Ja 525 Cullasutasomajātaka
The Short Story about (King) Sutasoma (40s)

Alternative Title: Cūḷasutasomajātaka (Cst)

In the present Uruvelā Kassapa becomes a disciple of the Buddha and declares it for all to see. The Buddha tells a story of a king of old who, upon discovering a single grey hair on his head, renounced all he had and went forth, despite the entreaties of his household and friends.

The Bodhisatta = king Sutasoma (Sutasomarājā),
Rāhulamātā = (his) queen Candā (Candādevī),
Sāriputta = (his) elder son (jeṭṭhaputta),
Rāhula = (his) younger son (kaniṭṭhaputta),
Ānanda = prince Somadatta (Somadattakumāra),
Moggallāna = the commander-in-chief (mahāsenagutta),
Kassapa = the wealthy man Kulavaḍḍhana (Kulavaḍḍhanaseṭṭhi),
Khujjuttarā = the nurse (dhāti),
members of the royal family = the mother and father (mātāpitaro),
the Buddha’s disciples = the rest of the cast (sesaparisā).

Present Source: Ja 544 Mahānāradakassapa,
Quoted at: Ja 525 Cullasutasoma.

Keywords: Renunciation, Impermanence, Old Age.

“Good friends.” This story the Teacher while residing at Jetavana told concerning the perfect exercise of self-abnegation. The introductory story corresponds with that of the Mahānāradakassapajātaka [Ja 544].

This story was told by the Teacher... in relation to the conversion of Uruvelā Kassapa. Now the Teacher by whom the glorious reign of law was begun, after converting the ascetics Uruvelā Kassapa and the rest, came to the pleasure garden of Laṭṭhivana, surrounded by the thousand bhikkhus who had before been ascetics, in order to persuade the king of Magadha to give his promise; and at that time, when the Magadha king, who had come with an attending company of twelve myriads, had seated himself after saluting the One with Ten Powers, a dispute arose among the brahmins and householders of his train, “Has Uruvelā Kassapa placed himself under the spiritual guidance of the great ascetic, or has the great ascetic placed himself under the spiritual guidance of Uruvelā Kassapa?” Then the Fortunate One thought to himself, “I will show them that Kassapa has placed himself under my spiritual guidance,” and he uttered this verse:

“What was it that you saw, O inhabitant of Uruvelā, that you, renowned for your asceticism, abandoned your sacred fire? I ask you, Kassapa, this question – how is it that your fire sacrifice has been deserted?”

Then the elder, who understood the Buddha’s purport, replied in this verse:

“The sacrifices only speak of forms and sounds and tastes, and sensual pleasures and women; and knowing that all these things, being found in the elements of material existence, are filth, I took no more delight in sacrifices or offerings.”

And in order to show that he was a disciple, he laid his head upon the Tathāgata’s feet and said: “The Fortunate One is my teacher, and I am his disciple.” So saying he rose into the air seven times, to the height of a palm tree, two palm trees, and so on to seven palm trees, and then having come down and saluted the Tathāgata, he sat down on one side.

The great multitude when they saw that miracle uttered the glories of the Teacher, saying: “O great is the power of Buddha; though filled with such a firm conviction of his own, and though he believed himself to be a saint, Uruvelā Kassapa burst the bonds of error and was converted by the Tathāgata.” The Teacher said: “It is not wonderful that I who have now attained omniscience should have converted him; in olden time when I was the Brahmā named Nārada and still subject to passion, I burst this man’s bonds of error and made him humble,” and so saying he told the following, at the request of the audience.

In the past what is now Benares was a city called Sudassana and in it dwelt king Brahmadatta. His chief consort gave birth to the [5.92] Bodhisatta. His face was glorious as the full moon, and therefore he was named Somakumāra. When he arrived at years of discretion, owing to his fondness for Soma juice and his habit of pouring libations of it, men knew him as Sutasoma (Soma-distiller). When he was of age, he was instructed in the liberal arts at Taxila, and on his return home be was presented with a white umbrella by his father and ruled his kingdom righteously and owned a vast dominion, and he had sixteen thousand wives with Candadevī as chief consort.

By and by when he was blessed with a numerous family, he grew discontented with domestic life and retired into a forest, desiring to embrace the ascetic rule. One day he summoned his barber and thus addressed him, “When you see a grey hair on my head, you are to tell me.” The barber agreed to do so and by and by he espied a grey hair and told him of it. The king said: “Then, sir barber, pull it out and place it in my hand.” The barber plucked it out with a pair of golden tweezers and laid it in his hand. The Great Being, when he saw it, exclaimed, “My body is a prey to old age,” and in a fright he took the grey hair and descending from the terrace {5.178} he seated himself on a throne placed in the sight of the people. Then he summoned eighty thousand councillors headed by his general and sixty thousand brahmins headed by his family priest and many others of his subjects and citizens and said to them, “A grey hair has appeared on my head; I am an old man, and you are to know that I am become an ascetic,” and he repeated the first verse:

1. “Good friends and citizens assembled here,
Hearken, my trusty counsellors, to me,
Now that grey hairs upon my head appear,
Henceforth it is my will a monk to be.”

On hearing this each one of them in a fit of dejection repeated this verse:

2. “Such random abhumma, out of one’s range or sphere, unfit, improper. words as these in uttering
You make an arrow quiver in my heart:
Remember your seven hundred wives, O king;
What will become of them, should you depart?”

Then the Great Being spoke the third verse:

3. “Their sorrows soon another will console,
For they are young in years and fair to see,
But I am bent upon a heavenly goal
And so right fain am I a monk to be.”

His counsellors, being unable to answer the king, went to his mother and told her about it. She came in hot haste {5.179} and asking him, “Is this true what they say, dear son, that you long to be an ascetic?” she repeated two verses: [5.93]

4. “Ill-fated was the day, alas, that I
Was hailed as mother to a son like thee,
For heedless of my tears and bitter cry,
You are resolved, O king, a monk to be.

5. Accursed was the day, alas, that I,
O Sutasoma dear, gave birth to thee,
For heedless of my tears and bitter cry,
You are resolved, O king, a monk to be.”

While his mother thus lamented, the Bodhisatta uttered not a word. She remained apart all by herself, weeping. Then they told his father. And he came and repeated a single verse:

6. “What Dhamma is this that makes you become
Eager to quit your kingdom and your home?
With your old parents left behind to dwell
Here all alone, seek you an ascetic’s cell?”

On hearing this the Great Being held his peace. Then his father said: “My dear Sutasoma, even though you have no affection for your parents, you have many young sons and daughters. They will not be able to live without you. At the very moment when they are grown up, will you become an ascetic?” and he repeated the seventh verse: {5.180}

7. “But you have many a child, I ween,
And all of tender years,
When you no longer may be seen,
What sorrow will be theirs!”

Hearing this the Great Being repeated a verse:

8. “Yes, I have many a child, I ween,
Of tender years are they,
With them full long though I have been,
I now must part for aye.”

Thus did the Great Being declare the Dhamma to his father. And when he heard his exposition of the Dhamma, he held his peace. Then they told his seven hundred wives. And they, descending from the palace tower, came into his presence, and embracing his feet they made lamentation and repeated this verse:

9. “Your heart in sorrow, sure, must break
Or pity is to you unknown,
That you can holy orders take,
And leave us here to weep alone.”

The Great Being, on hearing their lamentation as they threw themselves at his feet and cried aloud, repeated yet another verse:

10. “My heart in sorrow may not break,
Though I feel pity for your pain, [5.181]
But holy orders I must take,
That I may heavenly bliss attain.”

Then they told his queen consort, and she being heavy with child, though her time was well nigh come, approached the Great Being and saluting him stood respectfully on one side and repeated three verses: [5.94]

11. “Ill-fated was the day, alas, that I
O Sutasoma dear, espouséd thee,
For heedless of my tears and bitter cry
You are resolved, O king, a monk to be.

12. Accursed was the day, alas, that I
O Sutasoma dear, espouséd thee,
For you would leave me in my throes to die,
Determined as you are a monk to be.

13. The hour of my delivery is nigh,
And I would fain my lord should stay with me
Until my child is born, before that I
See the sad day that I am reft of you.”

Then the Great Being repeated a verse:

14. “The hour of your delivery is nigh,
Until the babe is born, I’ll stay with thee, {5.182}
Then will I leave the royal imp and fly
Far from the world a holy monk to be.”

On hearing his words she was no longer able to control her grief, and holding her heart with both her hands, said: “Henceforth, my lord, our glory is no more.” Then wiping away her tears she loudly lamented. The Great Being to console her repeated a verse:

15. “My queen, with eye like ebon flower,
Dear Candā, weep not you for me,
But climb once more your palace tower:
I go without one care for thee.”

Being unable to bear his words she mounted the palace tower and sat there weeping. Then the Bodhisatta’s elder son seeing it said: “Why does my mother sit here weeping?” and he repeated this verse in the form of a question:

16. “Who has annoyed you, mother dear,
Why do you weep and stare at me?
Whom of my kin that I see here
Must I, all impious, slay for thee?”

Then the queen uttered this verse:

17. “No harm, dear son, may touch his head,
Who lives to work such woe for me: {5.183}
For know it was your sire who said,
I go without one care for thee.”

Hearing her words he said: “Dear mother, what is this that you say? If this be so, we shall be helpless,” and making lamentation he spoke this verse:

18. “I who once ranged the park to see
Wild elephants engage in fight,
If my dear sire a monk should be,
What should I do, poor luckless wight?”

Then his younger brother who was seven years old, when he saw them both weeping, drew near to his mother and said: “My dear ones, why do you weep?” and hearing the cause he said: “Well, cease to weep; [5.95] I will not allow him to become an ascetic,” and he comforted them both, and with his nurse, coming down from the palace tower, he went to his father and said: “Dear father, they tell me you are leaving us against our will and say you will be an ascetic; I will not allow you to become an ascetic,” and clasping his father firmly by the neck he uttered this verse:

19. “My mother, lo! is weeping and
My brother fain would keep you still,
I too will hold you by the hand
Nor let you go against our will.”

The Great Being thought: “This child is a source of danger to me; by what means am I to get rid of him?” then looking at his nurse he said: “Good nurse, behold this jewel ornament: this is yours: {5.184} only take away the child, that he be not a hindrance to me,” and being unable by himself to get rid of the child who held him by the hand, he promised her a bribe and repeated this verse:

20. “Up nurse and let the little boy
Disport him in some other place,
Lest haply he should mar my joy
And hinder my heavenward race.”

She took the bribe and comforting the child she went with him to another place, and thus lamenting repeated this verse:

21. “What now if I reject outright
– I need it not – this jewel bright?
For should my lord an ascetic be,
What use would jewels be to me?”

Then his commander-in-chief thought: “This king, I think, has come to the conclusion that he has but little treasure in his house; I will let him know he has a great quantity,” so standing up he saluted him and repeated this verse:

22. “Your coffers filled with treasure vast,
Great wealth have you, O king, amassed:
The world is all subdued by thee,
Take you your ease; no ascetic be.”

Hearing this, the Great Being repeated this verse:

23. “My coffers filled with treasures vast,
Great wealth has been by me amassed:
The whole world is subdued by me;
I leave it all a monk to be.” {5.185}

When he had departed on hearing this, a rich merchant named Kulavaddhana stood up and saluting the king repeated this verse:

24. “Great wealth have I, O king, amassed,
Beyond all power of reckoning vast:
Behold I give it all to thee,
Take you your ease; no ascetic be.” [5.96]

On hearing this the Great Being repeated a verse:

25. “O Kulavaddhana, I know,
Your wealth on me you would bestow,
But I a heavenly goal would win,
So I renounce this world of sin.”

As soon as Kulavaddhana had heard this and was gone, he thus addressed his younger brother Somadatta, “Dear brother, I am as discontented as a wild chicken in a cage, my dislike of household life gets the better of me; this very day will I become an ascetic; do you undertake to rule this kingdom,” and handing it over to him he repeated this verse:

26. “O Somadatta, sure I feel
Strange loathing o’er my senses steal
At the thought of my defilements:
Today my ascetic life begins.”

On hearing these words Somadatta too longed to be an ascetic and to make this clear he repeated another verse:

27. “Dear Sutasoma, go and dwell
As pleaseth you in ascetic cell;
I too an ascetic fain would be,
For life were nought apart from thee.”

Then in refusing this Sutasoma repeated a half-verse:

28a. “You may not go, or through the land
Home life would all come to a stand.” Lit. “There is no cooking,” or as the commentary explains, “no one kindles a fire in the oven.” {5.186}

On hearing this the people threw themselves down at the feet of the Great Being and, lamenting, said:

28b. “Should Sutasoma go away,
What would become of us, we pray?”

Then the Great Being said: “Well, grieve not: though I have been long with you, I shall now have to part from you; there is no permanence in any existing thing,” and teaching the Dhamma to the people, he said,

29. “Like water through a sieve, caṅgavāra. The word is rendered by Rhys Davids in Milindapañhā ii. p. 278 (S.B.E.) as “dyers’ straining-cloth.” cf. MN i. 144, and Neumann’s translation i. p. 239, where he renders it geflecht, basket-work. our day
So brief, alas, fast slips away:
With life thus circumscribed, I ween,
No room for carelessness is seen.

30. Like water through a sieve, our day
So brief, alas, fast slips away:
With life thus circumscribed all round,
Only the fool is careless found.

31. Bound fast by sensual desires, wherein they fell,
Such men enlarge the bounds of hell,
Crowd the brute world and realm of ghosts,
And multiply Asura hosts.” [5.97] {5.187}

Thus did the Great Being instruct the people in the Dhamma, and climbing to the top of the Palace of Flowers he stood on the seventh storey, and with a sword he cut off his top-knot and cried, “I am now nothing to you; choose you a king of your own,” and with these words he threw his top-knot, turban and all, into the midst of the people. The people seized hold of it, and as they rolled over and over on the ground they loudly lamented, and a cloud of dust rose at this spot to a great height, and the people stepping back stood and looked at it, and said: “The king must have cut off his top-knot and thrown it, turban and all, into the midst of the crowd, and therefore it is that a cloud of dust has risen near the palace,” and lamenting they uttered this verse:

32. “That cloud of dust see how it towers
Hard by the royal House of Flowers;
Famed king of right, I think, our lord
Has shorn his locks off with a sword.”

But the Great Being sent an attendant and had all the requisites for an ascetic brought to him, and had a barber to remove his hair and beard, and throwing his magnificent robe on a couch he cut off strips of dyed cloth, and putting on these yellow patches he fastened an earthen bowl on the top of his left shoulder and with a mendicant staff in his hand he paced backwards and forwards on the topmost storey, and then descending from the palace tower he stepped out into the street, but no one recognised him as he went. Then his seven hundred royal wives ascending the tower and not finding him, but seeing only the bundle of his adornments, came down and told the other sixteen thousand women, saying: “Mighty Sutasoma, your dear lord, has become an ascetic,” and loudly lamenting they went out. At this moment {5.188} the people learned that he had become an ascetic, and the whole city was greatly stirred, and the people said: “They tell us, our king has become a monk,” and they assembled at the palace door, and crying, “The king must be here or there,” they ran to all the places frequented by him, and not finding the king they wandered to and fro, uttering their lament in these verses:

33-34. “Here It seems unnecessary to translate all the sixteen verses in the text, differing, as they do, from one another for the most part by a single word, usually the name of a tree or flower. are his golden palace-towers
All hung with wreaths of scented flowers,
Where girt with many a lady fair
Our king would oftentimes repair.

35-36. Here wreathed with flowers and wrought of gold
His gabled-hall one may behold,
Where, all his kinsfolk by his side,
Our king would range in all his pride. [5.98]

39-40. This is his garden bright with flowers
Through all the season’s changing hours,
Where girt with many a lady fair
Our king would oftentimes repair.

47-48. His lake o’erspread with lotus blue,
Haunt of wild birds, here comes in view,
Where, all his kinsfolk by his side,
Our king would range in all his pride.” {5.190}

Thus did the people utter lamentation in these various places, and then returning to the palace yard they repeated this verse:

49. “King Sutasoma, sad to tell,
Has left his throne for ascetic cell,
And, clad in yellow, goes his way
Like some lone elephant astray.”

Then they went forth leaving all their household gear, and taking their children by the hand they repaired to the Bodhisatta, and with them went their parents and young children and sixteen thousand dancing girls. The whole city had the appearance of a deserted place, and behind them followed the country folk. The Bodhisatta with a company covering twelve leagues set out in the direction of the Himālayas.

Then Sakka, taking note of his Great Renunciation, addressing Vissakamma said: “Friend Vissakamma, king Sutasoma is retiring from the world. {5.191} He ought to have a place to dwell in: there will be a huge gathering of them.” And he sent him, saying: “Go and have a hermitage erected, thirty leagues long and five leagues broad, on the banks of the Ganges in the Himālayan country.” He did so, and, providing in this hermitage all that was requisite for the ascetic life, he made a foot-path straight to it and then returned to the Deva world. The Great Being entered the hermitage by this path, and, after he himself was first of all ordained, he admitted the rest to orders, and by and by a great number was ordained, insomuch that a space of thirty leagues was filled with them.

Now how the hermitage was built by Vissakamma, and how a great number took orders and how the Bodhisatta’s hermitage was arranged – all this is to be understood in the way related in the Hatthipālajātaka [Ja 509]. [No further details are given there.]

In this case if a thought of desire or any other false thought sprang up in the mind of any one whatsoever, the Great Being approached him through the air, and sitting cross-legged in space he by way of admonition addressed him in a couple of verses:

50. “Call not to mind love’s sports of yore
While still a smiling face you wore,
Lest that fair city of delight
Should waken lust and slay you quite.

51. Indulge without or stint or stay
Good will to men by night and day,
So shall you win the angel home
Where all that do good deeds shall come.” [5.99] {5.192}

And this company of saints abiding by his admonition became destined to the Brahmā Realm, and the story is to be told exactly as it is in the Hatthipālajātaka [Ja 523]. [Again no further details are given there.]

The Teacher having concluded this discourse said: “Not only now, monks, but formerly also the Tathāgata made the Great Renunciation,” and he identified the Jātaka. “At that time the father and mother were members of the great king’s Court, Candā was the mother of Rāhula, the elder son was Sāriputta, the younger son was Rāhula, the nurse was Khujjuttarā, Kulavaddhana, the rich merchant, was Kassapa, the commander-in-chief was Moggallāna, prince Somadatta was Ānanda, king Sutasoma was myself.”