Book XVIII. Paṇṇāsanipāta
The Section with Fifty Verses (526-528)
Ja 526 Naḷinikājātaka
The Story about (Princess) Naḷinikā (50s)
Alternative Title: Niḷinikājātaka (Cst)
In the present one monk thinks to return to the lay life because of his attraction to his former wife. The Buddha tells a story of how Sakka feared one holy ascetic would displace him, and so sent a drought on the country and then told the king to send his daughter to break the ascetic’s virtue, which she did. When his father returned and admonished him he regained his Super Knowledges.
The Bodhisatta = the (ascetic) father (pitā),
the dissatisfied monk = (his son, the seer) Isisiṅga,
his former wife = (the king’s daughter) Naḷinikā.
Past Compare: Ja 523 Alambusā, Ja 526 Naḷinikā, Mvu iii p 174 Nālini.
Keywords: Asceticism, Innocence, Devas, Women.
“Lo! The land.”
In the past, when Brahmadatta ruled in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born of a wealthy family in the brahmins of the north, and when he had come of age and had been trained in all the arts, he adopted the ascetic life, and after developing Supernormal Powers by the exercise of Absorption he took up his abode in the Himālayas. Exactly in the same way as related in the Alambusajātaka [Ja 523] [There it says: Now a certain doe in the brahmin’s mingeing-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.] a doe conceived by him and brought forth a son who was called Isisiṅga.
Now when he was grown up, his father admitted him to holy orders and had him instructed in focusing on the Meditation Object. In no long time he developed by this means Absorptions and Super Knowledges and enjoyed the bliss of Absorption in the region of the Himālayas, and by mortification of the senses he became a sage of such severe austerity that the abode of Sakka was shaken by the power of his virtue.
Sakka by reflection discovered the cause of it, and thinking: “I will find a way to break down his virtue,” for the space of three years he stopped rain from falling in the kingdom of Kāsi, and the country became as it were scorched up, and when no crops came to perfection, the people under the stress of famine gathered themselves together in the palace yard and reproached the king. Taking his stand at an open window, he asked what was the matter.
It was then that Sakka at midnight entered the royal chamber
1. “Lo! The land lies scorched and ruined and my realm sinks to decay:
Go, Naḷinikā, and, pray you, bring this brahmin ’neath your sway.”
On hearing this she repeated a second verse:
2. “How shall I endure this hardship, how, ’midst elephants astray,
Through the glades of yonder forest shall I safely guide my way?”
Then the king repeated two verses:
3. “Seek your happy home, my daughter, and from thence without delay
In a car of wood so deftly framed ride you upon your way.
4. Horses, elephants, and footmen – go, begirt with brave array,
And with charm of beauty quickly you shall bring him ’neath your sway.”
Thus for the protection of his realm did he talk with his daughter even of such things as should not be spoken of in words. And she readily lent an ear to his proposals. Then, after giving her all that she required, he sent her away with his ministers. They went to the frontier and, after pitching their camp there, they had the princess conveyed by a road pointed out to them by some foresters, and at break of day, entering the Himālayas, they arrived at a spot close to the ascetic’s hermitage. At this very moment the Bodhisatta, leaving his son behind in the hermitage, had gone into the forest to gather wild fruits. The foresters themselves approached the hermitage and, standing where they could see it, they pointed it out to Naḷinikā and repeated two verses:
5. “With plantain marked, ’midst bhurja trees so green,
Lo! Isisiṅga’s pretty hut is seen.
6. That smoke, I think, arises from the flame
Nursed by that sage of wonder-working fame.”
And the king’s ministers at the very moment when the Bodhisatta had gone into the forest surrounded the hermitage and set a watch over it, and making the princess adopt the disguise of an ascetic,
The Teacher, to make this point and more beside clear, repeated three verses:
7. “Bedecked with gems as she drew nigh, a bright and lovely maid,
Poor Isisiṅga sought in fear his cell’s protecting shade.
8. And while before the ascetic’s door with ball the damsel plays,
Her lovely limbs she does expose all naked to his gaze.
9. But when he saw her sporting thus, forth from his cell he broke,
And, rushing from the leafy hut, words such as these he spoke.”
10. “Fruit of what tree may this, sir, be, that howe’er far ’tis tossed
’Twill still return to you again and never more is lost?”
Then she telling him of the tree spoke this verse:
11. “Mount Gandhamādana, the home wherein I dwell, can boast
Of many a tree with fruit maybe such that though far ’tis tossed,
’Twill still return to me again and never more is lost.”
Thus did she speak falsely, but he believed her, and thinking it was an ascetic he greeted her kindly and uttered this verse:
12. “Pray, venerable sir, come in and take a seat,
Accept some food and water for your feet,
And resting here awhile enjoy with me
Such roots and berries as I offer thee.”
[Being Naḷinikā, pretending she has been wounded by a bear, practises on the simplicity of the ascetic youth with much the same guile as Venus employs to win Adonis. Compare The Passionate Pilgrim: Once, said she, did I see a fair sweet youth, Here in these brakes, deep-wounded with a boar, Deep in the thigh… Malone in his Shakspeare, vol. x. p. 324, points out that Rabelais, La Fontaine and other writers have sported with the same thought. cf. Rabelais, ii. chap. xv, The lion and the old woman. an ingenuous youth and never having seen a woman before he was led to believe the extraordinary story she told him, and
13. “By what road hither have you come,
And do you love your woodland home?
Can roots and berries hunger stay,
And how escape you beasts of prey?”
Then deceiving him she spoke this pair of verses: [This are the following lines and verses were omitted in the original translation because of their sexual content. I include a translation here from my complete translation of this Jātaka.]
14. “While I was roaming in the woods is search of roots and fruits,
I came across a bear, very fierce in appearance,
He ran up and fell upon me with violence,
He pushed me down and pulled off my penis.
15. This wound is therefore itching and irritating,
I do not receive any comfort at any time,
You are able, good Sir, to remove this itch,
When asked, dear Sir, please do this good thing for a brahmin.
Believing the lies about her condition, thinking: If I can make you happy in this way, having looked at the area, he spoke the next verse:
16. “Your wound appears to be deep and red,
It is big, fresh and smells like it’s decaying,
I will make you some remedial decoction,
Like that, good Sir, you will be at perfect ease.”
After that Naḷinikā spoke this verse:
17. “Not through a charm-remedy, or a remedial decoction,
Nor through medicine, Holy One, will the itch go away,
Please remove the itch gently with your penis,
Like that I will come to be at perfect ease.”
Thinking: This is the truth he speaks, not knowing that through engaging in sexual intercourse virtue is broken, and the absorptions are lost, being ignorant and having never seen a woman before, because she spoke of medicine, he engaged in sexual intercourse with her.
Then his virtue was broken and his absorptions were lost.
After having sexual intercourse two or three times, they became tired and left the leaf-hut and descended into the lake and washed themselves. Having eased his fatigue and sitting again in the leaf-hut, still thinking: This is an ascetic, he asked about her residence and spoke this verse:
18. “From here, good Sir, where is your hermitage?
Do you, good Sir, take delight in the wilds?
Do you have abundant roots and fruits?
Do you, good Sir, not risk injury from predators?
Then Naḷinikā recited four verses:
19. “North of this the Khemā flows
Straight from the Himālayan snows:
On its bank, a charming spot,
May be seen my ascetic cot.
20. Mango, tilak, Sāl full-grown,
Cassia, trumpet-flower full-blown –
With Kimpurisas’ song resound:
Here my home, sir, may be found.
21. Here with dates and roots, I ween,
Every kind of fruit is seen:
With beauty and fragrance endowed,
That has fallen to my lot.
22. Roots and fruits do here abound,
Sweet and fair and luscious found.
But I fear, should robbers come,
They’ll despoil my happy home.”
The ascetic, on hearing this, to put her off till his father should return, spoke this verse:
23. “My father foraging for fruit is gone;
The sun is sinking, he’ll be here anon.
When back from his fruit-gathering he is come,
We’ll start together for your ascetic home.”
Then she thought: “This boy because he has been brought up in a forest does not know that I am a woman, but his father will know it as soon as ever he sees me, and will ask me what business I have here and striking me with the end of his carrying-pole, he will break my head. I must be off before he returns and the object of my coming is already accomplished,” and telling him how he was to find his way to her house she repeated another verse:
24. “Alas, I fear I may no longer stay,
But many a royal saint lives on the way:
Ask one of them to point you out the road;
He’ll gladly act as guide to my abode.”
When she had thus devised a plan for her escape, she left the hermitage, and bidding the youth, as he was wistfully looking after her, to stay where he was, she returned to the ministers by the same road by which she had come there, and they took her with them to their encampment and by several stages reached Benares. And Sakka that very day was so delighted that he caused rain to fall throughout the whole kingdom. But directly she had left the ascetic, Isisiṅga, a fever seized upon his frame and all of a tremble he entered the hut of leaves and putting on his upper robe of bark he lay there groaning. In the evening his father returned and missing his son he said: “Where in the world is he gone?” And he put down his carrying-pole and went into the hut, and when he found him lying there he said: “What ails you, my dear son?” And massaging his back he uttered three verses:
25. “No wood is cut, no water fetched, no fire alight. I pray
Tell me, you silly lad, why thus you dream the live-long day.
26. Until today the wood was ever cut,
The fire alight, and pot thereon was put,
My seat arranged, the water fetched. In truth
You found your pleasure in the task, good youth.
27. Today no wood is cleft, no water brought,
No fire alight; cooked food in vain is sought.
Today no welcome have you given to me:
What have you lost? What sorrow troubles you?”
On hearing his father’s words, in explaining the matter, he said:
28. “Here, sire, today a holy youth has been,
A handsome, dapper boy, of winsome mien:
Not over tall nor yet too short was he,
Dark was his hair, as black as black could be.
29. Smooth-cheeked and beardless was this stripling wight,
And on his neck was hung a jewel bright;
Two lovely swellings on his fair breast lay,
Like balls of burnished gold, of purest ray.
30. His face was wondrous fair, and from each ear
A curvéd ring depending did appear;
These and the fillet on his head gave out
Flashes of light, whene’er he moved about.
31. Yet other ornaments the youth did wear,
Or blue or red, upon his dress and hair;
Jingling, whene’er he moved, they rang again
Like little birds ciriṭāka is found as the name of a bird in Caraka, i. 27. 46, p. 174 of Calcutta, 1877 edition. that chirp in time of rain.
32. No robe of bark, sign of ascetic grim,
No girdle made of muñja grass for him.
His garments shimmer, clinging to the thigh,
Bright as a flash of lightning in the sky.
33. Fruits of what tree beneath his waist are bound,
– Smooth and without or stalk or prickle found – ?
Stitched in his robe, in order loose but thick,
They strike each other with a sounding click.
34. The tresses on his head were wondrous fair,
Hundreds of curls perfuming all the air:
These locks just parted in the midst had he –
Dressed e’en as his would that my hair might be.
35. But when his locks he did perchance unbind
And loose in all their beauty to the wind,
Their fragrance filled our home ’midst forest trees,
Like scent of lotus borne along the breeze.
36. His very dust was fair to look upon,
His person quite unlike that of your son:
It breathed forth odours wafted everywhere,
Like shrubs ablossom in the summer air.
37. His fruit so bright and fair, of varied hue,
Afar from him upon the ground he threw,
Yet back to him ’twould evermore return:
What fruit it is I fain from you would learn.
38. His teeth in even rows, so pure and white,
Vie with the choicest pearls, a lovely sight;
When he opens his lips, how charming ’tis!
No food like ours, roots and vile potherbs, his!
39. His voice so soft and smooth, yet firm and clear
In gentle accents fell upon the ear;
It pierced me to the heart: so sweet a note
Ne’er issued from melodious cuckoo’s throat.
40. Its tone I thought subdued, pitched far too low
For one rehearsing holy lore, I know;
Howbeit – so great his kindness – I would fain
Renew my friendship with this youth again.
41. His warm arms flashing in their gold array,
Like gleams of lightning all around me play.
With down, as eye-salve soft, were they o’erspread,
Round were his fingers, blushing coral-red.
42. Smooth were his limbs, his tresses long untied,
Long too his nails with tips all crimson dyed:
With his soft arms around me clinging tight
The fair boy ministered to my delight.
43. His hands were white as cotton, gleaming bright
Like golden mirror that reflects the light;
At their soft touch I felt a burning thrill,
And though he’s gone, the memory fires me still.
44. No load of grain he brought, nor ever could
Be won with his own hands to chop our wood,
Nor would he with his axe hew down a tree
Nor carry a sharp stake, to pleasure me.
45. This rumpled couch with leaves of creepers made
Bears witness to the merry pranks we played:
Then in that lake our weary limbs we lave
And once more seek indoors the rest we crave.
46. Today no holy texts can I recite,
No fire for sacrifice is found alight:
Yea, from all roots and berries I’ll abstain
Till I behold this pious youth again.
47. Tell me, dear father, for you know it well,
Where in the world this holy youth may dwell;
And there with all speed, pray, let us fly,
Or at your door my death will surely lie.
48. I’ve heard him speak of glades, with blossoms bright,
And thronging with birds that are quite the sight,
’Tis there with all speed I fain would fly
Or here at once I’ll lay me down and die.”
The Great Being on hearing the boy talk such nonsense knew at once that through some woman he had lost his virtue, and by way of admonition he repeated six verses:
49. “An ancient home for sages long has stood
Within the sunlit precincts of this wood;
Around the Gandhabbas and Devaccharā,
This feeling of unrest should ne’er be thine.
50. Friendships exist and then they cease to be;
Each one shows love to his own family;
But they poor creatures are who do not know
To whom their origin and love they owe.
51. Friendship is formed by constant intercourse;
When this is broken, friendship fails perforce.
52. Should you set eyes upon this youth once more,
Or converse hold with him, as heretofore,
Just as a flood sweeps off the ripened corn,
So will the power of virtue be o’er-borne. The fifth verse is a repetition of the preceding one and is omitted in the English.
53. Beings there are that through the wide earth run
In varied form disguised. Beware, my son!
He that is wise should not consort with such;
Virtue herself is blasted Reading nassati. at their touch.”
On hearing what his father had to say the youth thought: “She was a Yakkhini, he says,” and he was terrified and put away the thought of her from him. Then he asked his father’s pardon, saying: “Forgive me, dear father, I will not leave this spot.” And his father comforted him, saying: “Come, my boy, cultivate generosity, pity, sympathy and equanimity,” and he proclaimed to him the attainment of the Divine Abidings. And the son walked accordingly therein and once more developed Absorption.
The Teacher, having finished his lesson, revealed the Truths and identified the Jātaka. At the conclusion of the Truths the discontented monk was established in the fruition of the First Path. “At that time the wife of his unregenerate days was Naḷinikā, the discontented monk was Isisiṅga, and I myself was the father.”
last updated: November 2021