Ja 523 Alambusajātaka
The Story about (the Accharā) Alambusā (40s)

Alternative Title: Alambusājātaka (Cst)

In the present one monk who ordains after his marriage gradually comes once again under his wife’s power. The Buddha tells a story of how Sakka came to fear one holy ascetic and sent a heavenly nymph to seduce him, which she did. Three years went by before he came to his senses and managed to return to the holy life.

The Bodhisatta = the father, the great seer (pitā mahā-isi),
the dissatisfied monk = (the innocent seer) Isisiṅga,
his former wife = (the nymph, Accharā) Alambusā.

Present Source: Ja 423 Indriyajātaka,
Quoted at: Ja 13 Kaṇḍinajātaka, Ja 145 Rādhajātaka, Ja 191 Ruhakajātaka, Ja 318 Kaṇaverajātaka, Ja 380 Āsaṅkajātaka, Ja 523 Alambusājātaka,
Past Source: Ja 523 Kuṇālajātaka,
Quoted at: Ja 341 Kaṇḍari,
Past Compare: Ja 523 Alambusā, Ja 526 Naḷinikā, Mvu iii p 174 Nālini.

Keywords: Asceticism, Seduction, Women.

“Then mighty Sakka.” {5.152} This story the Teacher, while residing at Jetavana, told about the temptation of a monk by the wife of his unregenerate days. The subject-matter of the tale is related in full in the Indriyajātaka [Ja 423].

The story is that a young man of good family at Sāvatthi heard the Teacher’s preaching, and thinking it impossible to lead a holy life, perfectly complete and pure, as a householder, he determined to become an ascetic in the dispensation which leads to safety and so make an end of misery. So he gave up his house and property to his wife and children, and asked the Teacher to ordain him. The Teacher did so. As he was the junior in his going about for alms with his teachers and instructors, and as the monks were many, he got no chair either in laymen’s houses or in the refectory, but only a stool or a bench at the end of the novices, his food was tossed him hastily on a ladle, he got gruel made of broken lumps of rice, solid food stale or decaying, or sprouts dried and burnt; and this was not enough to keep him alive. He took what he had got to the wife he had left: she took his bowl, saluted him, emptied it and gave him instead well-cooked gruel and rice with sauce and curry.

The monk was captivated by the love of such flavours and could not leave his wife. She thought she would test his affection. One day she had a countryman cleansed with white clay and set down in her house with some others of his people whom she had sent for, and she gave them something to eat and drink. They sat eating and enjoying it. At the house-door she had some bullocks bound to wheels and a cart set ready. She herself sat in a back room cooking cakes. Her husband came and stood at the door. Seeing him, one old servant told his mistress that there was an elder at the door. “Salute him and bid him pass on.”

But though he did so repeatedly, he saw the monk remaining there and told his mistress. She came, and lifting up the curtain to see, she cried, “This is the father of my sons.” She came out and saluted him: taking his bowl and making him enter she gave him food: when he had eaten she saluted again and said: “Sir, you are a saint now: we have been staying in this house all this time; but there can be no proper householder’s life without a master, so we will take another house and go far into the country: be zealous in your good works, and forgive me if I am doing wrong.” For a time her husband was as if his heart would break. Then he said: “I cannot leave you, do not go, I will come back to my worldly life; send a layman’s garment to such and such a place, I will give up my bowl and robes and come back to you.” She agreed. The monk went to his monastery, and giving up his bowl and robes to his teachers and instructors he explained, in answer to their questions, that he could not leave his wife and was going back to worldly life.

Now the Teacher asked the monk, “Is it true, monk, that you were rendered discontented?” “It is true, venerable sir.” “By whom?” “By my wife of former days.” “Monk,” he said, “this woman wrought mischief for you: it was owing to her that you fell away from Absorption, and lay for three years in a lost and distracted condition, and on the recovery of your senses you uttered a great lamentation,” and so saying he told him a story of the past.

In the past, in the reign of Brahmadatta in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born of a brahmin family in the kingdom of Kāsi, and when of age he became proficient in all liberal arts, and adopting the ascetic life he lived on wild berries and roots in a forest home. Now a certain doe in the brahmin’s toileting place ate grass and drank water mingled with his semen, and was so much enamoured of him that she became pregnant and henceforth ever resorted to the spot near the hermitage. The Great Being examining into the matter learned the facts of the case. By and by the doe gave birth to a man child, and the Great [5.80] Being watched over him with a father’s affection. And his name was Isisiṅga. Rāmāyaṇa i. 9. The story of Ṛishyaśṛṅiga; and Barlaam and Josaphat ed. by J. Jacobs.

And when the lad reached years of discretion, he admitted him to holy orders, and when he himself grew an old man, he repaired with him to the Nāri grove and thus admonished him, “My dear boy, in this Himālayan country are women as fair as these flowers, they bring utter destruction on all that fall into their power, you must not come under their sway.” And shortly afterwards he became destined to birth in the Brahmā Realm.

But Isisiṅga, indulging in Absorption, made his dwelling in the Himālayas region, a grim ascetic, with all his senses mortified. So by the power of his virtue the abode of Sakka was shaken. Sakka, on reflection, discovered the cause and thinking: “This fellow will bring me down from my position as Sakka, I will send a heavenly nymph to make a breach in his virtue,” and after examining the whole angel world, amongst twenty-five millions of handmaids, save and except the nymph Alambusā, he found no other that was equal to the task. So summoning her, he bade her bring about the destruction of the saint’s virtue. {5.153}

The Teacher, in explanation of this matter, uttered this verse:

1. “Then mighty Sakka, lord of lords, the god that Vatra slew,
To his hall the Devakaññā called, for well her wiles he knew.

2. And Fair Alambusā, he cried, the Deva host above
To the rishi bid you go, to tempt him with your love.”

Sakka ordered Alambusā, saying: “Go and draw nigh to Isisiṅga, and bringing him under your power destroy his virtue,” and he uttered these words:

3. “Go, Temptress, ever dog his steps, for holy sage is he,
And, seeking ever highest bliss, still triumphs over me.”

On hearing this Alambusā repeated a couple of verses:

4. “Why, king of gods, of all Accharā regard me alone,
And bid me to tempt the rishi that menaces your throne?

5. In griefless grove of Nandana is many a nymph divine,
To one of them – it is their turn – the hateful task assign.” {5.154}

Then Sakka repeated three verses:

6. “You speakest truth; in griefless grove of Nandana, I ween,
May many a nymph, to rival you in loveliness, be seen.

7. But none like you, O peerless maid, with all a woman’s wile
This holy man in folly’s ways so practised to beguile.

8. Then queen of women as you are, go, lovely nymph, your way
And by the power of beauty force the saint to own your sway.” [5.81]

On hearing this Alambusā repeated two verses:

9. “I will not fail, O Deva-king, to go at your behest,
But still with fear this sage austere I venture to molest.

10. For many a one, poor fool, has gone (I shudder at the thought)
In hell to rue the suffering due to wrongs on saints he wrought.”

These verses were spoken after Fully Awakening:

11. “This said, Alambusā, Accharā, departed with speed,
Famed Isisiṅga to entice to some unholy deed. {5.155}

12. Into the grove for half a league with berries red so bright,
The grove where Isisiṅga dwelt, she vanished out of sight.

13. At break of day, ere yet the sun was scarce astir on high,
To Isisiṅga, sweeping out his cell, the nymph drew nigh.”

Then the ascetic questioned her and said:

14. “Who are you, like to lightning flash, or bright as morning star,
With ears and hands bedecked with gems that sparkle from afar?

15. Fragrant as golden sandalwood, in brightness like the sun,
A slim and winsome maid are you, right fair to look upon.

16. So soft and pure, with slender waist and firmly springing gait,
Your movements are so full of grace, my heart they captivate.

17. Your thighs, like trunk of elephant, are finely tapering found,
Your buttocks soft to touch and like to any dice-board round.

18. With down like lotus filaments your navel marked, I ween,
As though with black collyrium ’twere charged, from far is seen.

19. Twin milky breasts, like pumpkins halved, their swelling globes display,
Firm set, although without a stalk all unsupported they.

20. Your lips are red as is your tongue, and, O auspicious sign,
Your neck long as the antelope’s is marked with triple line. kambugīva: three folds on the neck, like shell-spirals, were a token of luck, Jātaka iv. 130. {5.156}

21. Your teeth brushed with a piece of wood, kept ever clean and bright,
Gleam in your top and lower jaw with flash of purest white.

22. Your eyes are long and large of shape, a lovely sight to view,
Like guñjā berries black, marked out with lines of reddish hue.

23. Your hair is smooth, not over long and bound in neatest coil,
Is tipped with gold and perfumed with the finest sandal oil.

24. Of all that live by merchandise, by herds or by the plough,
Of all the mighty saints that live true to ascetic vow.

25. Amongst them all in this wide world your peer I may not see,
Then what your name and who your sire, we fain would learn from thee.” {5.157}

While the ascetic thus sang the praises of Alambusā, from her feet to the hair of her head, she remained silent, and from his long drawn out speech observing how disturbed was his state of mind she repeated this verse:

26. “Heaven bless you, Kassapa, Kassapa was the family name of Isisiṅga. my friend, the time is past and gone
For idle questions such as these – for are we not alone?
Come let us in your hermitage embracing haste to prove
The thousand joys well known to all the votaries of love.” [5.82]

So saying Alambusā thought: “If I stand still, he will not come within reach of me; I will make as if I were running away,” and with all the cunning of a woman’s wiles she shook the purpose of the ascetic, as she fled in the direction from which she had approached him.

The Teacher, to make the matter clear, spoke this verse:

27. “This said, Alambusā, Accharā, departed with speed,
Famed Isisiṅga to entice to some unholy deed.” {5.158}

Then the ascetic, on seeing her depart, cried, “She is off,” and by a swift movement on his part he intercepted her as she was slowly making off and with his hand seized her by the hair of her head.

The Teacher, to make the matter clear, said:

28. “To check her flight, the holy man with motion swift as air
In hot pursuit o’ertook the nymph and held her by the hair.

29. Just where he stood the lovely maid embraced him in her arms,
And straight his virtue fell before the magic of her charms.

30. In thought she flew to Sakka’s throne in Nandana afar;
The god at once divined her wish and sent a golden car,

31. With trappings spread and all adorned with manifold array:
And there the saint lay in her arms for many a long day.

32. Three years passed o’er his head as though it were a moment’s space,
Until at last the holy man woke up from her embrace.

33. Green trees he saw on every side; an altar stood nearby,
And verdant groves re-echoing to the loud cuckoo cry.

34. He looked around and weeping sore he shed a bitter tear;
‘I make no offering, raise no hymn; no sacrifice is here.

35. Dwelling within this forest lone, who can my tempter be?
Who by foul practice has o’ercome all sense of right in me,
E’en as a ship with precious freight is swallowed in the sea?’ ” {5.159}

On hearing this Alambusā thought: “Should I not tell him, he will curse me; verily, I will tell him,” and standing by him in a visible form she repeated this verse:

36. “Sent by king Sakka, here I stand
A willing slave at your command;
Though far too careless to know this,
’Twas thought of me that marred your bliss.”

On hearing her words he called to mind his father’s admonition, and lamenting how he was utterly ruined by disobeying the words of his father he repeated four verses:

37. “Thus would kind Kassapa, my sire,
With prudence heedless youth inspire:
‘Women are fair as lotus flower,
Beware, good youth, their subtle power. [5.83]

38. Of woman’s budding charms beware,
Beware the danger that lurks there.’
’Twas thus my sire, by pity moved,
Would fain have warned the son he loved. {5.160}

39. My wise old father’s words, alas,
Unheeded I allowed to pass,
And so alone, in sore distress
I haunt today this wilderness.

40. Accursed be the life of old,
Henceforth I’ll do as I am told.
Far better death itself to face,
Than be again in such a case.”

So he forsook sensual desire and entered upon Absorption. Then Alambusā, seeing his virtue as an ascetic and aware that he had attained to a state of Absorption, became terrified and asked his forgiveness.

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

41. “Alambusā no sooner knew
His steadfast power and courage true
Than bending low, the sage to greet,
The nymph straightway embraced his feet.

42. ‘O saint, all anger lay aside,
A mighty work I wrought,’ she cried,
‘When heaven itself and gods of fame
Trembled with fear to hear your name.’ ”

Then he let her go, saying: “I pardon you, fair lady; go, as you will.” And he repeated a verse:

43. “My blessing on the Thirty-Three
And Vāsava, their lord, and thee:
Depart, fair maid, for you are free.”

Saluting him she departed to the abode of the gods in that same golden carriage. {5.161}

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

44. “Embracing then the sage’s feet and circling to the right,
With hands in suppliant attitude, she vanished from his sight,

45. And mounting on the golden car, with trappings rich o’erspread,
All splendidly caparisoned, to heavenly heights she sped.

46. Like blazing torch or lightning flash, she passed across the sky,
And Sakka, glad at heart, exclaimed, ‘No boon can I deny.’ ” [5.84]

Receiving a boon from him she repeated the concluding verse:

47. “If Sakka, King of the Devas, you would my heart’s desire allow,
Let me ne’er tempt a saint again to violate his vow.”

The Teacher here ended his lesson to that monk and revealed the Truths and identified the Jātaka. At the conclusion of the Truths that monk was established in the Fruit of the First Path. “At that time Alambusā was the wife of his unregenerate days, Isisiṅga was the discontented monk, and the great saint his father was myself.”