sunset

Jataka 15

Kharādiyā Jātaka

Kharādiyā’s Story

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


One of the things I love about the Buddhist literature is its honesty. This is not a romanticized view of life at the time of the Buddha. The Buddha faced all kinds of troublesome people, many of whom seem all too familiar. In this case it is an “unruly monk.” Even the Buddha’s own monks did not always listen to him.

This is also a lesson about humility, without which one cannot learn. We live in a time when opinions are highly regarded. People often express their point of view without any information what-so-ever. The book of life is long, but if you only ever listen to yourself, it is like reading the same page over and over again.


For when a deer.” This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana about an unruly monk. Tradition says that this monk was unruly and would not heed admonition. Accordingly, the Master asked him, saying, “Is it true, as they say, that you are unruly and will not heed admonition?”

“It is true, Blessed One,” was the reply.

“So too in bygone days,” said the Master, “you were unruly and would not heed the admonition of the wise and good, with the result that you were caught in a trap and met your death.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.


Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a deer. He lived in the forest as the head of a herd of deer. His sister Kharādiyā brought her son to him and said, “Brother, this is your nephew. Teach him our tricks of survival.” And so she placed her son under the Bodhisatta’s care.

The Bodhisatta said to his nephew, “Come at such and such a time and I will give you your first lesson.” But the nephew never showed up. And, so on that day, as well as the next seven days he skipped his lesson and fail to learn the survival skills of deer.

One day, as he was roaming about, he was caught in a trap. His mother came and said to the Bodhisatta, “Brother, didn’t you teach your nephew our ways of surviving?”

“He was an unteachable rascal,” said the Bodhisatta. “Your son failed to learn the tricks of deer.” And so, having lost all desire to help the mischievous nephew even in his deadly peril, he repeated this stanza:

For when a deer has four hoofs with which to run

And branching antlers armed with countless points,

And by one of seven tricks he could have saved himself,

I teach him then, Kharādiyā, no more.


The Unteachable Rascal

Figure: The Unteachable Rascal

But the hunter killed the arrogant deer that was caught in the trap and departed with its flesh.


When the Master had ended this lesson about the unruliness of the monk in bygone days as well as in the present, he showed the connection and identified the birth by saying “In those days this unruly monk was the nephew-deer. Uppalavaṇṇā was the sister, and I myself the deer who gave the admonition.” (Uppalavaṇṇā was one of the most prominent nuns in the Buddha’s Saṇgha. She gave a discourse that is in the Saṃyutta Nikāya, number 5.5.)