Ja 517 Dakarakkhasajātaka
The Story about the Water Rakkhasa (30s)
No story of the present is given. The Buddha tells a story of a wise man, Mahosadha, who had a conversation with a female sage by signs, and how it was misconstrued by a jealous queen. The female sage then asks the king who would he sacrifice if pressed, he answers he would sacrifice all, including himself, but not Mahosadha.
The Bodhisatta = (paṇḍita) Mahosadha,
Uppalavaṇṇī = (the female ascetic) Bherī,
Sāriputta = (king) Cullaṇī.
Past Source: Ja 546 Mahā-ummagga,
Quoted at: Ja 517 Dakarakkhasa.
Keywords: Jealousy, Treachery, Wisdom, Devas.
All of this
Now Pañcālacaṇḍī was very dear and precious to the king; and in the second year she bore him a son. In his tenth year, king Vedeha died. The Bodhisatta raised the royal parasol for him, and asked leave to go to his grandfather, king Cullaṇī. The boy said: “Wise sir, do not leave me in my childhood; I will honour you as a father.” And Pañcālacaṇḍī said: “Wise sir, there is none to protect us if you go; do not go.” But he replied, “My promise has been given; I cannot but go.” So amidst the lamentations of the multitude, he departed with his servants, and came to Uttarapañcāla city. The king hearing of his arrival came to meet him, and led him into the city with great pomp, and gave him a great house, and besides the eighty villages given at first, gave him another present; and he served that king.
At that time a wanderer, named Bherī, used to take her meals constantly in the palace; she was wise and learned, and she had never seen the Great Being before; she heard the report that the wise Mahosadha was serving the king. He also had never seen her before, but he heard that a wanderer named Bherī had her meals in the palace. Now queen Nandā was ill pleased with the Bodhisatta, because he had separated her from her husband’s love, and caused her annoyance; so she sent for five women whom she trusted, and said: “Watch for a fault in the wise man, and let us try to make him fall out with the king.” So they went about looking for an occasion against him.
One day it so happened that this wanderer after her meal was going forth, and caught sight of the Bodhisatta in the courtyard on his way to wait on the king. He saluted her, and stood still. She thought: “This they say is a wise man: I will see whether he be wise or no.” So she asked him a question by a gesture of the hand: looking towards the Bodhisatta, she opened her hand. Her idea was to enquire whether the king took good care or not of this wise man whom he had brought from another country. When the Bodhisatta saw that she was asking him a question by gesture, he answered it by clenching his fist: what he meant was, “Your reverence, the king brought me here in fulfilment of a promise, and now he keeps his fist tight closed and gives me nothing.” She understood; and stretching out her hand she rubbed her head, as much as to say, “Wise sir, if you are displeased, why do you not become an ascetic like me?” At this the Great Being stroked his stomach, as who should say, “Your reverence, there are many that I have to support, and that is why I do not become an ascetic.” After this dumb questioning she returned to her dwelling, and the Great Being saluted her and went in to the king.
Now the queen’s confidantes saw all this from a window; and coming before the king, they said: “My lord, Mahosadha has made a plot with Bherī the ascetic to seize your kingdom, and he is your enemy.” So they slandered him. “What have you heard or seen?” the king asked. They said: “Sire, as the ascetic was going out after her meal, seeing the Great Being, she opened her hand; as one who should say, ‘Cannot you crush the king flat like the palm of the hand or a threshing-floor, and seize the kingdom for yourself?’ And Mahosadha clenched his fist, making as though he held a sword, as one who should say, ‘In a few days I will cut off his head and get him into my power.’ She signalled, ‘Cut off his head,’ by rubbing her own head with her hand; the Great Being signalled, ‘I will cut him in half,’ by rubbing his belly. Be vigilant, sire! Mahosadha ought to be put to death.”
The king, hearing this, thought: “I cannot hurt this wise man; I will question the ascetic.” Next day accordingly, at the time of her meal, he came up and asked, “Madam, have you seen wise Mahosadha?” “Yes, sire, yesterday, as I was going out after my meal.” “Did you have any conversation together?” “Conversation? No; but I had heard of his wisdom, and in order to try it I asked him, by dumb signs, shutting my hand, whether the king was open-handed to him or close-fisted, did he treat him with kindness or not. He closed his fist, implying that his master had made him come here in fulfilment of a promise, and now gave him nothing. Then I rubbed my head, to enquire why he did not become an ascetic if he were not satisfied; he stroked his belly, meaning that there were many for him to feed, many bellies to fill, and therefore he did not become an ascetic.” “And is Mahosadha a wise man?” “Yes, indeed, sire: in all the earth there is not his like for wisdom.” After hearing her account, the king dismissed her.
After she had gone, the sage came to wait upon the king; and the king asked him, “Have you seen, sir, the wanderer Bherī?” “Yes, sire, I saw her yesterday on her way out, and she asked me a question by dumb signs, and I answered her at once.” And he told the story as she had done. The king in his pleasure that day gave him the post of commander-in-chief, and put him in sole charge. Great was his glory, second only to the king’s. He thought: “The king all at once has given me exceeding great renown; this is what kings do even when they wish to slay. Suppose I try the king to see whether he has goodwill towards me or not. No one else will be able to find this out; but the wanderer Bherī is full of wisdom, and she will find a way.”
So taking a quantity of flowers and scents, he went to the wanderer and, after saluting her, said: “Madam, since you told the king of my merits, the king has overwhelmed me with splendid gifts; but whether he does it in sincerity or not I do not know. It would be well if you could find out for me the king’s mind.” She promised to do so; and next day, as she was going to the palace, the Question of the Water Rakkhasa (Dakarakkhasa) came into her mind. Then this occurred to her, “I must not be like a spy, but I must find an opportunity to ask the question, and discover whether the king has goodwill to the wise man.” So she went. And after her meal, she sat still, and the king saluting her sat down on one side. Then she thought: “If the king bears ill-will to the sage, and when he is asked the question if he declares his ill-will in the presence of a number of people, that will not do; I will ask him apart.” She said: “Sire, I wish to speak to you in private.” The king sent his attendants away. She said: “I want to ask your majesty a question.” “Ask, madam, and if I know it I will reply.” Then she recited the first verse in the Question of Dakarakkhasa:
1. “If there were seven of you voyaging on the ocean, and a Yakkha seeking for a human sacrifice should seize the ship, in what order would you give them up and save yourself from the Water Rakkhasa?”
The king answered by another verse, in all sincerity:
2. “First I would give my mother, next my wife, next my brother, fourth my friend, fifth my brahmin, sixth myself, but I would not give up Mahosadha.”
Thus the ascetic discovered the goodwill of the king towards the Great Being; but his merit was not published thereby, so she thought of something else, “In a large company I will praise the merits of these others, and the king will praise the wise man’s merit instead; thus the wise man’s merit will be made as clear as the moon shining in the sky.” So she collected all the denizens of the inner palace, and in their presence asked the same question and received the same answer: then she said: “Sire, you say that you would give first your mother: but a mother is of great merit, and your mother is not as other mothers, she is very useful.” And she recited her merits in a couple of verses:
3. “She reared you and she brought you forth, and for a long time was kind to you, when Chambhī offended against you she was wise and saw what was for your good, and by putting a counterfeit in your place she saved you from harm.
4. Such a mother, who gave you life, your own mother who bore you in her womb, for what fault could you give her to the Water Rakkhasa?”
To this the king replied, “Many are my mother’s virtues, and I acknowledge her claims upon me, but mine are still more numerous,” and then he described her faults in a couple of verses:
5-6. “Like a young girl she wears ornaments which she ought not to use, she mocks unseasonably at doorkeepers and guards, unbidden she sends messages to rival kings; and for these faults I would give her to the Water Rakkhasa.”
“So be it, sire; yet your wife has much merit,” and she declared her merit thus:
7-8. “She is chief amongst womankind, she is exceedingly gracious of speech, devoted, virtuous, who cleaves to you like your shadow, not given to anger, prudent, wise, who sees your good: for what fault would you give your wife to the Water Rakkhasa?”
He described her faults:
9. “By her sensual attractions she has made me subject to evil influence, and asks what she should not for her sons.
10. In my passion I give her many and many a gift; I relinquish what is very hard to give, and afterwards I bitterly repent: for that fault I would give my wife to the Water Rakkhasa.”
The ascetic said: “Be it so: but your younger brother prince Tikhiṇamantī is useful to you; for what fault would you give him?
11-12. “He who gave prosperity to the people, and when you were living in foreign parts brought you back home, he whom great wealth could not influence, peerless bowman and hero, Tikhiṇamantī: for what fault would you give your brother to the Water Rakkhasa?”
The king described his fault:
13. “He thinks, I gave prosperity to the people, I brought him back home when he was living in foreign parts, great wealth could not influence me.
14. I am a peerless bowman and hero, and sharp in counsel, by me he was made king.
15. He does not come to wait on me, madam, as he used to do; that is the fault for which I would give my brother to the Water Rakkhasa.”
The ascetic said: “So much for your brother’s fault: but prince Dhanusekha is devoted in his love for you, and very useful,” and she described his merit:
16. “In one night both you and Dhanusekha were born here, both called Pañcāla, friends and companions:
17. Through all your life he has followed you, your joy and pain were his, zealous and careful by night and day in all service: for what fault would you give your friend to the Water Rakkhasa?”
Then the king described his fault:
18. “Madam, through all my life he used to make merry with me, and today also he makes free excessively for the same reason.
19. If I talk in secret with my wife, in he comes unbidden and unannounced.
20. Give him a chance and an opening, he acts shamelessly and disrespectfully. That is the fault for which I would give my friend to the Water Rakkhasa.”
The ascetic said: “So much for his fault; but the family priest is very useful to you,” and she described his merit:
21-22. “He is clever, knows all omens and sounds, skilled in signs and dreams, goings out and comings in, understands all the tokens in earth and air and stars: for what fault would you give the brahmin to the Water Rakkhasa?”
The king explained his fault:
23. “Even in company he stares at me with open eyes; therefore I would give this rascal with his puckered brows to the Water Rakkhasa.”
Then the ascetic said: “Sire, you say you would give to the Water Rakkhasa all these five, beginning with your mother, and that you would give your own life for the wise Mahosadha, not taking into account your great glory: what merit do you see in him?” and she recited these verses:
24-25. “Sire, you dwell amidst your courtiers in a great continent surrounded by the sea, with the ocean in place of an encircling wall: lord of the earth, with a mighty empire, victorious, sole emperor, your glory has become great.
26. You have sixteen thousand women dressed in jewels and ornaments, women of all nations, resplendent like Devakaññā.
27. Thus provided for every need, every desire fulfilled, you have lived long in happiness and bliss.
28. Then by what reason or what cause do you sacrifice your precious life to protect the sage?”
On hearing this, he recited the following verses in praise of the wise man’s merit:
29. “Since Mahosadha, madam, came to me, I have not seen the steadfast man do the most trifling wrong.
30. If I should die before him at any time, he would bring happiness to my sons and grandsons.
31. He knows all things, past or future. This man without wrong I would not give to the Water Rakkhasa.”
Thus this Jātaka came to its appropriate end. Then the ascetic thought: “This is not enough to show forth the wise man’s merits; I will make them known to all people in the city, like one that spreads scented oil over the surface of the sea.” So taking the king with her, she came down from the palace, and prepared a seat in the palace courtyard, and made him sit there; then gathering the people together, she asked the king that Question of the Water Rakkhasa over again from the beginning; and when he had answered it as described above, she addressed the people thus:
32. “Hear this, men of Pañcāla, which Cullaṇī has said. To protect the wise man he sacrifices his own precious life.
33. His mother’s life, his wife’s and his brother’s, his friend’s life and his own, Pañcāla is ready to sacrifice.
34. So marvellous is the power of wisdom, so clever and so intelligent, for good in this world and for happiness in the next.”
So like one that places the topmost pinnacle upon a heap of treasure, she put the pinnacle on her demonstration of the Great Being’s merit.
last updated: November 2021