Jataka 17

Māluta Jātaka

In Light or Dark

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

This is a very simple but sweet story about how the Bodhisatta was able to solve a dispute between two friends and restore harmony to their relationship. Notice the subtle point that when resolving the dispute, the Bodhisatta says that they are both right rather than that they are both wrong.

In light or dark.” This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana. It is about two monks who had joined the Saṇgha in their old age. Tradition says that they were living in a hut in the forest in the Kosala country, and that one was named Elder Dark and the other Elder Light. Now one day Light said to Dark, “Sir, in what part of the month is it cold?”

“It is cold in the dark half of the month.”

And one day Dark said to Light, “Sir, in what part of the month is it cold?”

“It is cold in the light half of the month.”

As the two of them did not agree, they went to the Master and with due salutation asked, “Sir, in what part of the month is it cold?”

After the Master heard what they had to say, he said, “Monks, in bygone days also, I answered this same question for you. But your previous existences have become confused in your minds.” (For the monks, events in previous existences became jumbled together so that no distinct memory remained. A Buddha has the power of remembering the whole of his past existences.) And so saying, he told this story of the past.

Once upon a time at the foot of a mountain, two friends, a lion and a tiger, were living together in the same cave. The Bodhisatta too was living at the foot of the same mountain as a hermit.

One day the two friends had a dispute about the cold. The tiger said it was cold in the dark half of the month, while the lion said that it was cold in the light half. As the two of them could not agree, they asked the Bodhisatta. He repeated this stanza:

In light or dark, whenever the wind blows,

Then it is cold. For cold is caused by wind.

And, therefore, I decide you both are right.

In this way the Bodhisatta made peace between those friends.

The Lion, the Tiger, and the Hermit

Figure: The Lion, the Tiger, and the Hermit

When the Master had ended his lesson in support of what he had said as to his having answered the same question in bygone days, he preached the Four Noble Truths, after which both of the Elders won the Fruit of the First Path (stream-entry). The Master showed the connection and identified the birth, by saying, “Venerable Dark was the tiger of those days, Venerable Light the lion, and I myself the hermit who answered the question.”