Ja 518 Paṇḍarajātaka
The Story about (the King of the Nāgas) Paṇḍara (30s)

Alternative Title: Paṇḍaranāgarājajātaka (Cst)

In the present because Devadatta told a lie the earth opened up and swallowed him. The Buddha tells a story of a false ascetic who managed to trick a Nāga king into telling him the secret defence Nāgas used against the Supaṇṇas, and then revealed it to his enemy. Later, when the Nāga king was captured he uttered a curse against the ascetic, who was consequently swallowed up by the earth.

The Bodhisatta = the king of the Supaṇṇas (Supaṇṇarājā),
Sāriputta = the king of the Nāgas (Nāgarājā),
Devadatta = the naked ascetic (acelaka).

Keywords: Secrets, Treachery, Devas.

“No man that lets.” [5.42] This was a story told by the Teacher, while sojourning at Jetavana, as to how Devadatta told a lie, and how the earth opened and swallowed him up. At that time, when Devadatta was being blamed by the monks, the Teacher said: “Not only now, monks, but of old too Devadatta told a lie and was swallowed up by the earth,” and so saying he told a story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was king in Benares, five hundred trading folk took ship and set sail, and on the seventh day when they were out of sight of land, they were wrecked in mid ocean and all save one man became food for fishes. This one by favour of the wind reached the port of Karambiya, and landing naked and destitute he went about the place, begging alms. The people thought: “Here is an ascetic, happy and contented with little,” and they showed him every hospitality. But he said: “I have enough to live upon,” and when they offered him under and upper garments, he would have none of them. They said: “No ascetic can go beyond this in the way of contentment,” and being the more exceedingly pleased with him, they built him a hermitage for a dwelling-place, and he went by the name of the Karambiyan ascetic.

While he was living here, he met with great honour and gain, and both a Nāga king and a Supaṇṇa king came to pay their respects to him, and the name of the former was Paṇḍara. Now one day the Supaṇṇa king came to the ascetic and after saluting him took his seat on one side and said: “Sir, our people, [5.43] when they attack Nāgas, many of them perish. We do not know the right way to seize Nāgas. There is said to be some mystery in the matter. You could, perhaps, wheedle them {5.76} out of the secret.” “All right,” said the ascetic, and when the Supaṇṇa king had taken his leave and departed, as soon as ever the Nāga king arrived and with a respectful salutation had taken his seat, he asked him, saying: “Nāga-King, the Supaṇṇas say that in seizing you, many of them are killed. In attacking you, how can they seize you securely?” “Sir,” he replied, “this is our secret; if I were to tell it, I should bring about the destruction of all my kinsfolk.” “What? Do you really suspect me of telling someone else? I’ll tell no one. I only ask to satisfy my own curiosity. You may trust and tell me without the slightest fear.” The Nāga king promised to tell him and took his leave.

The next day the ascetic again asked him, and then too he did not tell him. But on the third day when the Nāga king had come and taken his seat, the ascetic said: “Today is the third day since I asked you. Why do you not tell me?” “I am afraid, sir, you might tell someone else.” “I’ll not say a word to a creature: tell me without any fear.” Then the Nāga made him promise to tell no one, and said: “Sir, we make ourselves heavy by swallowing very big stones and lie down, and when the Supaṇṇas come, we open our mouths wide, and show our teeth and fall upon them. They come on and seize us by the head, and while they strive to lift us up, heavy as we are, from the ground, the water streams from them, and they drop down dead in the midst of it. In this way a number of Supaṇṇas perish. When they attack us, why in the world do they seize us by the head? If the foolish creatures should seize us by the tail and hold us head downwards, they could force us to disgorge the stones we have swallowed, and so, making us a light weight, they could carry us off with them.” Thus did the Nāga reveal his secret to this wicked fellow.

Then, when the Nāga had gone away, up came the Supaṇṇa king, and saluting the Karambiyan ascetic he asked, “Well! Sir, have you learned his secret from the Nāga king?” {5.77} “Yes, sir,” he said, and told him everything just as it was told him. On hearing it, the Supaṇṇa said: “The Nāga king has made a great mistake. He ought not to have told another how to destroy his kinsfolk. Well, today I must first of all raise a Supaṇṇa The wind agitated by the wings of a Supaṇṇa. cf. Nāgānanda, Boyd’s English version, p. 59: “Garuḷa was in the habit of devouring one snake daily, catching it up from hell, whilst the ocean was cleft asunder from top to bottom by the wind of his wings.” wind and seize him.” So, raising a wind, he seized Paṇḍara the Nāga king by the tail and held him head downmost; and having thus made him disgorge the stones he had swallowed, he flew up into the air with him. Paṇḍaraka, as he was suspended head downwards in the air, sorely lamenting cried, “I have brought sorrow upon myself,” and he repeated these verses: [5.44]

1. “The man that lets his secret thought be known,
Random of speech, to indiscretion prone,
Poor fool, at once is overcome by fear,
As Nāga king is by a bird o’erthrown.

2. The man who in his folly could betray
The thought that he should hide from light of day,
By his rash speech is overcome by fear,
As Nāga king falls to this bird a prey.

3. No comrade ought your inmost thoughts to share,
The best of friends ofttimes most foolish are,
And if too wise, of treachery beware.

4. I trusted him, alas, for was not he
A holy man, of strict austerity?
My secret I revealed; the deed is done
And now I weep for very misery.

5. Into my confidence the wretch did creep,
Nor could I any secret from him keep:
From him the danger that I dread has come,
And now for very misery I weep. {5.78}

6. Judging his friend as faithful to the core
And moved by fear, or the strong love he bore,
To some vile wretch his secret one betrays
And is o’erthrown, poor fool, to rise no more.

7. Whoso proclaims in evil company
The secret thought that still should hidden lie,
’Mongst men is counted as a poison-snake:
From such a one, pray, keep aloof, they cry.

8. Fair women, silken robes and sandalwood,
Garlands and perfumes, even drink and food,
Yea all desires – if only you, O bird,
Come to our aid – shall be by us eschewed.” {5.79}

Thus did Paṇḍaraka, suspended in the air head downwards, utter his lament in eight verses. The Supaṇṇa, hearing the sound of his lamentation, reproved him and said: “Nāga King, after divulging your secret to the ascetic, wherefore do you now lament?” And he uttered this verse:

9. “Of us three creatures living here, pray name
The one that rightly should incur the blame.
Nor monk nor bird, but foolish deed of thine,
O snake, hath brought you to this depth of shame.”

On hearing this Paṇḍaraka repeated another verse:

10. “The monk, I thought, must be a friend to me,
A holy man, of strict austerity: {5.80}
My secret I betrayed: the deed is done,
And now I weep for very misery.”

Then the Supaṇṇa repeated four verses:

11. “All creatures born into this world must die;
Yet wisdom’s ways her children justify:
By knowledge, justice, self-restraint and truth
A man at length achieves his purpose high. [5.45]

12. Parents are kind all other kin above,
No third there is to show us equal love,
Not e’en to them betray your secret thought,
Lest peradventure they should traitors prove.

13. Parents and kin of every degree,
Allies and comrades all may friendly be:
To none of them entrust your hidden thought,
Or you will later rue their treachery.

14. A wife may youthful be and good and fair,
Own troops of friends, and children’s love may share:
Not e’en to her entrust your hidden thought,
Or of her treachery you must beware.” {5.81}

Then follow these verses:

15. “His secret no man should disclose, but guard like treasure-trove:
Disclosure of a secret thing no wise man would approve.

16. Wise men to woman or a foe their secrets ne’er betray;
Trust not the slaves of appetite; creatures of impulse they.

17. Whoso reveals his secret thought to one not overwise,
Fears the betrayal of his trust and at his mercy lies.

18. All such as know the secret thing that you should rather hide,
Threaten your peace of mind; to none that secret thing confide.

19. By day to thine own self alone the secret dare to name,
But venture not at dead of night that secret to proclaim;
For close at hand, be sure, there stand men ready to betray
The slightest word they may have heard: so trust them not, I pray.”

These five verses will appear in the Problem of the Five Sages in the Ummaggajātaka [Ja 546]. [v. 79-83.]

Then follow these verses:

20. “As some huge city fenced on every side
With moat, of iron wrought, has long defied {5.82}
All entrance of foe to blesséd land,
So e’en are they that do their counsels hide.

21. Who by rash speech to secrets give no clue,
But ever steadfast to themselves are true,
From them all enemies do keep aloof,
As men flee far when deadly snakes pursue.”

When the Dhamma had been thus proclaimed by the Supaṇṇa, Paṇḍaraka said:

22. “A tonsured, nude ascetic left his home
And seeking alms did through the country roam:
To him my secret I alas did tell,
And straight from happiness and virtue fell.

23. What line of conduct should a monk pursue,
What vows take on him, and what faults eschew?
How free himself from his besetting wrongs,
And at the last a heavenly mansion win?” [5.46] {5.83}

The Supaṇṇa said:

24. “By patience, self-restraint, long-suffering,
By calumny and ire abandoning,
Thus may a monk get rid of every wrong,
And at the last a heavenly mansion win.”

Paṇḍaraka, on hearing the Supaṇṇa king thus declare the Dhamma, begged for his life and repeated this verse:

25. “As mother gazing on her baby boy
Is thrilled in every limb with holy joy,
So upon me, O king of birds, bestow
That pity mothers to their children show.”

Then the Supaṇṇa in granting him his life repeated another verse:

26. “As of today from death I set you free;
Of kinds of children there are only three, {5.84}
Pupil, adopted child and true-born son:
Of these rejoice that you are surely one.”

So saying, he alighted from the air and placed the snake upon the ground.

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

27. “The bird, so saying, straight released his foe
And gently bore him to the earth below;
Set free today, go, safe from danger dwell
In water or on land. I’ll guard you well.

28. As a skilled leech to men with sickness cursed,
Or a cool tank to those that are athirst,
As house that shelters from a chilling frost,
So I a refuge prove to you, when lost.”

And saying: “Be off,” he let him go. And he disappeared in the abode of the Nāgas. But the bird, returning to the dwelling-place of the Supaṇṇas, said: “The Nāga Paṇḍaraka has won my confidence under oath and has been let loose by me. I will now put him to the test, to see what his feelings are towards me,” and repairing to the abode of the Nāgas, he raised a Supaṇṇa wind. On seeing him the Nāga king thought the Supaṇṇa king must have come to seize him, so he assumed a form that stretched to a thousand fathoms and making himself heavy by swallowing stones and sand {5.85} he lay down, keeping his tail beneath him and raising the hood upon his head, as if minded to bite the Supaṇṇa king. On seeing this the Supaṇṇa repeated another verse:

29. “O snake, you madest peace with thine old enemy;
But now you show your fangs. Whence comes this fear to you?” [5.47]

On hearing this the Nāga king repeated three verses:

30. “Ever suspect a foe, nor trust your friend as staunch;
Security breeds fear, to kill you root and branch.

31. What! Trust the man with whom one quarrelled long ago!
Nay, stand upon your guard. No one can love his foe.

32. Inspire a trust in all, but put your trust in none,
Thyself suspected not, be to suspicion prone.
He that is truly wise ought every nerve to strain
That his true nature ne’er may be to others plain.”

Thus did they talk one with another, and becoming reconciled and friendly they repaired together to the hermitage of the ascetic.

The Teacher, to make the matter clear, said,

33. “The godlike graceful pair of them now see,
Breathing an air of holy purity; {5.86}
Like steeds well matched ’neath equal yoke they ran,
To seek the dwelling of that saintly man.”

With regard to this the Teacher uttered another verse:

34. “Then to the ascetic straight Nāga did go,
And thus Paṇḍaraka addressed his foe,
‘Know that today, all danger past, I’m free,
But ’tis not due to love of thine for me.’ ”

Then the ascetic repeated another verse:

35. “To that bird-king, I solemnly declare,
I greater love than e’er to you did bear,
Moved by affection for that royal bird,
I of set purpose, not through folly, erred.”

On hearing this, the Nāga king repeated two verses:

36. “The man that looks at this world and the next,
Ne’er finds himself with love or hatred vexed,
’Neath garb of self-restraint you fain would hide
But lawless acts that holy garb belied. {5.87}

37. You, seeming noble, are with meanness stained,
And, as ascetic clad, are unrestrained;
By nature with ignoble thoughts accursed,
You in all kinds of sinful act are versed.”

So to reprove him, he uttered this verse, reviling him:

38. “Informer, traitor, that would slay
A guileless friend, be your head riven
By this Truth Assertion, I pray,
Piecemeal, all into fragments seven.” [5.48]

So before the very eyes of the Nāga king, the head of the ascetic was split into seven pieces, and at the very spot where he was sitting the ground was cleft asunder. And, disappearing into the Earth, he was reborn in the Avīci hell, and the Nāga king and the Supaṇṇa king returned each to his own abode.

The Teacher, to make clear the fact that he had been swallowed up by the earth, repeated the last verse:

39. “Therefore I say, friends ne’er should treacherous be;
Than a false friend worse man is none to see.
Buried in earth the venomous creature lies,
And at the snake king’s word the ascetic dies.” {5.88}

The Teacher here ended his discourse and said: “Not only now, monks, but of old too, Devadatta told a lie and was swallowed up by the earth,” and he identified the Jātaka, “At that time the ascetic was Devadatta, the snake king Sāriputta, and the Supaṇṇa king was myself.”