question with all the mastery of a Buddha. The people roared and shouted and clapped their hands. And there arose a thousand cries of applause with a great waving of cloths and snapping of fingers. And they cast off the trinkets on their hands. And the value of what they threw down amounted to about a crore. And the king of Benares in his joy paid him great honour. And Sucīrata, after offering him a thousand weight of gold, wrote down the answer to the question with vermilion on a golden tablet, and on coming to the city of Indapatta he told the king the answer as to the gift of Dhamma. And the king abiding steadfast in righteousness attained to heaven.

At the end of the lesson the Teacher said: “Not merely now, monks, but formerly too, the Tathāgata was great in answering questions,” and he identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ānanda was king Dhanañjaya, Anuruddha was Sucīrata, Kassapa was Vidhura, Moggallāna was Bhadrakāra, Sāriputta was the youth Sañjaya, and I myself was the wise Sambhava.”