Ja 543 Bhūridattajātaka
The Story about (Prince) Bhūridatta (Mahānipāta)
In the present some laymen keep the Uposatha precepts. The Buddha tells of a Nāga who kept the precepts even though he was captured and humiliated by a brahmin hunter. When later the greatness of brahmins is praised, he shows how they hold to a false doctrine and teaches the truth.
The Bodhisatta (Sammāsambuddha) = (the Nāga) Bhūridatta,
the great king’s family = mother and father (mātāpitaro),
Devadatta = the hunter brahmin (nesādabrāhmaṇa),
Ānanda = (his son) Somadatta,
Sāriputta = (prince) Sudassana,
Moggallāna = (prince) Subhaga,
Uppalavaṇṇā = (sister) Accimukhī,
Sunakkhatta = (prince) Kāṇāriṭṭha.
Past Compare: Cp 12 Bhūridattacariyā.
Keywords: Virtue, Truth, Devas.
“Whatever jewels there may be.” This story the Teacher told, while dwelling at Sāvatthi, about some laymen who kept the Uposatha precepts. On the Uposatha, it is said, they rose early in the morning, took upon them the Uposatha precepts, gave alms, and after their meal took perfumes and garlands in their hands and went to Jetavana, and at the time of hearing the Dhamma seated themselves on one side. The Teacher, coming to the Dhamma Hall, having sat down in the adorned Buddha-seat, looked upon the assembly of the monks.
In the past, Brahmadatta, when he was reigning in Benares, had made his son viceroy; but when he saw his great glory, he became suspicious lest he should also seize the kingdom. So he said to him, “Do you depart hence and dwell for the present where you please, and at my death take the hereditary kingdom.” The prince complied, and after saluting his father, went out and proceeding to the Yamunā built a hut of leaves between the river and the sea and dwelt there, living on roots and fruits.
Now at that time a young Nāga female in the Nāga world beneath the ocean who had lost her husband, and on account of her carnal passions,
So she went back to the Nāga world and collected divine flowers and perfumes and prepared a bed of flowers, and having made an offering of flowers and scattered perfumed powder about and adorned the hut, she departed to the abode of the Nāgas. When the prince returned at evening time and entered the hut, and saw what she had done, he said: “Who has prepared
The next day he rose at sunrise and went off to collect fruits, without sweeping his hut of leaves. At that moment the female Nāga came up and seeing the withered flowers knew at once, “This man is a lover of pleasure and not an ascetic from faith, I shall be able to capture him,” so she took away the old flowers and brought others and spread a fresh bed and adorned the hut of leaves and strewed flowers etc. in the covered walk and then returned to the Nāga world.
He rested that night also on that bed of flowers and the next day he thought to himself, “Who can it be that adorns this hut?” So he did not go out to gather fruits, but remained concealed not far from the hut. The Nāga woman, having collected perfumes and flowers, came along the path to the hermitage. The prince, having beheld the Nāga in all her great beauty, at once fell in love with her, and, without letting himself be seen, entered the hut as she was preparing the couch and asked her who she was. “My lord, I am a Nāga woman.” “Have you a husband or not?” “I am a widow without a husband; and where do you dwell?” “I am prince Brahmadatta, the son of the king of Benares; but why do you wander about, leaving the abode of the Nāgas?” “My lord, as I beheld the happiness of the other Nāga women who had husbands I became discontented on account of carnal passion and I came away and go wandering about, seeking for a husband.” “I also am not an ascetic from faith, but I have come to dwell here because my father drove me away; vex not thyself, I will be your husband and we will dwell here in concord.” She at once consented;
By her magic power she made a costly house and brought a costly couch and spread a bed. Thenceforth he ate no roots or fruits but feasted on divine meat and drink. After a while she conceived and brought forth a son whom they called Sāgara Brahmadatta.
Now a forester who lived in Benares came to that place, and on giving him greeting recognised the prince, and after he had stayed there a few days, he said: “My lord, I will tell the king’s family that you are dwelling here,” and he accordingly departed and went to the city. Now just then the king died, and after the ministers had buried him they met together on the seventh day, and they deliberated together, “a kingdom without a king cannot stand; we know not where the prince dwells nor whether he is alive or dead, we will send forth the festal carriage and so get a king.” [In Ja 539 Mahājanakajātaka, it was described like this: “...having decorated the city and yoked four lotus-coloured horses to the festive chariot and spread a coverlet over them and fixed the five ensigns of royalty, they surrounded them with an army of four hosts. Now musical instruments are sounded in front of a chariot which contains a rider, but behind one which contains none; so the family priest, having bid them sound the musical instruments behind, and having sprinkled the strap of the carriage and the goad with a golden ewer, bade the chariot proceed to him who has merit sufficient to rule the kingdom.”]
At that time the forester came to the city, and having heard the news went to the ministers and told them that before he came there he had been staying three or four days near the prince. The ministers paid him respect and went there under his guidance, and after a friendly greeting told the prince that the king was dead and asked him to assume the kingdom. He thought to himself, “I will learn what the Nāgini thinks,” so he went to her and said: “Lady, my father is dead and his ministers have come to raise the royal umbrella over me; let us go and we will both reign in Benares which is twelve yojanas in extent, and you shall be the chief among the sixteen thousand queens.” “My lord, I cannot go.” “Why?” “We possess deadly poison and we are easily displeased for a trifling matter; and the anger of a co-wife is a serious thing; if I see or hear anything and cast an angry glance thereon, it will be instantly scattered like a handful of chaff; therefore I cannot go.”
The prince asked her again the next day; and then she said to him, “I myself will on no account go, but these my sons are not young Nāgas; as they are your children they are of the race of men; if you love me watch over them. But as they are of a watery nature and therefore delicate, they would die if they went by the road and bore the burden of the wind and sunshine; so I will hollow out a boat and fill it with water, and you shall let them play in the water and when you have brought them to the city
The prince also, overcome with sorrow, his eyes filled with tears, went out of the house, and, after wiping his eyes, proceeded to the ministers, who at once besprinkled him and said: “Sire, let us go to
When the king came to Benares he entered the city which was all adorned, and he seated himself on the terrace, surrounded by sixteen thousand dancing girls and his ministers and other officers; and having held a great drinking feast for seven days, he caused a lake to be prepared for his sons, where they sported continually. But one day when the water was let into the lake, a tortoise entered, and not seeing any way of exit it floated on the surface of the water; and while the lads were playing about, it rose out of the water and putting out its head looked at them and then sank down in the water. When they saw it they were frightened and ran to their father, and said to him, “O father, a Yakkha has frightened us in the lake.” The king ordered some men to go and seize it, and they threw a net and caught the tortoise and showed it to the king. When the princes saw it, they cried out, “O father, it is a Yakkha.” The king through love of his sons was angry with the tortoise, and ordered the attendants to punish it. Some said: “It is an enemy to the king, it should be pounded to powder with a pestle and mortar,” others said: “Let us cook it three times over and eat it,” others: “Bake it upon hot coals,” others: “It must be baked in a jar,” but one minister who was afraid of the water, said: “It should be thrown into the whirlpool of the Yamunā, it will be utterly destroyed there, there is no punishment for it like that.”
The tortoise, Compare the trick of Brer Rabbit and the briar patch. as he heard his words,
Now at that time some young sons of the Nāga king Dhataraṭṭha were sporting in that stream, and when they saw they cried, “Seize that slave.” The tortoise thought: “I have escaped from the hand of the king of Benares to fall into the hands of these fierce Nāgas; by what means shall I get away?” Then he thought of a plan, and, making up a false story, he said to them, “Why do you speak in this way who belong to the court of king Dhataraṭṭha? I am a tortoise named Cittaculla, and I am come to Dhataraṭṭha as a messenger from the king of Benares; our king has sent me as he wishes to give his daughter to king Dhataraṭṭha, show me to him,” and they were well pleased and took him, and going to the king related the whole matter.
The king ordered them to bring him; but being displeased when he
The tortoise saw a lotus-pond between the Yamunā and Benares, and wishing to escape by some device he said: “O Nāga youths, our king and his queen and son saw me coming out of the water as I went to the king’s palace, and they asked me to give them some lotuses and lotus roots; I will gather some for them; do you let me go here, and, if you do not see me, go forward to the king, I will meet you there.” They believed him and let him go, and he hid himself; and the others, as they could not see him, thought that he must have gone on to the king, and so proceeded to the palace in the guise of young men. The king received them with honour and asked them from whence they had come. “From Dhataraṭṭha, your majesty.” “Wherefore?” “O king, we are his messengers; Dhataraṭṭha asks after your health and he will give you whatever you desire; and he asks you to give us your daughter Samuddajā as his queen.” To explain this they repeated the first verse:
1. “Whatever jewels there may be in Dhataraṭṭha’s palace stored,
They all are yours, his royal boon; give us your daughter for our lord.”
When the king heard it he replied in the second verse:
2. “Ne’er has a man been known to wed his daughter to a Nāga king;
Such match were utterly unfit, how could we think of such a thing?”
The youths made answer, “If an alliance with Dhataraṭṭha seems so improper to you, then why did you send your attendant the tortoise Cittaculla to our king, offering to give your daughter Samuddajā?
3. “You sacrifice your life, O king, your throne and kingdom what are they?
Before a Nāga in his wrath all mortal glory fades away;
4. You a poor mortal standing there, who, by your vanity undone,
Would look with scorn on Yamuna, king Varuṇa’s imperial son.” Varuṇa is called a Nāgarāja in Lalitavistara, p. 249, 13. These lines seem to be a quotation from another poem.
Then the king repeated two verses:
5. “I do not scorn that king of yours, Dhataraṭṭha of wide renown,
Of many Nāgas is he king, he wears by right a royal crown;
6. But great and noble though he be, sprung from Videha’s khattiya line,
My daughter is of purer blood, let him not dream of child of mine.”
Although the Nāga youths wished to kill him on the spot by the blast of their breath, yet they reflected that as they had been sent to fix the marriage day it would not be right to go away and leave the man dead; so they vanished at once out of sight, saying: “We will depart and tell the king.”
Their king asked them whether they had brought the princess. They being angry replied, “O king, why do you send us about here and there without cause? If you wish to kill us, then slay us here at once.
7. “Assataras and Kambalas, Names of Nāga tribes. summon the Nāgas one and all;
Towards Benares let them flock, but do no harm to great or small.”
Then the Nāgas answered, “If no man is to be harmed, then what shall we do, if we go there?” He uttered two verses to tell them what they were to do and what he himself would do:
8. “Over the tanks and palaces, the public roads and tops of trees,
Over the gateways woven in wreaths let them hang dangling in the breeze;
9. While with white body and white hoods I will the city all invest,
And drawing close my lines of siege with terror fill each Kāsi breast.”
The Nāgas did so.
The Teacher thus described what happened:
10-11. “Seeing the snakes on every side, the women throng, a trembling crowd,
And as the monsters swell their hoods in fear they shriek and wail aloud;
12-13. Benares city prostrate lay before these wild invading bands,
Raising their arms all begged and prayed: ‘Give him the daughter he demands.’ ”
While the king lay in bed he heard the wailing of his own wives and those of the citizens, and being afraid of death from the threats of the four youths, he thrice exclaimed, “I will give to Dhataraṭṭha my daughter Samuddajā,” and all the Nāga kings, when they heard it, retired for the distance of a league, and, fixing their camp there, built a very city of the gods and dispatched a complimentary present, saying: “Let him send his
Then he made the attendants wash her head and adorn her with all kinds of ornaments and set her in a covered carriage and sent her off in the care of his ministers. The Nāga kings came to meet her and paid her great honour. The ministers entered the city and gave her up and returned with much wealth. The princess was taken up into the palace and made to lie on a divinely decked bed; and the young Nāga women, assuming humpbacked and other deformed appearances, waited on her as if they were human attendants. As soon as she lay down on the heavenly bed she felt a divinely soft touch and fell asleep.
Dhataraṭṭha, having received her, vanished instantly with all his host and appeared in the world of the Nāgas. When the princess awoke and saw the adorned heavenly bed and the golden and jewelled palaces, etc., and the gardens and tanks and the Nāga world, itself like an adorned city of the gods, she asked the humpbacked and other female attendants, “This city is magnificently adorned, it is not like our city; whose is it?” “O lady, it belongs to your lord, it is not those of scanty merits who win such glory as this, you have obtained it by reason of your great merits.” Then Dhataraṭṭha ordered the drums to be carried about the Nāga city, which was five hundred yojanas in extent, with a proclamation that whoever betrayed any signs of his snake-nature to Samuddajā should be punished; therefore not one dared to appear as a snake before her. So she lived affectionately and harmoniously with him under the idea that it was a world of men.
In course of time Dhataraṭṭha’s queen conceived and brought forth a son, and from his fair appearance they named him Sudassana; then again she bore a second whom they called Datta,
Now the four princes grew up to years of discretion. Then their father gave them each a kingdom a hundred yojanas square; they possessed great glory, and each was attended by sixteen thousand Nāga maidens. Now their father’s kingdom was only a hundred yojanas square, and the three sons went every month to visit their parents. But the Bodhisatta went every fortnight, and he used to propound some question which had arisen in the Nāga realm and then go with his father to visit the great king Virūpakkha, I read this by conjecture for Virukkha. and he would discuss the question with him. Now one day when Virūpakkha had gone with the Nāga assembly to the world of the gods, and were sitting there waiting upon Sakka, a question arose among the gods and none could answer it, but the Great Being who was seated on a noble throne answered it. Then the King of the Devas honoured him with divine flowers and fruits, and addressed him, “O Datta, you are endued with a wisdom as broad as the earth; henceforth be you called Bhūridatta,” and he gave him this name.
From that time forth he used to go to pay his homage to Sakka, and when he saw the exceedingly delightful splendour of his court with its Devaccharā he longed for the heavenly world, “What have I to do with this frog-eating snake-nature? I will return to the snake-world and keep the fast and follow the observances by which one may be reborn among the gods.” With these thoughts he asked his parents on his return to the abode of the snakes, “O my father and mother, I will keep the fast.” “By all means, O son, keep it; but when you keep it do not go outside, but keep it within this one empty palace in the Nāga realm, for there is great fear of the Nāgas outside.” He consented; so he kept the fast only in the parks and gardens of the empty palace.
But the snake maidens kept waiting on him with their musical instruments, and he thought to himself, “If I dwell here my observance of the fast will never come to its completion, I will go to the haunts of men and keep the fast there.” So in his fear of being hindered he said to his wife, without telling it to his parents, “Lady, if I go to the haunts of men there is a banyan tree on the bank of the Yamunā, I will fold up my body in the
Entering the Forest
Now at that time a brahmin He is later on called Ālambāyana, see p. 95. who dwelt in a village near the gate of Benares used to go into the forest with his son Somadatta and set snares and nets and stakes and kill wild animals, and carrying the flesh on a pole sold it and so made a livelihood. One day he failed to catch even a young lizard, and he said to his son, “If we go home empty-handed your mother will be angry, let us catch something at any rate,” so he went towards the ant-hill where the Bodhisatta was lying, and observing the footsteps of the deer who went down to the Yamunā to drink, he said: “My son, this is a haunt of deer, do you return and wait, while I will wound some deer that has come to drink,” so taking his bow he stood watching for deer at the foot of a tree. Now at evening time a deer came to drink, he wounded it; it did not however fall at once, but spurred on by the force of the arrow it fled with the blood flowing down, and the father and son pursuing it to the spot where it fell took its flesh and, going out of the wood, reached that banyan as the sun set. “It is a bad time, we cannot go on, we will stay here,” so saying they laid the flesh on one side and climbing the tree lay among the branches. The brahmin woke at dawn, and was listening to hear the sound of the deer, when the Nāga maidens came up and prepared the flowery couch for the Bodhisatta. He laid aside his snake’s body and assuming a divine body adorned with all kinds of ornaments sat on his flower-bed with all the glory of a Sakka.
The Nāga maidens honoured him with perfumes and garlands and played their heavenly instruments and performed their dance and song. When the brahmin heard the sound he said: “Who is this? I will find out,” and he called to his son, but though he called he could not wake him. “Let him sleep on,” he said, “he is tired, I will go myself alone,” so he came down from the tree and approached, but the Nāga maidens when they saw him sank into the earth with all their instruments and departed to the abode of the Nāgas,
14. “What youth is this, red-eyed, who here is seen,
His shoulders broad with ample space between,
And what ten maidens these who guard him round
Clad in fair robes, with golden bracelets bound!
15. Who are you ’midst this forest greenery,
Bright like a fire just newly dressed with ghee?
Are you a Sakka or a Yakkha, say,
Or some famed Nāga prince of potent sway?”
When the Great Being heard him he thought: “If I say that I am one of the Sakkas he will believe me, for he is a brahmin; but I must speak only the truth today,” so he thus declared his Nāga birth:
16. “I am a Nāga great in Powers, invincible with poisonous breath,
A prosperous land with all its sons my angry bite could smite with death;
17. My mother is Samuddajā, Dhataraṭṭha as sire I claim,
Sudassana’s young brother I, and Bhūridatta is my name.”
But when the Great Being said this, he reflected: “This brahmin is fierce and cruel, he may betray me to a snake-charmer, and so hinder my performance of the fast; what if I were to take him to the Nāga kingdom and, give him great honour there, and thus carry on my fast without a break” So he said
18. “Awful and dark is yonder lake, incessant storms its waters toss,
That is my home: my subjects there all hear and none my bidding cross;
19. Plunge you beneath the dark blue waves, the peacocks and the herons call,
Plunge and enjoy the bliss there stored for those who keep the precepts all.”
The brahmin went and told this to his son and brought him, and the Great Being took them both and went to the bank of the Yamunā, and, standing there, said:
20. “Fear not, O brahmin with your son, follow my words and you shall live
Honoured and happy in my home with all the pleasures I can give.”
So saying the Great Being by his power brought the father and son to
The brahmin, after dwelling a year in the Nāga realm, through his lack of previous merit began to grow discontented
The brahmin reflected: “I have won my son’s consent, but if I tell Bhūridatta that I am discontented, he will heap more honour upon me, and I shall not be able to go. My object can only be attained in one way. I will describe his prosperity and then ask him, ‘Why do you leave all this glory and go to the world of men to practise the observance of the fast?’ When he answers, ‘For the sake of obtaining heaven,’ I will tell him, ‘far more then should we do so, who have made our livelihood by slaughtering living creatures. I too will go to the world of men, and see my kindred, and will then leave the world and follow the Dhamma of the ascetics,’ and then he will let me depart.” Having thus determined, one day when the other came up to him and asked him whether he was discontented, he assured him that nothing was wanting that he could supply, and, without making any mention of his intended departure, at first he only described the other’s prosperity in the following verses:
21. “Level the ground on every side, with tagara blossoms whitened o’er,
Red with the cochineal insect-swarms, the brightest verdure for its floor,
22. With sacred shrines in every wood, and swan-filled lakes which charm the eye,
While strewn the fallen lotus leaves as carpets on the surface lie,
23. The thousand-columned palaces with halls where heavenly maidens dance,
Their columns all of jewels wrought, whose angles in the sunshine glance;
24. You have indeed a glorious home, won by your merits as thine own,
When all desires are gratified as soon as each new wish is known;
25. You envy not the great Sakka’s halls, what are his stateliest courts to thine?
Your palaces more glorious are and with more dazzling splendours shine.”
The Great Being replied, “Say not so, brahmin; our glory compared to Sakka’s seems only as a mustard-seed beside Mount Meru, we are not even equal to his attendants,” and he repeated a verse:
26. “Our highest thoughts cannot conceive the imperial pomp round Sakka’s throne,
Or the four Regents The four lokapālas. in his court, each in his own appointed zone.”
When he heard him repeat his words, “This palace of yours is Sakka’s palace,” he said: “I have had this in my mind, and it is through my desire to obtain Vejayanta [Sakka’s palace.] that I practise the observance of the fast,” then he repeated a verse, describing his own earnest wish:
27. “I long intensely for the home of the immortal saints on high,
Therefore upon that ant-hill top I keep the fast unceasingly.”
The brahmin, on hearing this, thought to himself, “Now I have gained my opportunity,” and filled with joy he repeated two verses, begging leave to depart:
28. “I too sought deer when with my son into that forest glade I sped;
The friends I left at home know not whether I am alive or dead;
29. O Bhūridatta, let us go, you glorious lord of Kāsi race,
Let us depart and see once more our kindred in their native place.”
The Bodhisatta answered:
30. “ ’Tis my desire that you should dwell with us, and here pass happy hours;
Where in the upper world of men will you find haunts of peace like ours?
31. But would you dwell awhile elsewhere and yet enjoy our pleasures still,
Then take my leave, go, see your friends, and be as happy as you will.”
And thinking to himself, “If he obtains this happiness through me he will be sure not to tell it to anyone else, I will give him my jewel which grants all desires,” he gave him the jewel and said:
32. “The bearer of this heavenly gem beholds his children and his farm;
Take it, O brahmin, and begone, its bearer never comes to harm.”
The brahmin replied:
33. “I understand your words too well, I am grown old as you can see,
I will adopt the ascetic life, what are life’s pleasures now to me?”
The Bodhisatta said:
34. “If you should fail and break your vow then seek life’s common joys once more,
And come and find me out again and I will give you ample store.”
The brahmin answered:
35. “O Bhūridatta, I accept with thanks the offer you have made;
Should the occasion come to me I will return to claim your aid.”
The Great Being perceived that he had no desire to abide there, so he commanded some young Nāgas to take him to the world of men.
The Teacher thus described what happened:
36. “Then Bhūridatta gave commands to four of his young Nāgas, ‘Go,
Take you this brahmin in your charge and lead him where he wants to go.’
37. The four attendants heard the words, at once their lord’s command was done:
They brought the brahmin to the place and leaving him returned alone.”
Then the brahmin, as he went along, said to his son, “Somadatta, we wounded a deer in this place and a boar in that,” and seeing a lake on the way he exclaimed, “Somadatta, let us bathe,” so they both took off their divine ornaments and clothes, and wrapping them up in a bundle laid them on the bank and bathed. At that very moment the ornaments vanished and returned to the Nāga world, and their former poor yellow clothes were wrapped round their bodies, and their bows, arrows, and spears came back as they were before. “We are undone, father,” bewailed Somadatta; but his father comforted him, “Fear not; as long as there are deer we shall make a livelihood by killing deer in the forest.”
Somadatta’s mother heard of their coming, and having gone to meet them she brought them home and she satisfied them with food and drink. When the brahmin had eaten and fallen asleep she asked her son,
Now at that time a Garuḷa bird which dwelt in a silk-cotton tree in the Himālayas in a region of the great southern ocean swept up the water with the wind of its wings, and swooping down on the Nāga region seized a Nāga king by the head; but this was the period when the Garuḷas did not know how to seize the Nāgas, they learned how in the Paṇḍarajātaka [Ja 518]. So although he seized it by the head, without scattering the water, he carried it dangling to the summit of the Himālayas.
A brahmin, an old inhabitant of Kāsi, who was following the life of an ascetic in the region of the Himālayas, was dwelling in a hut of leaves which he had built, and there was a great banyan tree at the end of his covered walk, and he had made his abode by day at its root. The Garuḷa carried the Nāga to the top of the banyan, and the Nāga as it hung down in its effort to escape twined its tail round a branch. The Garuḷa, being unaware of it, flew up to heaven by dint of his great strength and carried up the banyan tree without its roots. Bd samūlo, “roots and all,” which suits the context better. The bird then bore the Nāga to the silk-cotton tree and struck it with his beak and split open its belly, and having eaten
So he went to him in the guise of a young pupil; now at that moment the ascetic was smoothing the earth down. So the king of the Garuḷas, having saluted him and sat down on one side, asked him, as if he were himself ignorant of the fact, what had once grown in that spot. He replied, “A Garuḷa was carrying off a Nāga for his food, which twined its tail round a branch of a banyan tree in order to escape; but the bird by its great strength made a spring upwards and flew off, and so the tree was torn up; this is the place out of which it was torn.” “What demerit accrued to the bird?” “If he did it not knowing what he did, it was only ignorance, not a wrong.” “What was the case with the Nāga?” “He did not seize the tree with an intent to hurt it, therefore he also has no demerit.” The Garuḷa was pleased with the ascetic and said: “My friend, I am that king of the Garuḷas, and I am pleased with your explanation of my question. Now you live here in the forest and I know the Ālambāyana spell of
Now at that time a poor brahmin in Benares had got deeply into debt, and being pressed by his creditors he said to himself, “Why should I go on living here? I am sure it will be better to go into the forest and die.” So having gone from his home he went by successive journeys till he came to that hermitage. He entered it and pleased the ascetic by his diligent discharge of his duties. The ascetic said to himself, “This brahmin is very helpful to me, I will give him the divine spell which the king of Garuḷas gave to me.” So he said to him, “O brahmin, I know the Ālambāyana spell, I will give it to you, do you take it.” The other replied, “Peace, good friend, I do not want any spell,”
The brahmin said to himself, “I have gained a means of livelihood,” so after staying there a few days, he made the excuse of an attack of rheumatism, and after begging the ascetic’s forgiveness he took his respectful leave of him and departed from the forest, and by successive stages reached the bank of the Yamunā, from whence he went along the high road repeating the spell.
Now at that very time a thousand Nāga youths who waited on Bhūridatta were carrying that jewel which grants all desires. They had come out of the Nāga world and had stopped and placed it on a hillock of sand, and there, after playing all night in the water by its radiance, they had put on all their ornaments at the approach of morning, and, causing the jewel to contract its splendour, Or perhaps “causing bringing its splendour amongst them.” had sat down, guarding it. The brahmin reached the spot while he was repeating his charm, and they, on hearing the charm, seized with terror lest it should be the Garuḷa king, plunged into the earth without staying to take the jewel and fled to the Nāga world. The brahmin, when he saw the jewel, exclaimed, “My spell has at once succeeded,” and he joyfully seized the jewel and went on his way. Now at that very time the outcaste brahmin was entering the forest with his son Somadatta to kill deer, and when he saw the jewel on the other’s hand he said to his son, “Is not this the jewel which Bhūridatta gave to us?” “Yes,” said his son, “it is the very same.” “Well, I will tell him its evil qualities and so deceive him and get the jewel for my own.” “O father, you did not keep the jewel before when Bhūridatta gave it to you: this brahmin will assuredly cheat you, be silent about it.” “Let
38. “Where did you get that gem of yours, bringing good luck and fair to th’ eye;
But having certain signs and marks, which I can recognise it by?”
Ālambāyana answered in the following verse:
39. “This morning as I walked along I saw the jewel where it lay,
Its thousand red-eyed guards all fled and left it there to be my prey.”
The outcaste’s son, wishing to cheat him, proceeded in three verses to tell him the jewel’s evil qualities, desiring to secure it himself:
40. “Carefully tended, honoured well, and worn or stowed away with care,
It brings its owner all good things, however large his wishes are;
41. But if he shows it disrespect and wears or stows it heedlessly,
Sore will he rue the finding it, ’twill only bring him misery.
42. Do you have nought to do therewith, you have no skill such ware to hold:
Give it to me and take instead a hundred pounds of yellow gold.”
Then Ālambāyana spoke a verse in reply:
43. “I will not sell this gem of mine, though cows or jewels offered be;
Its signs and marks I know full well, and it shall ne’er be bought from me.”
The brahmin said:
44. “If cows or jewels will not buy from you that jewel which you wear,
What is the price you’ll sell it for? Come, a true answer let me hear.”
45. “He who can tell me where to find the mighty Nāga in his pride,
To him this jewel will I give, flashing its rays on every side.”
The brahmin said:
46.“ Is this perchance the Garuḷa king, come in brahmin’s guise today,
Seeking, while on the track for food, to seize the Nāga as his prey?”
47. “No bird-king I, a Garuḷa ne’er came across these eyes of mine,
I am a brahmin doctor, friend, and snakes and snake-bites are my line.”
The brahmin said:
48. “What special power do you possess, or have you learned some subtle skill
Which gives you this immunity to handle snakes whose fangs can kill?”
He replied, thus describing his power:
49. “The ascetic Kosiya in the wood kept a long painful penance well,
And at the end a Garuḷa revealed to him the serpent-spell.
50. That holiest sage, who dwelt retired upon a lonely mountain height,
I waited on with earnest zeal and served unwearied day and night;
51. And at the last to recompense my years of faithful ministry
My blessed teacher did reveal the heavenly secret unto me.
52. Trusting in this all-powerful spell, the fiercest snakes I do not fear;
I counteract their deadliest bites, I, Ālambāyana the seer.”
As he heard him, the outcaste brahmin thought to himself, “This Ālambāyana is ready to give the pearl of gems to anyone who shows him the Nāga; I will show him Bhūridatta and so secure the gem,” so he uttered this verse as he consulted with his son:
53. “Let us secure this gem, my son; come, Somadatta, let’s be quick,
Nor lose our luck as did the fool cf. Hitopadeśa iv., story 8. who smashed his meal-dish with his stick.”
54. “All honour due he showed to you, when you came in that stranger’s way;
And would you turn and rob him now, his kindly welcome to repay?
55. If you want wealth, go seek for it from Bhūridatta as before;
Ask him and he will gladly give all that your heart desires, and more.”
The brahmin said:
56. “That which, by lucky fortune brought, in bowl or hand all ready lies,
Eat it at once nor questions ask, lest you should lose the offered prize.”
57. “Earth yawns for him, hell’s fiercest fires await the traitor at the end,
Or, with fell hunger gnawed, he pines a living death, who cheats his friend.
58. Ask Bhūridatta, he will give, if you want wealth, the wished-for boon;
But if you do wrong, I fear that the wrong will find you out right soon.”
The brahmin said:
59. “But, through a sacrifice brahmins may do wrong and yet be made clean;
Great sacrifices we will bring and, so made pure, escape the wrong.”
60. “Cease your vile talk, I will not stay, this very moment I depart,
I will not go one step with you, this baseness rankling in your heart.”
So saying, the wise youth, rejecting his father’s counsel, exclaimed with a loud voice which startled the deities in the neighbourhood, “I will not go with such a sinner,” and fled away as his father stood looking on; and, plunging into the recesses of the Himālayas, there became an ascetic, and, having practised the Super Knowledges and Attainments and become perfected in Absorption, he was reborn in the Brahmā Realm. The Teacher explained this in the following verse:
61. “The noble Somadatta thus rebuked his father where he stood,
Startling the Bhūtas of the place, and turned and hurried from the wood.”
The outcaste brahmin thought to himself, “Whither will Somadatta go except to his own home?” and when he saw that Ālambāyana was a little vexed,
62. “Seize this Nāga-king where he lies and snatch forthwith that priceless gem,
Which bright-red like a lady-bird glows on his head a diadem.
63. On yonder ant-heap see! He lies, stretched out without a thought of fear,
Spread like a heap of cotton there, seize him before he knows you’re near.”
The Great Being opened his eyes, and, seeing the outcaste, he pondered, “I took this fellow to my Nāga home and settled him in high prosperity, but he would not accept the jewel which I gave him, and now he is come here with a snake-charmer. But if I were angry with him for his treachery, my moral character would be injured. Now my first of all duties is to keep the Uposatha in its four periods, that must remain inviolate; so whether Ālambāyana cut me in pieces or cook me or fix me on a spit, I must at all events not be angry with him.” So closing his eyes and following the highest ideal of determination he placed his head between his hoods and lay perfectly motionless.
Then the outcaste brahmin exclaimed, “O Ālambāyana, do you seize this Nāga and give me the gem.” Ālambāyana, being delighted at seeing the Nāga, and not caring the least for the gem, threw it into his hand, saying: “Take it, brahmin,” but the jewel slipped out of his hand, and as soon as it fell it went into the ground and was lost in the Nāga world. The brahmin found himself bereft of the three things, the priceless gem, Bhūridatta’s friendship, and his son, and went off to his home, loudly lamenting, “I have lost everything, I would not follow my son’s words.” But Ālambāyana,
The Teacher described this in the following verse:
64. “By dint of drugs of magic power and muttering spells with evil skill,
He seized and held him without fear and made him subject to his will.”
Having thus made the Great Being helpless, he prepared a basket of creepers and threw him into it; at first his huge body would not go into it, but after kicking it with his heels he forced it to enter. Then, going to a certain village, he set the basket down in the middle of it and shouted aloud, “Let all come here who wish to see a snake dance,” and all the villagers crowded round. Then he called to the Nāga king to come out, and the Great Being reflected: “It will be best for me to please the crowd and dance today; perhaps he will gain plenty of money and in his content will let me go; whatever he makes me do, I will do it.” So when Ālambāyana took him out of the basket and told him to swell out he assumed his full size; and so when he told him to become small or round or heaped up like a bank, Bs. vappito, from vappo? The text reads vippito. or to assume one hood or two hoods or three or four or five or ten or twenty or any number up to a hundred, or to become high or low, or to make his body visible or invisible, or to become blue or yellow or red or white or pink, or to emit water, or to emit water and smoke,
Now at first, after he had captured the Great Being, he had intended to let him go when he had gained a thousand pieces; but when he had made such a harvest, he said: “I have gained all this money in one little village, what a fortune I shall get in a city!” So, after settling his family there, he made a basket all covered with jewels, and having thrown the Great Being into it, he mounted a luxurious carriage and started with a great train of attendants. He made him dance in every village and town which they passed, and at last they reached Benares. He gave the snake king honey and fried grain, and killed frogs for him to eat; but he would not take the food, through fear of not being released from his captivity; Through the guilt which he would incur through eating. but even though he did not take his food, the other made him show his sports, and began with the four villages at the gates of the city, where he spent a month. Then on the Uposatha of the fifteenth he announced to the king that he would that day exhibit the snake’s dancing powers before him. The king in consequence made a proclamation by beat of drum and collected a large crowd, and tiers of scaffolding were erected in the courtyard of the palace.
Entering the City
But on the day when the Bodhisatta was seized by Ālambāna, [At this point the name changes from Ālambāyana to Ālambāna.] the Great Being’s mother saw in a dream that a black man with red eyes had cut off her arm with a sword and was carrying it away, streaming with blood. She sprang up in terror, but on feeling her right arm she recognised it to be only a dream. Then she considered in herself, “I have seen an evil frightful dream; it portends some misfortune either to my four sons or to king Dhataraṭṭha or to myself.” But presently she fixed her thoughts especially on the Bodhisatta, “Now all the others are dwelling in the Nāga world, but he has gone into the world of men resolved to keep the precepts and under a vow to observe the Uposatha; therefore I wonder whether some snake-charmer or Garuḷa has seized him.” So she thought of him more and more, and at last at the end of a fortnight she became quite dejected, saying: “My son could not live a whole fortnight without me, surely
65. “You see me come with all success, my every wish has hit the mark;
And yet you show no signs of joy, and your whole countenance is dark,
66. Dark as a lotus rudely plucked which droops and withers in the hand;
Is this the welcome which you give when I come back from foreign land?”
Even at these words of his she still said nothing. Then Sudassana thought: “Can she have been abused or slandered by someone?” So he uttered another verse, questioning her:
67. “Has anyone upbraided you or are you racked with secret pain,
That thus your countenance is dark, e’en when you see me back again?”
She replied as follows:
68. “I saw an evil dream, my son, a month ago this very day;
There came a man who lopped my arm as on my bed I sleeping lay,
And carried off the bleeding limb, no tears of mine his hand could stay.
69. Blank terror overpowers my heart, and since I saw that cruel sight
A moment’s peace or happiness I have not known by day or night.”
When she had said this she burst out lamenting, “I cannot see anywhere my darling son your youngest brother; some evil must have happened to him,” and she exclaimed:
70. “He whom fair maidens in their bloom used to be proud to wait upon,
Their hair adorned with golden nets, Bhūridatta, alas, is gone;
71. He whom stout soldiers used to guard, with their drawn swords, a gallant train,
Flashing like kaṇikāra flowers, alas, I look for him in vain!
72. I must pursue your brother’s track and find where he has fixed to dwell,
Fulfilling his ascetic vow, and learn myself if all be well.”
Having uttered these words she set out with his retinue as well as her own.
Now Bhūridatta’s wives had not felt anxious when they did not find him on the top of the ant-hill, as they said that he was no doubt gone to his mother’s home; but when they heard that she was coming weeping because she could nowhere see her son, they went to meet her and fell at her feet, making a loud lamentation, “O lady, it is a month today since we last saw your son.”
The Teacher described this as follows:
73. “The wives of Bhūridatta there beheld his mother drawing nigh,
And putting out their arms they wept with an exceeding bitter cry;
74. Bhūridatta, your son, went hence a month ago, we know not where;
Whether he be alive or dead we cannot tell in our despair.”
The mother joined with her daughters-in-law in their lamentations in the middle of the road and then went up with them into the palace, and there her grief burst forth as she looked on her son’s bed:
75-79. “Like a lone bird whose brood is slain, when it beholds its empty nest,
So sorrow, when I look in vain for Bhūridatta, fills my breast.
Deep in my heart my grief for him burns with a fierce and steady glow
Just like the furnace which a smith carries where’er he is called to go.”
As she thus wept, Bhūridatta’s house seemed to be filled with one continuous sound like the hollow roar of the ocean. No one could remain unmoved, and the whole dwelling was like a Sāl-forest smitten by the storm of doomsday.
The Teacher thus described it:
80. “Like Sāl trees prostrate in a storm, their branches broken, roots uptorn,
So mother, wives, and children, lay in that lone dwelling-place forlorn.”
Ariṭṭha and Subhaga also, the brothers, who had come to visit their parents, heard the noise and entered Bhūridatta’s dwelling and tried to comfort their mother.
The Teacher thus described it:
81. “Ariṭṭha then and Subhaga, eager to help and comfort, come,
Hearing the sounds of wild lament which rose in Bhūridatta’s home;
82. ‘Mother, be calm, your wailings end, this is the lot of all who live;
They all must pass from birth to birth: change rules in all things, do not grieve.’ ”
Samuddajā See supra, p. 85. replied:
83. “My son, I know it but too well, this is the lot of all who live,
But now no common loss is mine, left thus forlorn I can but grieve;
84. Verily if I see him not, my jewel and my soul’s delight,
My Bhūridatta, I will end my wretched life this very night.”
Her sons answered:
85. “Mourn not, dear mother, still your grief, we’ll bring our brother back;
Through the wide earth on every side we will pursue his track
86. O’er hill and dale, through village, town and city, till he’s found,
Within ten days we promise you to bring him safe and sound.”
Then Sudassana thought: “If we all three go in one direction there will be much delay: we must go to three different directions, one to the world of the gods, one to the Himālayas, and one to the world of men. But if Kāṇāriṭṭha See p. 87. goes to the land of men he will set that village or town on fire where he shall happen to see Bhūridatta, for he is cruel-natured, it will not do to send him,” so he said to him, “Do you go to the world of the gods; if the gods have carried him to their world in order to learn the Dhamma from him, then do you bring him thence.” But he said to Subhaga, “Do you go to the Himālayas and search for Bhūridatta in the five rivers and come back.” But as he was resolving to go himself to the world of men, he reflected: “If I go as a young man people will revile I read osapissanti (√avaśap). me; I must go as an ascetic, for ascetics are dear and welcome to men.” So he took the garb of an ascetic and, after bidding his mother farewell, set out.
Now the Bodhisatta had a sister, born of another mother, named Accimukhī, who had a very great love for the Bodhisatta. When she saw Subhaga setting out, she said to him,
When he came to the village where he had first displayed the dancing, he asked the people whether a snake-charmer had shown his tricks there with such and such a kind of snake. “Yes, Ālambāna showed these tricks a month ago.” “Did he gain anything thereby?” “Yes, he gained a hundred thousand pieces in this one
Now at that very moment Ālambāna had come there, just bathed and anointed, and wearing a tunic of fine cloth, Read maṭṭasātakaṁ, cf. p. 34, 1. 23, text. and making his attendant carry his jewelled basket. A great crowd collected, a seat was placed for the king, and he, while he was still within the palace, sent a message, “I am coming, let him make the king of snakes play.” Then Ālambāna placed the jewelled basket on a variegated rug, and gave the sign, saying: “Come here, O snake king.” At that moment Sudassana was standing at the edge of the crowd, while the Great Being put out his head and looked round surveying the people. Now Nāgas look at a crowd for two reasons, to see whether any Garuḷa is near or any actors; if they see any Garuḷas, they do not dance for fear, if any actors, they do not dance for shame. The Great Being, as he looked, beheld his brother in the crowd, and, repressing the tears which filled his eyes, he came out of the basket and went up to his brother. The crowd, seeing him approach, retreated in fear and Sudassana was left alone; so he went up to him and laid his head on his foot and wept; and Sudassana also wept. The Great Being at last stopped weeping and went into the basket. Ālambāna said to himself, “This Nāga must have bitten yonder ascetic, I must comfort him,” so he went up to him and said:
87. “It slipped out of my hand and seized your foot with all its might;
Did it chance bite you? Never fear, there’s no harm in its bite.”
Sudassana wished to have some talk with him, so he answered:
88. “This snake of yours can harm me not,
I am a match for him, I wot;
Search where you will, you will not see
One who can charm a snake like me.”
Ālambāna did not know who it was, so he answered angrily:
89. “This lout dressed out in brahmin guise challenges me today,
Let all the assembly hear my words and give us both fair play.”
Then Sudassana uttered a verse in answer:
90. “A frog shall be my champion, and let a snake be yours,
Five thousand pieces be the stake, and let us show our powers.”
91. “I am a man well-backed with means, and you a bankrupt clown;
Who will stand surety on your side, and where’s the money down?
92. There is my surety, there’s the stake in case I lose the bet;
Five thousand coins will show my powers, your challenge, see, is met.”
Sudassana heard him and said: “Well, let us show our powers
93. “O noble monarch, hear my words, ne’er may good luck your steps forsake;
Will you be surety in my name? Five thousand pieces is the stake.”
The king thought to himself, “This ascetic asks for a very large sum, what can it mean?” So he replied:
94. “Is it some debt your father left or is it all your own,
That you should come and ask from me such an unheard-of loan?”
Sudassana repeated two verses:
95. “Ālambāna would beat me with his snake;
I with my frog his brahmin pride will break.
96. Come forth, O king, with all your train appear,
And see the beating which awaits him here.”
The king consented and went out with the ascetic. When Ālambāna saw him, he thought: “This ascetic has gone and got the king on his side, he must be some friend of the royal family,” so he grew frightened and began to follow him, saying:
97. “I do not want to humble you, I will not boast at all;
But you despise this snake too much, your pride may have a fall.”
Sudassana uttered two verses:
98. “I do not seek to humble you, a brahmin, or despise your skill;
But wherefore thus cajole the crowd with harmless snakes that cannot kill?
99. If people knew your real worth as well as I can see it plain,
Why talk of gold? A little meal would be the limit of your gain.”
Ālambāna grew angry and said:
100. “You mendicant in ass’s skin, uncombed and squalid to the sight,
You dare to scorn this snake of mine, and say forsooth it cannot bite;
101. Come near and try what it can do, learn by experience if you must;
I warrant you its harmless bite will make of you a heap of dust.”
Then Sudassana uttered a verse, mocking him:
102. “A rat or water-snake perchance may bite
And leave its poison if you anger it;
But your red-headed snake is harmless quite,
It will not bite, however much it spit.”
Ālambāna replied in two verses:
103. “I have been told by holy saints who practised penance ceaselessly,
Those who in this life give their alms will go to heaven when they die;
104. I counsel you to give at once if you have anything to give,
This snake will turn you into dust, you have but little time to live.”
105. “I too have heard from holy saints, those who give alms will go to heaven;
Give you your alms while yet you may, if you have anything that can be given.
106-107. This is no common snake of mine, she’ll make you lower your boastful tone;
A daughter of the Nāga king, and a half-sister of my own,
Accimukhī, her mouth shoots flames; her poison’s of the deadliest known.”
Then he called to her in the middle of the crowd, “O Accimukhī, come out of my matted locks and stand on my hand,” and he put out his hand; and when she heard his voice she uttered a cry like a frog three times, while she was lying in his hair, and then came out and sat on his shoulder, and springing up dropped three drops of poison on the palm of his hand and then entered again into his matted locks. Sudassana stood holding the poison and exclaimed three times, “This country will be destroyed, this country will be wholly destroyed,” the sound filled all Benares with its extent of twelve leagues. The king asked what should destroy it. “O king, I see no place where I can drop this poison.” “This earth is big enough, drop it there.” “That is not possible,” he answered, and he repeated a verse:
108. “If I should drop it on the ground, listen, O king, to me,
The grass and creeping plants and herbs would parched and blasted be.”
“Well then, throw it into the sky.” “That also is not possible,” he said, and he repeated a verse:
109. “If I should do your hest, O king, and throw it in the sky,
No rain nor snow will fall from heaven till seven long years roll by.”
“Then throw it into the water.” “That is not possible,” he said, and he repeated a verse:
110. “If in the water it were dropped, listen, O king, to me,
Fishes and tortoises would die and all that lives in sea.”
Then the king exclaimed, “I am utterly at a loss, do you tell us some way to prevent the land being destroyed.” “O king, cause three holes to be dug here in succession.” The king did so. Sudassana filled the middle hole with drugs, the second with cowdung, the third with heavenly medicines; then he let fall the drops of poison into the middle hole. A flame, which filled the hole with smoke, burst out; this spread and caught the hole with the cowdung, and then bursting out again it caught the hole filled with the heavenly plants and consumed them all, and then itself became extinguished. Ālambāyana was standing near that hole, and the heat of the poison smote him, the colour of his skin at once vanished and he became a white leper. Filled with terror, he exclaimed three times, “I will set the snake king free.”
On hearing him the Bodhisatta came out of the jewelled basket, and assuming a form radiant with all kinds of ornaments, he stood with all the glory of Sakka. Sudassana also and Accimukhī stood by. Then Sudassana said to the king, “Do you not know whose children these are?” “I know not.” “You do not know us, but you knowest that the king of Kāsi gave
While he was showing all kindness to Bhūridatta he asked him how Ālambāna had caught him, when he possessed such a terrible poison. Sudassana related the whole story and then said: “O great monarch, a king ought to rule his kingdom in this way,” and he taught his uncle the Dhamma. Then he said: “O uncle, our mother is pining for want of seeing Bhūridatta, we cannot stay longer away from her.” “It is right, you shall go; but I too want to see my sister; how can I see her?” “O uncle, where is our grandfather, the king of Kāsi?”
The Search for the Great Being
When the Great Being thus came among them, the city became filled with one universal lamentation. He himself was tired out with his month’s residence in the basket and took to a sick-bed; and there was no limit to the number of Nāgas who came to visit him, and he tired himself out, talking to them. In the meantime Kāṇāriṭṭha, who had gone to the world of the gods cf. p. 100. and did not find the Great Being there, was the first to come back; so they made him the doorkeeper of the Great Being’s sick residence, for they said that he was passionate and could keep away the crowd of Nāgas. Subhaga also, after searching all the Himālayas and after that the great ocean and the other rivers, came in the course of his wanderings to search the Yamunā. But when the outcaste brahmin saw that Ālambāna had become a leper, he thought to himself, “He has become a leper because he worried Bhūridatta; now I too, through lust of the jewel, betrayed him, although he had been my benefactor, to Ālambāna, and this crime will come upon me. Before it comes, I will go to the Yamunā and will wash away the guilt in the sacred bathing-place.” So he went down into the water, saying that he would wash away the wrong of his treachery. At that moment Subhaga came to the spot, and, hearing his words, said to himself, “This evil wretch for the sake of a gem-charm
111. “I’m bathing at this sacred spot here in Payāga’s holy flood;
My limbs are wet with sacred drops, what cruel Yakkha seeks my blood?”
Subhaga answered him in the following verse:
112. “He who, men say, in ancient days to this proud Kāsi wrathful came,
And wrapped it round with his strong coils, that Nāga king of glorious fame,
His son am I, who hold you now: Subhaga, brahmin, is my name.”
The brahmin thought: “Bhūridatta’s brother will not spare my life, but what if I were to move him to tender-heartedness by reciting the praises of his father and mother, and then beg my life?” So he recited this verse:
113. “Scion of Kāsi’s The text reads Kaṁsassa, “Another name for the king of Kāsi” (Commentator). royal race divine,
Your mother born from that illustrious line,
You would not leave the meanest brahmin’s slave
To perish drowned beneath the ruthless wave.”
Subhaga thought: “This wicked brahmin thinks to deceive me and persuade me to let him go, but I will not give him his life,” so he answered, reminding him of his old deeds:
114. “A thirsty deer approached to drink – from your tree-porch your shaft flew down:
In fear and pain your victim fled, spurred by an impulse not its own;
115. Deep in the wood you saw it fall and bore it on your carrying-pole
To where a banyan’s shoots grew thick, clustering around the parent bole;
116. The parrots sported in the boughs, the kokil’s song melodious rose,
Green spread the grassy sward below, evening invited to repose;
117. But there your cruel eye perceived my brother, who the boughs among
In summer pomp of colour dressed sported with his attendant throng.
118-119. He in his joyance harmed you not, but you in malice did him slay,
An innocent victim, lo that crime comes back on your own head today,
I will not spare your life an hour, my utmost vengeance you shall pay.”
Then the brahmin thought: “He will not give me my life, but I must try my best to escape,” so he uttered the following verse:
120. “Study, the offering of prayers, libations in the sacred fire,
These three things make a brahmin’s life inviolate to mortal’s ire.”
Subhaga, when he heard this, began to hesitate and he thought
121. “Beneath the Yamunā’s sacred stream, stretching to far Himālaya’s feet,
Lies deep the Nāga capital where Dhataraṭṭha holds his seat;
122. There all my hero brothers dwell, to them will I refer your plea,
And as their judgment shall decide, so shall your final sentence be.”
He then seized him by the neck, and, shaking him with loud abuse and revilings, carried him to the gate of the Great Being’s palace.
Kāṇāriṭṭha who had become the doorkeeper was sitting there, and when he saw that the other was being dragged along so roughly he went to meet them, and said: “Subhaga, do not hurt him; all brahmins are the sons of the Mahābrahmā; if he learned that we were hurting his son he would be angry and would destroy our Nāga world. In the world brahmins rank as the highest and possess great dignity; you do not know what their dignity is, but I do.” For they say that Kāṇāriṭṭha in the birth immediately preceding this had been born as a sacrificing brahmin, and therefore he spoke so positively. Moreover being skilled in sacrificial lore from his former experiences, he said to Subhaga and the Nāga assembly, “Come, I will describe to you the character of sacrificial brahmins,” and he went on as follows:
123. “The Veda and the sacrifice, things of high worth and dignity,
Belong to brahmins as their right, however worthless they may be;
Great honour is their privilege and he who flouts them in his scorn,
Loses his wealth, breaks the Dhamma, and lives guilt-burdened and forlorn.”
Then Kāṇāriṭṭha asked Subhaga if he knew who had made the world; and when he confessed his ignorance, he told this verse to show that it was created by Brahmā the grandfather of the brahmins:
124. “Brahmins he made for study; for command
He made the Khattiyas; Vessas plough the land;
Suddas he servants made to obey the rest;
Thus from the first went forth the Lord’s behest.”
Then he said: “These brahmins have great powers, and he who conciliates them and gives them gifts is not fated to enter any new birth, but goes at once to the world of the gods,” and he repeated these verses:
125. “Kuvera, Soma, Varuṇa, of old,
Dhātā, Vidhātā, and the Sun and Moon,
Offered their sacrifices manifold,
And to their brahmin priests gave every boon.
126. The giant Ajjuna who wrought such woe,
Round whose huge bulk a thousand arms once grew,
Each several pair with its own threatening bow,
Heaped on the sacred flame the offerings due.”
Then he went on describing the glory of the brahmins and how the best gifts are to be given to them.
127. “That ancient king who feasted them so well
Became at last a god, old stories tell.
128. King Mujalinda long the fire adored,
Glutting its thirst with all the ghee he poured;
And at the last the earned reward it brought,
He found the pathway to the heaven he sought.”
He also repeated these verses to illustrate this lesson:
129. Dujīpa lived a thousand years in all,
Chariots and hosts unnumbered at his call;
But an ascetic’s life was his at last,
And from his hermitage to heaven he past.
130. Sāgara all the earth in triumph crossed,
And raised a golden sacrificial post;
None worshipped fire more zealously than he,
And he too rose to be a deity.
131. The milk and curds which Aṅga, Kāsi’s lord,
In his long offerings so profusely poured,
Swelled Gaṅgā to an ocean by their flood,
Until at last in Sakka’s courts he stood.
132. Great Sakka’s general on the heavenly plain,
By soma-offerings did the honour gain;
He who now marshals the immortal powers
Rose from a mortal sin-stained lot like ours.
133-134. Brahmā the great creator, he who made
The mountains landmarks in his altar yard,
Whose hest the Ganges in its path obeyed,
By sacrifice attained his great reward.
Then he said to him, “Brother, know you how this sea became salt and undrinkable?” “I know not, Ariṭṭha.” “You only know how to injure brahmins, listen to me.” Then he repeated a verse:
135. “A ascetic student, versed in prayer and spell,
Once stood upon the shore, as I’ve heard tell;
He touched the sea, it forthwith swallowed him,
And since that day has been undrinkable.”
“These brahmins are all like this,” and he uttered another verse:
136. “When Sakka first attained his royal throne,
His special favour upon brahmins shone;
East, west, north, south, they made their ritual known,
And found at last a Veda of their own.”
Thus Ariṭṭha described the brahmins and their sacrifices and Vedas.
When they heard his words, many Nāgas came to visit the Bodhisatta’s sick-bed, and they said to one another, “He is telling a legend of the past,”
137. “These Veda studies are the wise man’s toils,
The lure which tempts the victims whom he spoils;
A mirage formed to catch the careless eye,
But which the prudent passes safely by.
138. The Vedas have no hidden power to save
The traitor or the coward or the cheat;
The fire, though tended well for long years past,
Leaves his base master without hope at last.
139. Though all earth’s trees in one vast heap were piled
To satisfy the fire’s insatiate child,
Still would it crave for more, insatiate still,
How could a Nāga hope that maw to fill?
140. Milk ever changes, thus where milk has been
Butter and curds in natural course are seen;
And the same thirst for change pervades the fire,
Once stirred to life it mounts still higher and higher.
141-142. Fire bursts not forth in wood that’s dry or new,
Fire needs an effort ere it leaps to view;
If dry fresh timber of itself could burn,
Spontaneous would each forest blaze in turn.
143. If he wins merit who to feed the flame
Piles wood and straw, the merit is the same
When cooks light fires or blacksmiths at their trade,
Or those who burn the corpses of the dead.
144. But none, however zealously he prays,
Or heaps the fuel round to feed the blaze,
Gains any merit by his mummeries,
The fire for all its crest of smoke soon dies.
145. Were fire the honoured being that you think,
Would it thus dwell with refuse and with stink,
Feeding on carrion with a foul delight,
Where men in horror hasten from the sight?
146. Some worship as a god the crested flame,
Barbarians give to water that high name;
But both alike have wandered from their road:
Neither is worthy to be called a god.
147. To worship fire, the common drudge of all,
Senseless and blind and deaf to every call,
And then one’s self to live a life of sin,
How could one dream that this a heaven could win?
148. These brahmins all a livelihood require,
And so they tell us Brahmā worships fire;
Why should the uncreate who all things planned
Worship himself the creature of his hand?
149. Doctrines and rules of their own, absurd and vain,
Our sires imagined wealth and power to gain;
150. Brahmins he made for study, for command
He made the Khattiyas; Vessas plough the land;
Suddas he servants made to obey the rest;
Thus from the first went forth his high behest. See p. 106.
151. We see these rules enforced before our eyes,
None but the brahmins offer sacrifice,
None but the Khattiya exercises sway,
The Vessas plough, the Suddas must obey.
152-154. These greedy liars propagate deceit,
And fools believe the fictions they repeat;
He who has eyes can see the sickening sight;
Why does not Brahmā set his creatures right?
155. If his wide power no limits can restrain,
Why is his hand so rarely spread to bless?
156. Why are his creatures all condemned to pain?
Why does he not to all give happiness?
Why do fraud, lies, and ignorance prevail?
Why triumphs falsehood, truth and justice fail?
157. I count your Brahmā the unjust among,
Who made a world in which to shelter wrong.
Those men are counted pure who only kill
Frogs, worms, bees, snakes or insects as they will,
These are your savage customs which I hate,
Such as Kamboja The Kambojas were a north-western tribe who were supposed to have lost their original Aryan customs and to have become barbarous, see Manu, x. 44. hordes might emulate.
158. If he who kills is counted innocent,
And if the victim safe to heaven is sent,
Let brahmins brahmins kill – so all were well –
And those who listen to the words they tell.
159. We see no cattle asking to be slain
That they a new and better life may gain,
Rather they go unwilling to their death,
And in vain struggles yield their latest breath.
160. To veil the post, the victim and the blow
The brahmins let their choicest rhetoric flow;
The post shall as a cow of plenty be
Securing all your heart’s desires to thee;
161-162. But if the wood thus round the victim spread
Had been as full of treasure as they said,
As full of silver, gold and gems for us,
With heaven’s unknown delights as overplus,
They would have offered for themselves alone
And kept the rich reversion as their own.
163-164. These cruel cheats, as ignorant as vile,
Weave their long frauds the simple to beguile,
Offer your wealth, cut nails and beard and hair,
And you shall have your bosom’s fondest prayer.
The offerer, simple to their hearts’ content,
Comes with his purse, they gather round him fast,
165-166. Like crows around an owl, on mischief bent,
And leave him bankrupt and stripped bare at last,
The solid coin which he erewhile possessed,
Exchanged for promises which none can test.
167. Like grasping strangers A-kāsiyā. sent by those who reign,
The cultivators’ earnings to distrain,
These rob where’er they prowl with evil eye,
No law condemns them, yet they ought to die.
168. The priests a shoot of Butea must hold
As part o’ the rite sacred from days of old;
Sakka’s right arm ’tis called; but were it so,
Would Sakka triumph o’er Asura foe?
169. Sakka’s own arm can give him better aid,
’Twas no vain sham which made hell’s hosts afraid.
Each mountain-range which now some kingdom guards
Was once a heap in ancient altar-yards,
171. And pious worshippers with patient hands
Piled up the mound at some great lord’s commands.
So brahmins say, fie on the idle boast,
Mountains are heaved aloft at other cost;
172-173. And the brick mound, search as you may, contains
No veins of iron for the miner’s pains.
A holy seer well known in ancient days,
On the seashore was praying, legend says;
174. There was he drowned and since this fate befell
The ocean’s waves have been undrinkable.
Rivers have drowned their learned men at will
By hundreds and have kept their waters still;
175. Their streams flow on and never taste the worse,
Why should the sea alone incur the curse?
And the salt-streams which run upon the land
Spring from no curse but own the digger’s hand.
176. At first there were no women and no men;
’Twas mind first brought mankind to light, and then,
Though they all started equal in the race,
Their various Vossaggavibhaṅgam may mean “difference of occupation.” failures made them soon change place;
177. It was no lack of merit in the past,
But present faults which made them first or last.
A clever low-caste lad would use his wit,
And read the hymns nor find his head-piece split;
178. The brahmins made the Vedas to their cost
When others gained the knowledge which they lost.
Thus sentences are made and learned by rote
In metric forms not easily forgot,
The obscurity but tempts the foolish mind,
They swallow all they’re told with impulse blind.
179. Brahmins are not like violent beasts of prey,
No tigers, lions of the woods are they;
They are to cows and oxen near akin,
Differing outside they are as dull within.
180. If the victorious king would cease to fight
And live in peace with his friends and follow right,
Conquering those passions which his bosom rend,
What happy lives would all his subjects spend!
181. The brahmin’s Veda, Khattiya’s policy,
Both arbitrary and delusive be,
They blindly grope their way along a road
By some huge inundation overflowed.
182. In brahmin’s Veda, Khattiya’s policy,
One secret meaning we alike can see;
For after all, loss, gain and glory, and shame
Touch the four castes alike, to all the same.
183. As householders to gain a livelihood
Count all pursuits legitimate and good,
So brahmins now in our degenerate day
Will gain a livelihood in any way.
184. The householder is led by love of gain,
Blindly he follows, dragged in pleasure’s train,
Trying all trades, deceitful and a fool,
Fallen, alas, how far from wisdom’s rule.”
The Great Being, having thus confuted their arguments, established his own Dhamma, and when they heard his exposition the assembly of Nāgas was filled with joy. The Great Being delivered the outcaste brahmin from the Nāga world and did not wound him with a single contemptuous speech. Sāgara Brahmadatta also did not let the appointed day pass, but went with his complete army to his father’s dwelling-place. The Great Being also, having proclaimed by beat of drum that he would visit his maternal uncle and grandfather, crossed over from the Yamunā and went first to that hermitage with great pomp and magnificence, and his remaining brothers and his father and mother came afterwards. At that moment Sāgara Brahmadatta, not recognising the Great Being, as he approached with his great retinue, asked his father: See v. p. 32204.
185. “Whose drums are these? Whose tabours, conchs, and what those instruments, whose voice
Swells with deep concert through the air and makes the monarch’s heart rejoice?
186. Who is this youth who marches there, with quiver and with bow arrayed,
Wearing a golden coronet that shines like lightning round his head?
187. Who is it that approaches there, whose youthful countenance shines bright,
Like an acacia brand which glows in a smith’s forge with steady light?
188-189. Whose bright umbrella, golden-hued, o’erpowers the sun in noonday’s pride,
While deftly hangs a fly-flapper ready for action by his side?
190-192. See peacocks’ tails on golden sticks wave by his face with colours blent, Does this refer to his whiskers? Or is it to be taken literally?
While his bright earrings deck his brow as lightning wreaths the firmament.
193-195. What hero owns that long large eye, that tuft of wool between the brows,
Those teeth as white as buds or shells, their line so faultless and so even,
Those lac-dyed hands, those bimba lips, he shines forth like the sun in heaven;
196. Like some tall Sāl tree full of bloom, upon a mountain peak alone,
Sakka in his triumphant dress with every Yakkha foe o’erthrown.
197. Who is it bursts upon our view, drawing from out its sheath his brand,
Its jewelled handle and rich work radiant with splendour in his hand,
198. Who now takes off his golden shoes, richly inwrought with varied thread,
And, bending with obeisance low, pours honour on the sage’s head?”
Being thus asked by his son Sāgara Brahmadatta, the ascetic, possessed of transcendent knowledge and supernatural power, replied, “O my son, these are the sons of king Dhataraṭṭha, the Nāga sons of your sister,” and he repeated this verse:
199. “These are all Dhataraṭṭha’s sons, having Powers and great in fame,
They all revere Samuddajā and her as common mother claim.”
While they were thus talking, the host of Nāgas came up and saluted the ascetic’s feet and then sat down on one side. Samuddajā also saluted her father, and then after weeping returned with the Nāgas to the Nāga world. Sāgara Brahmadatta stayed there for a few days and then went to Benares, and Samuddajā died in the Nāga world. The Bodhisatta, having kept the precepts all his life and performed all the duties of the Uposatha, at the end of his life went with the host of Nāgas to fill the seats of heaven.
After the lesson the Teacher exclaimed, “Thus pious disciples, wise men of former times before the Buddha was born, gave up the glory of the Nāga state and rigorously fulfilled the duties of the Uposatha,” and he then identified the birth, “At that time the family of the great king were my father and mother, Devadatta was the hunter brahmin, Ānanda was Somadatta, Uppalavaṇṇā was Accimukhī, Sāriputta was Sudassana, Moggallāna was Subhaga, Sunakkhatta was Kāṇāriṭṭha, and I myself was Bhūridatta.”
last updated: November 2021