Ja 516 Mahākapijātaka
The Long Story about the Monkey (King) (30s)
Alternative Title: Vevaṭiyakapijātaka (Comm)
In the present the monks are talking about how Devadatta threw a stone at the Buddha. The latter tells a story of how a monkey had once saved a man who had fallen into a deep pit, but when out of danger the man tried to kill the monkey and eat his flesh. Because of his deed he contracted leprosy and later was swallowed by the great earth.
The Bodhisatta = the king of the monkeys (kapirājā),
Devadatta = the treacherous man (mittadubbhī puriso).
Past Compare: Jm 24 Mahākapi.
Keyword: Ingratitude, Treachery, Devas.
“A king of Kāsi.” This story was told by the Teacher, when dwelling in the Bamboo Grove, about Devadatta’s hurling a stone at him.
In the past when Brahmadatta reigned in Benares, a brahmin farmer in a village of Kāsi, after ploughing his fields, loosened his oxen and began to work with a spade. The oxen, while cropping leaves in a clump of trees, little by little escaped into the forest. The man, discovering that it was late, laid aside his spade to look for his oxen, and not finding them he was overcome with grief and wandered about the forest, seeking them, till he had entered the Himālayas region. There having lost his bearings he roamed about for seven days fasting, but seeing a tiṇḍuka tree he climbed up it to eat the fruit. Slipping off the tree he fell sixty cubits into a hell-like abyss, where he passed ten days.
At that time the Bodhisatta was living in the shape of a monkey, and while eating wild fruits he caught sight of the man, and after practising with a stone he hauled the fellow out. While the monkey was asleep, the man split his head open with a stone. The Great Being, becoming aware of his action, sprang up and perched on a branch of the tree and cried, “Ho! Sirrah, you walk on the ground; I will just point out to you the way from the top of the tree and then will be off.” So he rescued the fellow from the forest, set him on the right road and then himself disappeared in the mountainous region.
The man, because he had done wrong against the Great Being, became a leper, and even in this world appeared as a Peta in human form. For seven years he was overwhelmed with pain, and in his wanderings to and fro he found his way into the Migācira park in Benares, and spreading a plantain leaf in the enclosure he lay down, half maddened by his sufferings. At that moment the king of Benares came to the park and as he walked about he saw the man and asked him, “Who are you, and what have you done to bring this suffering upon yourself?” And he told the king the whole story at length.
The Teacher, to make the matter clear, said:
1. “A king of Kāsi who, they say,
O’er great Benares once held sway,
With courtier friends the road to cheer,
Unto Migācira drew near.
2. A brahmin there the king did see
– A walking skeleton was he –
His skin was white with leprous blood
And rough like gnarléd ebon wood. Bauhinia Variegata.
3. Astonished at the piteous sight
Of this sore troubled, luckless wight,
Alas, poor wretch, he cried, declare
What name ’mongst Yakkhas you do bear.
4. Your hands and feet are white as snow,
Your head is whiter still, I know,
Your frame with leprous spots o’ergrown,
Disease has marked you for its own.
5. Your back like spindles in a row
A long unequal curve does show;
Your joints are as black knots; I ween,
Your like before was never seen.
6. Whence came you then, so travel-worn,
Mere skin and bones, a wretch forlorn,
By heat of blazing sun oppressed,
By thirst and hunger sore distressed?
7. With frame so marred, an awful sight,
Scarce fit to look upon the light,
Your very mother – no, not she
Would care her wretched son to see.
8. What sinful deed was thine, I pray,
Or wrongfully whom did you slay?
What the offence I fain would know,
Reduced you to this state of woe?”
Then the brahmin said:
9. “I’ll tell you, sir, and tell you true
E’en as a good man aye should do:
For one that never speaketh lies
Is praised in this world by the wise.
10. Once in a lonely wood I took my way,
Seeking my kine that late had gone astray;
Through pathless tracts of jungle, fitting home
For the wild elephant, I heedless roam.
11. Lost in the maze of this vast wilderness,
From thirst and hunger suffering sore distress,
For seven long days I wander through the wood
Where the fell tiger rears his savage brood.
12. E’en rankest poison I was fain to eat
When lo! a lovely tree my gaze does meet;
O’er a sheer precipice it pendent swung,
And fragrant fruit from all its branches hung.
13. Whate’er had fallen to the wind’s cold touch
I greedily devoured and relished much,
Then, still unsated, I climbed up the tree,
That way, I thought, lies full satiety.
14. I ne’er had tasted such ripe fruit before,
And stretching forth my hand to gather more,
The branch, on which my body rested, broke,
As though clean severed by the woodman’s stroke.
15. With broken bough head over heels I went,
With nought to check me in my swift descent
Over the side of rocky precipice,
Without escape from bottomless abyss.
16. The depth of water in the pool beneath
Saved me from being rudely crushed to death,
So there, poor luckless wight, without a ray
Of hope to cheer me, ten long nights I lay.
17. At length a monkey came – long-tailed was he
And made his home in some rock cavity
And as he stepped from bough to bough, the brute
Did ever pluck and eat the dainty fruit.
18. But when my thin and pallid form he spied,
Touched with compassion for my woes, he cried,
‘Alas, poor wretch, whom I see lying there
Thus overwhelmed with anguish and despair.
19. If a man or Amanussa declare.’
Then with due reverence I made reply;
‘A man and doomed without escape am I:
But this I say, “All blessings light on you,
If you can find a way of saving me.” ’
20. The monkey stepping on the height above
Carried a heavy stone, his strength to prove,
And when by practice he was perfect grown,
The mighty one his purpose thus made known.
21. ‘Climb you, good sir, upon my back and cast
Your arms about my neck and hold me fast;
Then will I with all speed deliver you
From the stone walls of your captivity.’
22. I hearkened gladly, well remembering
The counsels of the glorious monkey-king,
And, climbing on his back, my arms I cast
Round the wise creature’s neck and held him fast.
23. The monkey then – so brave and strong was he –
Exhausted by the effort though he be,
From rocky fastness soon uplifteth me.
24. And having haled me out, the hero cried,
I’m weary: stand as guard, sir, by my side,
While I anon in peaceful sleep abide.
25. Lion and tiger, panther eke and bear,
If they should ever take me unaware,
Would kill me straight. To watch shall be your care.
26. While, as I watched, he took a moment’s rest,
An ugly thought was harboured in my breast.
27. ‘Monkeys and such like deer are good to eat;
What if I kill him and my hunger cheat?
The beast if slain would furnish savoury meat.
28. When sated, here no longer will I stay
But well provisioned for full many a day
Out from this forest I will find a way.’
29. Taking a stone his skull I well nigh broke,
But a lame hand put forth a feeble stroke.
30. The monkey quickly bounded up a tree,
And all bestained with blood regarded me
From far, with tearful eyes, reproachfully.
31. ‘God bless you, act not thus, I pray, good sir,
For otherwise your fate, I dare aver,
Will long all others from such deeds deter.
32. Alas, for shame. What a return is this
For having saved you from that dread abyss!
33. Rescued from death you played a treacherous part
And evil have devised with evil heart.
34. Vile wretch, beware lest sharpest agony
Springing from evil deed bring death to thee,
E’en as its fruit destroys the bamboo tree. The bamboo dies off after bearing fruit.
35. I trust you not, for you would work me ill:
Walk well in front that I may see you still.
36. From ravening beast escaped, you may regain
The haunts of men: the path that stretches plain
Before thine eyes, follow as you are fain.’
37. At this the monkey dried his tears, and sped
Up to a mountain lake, and bathed his head
From stain of blood – by me, alas, ’twas shed –
38. There too, with burning pains through him accursed,
I dragged my tortured frame, to quench my thirst,
39. But when to that blood-stainéd lake I came,
The crimson flood appeared one mass of flame.
40. Each liquid drop from it that did bedew
My body, straight into a pustule grew,
Like a cleft wood apple-fruit, in size and hue.
41. The sores discharging yield a loathsome smell,
And whereso’er I fain would gladly dwell
In town and countryside, all fly pell-mell.
42. Scattered by odours foul, the while they ply
Their sticks and stones, and: ‘Come not you too nigh
To us, poor wretch,’ all men and women cry.
43. Such is the pain for seven long years I bear;
According to his deeds each man does fare.
44. May good be with you all that here I see:
Betray you not your friends. How vile is he
That does wrong ’gainst a friend with treachery.
45. All who on earth to friends have proved untrue,
As lepers here their wrongs must ever rue,
And when the body fails, in hell are born anew.
And while the man was speaking with the king, even as he spoke, the earth opened its mouth, and at that very moment the man disappeared and was reborn in hell. The king, when the man was swallowed up in the earth, came forth from the park and entered the city.
The Teacher here ending his lesson said: “Not only now, monks, but formerly too, Devadatta flung a stone at me,” and he identified the Jātaka, “At that time the treacherous friend was Devadatta, I myself was the monkey-king.”
last updated: November 2021