Ja 519 Sambulajātaka
The Story about (Queen) Sambulā (30s)
Alternative Title: Sambulājātaka (Cst)
In the present one maid gives three portions of gruel to the Buddha and is that very day raised to be chief queen. The Buddha tells a story of the past in which a princess retires to the forest with her leprous lord, and is saved from a Yakkha by Sakka. Through an act of truth she cures the prince of his disease, but is neglected on return to the capital, until her husband is reproved for his neglect.
The king of Kosala = (prince) Sotthisena,
The Bodhisatta = his father (who became an) ascetic (pitā tāpaso),
Mallikā = (his consort) Sambulā.
Present Source: Ja 415 Kummāsapiṇḍa,
Quoted at: Ja 519 Sambula,
Past Compare: Jm 3 Kulmāṣapiṇḍī.
Keywords: Faith, Negligence, Women, Devas.
“Tied to the spot.” This story the Teacher, while dwelling at Jetavana, told of queen Mallikā. The introductory story is related at length in the Kummāsapiṇḍajātaka [Ja 415].
The Teacher told this tale while dwelling in Jetavana, concerning queen Mallikā. She was the daughter of the chief of the garland-makers of Sāvatthi, extremely beautiful and very good. When she was sixteen years of age, as she was going to a flower-garden with some other girls, she had three portions of sour gruel in a flower-basket. As she was leaving the town, she saw the Fortunate One entering it, diffusing radiance and surrounded by the assembly of the monks: and she brought him the three portions of gruel.
The Teacher accepted, holding out his royal bowl. She saluted the Tathāgata’s feet with her head, and taking her joy as subject of meditation, stood on one side. Observing her the Teacher smiled. The venerable Ānanda wondered why the Tathāgata smiled and asked him the question. The Teacher told him the reason, “Ānanda, this girl will be today the chief queen of the Kosala king through the fruit of these portions of gruel.” The girl went on to the flower-garden.
That very day the Kosala king fought with Ajātasattu and fled away in defeat. As he came on his horse he heard the sound of her singing, and being attracted by it he rode towards the garden. The girl’s merit was ripe: so when she saw the king she came without running away, and seized at the bridle by the horse’s nose. The king from horseback asked if she was married or no. Hearing that she was not, he dismounted, and being wearied with wind and sun rested for a little time in her lap: then he made her mount, and with a great army entered the town and brought her to her own house. At evening he sent a chariot and with great honour and pomp brought her from her house, set her on a heap of jewels, anointed her and made her chief queen.
Now by the efficacy of a gift of three portions of sour gruel to the Tathāgata, she that very day rose to the position of chief queen, and being possessed of faithful servants and endued with the five feminine charms, full of knowledge, and a disciple of the Buddha, she showed herself a devoted wife. Her devotion was blazed abroad throughout the city. So one day a discussion was started in the Dhamma Hall, how that queen Mallikā was a faithful and devoted wife. The Teacher, on his coming there, asked the monks what was the topic they were discussing as they sat together, and on hearing what it was he said: “Not only now, but formerly too, monks, she was a devoted wife,” and so saying, he told a story of the past.
In the past king Brahmadatta had a son named Sotthisena, and when he had come of age the king set him up as viceroy. His chief consort, Sambulā by name, was extremely beautiful, and gifted with so radiant a form that she appeared like a lamp-flame shining in
On entering the forest, he built a hut of leaves and took up his abode in a shady and well-watered spot, where wild fruit abounded. How then did the royal lady watch over him? Why she rose up early in the morning, swept out his hermitage, set some water for him to drink,
One day, as she was bringing fruit from the forest, she espied a mountain cave, and putting down the basket from her head, she stood on the edge of the cave, and, stepping down to bathe, she rubbed her body all over with yellow dye and took a bath. After washing herself, she climbed up again and put on her bark garment and stood on the edge of the pool. And the whole forest was lighted up with the radiance that was shed from her person. At that moment a Yakkha, going forth to find his prey, caught sight of her, and falling in love with her, he repeated a couple of verses:
1. “Tied to the spot and trembling as in fear,
Who in this rocky cave is standing here?
Tell us, I pray, O slender-waisted dame,
Who may your kinsmen be, and what your name.
2. Who are you, lady, ever fair and bright,
And what your birth that you can flood with light
This grove, fit home of every beast of prey?
A Yakkha I to you due homage pay.”
On hearing what he said, she replied in three verses:
3. “Prince Sotthisena, know full well, is heir to Kāsi throne,
And I, this prince’s wedded wife, as Sambulā am known.
4. Videha’s royal son is sick and in the forest lies;
Alone I tend him, mad with pain, or else he surely dies.
5. This savoury bit of venison I picked up in the wood,
And bear it to my lord today, now faint for want of food.”
This is followed by verses spoken alternately by the Yakkha and the lady:
6. “What good is this sick lord of thine, O Sambulā, to you?
No wife, but nurse is what he craves. I will your husband be.”
7. “With sorrow worn, a wretch forlorn, no beauty can I claim,
If you are fain a bride to gain, go woo some fairer dame.”
8. “Four hundred wives have I to grace my home on yonder hill;
O lady, deign o’er them to reign, and each fond wish fulfil.
9. Fair maid so bright with golden light, whate’er is dear to you
Is mine to give, so come and live a life of joy with me.
10. But if denied to me as bride, you are my lawful prey,
And will be good to serve as food to break my fast today.”
11. That Yakkha grim with his seven tufts inspiring dread alarm,
Found helpless Sambulā astray and seized her by the arm.
12. Thus held by him, that Yakkha grim, her lustful, cruel foe,
She still deplored her absent lord, nor e’er forgot his woe.
13. “No grief to me that I should be this hateful Yakkha’s prey,
But that the love of my dear lord from me should fall away.
14. No gods are here, but absent far they flee,
Nor any guardians of the world I see,
To check the course of outrage and suppress
All acts of unrestrained licentiousness.”
Then was the abode of Sakka shaken by the efficacy of her virtue, and his throne of yellow marble showed signs of heat. Sakka, on reflection, discovered the cause, and, taking his thunderbolt, he came with all speed, and, standing above the Yakkha, spoke another verse:
15. “ ’Mongst women folk the chief in fame,
She’s wise and perfect, bright as flame,
Should you eat her, your skull be riven,
O Yakkha, into fragments seven.
So harm her not; let her go free,
For a devoted wife is she.”
On hearing this the Yakkha let Sambulā go. Sakka thought: “This Yakkha will be guilty of the same thing again,” and so he bound him with celestial chains and let him loose on the third mountain from thence, that he might not return; and, after earnestly exhorting the royal lady, he departed to his own abode. And the princess, after sunset, by the light of the moon reached the hermitage.
To explain the matter, the Teacher repeated eight verses:
16. “Escaped from Yakkha, to her hut she fled,
As bird returning finds its fledglings dead,
Or cow, robbed of her calf, laments an empty shed.
17. Thus Sambulā, of royal fame, made moan,
Wild-eyed and helpless, in the wood, alone.
18. Hail, ascetics and brahmins, sages too,
Deserted, I for refuge fly to you.
19. All hail, you lions and you tigers fell,
And other beasts that in the woodland dwell.
20. All hail, you grasses, herbs and plants that creep,
All hail, you forests green and mountains steep.
21. All hail to night, bedecked with stars on high,
Dark as blue lotus of the deepest dye.
22. All hail to Ganges: mother of rivers she,
Known amongst men as famed Bhāgīrathī.
23. Hail, Himavat, of all the mountains king,
Huge rocky pile, o’ertopping everything.”
Regarding her, as she uttered this lamentation, Sotthisena thought: “She is overdoing her lamentation: I do not quite know what it all means. If she were acting thus for love of me, her heart would be broken. I will put her to the test.” And he went and sat at the door of his hut. She, still lamenting, came to the door, and, making a low obeisance, she said: “Where has my lord been?” “Lady,” he said, “on other days you have never come at this hour; today you are very late,”
24. “Illustrious lady, why so late today?
What favoured lover led to this delay?”
Then she made answer, “My lord, I was returning with my fruit when I beheld a Yakkha, and he fell in love with me, and seizing me by the hand, he cried, “Unless you obey my words, I will eat you alive.” And at that moment, sorrowing for you only, I uttered this lament; and she repeated this verse:
25. “Seized by my foe, I, full of woe, these words to him did say:
‘No grief to me that I should be a hateful Yakkha’s prey,
But that the love of my dear lord from me should fall away.’ ”
Then she told him the rest of the story, saying: “So when I was seized by this Yakkha, and was unable to make him let me go, I acted so as to excite the attention of the gods. Then Sakka came, thunderbolt in hand, and, standing in the air, he threatened the Yakkha and made him release me. And he bound him with magic chains and deposited him on
26. “You jades are ever by far too clever,
Truth among such is a great rarity,
Ways of the sex are enough to perplex,
E’en as the course of a fish in the sea.”
On hearing his words, she said: “My lord, though you do not believe me, by virtue of the truth I speak, I will heal you.” So, filling a pot of water and performing an Assertion of Truth, she poured the water on his head and spoke this verse:
27. “May truth for aye my shelter be,
As I love no man more than thee,
And by this Truth Assertion, I pray,
May your disease be healed today.”
When she had thus performed an Assertion of Truth, no sooner was the water sprinkled over Sotthisena than the leprosy straightaway left him, as it were copper rust washed in some acid. After staying a few days there, they departed from the forest, and, coming to Benares, entered the park. The king, being apprised of their arrival, went to the park, and there and then bade the royal umbrella to be raised over Sotthisena, and ordered that Sambulā, by sprinkling, should be raised to the position of chief queen. Then conducting them into the city, he himself adopted the ascetic life and took up his abode in the park, but he still constantly took his meals in the palace. And Sotthisena merely conferred on Sambulā the rank of chief consort, but no honour was paid her, and he ignored her very existence and took his pleasure with other women.
Sambulā, through jealousy of her rivals, grew thin and pale of countenance, and her veins stood out upon her body. One day when her father-in-law, the ascetic, came to have a meal, to get rid of her grief she came to him when he had finished eating, and saluting him, sat down on one side. On seeing her in this languid condition, he repeated a verse:
28. “Seven hundred elephants by night and day
Are guarding you, all ready for the fray,
Hundreds of archers shielding you from harm;
Whence come the foes to fill you with alarm?”
On hearing his words she said: “Your son, my lord, is no longer the same to me,” and she repeated five verses:
29. “Fair as a lotus are the maids he loves,
Their swan-like voice his deepest passion moves,
And as he listens to their measured strain,
In his affections I no longer reign.
30. In human shape like Accharā divine,
Adorned with ornaments of gold they shine,
Of perfect form the noble maidens lie
In graceful pose, to charm the royal eye.
31. If I once more might wander in the wood,
To glean a portion for his daily food,
Once more I should a husband’s love regain,
And quit the court in forest realms to reign.
32. A woman may in softest robes be dressed,
And be with food in rich abundance blessed,
Fair though she be, yet if an unloved wife,
Best fix a rope and put an end to life.
33. Yea the poor wretch on bed of straw Reading kaṭadutiyā. that lies,
If she find favour in her husband’s eyes,
Enjoys a happiness unknown to one,
Rich in all else, but poor in love alone.”
When she had thus explained to the ascetic the cause of her thus pining away, he summoned the king and said: “Dear Sotthisena, when you were crushed by the disease of leprosy and hid yourself in the forest, she went with you and ministered to your wants, and by the power of truth healed your sickness, and now after she has been the means of your being established on the throne, you do not even know the place of her sitting and uprising; this is very wrong of you. An act of treachery to a friend like this is a wrong,” and reproving his son, he repeated this verse:
34. “A loving wife is ever hard to find,
As is a man that to his wife is kind:
Your wife was virtuous and loving too;
Do you, O king, to Sambulā be true.”
After he had thus reproved his son, he got up and went away. The king, when his father was gone, called for Sambulā and said: “My dear, forgive the wrong I have done you this long time. Henceforth I confer on you all power,” and he repeated the final verse:
35. “Should you, with wealth in great abundance blessed,
Still pine away, by jealousy oppressed,
I and these maidens, creatures of your hand,
Will be obedient to your command.”
Thenceforth the pair lived happily together and after a life of generosity and good works they departed to fare according to their deeds. The ascetic, after entering upon the Absorptions and Super Knowledges, passed to the Brahmā Realm.
The Teacher here ended his lesson and saying: “Not only now, but formerly too, Mallikā was a devoted wife,” he identified the Jātaka, “At that time Sambulā was Mallikā, Sotthisena was the king of Kosala, and the ascetic father was myself.”
last updated: November 2021