Jataka 10

Sukhavihāri Jātaka

Dwelling in Happiness

as told by Eric Van Horn

originally translated by Robert Chalmers, B.A., of Oriel College, Oxford University

originally edited by Professor Edward Byles Cowell, Cambridge University

The story of Bhaddiya is one of the iconic stories of Buddhism. It points to the delight, freedom, and happiness that can come from Buddhist practice and the monastic way of life. The aim of the Buddha’s teachings is to find precisely the kind of joy that Bhaddiya finds.

This story is told – slightly differently - in other places in the Pāli Canon as well. (Udana 2.10, Cullavaga 7.1.5, Therigatha 16.7)

The un-guarded man.” This story was told by the Master while in the Anūpiya Mango-grove near the town of Anūpiya. It is about the Elder Bhaddiya (the Happy), who joined the Saṇgha in the company of the six young nobles and their barber Upāli. Of these the Elders Bhaddiya, Kimbila, Bhagu, and Upāli attained to Arahatship. The Elder Ānanda entered the First Path (stream-entry), the Elder Anuruddha gained all-seeing vision, and Devadatta obtained the power of ecstatic self-abstraction. The story of the six young nobles, up to the events at Anūpiya, will be related in the Khaṇḍahāla-jātaka.

(The six nobles were cousins of the Buddha. Upāli became foremost in mastery of the Vinaya, the rules of conduct for the monks. Devadatta eventually turned on the Buddha. He tried to take over the Saṇgha and even tried to murder the Buddha.)

The venerable Bhaddiya used to be a member of the royal family. He was always in danger and had to guard himself as though he were his own protector deity. He had many soldiers, but even so he had trouble sleeping even on his royal couch in his private apartments high up in the palace. Now that he was an Arahat, he roamed in forests and desert places without any fear at all. And at that thought he burst into this heartfelt utterance, “Oh, happiness! Oh, happiness!”

The monks reported this to the Blessed One, saying, “The venerable Bhaddiya is declaring the bliss he has won.” (According to the monastic code monks and nuns are not supposed to declare any attainments they have.)

“Monks,” said the Blessed One, “this is not the first time that Bhaddiya’s life has been happy. His life was no less happy in bygone days.”

The monks asked the Blessed One to explain this. The Blessed One made clear what had been concealed from them by re-birth.

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as a wealthy northern brahmin. Realizing the dangers in sense pleasures and the blessings that flow from renouncing the world, he abandoned sense pleasures and retired to the Himalayas. He became a recluse there and won the eight attainments (the 8 jhānas, or states of mental absorption). He gained many followers, amounting to five hundred monks. Once when the rainy season started, he left the Himalayas and went on an alms-pilgrimage with his followers through village and town and at last came to Benares. There he stayed in the royal pleasure garden as the beneficiary of the King’s generosity. After living here for the four months of the rainy season, he went to the King to bid him good-bye. But the King said to him, “You are old, reverend sir. Why go back to the Himalayas? Send your pupils back and stay here.”

The Bodhisatta entrusted his five hundred ascetics to the care of his oldest disciple, saying, “Go back to the Himalayas. I will stay here.”

Now that oldest disciple had once been a king, but had given up a mighty kingdom to become a monk. By practicing meditative concentration, he was able to master the 8 jhānas. As he lived with the ascetics in the Himalayas, one day he longed to see the Master. He said to his companions, “Live on contentedly here. I will come back as soon as I have paid my respects to the Master.” So he went to the Master, paid his respects to him and greeted him lovingly. Then he lay down by the side of his Master on a mat that he spread there.

At this point the King appeared. He had come to the pleasure garden to see the disciple. With a salutation, he took his seat on one side. But though he was aware of the King’s presence, that oldest disciple did not rise, but still lay there, crying with passionate earnestness, “Oh, happiness! Oh, happiness!”

Displeased that the disciple had not risen, the King said to the Bodhisatta, “Reverend sir, this monk must have had his fill to eat, seeing that he continues to lie there so happily, exclaiming with such earnestness.” (Apparently the King had brought alms food.)

“Sire,” said the Bodhisatta, “this monk used to be a king as you are. He is thinking how in the old days when he was a layman, he lived in regal pomp with many soldiers to guard him. But he never knew the happiness that he now has. It is the happiness of the monk’s life and the happiness that insight brings that move him to this heartfelt utterance.” And the Bodhisatta repeated this poem to further teach the King the Dharma:

The man who guards not, nor is guarded, sire,

Lives happy, freed from slavery to lust.

Oh, happiness!

Figure: Oh, happiness!

Appeased by the lesson, the King made his salutation and returned to his palace. The disciple also left his Master and returned to the Himalayas. The Bodhisatta continued to live there until he died, with insight full and unbroken. He was then re-born in the Brahma realm.

His lesson ended, and the two stories told, the Master showed the connection linking them both together. He identified the birth by saying, “The Elder Bhaddiya was the disciple of those days, and I myself the Master of the company of monks.”