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Jataka 4

Cullaka-seṭṭi Jātaka

Chullaka the Treasurer

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

There are many people who think that there is a stigma attached to making money, but you will not find that in the Buddha’s teachings. He often praised people who were astute in business. Of course, he also made it clear that business must be honest and fair, but there is nothing negative attached to earning a good living. The Buddha also gave advice on how money should be responsibly managed, to account for calamities, to take care of your family, and to support charitable causes.

In this story a clever young man is able to start with nothing but a humble mouse and turn it into a fortune.

With humblest start.” The Master told this story while he was staying at Jīvaka’s Mango grove near Rājagaha. (Jīvaka was King Bimbisara’s court physician and a prominent lay disciple of the Buddha’s.) It is about an elder monk named Little Wayman. And here we must preface the story by giving an account of Little Wayman’s origins.

The daughter of a rich merchant’s family in Rājagaha became romantically involved with a servant. She was afraid that her family would find out about their affair, so she said to the servant, “We can’t stay here, for if my mother and father find out about us, they will tear us limb from limb. Let us go and live far away from here.” So carrying everything they could, they snuck out of the house and ran away.

They eventually found a place to live, and after a while the daughter became pregnant. When it was nearly time for her to give birth, she said to her husband, “If I go into labor without being with my family, there will be trouble for us both. So let us go home.” (It was the custom in those days for a pregnant woman to go back to her family and give birth there.) At first he agreed to leave right away, but then he put it off until the next day. He kept doing this day after day until she thought to herself, “This fool is so afraid of his offence that he dares not go. One’s parents are one’s best friends, so whether he goes or stays, I must go.” So, when he went out, she put all her household matters in order and left, telling her next-door neighbor where she was going. When he returned home and did not find his wife, he found out from the neighbor that she had started off home. He hurried after her and caught up with her on the road, just after she had given birth.

“What’s this, my dear?” he said.

“I have given birth to a son, my husband,” she said.

Accordingly, as she had already given birth, they both agreed that there was no reason to go on, and so they turned back again. And as their child had been born by the way, they called him “Wayman.”

Not long after, she became pregnant again, and everything happened as before. And as this second child too was born by the way, they also called him “Wayman,” calling the older son “Big Wayman” and the younger son “Little Wayman” Then, with both their children, they again went back to their own home.

As he got older, Big Wayman heard other boys talking about their uncles and grandfathers and grandmothers. So he asked his mother if he had relatives like the other boys. “Oh yes, my dear,” his mother said, “But they don’t live here. Your grandfather is a wealthy merchant in the city of Rājagaha, and you have many relatives there.”

“Why don’t we go there, mother?” he said.

She told the boy why they stayed away. But as the children kept on asking about their relatives, she finally said to her husband, “The children are always pestering me. Are my parents going to eat us? Come, let us show the children their grandfather’s family.”

“Well, I don’t mind taking them there, but I really could not face your parents.”

“All right,” she said. “As long as, some way or other, the children are able to see their grandfather’s family.”

So they took their children and went to Rājagaha. They stayed in a public rest house by the city gate. Then they sent word to her parents that they were in the city and wanted the children to see their grandparents and family. The latter, on hearing the message, returned this answer, “True, it is strange to be without children unless one has renounced the world and become a monk or a nun. Still, your offence is so great that we will not see you. However, here is some money for you. Take it and go live where you want. But you may send the children here.”

Then the merchant’s daughter took the money and sent the children back with the messengers. So the children grew up in their grandfather’s house. Because he was older, Big Wayman used to go with his grandfather to hear the Buddha preach the Dharma. And by constantly hearing the Dharma from the Master’s own lips, the boy’s heart yearned to renounce the world for the life of a monk.

“With your permission,” said he to his grandfather, “I would like to join the Saṇgha.”

“What do I hear?” cried the old man. “Why, it would give me greater joy to see you join the Saṇgha than to see the whole world join. Become a monk, if you wish.” And he took him to the Master.

“Well, merchant,” said the Master, “Have you brought your boy with you?”

“Yes sir. This is my grandson, and he wants to join the Saṇgha.” Then the Master sent for a senior monk and told him to admit the boy to the Saṇgha. The monk performed the ordination ceremony and admitted the boy as a novice monk. When the boy had memorized many discourses and was old enough, he was given the higher ordination as a full monk. He now devoted himself to the training until he won Arahatship.

As he passed his days in the enjoyment of insight and the path, he thought about imparting the same happiness to Little Wayman. So he went to his grandfather and said, “Great merchant, with your consent, I will admit Little Wayman to the Saṇgha.”

“Please do so, reverend sir,” his grandfather replied.

Then the elder admitted the boy Little Wayman and gave him the novice ordination. But Little Wayman proved a dullard. Even after studying for four months he was unable to learn even this single stanza:

Lo! like a fragrant lotus at the dawn

Of day, full-blown, with virgin wealth of scent,

Behold the Buddha’s glory shining forth,

As in the vaulted heaven beams the sun!

Sadly, we are told that his brother ridiculed the dull Little Wayman. His scorn so hurt the novice monk that it was impossible for him to learn this passage. Each new line he learned drove the last one out of his memory, and as the four months slipped by, he was still struggling with this single stanza. His brother said to him, “Wayman, you do not deserve to receive this doctrine. In four whole months you have been unable to learn a single stanza. How can you hope to achieve supreme success? You should leave the monastery.”

But, even though he was expelled, Little Wayman so loved the Buddha’s teaching that he did not want to become a layman.

Now at that time Big Wayman was acting as steward. And Jīvaka Komārabhacca, going to his mango grove with a large present of perfumes and flowers for the Master, had presented his offering and listened to a discourse. Then, rising from his seat and bowing to the Buddha, he went up to Big Wayman and asked, “How many monks are there, reverend sir, with the Master?”

“Just 500, sir.”

“Will you bring the 500 monks, with the Buddha at their head, to take their meal at my house tomorrow?”

“Lay disciple, one of them named Little Wayman is a dullard and makes no progress on the path,” said the senior monk. “I accept the invitation for everyone but him.”

Hearing this Little Wayman thought to himself, “In accepting the invitation for all these monks, my brother carefully accepts so as to exclude me. This proves that my brother’s affection for me is dead. My situation here is hopeless. I will become a layman and exercise charity and the other good works of a lay person.” And early the next day he left the monastery, intending to become a layman again.

Now at the first break of day, as he was surveying the world, the Master became aware of this, and leaving even earlier than Little Wayman, he waited on the road that he knew Little Wayman would take. As Little Wayman came up the road, he saw the Master, and with a salutation went up to him. The Master said, “Where are you going at this hour, Little Wayman?”

“My brother has expelled me from the Saṇgha, sir, and so I am leaving.”

“Little Wayman, because you took your vows under me, why did you not come to me when your brother expelled you? What would you do with a layman’s life? You shall come with me.”

He then took Little Wayman and seated him at the door of his own perfumed hut. He gave him a perfectly clean cloth which he had supernaturally created, and the Master said, “Face towards the east, and as you handle this cloth, repeat these words: ‘Removal of impurity. Removal of impurity.’” Then at the time appointed, the Master, attended by the Saṇgha, went to Jīvaka’s house and sat down on the seat set for him.

Now Little Wayman, with his gaze fixed on the sun, sat handling the cloth and repeating the words, “Removal of impurity. Removal of impurity.” And as he kept handling the piece of cloth, it got increasingly dirty. Then he thought, “This piece of cloth was quite clean, but my personality has destroyed its purity and made it dirty. Indeed, all conditioned things are impermanent!” And just as he saw into the truth of death and decay, he attained the first stage of awakening, stream entry.

Knowing that Little Wayman’s mind had awakened, the Master sent an apparition and an image of himself appeared before him, as if seated in front of him, and said, “Heed it not, Little Wayman, that this mere piece of cloth has become dirty and stained with impurity. Within you are the impurities of lust and other evil things. Remove them." And the apparition uttered these stanzas:

Lust is impurity, not dirt.

We call lust the real impurity.

Yea, monk, who drives it from his breast,

He lives the gospel of the purified.


Anger is impurity, not dirt.

We call anger the real impurity.

Yea, monk, who drives it from his breast,

He lives the gospel of the purified.


Ignorance is impurity, not dirt.

We call ignorance the real impurity.

Yea, monks, who drives it from his breast,

He lives the gospel of the purified.

At the close of these stanzas Little Wayman attained a full awakening, to Arahatship, with the four branches of knowledge ((1) understanding the meaning of the Dharma, (2) understanding its ethical truth, (3) the ability to understand it logically, and (4) the ability to teach it), whereby he came to know all the sacred teachings.

Tradition has it that in ages past, when he was a king and was making a solemn procession around his city, he wiped the sweat from his brow with a spotless cloth that he was wearing, and the cloth was stained. He thought, “It is this body of mine which has destroyed the original purity and whiteness of the cloth and dirtied it. All conditioned things are indeed impermanent.” Thus he grasped the idea of impermanence, and subsequently it was the removal of impurity which achieved his salvation.

Meantime, Jīvaka Komārabhacca offered the Water of Donation (When a gift was made, the donor poured water over the hand of the donee), but the Master put his hand over the vessel, saying, “Are there any monks, Jīvaka, in the monastery?”

Big Wayman responded, “There are no monks there, reverend sir.”

“Oh yes, there are, Jīvaka,” said the Master.

“Hey, there!” said Jīvaka to a servant. “Go and see whether or not there are any monks in the monastery.”

At that moment Little Wayman, aware that his brother was declaring there were no monks in the monastery, determined to show him there were. He used his newly acquired psychic powers to project a host of monks into the mango grove. Some were making robes, others dyeing, while others were chanting discourses. He made every monk different from all the others. When the servant saw so many monks at the monastery, he returned and said that the whole mango grove was full of monks.

But as regards the monk at the monastery:

Wayman, a thousand-fold self-multiplied,

Sat on, till bidden, in that pleasant grove.

“Now go back,” said the Master to the servant,” and say ‘The Master sends for him whose name is Little Wayman.’”

But when the man went and delivered his message, a thousand mouths answered, “I am Little Wayman! I am Little Wayman!”

The man came back and reported, “They all say they are ‘Little Wayman,’ reverend sir.”

“Well now go back,” said the Master, “and take the hand of the first one of them who says he is Little Wayman, and the others will all disappear.” The man did as he was told, and immediately the thousand monks disappeared. Little Wayman came back with the servant.

When the meal was over, the Master said, “Jīvaka, take Little Wayman’s bowl. He will return thanks.” Jīvaka did so. Then, like a young lion roaring defiance, Little Wayman ranged the whole of the discourses through in his address of thanks. Finally, the Master rose from his seat and, attended by the Saṇgha, returned to the monastery. There, after the assignment of tasks by the Saṇgha, he rose from his seat and, standing in the doorway of his perfumed hut, delivered a discourse. He ended with a theme that he gave out for meditation, and dismissing the Saṇgha, he went into his perfumed hut and lay down lion-like on his right side to rest.

The yellow-robed monks assembled together from all sides in the hall and sang the Master’s praises. It was said, “Big Wayman failed to see the capacity of Little Wayman and expelled him from the monastery as a dullard who could not even learn a single stanza in four whole months. But the All-Knowing Buddha by his supremacy in the Dharma bestowed on him Arahatship with all its supernatural knowledge, even while a meal was in progress. And by that knowledge he grasped the whole of the sacred texts. Oh! how great is a Buddha’s power!”

Now the Blessed One, knowing full well the discussion that was going on in the Hall of Truth, thought it appropriate to go there. So he put on his two yellow under-robes, girded himself as with lightning, arrayed himself in his yellow outer robe, the ample robe of a Buddha, and went to the Hall of Truth with the infinite grace of a Buddha, moving with the royal gait of an elephant with an abundance of vigor. Ascending the glorious Buddha-throne set in the midst of the resplendent hall, he seated himself upon the middle of the throne emitting those six-colored rays which mark a Buddha, like the newly-arisen sun, when from the peaks of the Yugandhara Mountains he illumines the depths of the ocean. When the All-Knowing One came into the Hall, the monks broke off their talk and were silent. Gazing round on the company with gentle loving-kindness, the Master thought within himself, “This company is perfect! Not a man is guilty of moving hand or foot improperly. Not a sound, not a cough or sneeze is to he heard! In their reverence and awe of the majesty and glory of the Buddha, not a man would dare to speak before I did, even if I sat here in silence all my life long. But it is my part to begin, and I will open the conversation.” Then in his sweet divine tones he addressed the monks and said, “What were you just talking about?”

“Sir,” they said, “it was not idle chatter. We were praising you.”

And when they had told him word for word what they had been saying, the Master said, “Monks, through me Little Wayman has just now risen to great things in the practice. In the past he also rose to great things as well. He became wealthy, also because of me.”

The monks asked the Master to explain this, and the Blessed One made clear in these words a thing that had been hidden from them.


Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares in Kāsi, the Bodhisatta was born into the treasurer’s family, and after growing up, became the treasurer himself. Thus he was called the “Little Treasurer.” He was a wise and clever man, with a keen eye for signs and omens. One day on his way to wait upon the king, he came on a dead mouse lying on the road. Noticing the position of the stars at that moment, he said, “Any decent young fellow with his wits about him has only to pick that mouse up, and he might start a business and keep a wife.”

The Little Treasurer and the Mouse

Figure: The Little Treasurer and the Mouse

Nearby there was a young man who was from a good family, but they had recently had some bad fortune. He heard what the Little Treasurer said, and thought, “That’s a man who always has a good reason for what he says.” And so he picked up the mouse, which he then sold for a small coin at a tavern for their cat.

With the small coin he bought some honey and got some drinking water in a water pot. He went out to find some flower gatherers who were returning from the forest. He gave each a tiny quantity of the honey and ladled the water out to them. Each of them gave him a handful of flowers. He sold the flowers and the next day, he came back again to the flower grounds with more honey and a pot of water. That day the flower gatherers, before they went, gave him flowering plants with half the flowers left on them, and thus, after selling them, he had eight coins.

Later, one rainy and windy day, the wind blew down a quantity of rotten branches and boughs and leaves in the king’s pleasure garden, and the gardener could not figure out how to clear them away. The young man offered to remove the debris, if he could keep the wood and leaves. The gardener immediately agreed. Then this apt pupil of the Little Treasurer went to the children’s playground and bribed them with honey to collect every stick and leaf in the place into a heap at the entrance to the pleasure garden.

Just then the king’s potter was on the lookout for fuel to fire bowls for the palace, and coming on this heap, bought the lot off his hands. The sale of the wood brought in sixteen coins to this pupil of the Little Treasurer, as well as five bowls and other vessels.

He now had 24 coins in all, and then he had another idea. He went to the city gate with a jar full of water and supplied 500 mowers with water to drink. They said, “You’ve done us a kind favor, friend. What can we do for you?”

“Oh, I’ll tell you when I want your help,” he said.

As he wandered about, he struck up friendships with a land trader and a sea trader. The land trader said to him, “Tomorrow a horse dealer with 500 horses to sell will come to town.”

On hearing this, he said to the mowers, “I want each of you today to give me a bundle of grass and not to sell your own grass until mine is sold.”

“Certainly,” they said and delivered the 500 bundles of grass at his house.

The next day, the horse dealer was, not surprisingly, unable to get grass for his horses elsewhere. So the horse dealer bought our friend’s grass for a thousand coins.

Only a few days later his sea trading friend told him about the arrival of a large ship in port, and he had another idea. He hired a well-appointed carriage for eight coins and went in great style down to the port. He bought the ship on credit and deposited a signet ring as security. He had a pavilion built nearby and said to his people as he took his seat inside, “When merchants are being shown in, have them pass by three successive ushers into my presence.” Hearing that a ship had arrived in port, about a hundred merchants came down to buy the cargo, only to be told that they could not have it as a great merchant had already bought everything. So they all went to the young man, and the footmen duly announced them by three successive ushers. Each man of the hundred gave him a thousand pieces to buy a share in the ship and then another thousand to buy him out altogether. So it was with 200,000 pieces that this pupil of the Little Treasurer returned to Benares.

To show his gratitude, he went with one hundred thousand pieces to call on the Little Treasurer. “How did you come by all this wealth?” asked the Treasurer. “In four short months, simply by following your advice,” replied the young man, and he told him the whole story, starting with the dead mouse.

The Lord High Treasurer, on hearing all this, thought “I must see that this resourceful young fellow does not fall into anybody else’s hands.” So he married him to his own grown-up daughter and settled all the family estates on the young man. And at the Treasurer’s death, the young man became treasurer in that city.

And the Little Treasurer passed away to fare according to his karma.


His lesson ended, the Supreme Buddha, the All-Knowing One himself, repeated this stanza:

With humblest start and trifling capital

A shrewd and able man will rise to wealth,

Even as his breath can nurse a tiny flame.

Also the Blessed One said, “It is through me, monks, that Little Wayman has just now risen to great things in the path, as in times past to great things in the way of wealth.” His lesson thus finished, the Master made the connection between the two stories he had told and identified the birth in these concluding words, “Little Wayman was in those days the pupil of the Little Treasurer, and I myself was Lord High Treasurer.”