Ja 530 Saṅkiccajātaka
The Story about (the Wise) Saṅkicca
In the present Ajātasattu murders his father, the good king Bimbisāra. Later, regretting it, he seeks out the Buddha and is consoled. The Buddha tells a story of a prince, who, impatient for the throne slew his father. His friend, who had become an ascetic returns and teaches him about the results of deeds, and the king mended his ways.
The Bodhisatta = the wise Saṅkicca (Saṅkiccapaṇḍita),
the Buddha’s disciples = the group of seers (isigaṇa).
Ajātasattu = the king (of Benares) (rājā).
Present Compare: DN 2 Sāmaññaphala.
Keywords: Patricide, Murder, Justice, Devas.
“At sight of Brahmadatta.” This story the Teacher, while dwelling in the mango grove of Jīvaka, told concerning the murder of his own father by Ajātasattu. For owing to Devadatta
So one day at full moon Komudī, the full moon day in the month Kattikā [October-November]. during the seasonal festival, when surrounded by a great retinue of courtiers he reflected on his own glory, he bethought him that his father’s glory was far greater than this, and that owing to Devadatta he had slain so excellent a king of Dhamma, and while he thought on this a fever sprang up in his limbs and his whole body was bathed in sweat. And considering who could drive away this fear from him he concluded that except the One with Ten Powers there was no one, and thinking: “I have done wrong greatly against the Tathāgata: who verily will take me into his presence?” and concluding there was no one but Jīvaka, he considered some way of getting him to go with him, and uttering an exalted utterance, “O sir, what a lovely clear night it is,” he said, “what if today we were to pay our respects to some monks or brahmins?” And when the virtues of Purāna Instead of purāṇa reading Purāṇa, i.e. Purāna Kassapa. cf. Dīghanikāya, ii. 2, where the name appears as Pūrāṇa. and other teachers had been sung by their respective disciples, without attending to what they said he cross-questioned Jīvaka, and on his telling of the virtues of the Tathāgata and crying, “Let his Majesty pay his respects to the Fortunate One,” he ordered elephant cars to be got ready and went to the mango grove of Jīvaka.
Approaching the Tathāgata with an obeisance and being kindly greeted by him, he inquired of the reward of asceticism in this present life, and after listening to a sweet discourse on this topic from the Tathāgata, at the end of the sermon he announced his discipleship, and having been reconciled to the Tathāgata he went his ways. Thenceforth distributing alms and keeping the moral law he associated with the Tathāgata, and listening
Then one day they started a discussion in the Dhamma Hall, saying: “Sirs, Ajātasattu after slaying his father was terror-stricken and finding no enjoyment in his regal splendour he experienced pain in every posture. Then he went to the Tathāgata and by associating with a virtuous friend he lost his fears and enjoyed the happiness of lordship.” The Teacher came and asked, saying: “What topic, monks, are you now engaged in discussing in a meeting?”
In the past in Benares Brahmadatta begat a son, prince Brahmadatta. At the same time the Bodhisatta was conceived in the house of the family priest. And at his birth they named him young Saṅkicca. The two lads grew up together in the palace and were great friends. And when they came of age, after acquiring all learning at Taxila, they returned home. Then the king appointed his son to be viceroy and the Bodhisatta still lived with him.
Now one day the viceroy, when his father was gone to disport himself in the pleasure garden, beheld his great glory and conceived a longing for it, thinking: “My father is more like a brother; if I shall wait for his death, I shall be an old man before I succeed to the crown. What good will it do me to get the kingdom then? I will kill my father and make myself king,” and he told the Bodhisatta what he thought of doing. The Bodhisatta rejected the idea, saying: “Friend, the murder of a father is a serious matter. That way lies the road to hell. You must not do this deed. Pray do not kill him.” But he spoke of it again and again and was opposed by his friend for the third time.
Then he consulted with his attendants and they fell in with the idea and devised a plot to kill the king. But the Bodhisatta hearing of it thought: “I will not consort with people like these,” and without taking leave of his father and mother he escaped by a house-door Whenever any one wishes to leave the house without being observed, he goes out by the aggadvāram, perhaps a side or back-door, as opposed to the main entrance. cf. Jātaka, vol. i. 114, vol. v. 132, Pali text. and hid himself in the Himālayas. There he embraced the ascetic life and entered upon the Supernormal Powers arising from Absorption, living on roots and wild berries. But the prince, when his friend was gone away, put his father to death and enjoyed great glory.
Hearing it said that young Saṅkicca had adopted the ascetic life, many youths of good family gave up the world and were ordained by him to the ascetic life. And he dwelt there surrounded by a great company of ascetics, all of whom had already reached the Attainments.
The king, after killing his father, for a very short time enjoyed the pleasure of kingship,
A long time afterwards, when he had lived fifty years in the Himālayas, the Bodhisatta thought: “The king remembers me. I must go to him and teach him the Dhamma and remove his fears.” So attended by five hundred ascetics he passed through the air and alighted in the garden called Dāyapassa, and surrounded by his band of ascetics he seated himself on the stone slab. The keeper of the garden on seeing him asked, saying: “Venerable sir, who is the leader of this company of ascetics?” And hearing it was the sage Saṅkicca and himself recognising him he said: “Sir, stay here until I bring the king. He is anxious to see you.” And making an obeisance he went with haste to the palace and told the king of his friend’s arrival. The king came to see him, and after offering all due civility he put a question to him.
The Teacher, to make the matter clear, said:
1. “At sight of Brahmadatta thus enthroned in royal state,
He said, ‘O king, the friend for whom you are compassionate,
2. Saṅkicca, lo! is here – of saints the chief in fame is he
Set out in haste and tarry not this holy sage to see’.
3. So quickly mounting on the car prepared at his behest,
The king begirt with courtier friends set forth upon his quest.
4. The emblems five of royal pomp straight doffed the Kāsi lord,
Umbrella, turban, yak-tail fan, with shoes, also his sword.
5. Then stepping from his car the king, stripped of his bright array,
To Dāyapassa park, where sat Saṅkicca, took his way.
6. The king drew nigh and greeting him with words of courtly phrase,
Recalled the converse they had held together in old days.
7. And as he sat beside him, when occasion fit arose,
A question as to sinful deeds he hastened to propose.
8. ‘Saṅkicca, lord of saintly band, great sage, whom here I see
Sitting in Dāyapassa park, I fain would question thee.
9. How fare transgressors after death? Born to what state are they?
I too have erred from righteousness. Your answer quick, I pray.’ ”
The Teacher, to make the matter clear, said:
10. “Saṅkicca thus addressed the king who ruled o’er Kāsi land,
Sitting in Dāyapassa glades: ‘Mark, sire, and understand:
11. Should you point out the road to one gone hopelessly astray,
And he should follow your advice, no thorns beset his way.
12. But he that walks in evil ways, should you direct aright,
And he should follow your advice, escapes from woeful plight.’ ”
Thus did he admonish the king, and moreover taught him the Dhamma, saying,
13. “Right is like the high road,
Wrong is but a bye-road.
Right to heaven aye wins its way,
Wrong to hell leads men astray.
14. Men that transgress Dhamma, O sire, and live unrighteously,
What fate they suffer after death in hell, now hear from me.
15. Sañjīva, Kāḷasutta and Roruva, great and small,
Saṅghāta, Great Avīci, are names that may well appal,
With Tapana and Patāpana, eight major hells in all.
16. Escape from hence is hopeless, and of Ussadas they tell, The number of ussada hells is given by the commentator as 128. cf. L’Enfer Indien par M. L. Feer, Journal Asiatique, 1892 (viii. sér. 20), pp. 185 sqq. Pañcagatidīpana, Journal of the Pali Text Society. 1884. Senart’s Mahāvastu, i. 4. 12 – 27. 1 (summary at p. xxII). Śikṣāsamuccaya, ed. Bendall, pp. 69-73.
Twice eight times more in number, a kind of minor hell –
17. Dread flames here torture sinful men, all cruel deeds abound,
Horror, amazement, anguish, woe and terror reign around.
18. Four square with fourfold doors is each, in due proportion spaced,
With dome of iron ’twas o’erarched, by iron wall embraced,
19. Its base of iron wrought is such no raging flame may melt,
Though e’en a hundred leagues around its mighty power is felt.
20. All that have outrage done to saints or injured holy men
Fall headlong into hell’s abyss, no more to rise again.
21. In evil plight their mangled frames, piece-meal like fish on toast,
For their misdeeds through countless years in hell are doomed to roast.
22. Their limbs consumed with burning heat, to torture dread a prey,
Though eager to escape from hell they never find a way.
23. Seeking an outlet to and fro to east or west they fly,
Or baffled hurry north or south, a hopeless quest to ply,
For gods are there to bar the way, whichever door they try.
24. Poor souls, for many thousand years they dwell in hell’s domain,
With arms outstretched they sore lament their overwhelming pain.
25. Like deadly poison-snake whose wrath ’twere fatal to arouse,
Shun to attack the saints that live bound by ascetic vows.
26. Ajjuna, [See Ja 522 Sarabhaṅgajātaka.] lord of Kekakās, great archer, who annoyed
Gotama, was despite his bulk and thousand arms destroyed.
27. So Daṇḍaki [See Ja 522 Sarabhaṅgajātaka.] defiling Kisavaccha, sinless one,
Like palm tree from the roots cut down, was utterly undone.
28. Mejjha [See Ja 497 Mātaṅgajātaka.] for famed Mātaṅga’s sake fell from its place of pride,
The land became a wilderness and king and people died.
29. Assailing black Dīpāyana [See Ja 454 Ghaṭajātaka.] the men of Viṣṇu race
With Andhakas [See Ja 512 Kumbhajātaka.] sought Yama’s realm, each slain by other’s mace.
30. Cursed by a sage, Cecca [See Ja 422 Cetiyajātaka.] who once could tread the air, they say,
Was lost and swallowed by the earth on his appointed day.
31. The wilful fool can never gain the approval of the wise,
But guileless souls, equipped with truth, are slow to utter lies.
32. Whoso would lie in wait to catch some wise and holy man,
Hurled down to hell will quickly learn to rue his wicked plan.
33. But who with treacherous cruelty shall aged saints assail,
Shall like a dying palm tree stump, childless and heirless, fail.
34. Whoso some mighty sage, a monk of life austere, shall slay,
In Kāḷasutta hell shall suffer torture many a day.
35. And if a wicked Maga king his realm should overthrow,
He shall when dead in Tapana like sufferings undergo.
36. A hundred thousand years, as gods count years, he’s doomed to dwell,
Clad in a robe of living flame, ’midst agonies of hell.
37. Bright jets of fire on every side shoot from his tortured frame,
His very limbs, hair, nails and all, serve but to feed the flame.
38. And as his body burns apace, racked through and through with pain,
Like a goad-stricken elephant, poor wretch, he roars amain.
39. Whoso from greed or hatred shall, vile creature, slay his sire,
In Kāḷasutta hell long time shall agonize in fire.
40. In iron cauldron boiled till he shall peel,
The parricide is pierced with shafts of steel,
Then blinded and on filth condemned to feed
He’s plunged in brine, to expiate his deed.
41. Then Yakkhas ’twixt his jaws, lest they should close,
Hot iron ball or ploughshare interpose,
These fixed with cords his mouth so firmly prop,
They into it a stream of filth can drop.
42. Vultures, both black and brown, and ravens too,
And birds with iron beaks, a motley crew,
Rending his tongue to many a fragment small,
Devour the quivering morsel, blood and all.
43. The Rakkhasas flitting to and fro
Assail the wretch with many a blow,
On his charred breast or broken limb
With cruel glee they buffet him.
The joy is theirs, but woes abide
With all that in such hell reside
For earthly crime of parricide.
44. The son that slays his mother straight to Yama’s realm is sent,
In retribution for his deed to reap due punishment.
45. There powerful Beings seize on one guilty of matricide,
And plough with iron shares his back in furrows deep and wide.
46. The blood like molten copper from his wounds that flows they take,
And give it to the guilty wretch, his burning thirst to slake.
47. He stands plunged in a crimson lake as ’twere of clotted blood,
Breathing foul stench of carrion vile or evil smelling mud.
48. Enormous worms with iron mouths, piercing their victim’s skin,
Devour his flesh right greedily and suck the blood within.
49. In hell one hundred fathoms deep behold the victim sinks,
While for a hundred leagues around dead carcase like he stinks.
50. By reason of the stench, O king, such is his sorry plight,
Though once possessed of vision keen he suffers loss of sight.
51. Past out from Khuradhāra hell, grim prison house hard to flee,
Abortion-mongers ’scape not your dread stream, Vetaraṇī. A river in Hell.
52. Silk-cotton trees with thorns foot long of iron wrought, ’tis said,
On either bank, Vetaranī, o’erhang your gloomy bed.
53. All clothed in flame, one mass of fire, they stand against the sky,
And all ablaze with brilliant light tower a full league on high.
54. Here fixed upon sharp thorns red-hot in hell appear to view
Unfaithful husbands, guilty wives, the whole adulterous crew.
55. Beaten with stripes headlong they fall, revolving in their flight,
And there with mangled limbs they lie awake the livelong night.
56. At dawn they hide themselves in Iron Cauldron, Jātaka, iii p. 29 (English version). known to fame,
Big as a mountain ’tis and full of water like to flame.
57. So clad in folly like a robe these sinners night and day,
For their ill deeds wrought long ago, fit retribution pay.
58. Whoso as wife bought with his gold her husband shall despise,
Or shall regard his kith and kin with ever scornful eyes,
Her tongue, wrenched out with hook and line, shall suffer agonies.
59. She sees her tongue drawn out all full of worms, nor may complain,
Silent perforce, in Tapana enduring awful pain.
60. Slayers of sheep and swine and cows, and followers of the chase,
Fishermen, robbers, cruel all, explain as fair things base,
61. Assailed with swords and iron clubs, headlong, these men of blood,
Pursued with spears and arrows fall into a briny flood.
62. The forger, harried night and day with club of iron forged,
Feeds only on the filthy mess by some poor rogue disgorged.
63. Crows, ravens, vultures, jackals too, all armed with iron jaw,
Entomb the struggling wretch alive in their insatiate maw.
64. Who shall with beast This would refer to hunting the deer with dogs or the cheetah, or to the sport of hawking. hunt beast to death, or bird with bird shall slay,
O’erwhelmed with wrong shall sink to hell, to rue the accurséd day.”
Thus did the king describe all these hells, and now making an opening in the earth he showed the king the Deva worlds and said:
65. “Through virtue stored on earth of old the good to heaven attain,
Here Brahmās, Devas, Sakka, lo! ripe fruit of virtue gain.
66. This then I say, bear righteous sway throughout your realm, my king,
For justice done is merit won, nor e’er regret will bring.”
On hearing the Dhamma discourse of the Great Being, the king thenceforth was comforted. And the Bodhisatta, after staying some time there, returned to his own place of abode.
The Teacher here ended his story and said: “Not only now, but of old also was he consoled by me,” and he identified the Jātaka, “At that time Ajātasattu was the king, the followers of Buddha formed the company of the ascetic, and I myself was the sage Saṅkicca.”
last updated: November 2021