Jataka 58

Tayodhamma Jātaka

The Three Virtues

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

Here is another story about the arch-villain Devadatta.

Any story with a monkey king and an ogre has got to be good.

Someone like you.” This story was told by the Master while at the bamboo grove. It is about killing.

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, Devadatta was reborn as a monkey. He lived near the Himalayas as the lord of a tribe of monkeys all of whom were his own children. Afraid that his male children might grow up to oust him from his lordship, he used to castrate them all with his teeth. Now the Bodhisatta had been conceived as the son of this same monkey. His mother, in order to save her unborn child, stole away to a forest at the foot of the mountain. In due time she gave birth to the Bodhisatta. And when he was fully grown and had come to the age of understanding, he had the gift of marvelous strength.

“Where is my father?” he said one day to his mother.

“He lives at the foot of a certain mountain, my son,” She replied. “And he is the king of a tribe of monkeys.”

“Take me to see him, mother.”

“No, my son, for your father is so afraid of being removed by his sons that he castrates them all with his teeth.”

“Never mind. Take me there, mother,” the Bodhisatta said. “I will know what to do.”

So she took him with her to the old monkey. At the sight of his son, the old monkey, feeling sure that the Bodhisatta would grow up to depose him, faked an affectionate embrace to crush the life out of the Bodhisatta.

“Ah! my boy!” he cried. “Where have you been all this time?”

And making a show of embracing the Bodhisatta, he hugged him like a vice. But the Bodhisatta, who was as strong as an elephant, returned the hug so mightily that his father’s ribs almost broke.

Then the old monkey thought, “This son of mine, if he grows up, he will certainly kill me.” Thinking about how to kill the Bodhisatta first, he thought about a lake that was nearby. An ogre lived there who might eat him. So he said to the Bodhisatta, “I’m old now, my boy, and I would like to hand the tribe over to you. Today you will be made king. In a lake nearby there are two kinds of water lilies that grow, three kinds of blue lotus, and five kinds of white lotus. Go and some for me.”

“Yes, father,” the Bodhisatta answered, and off he went.

Approaching the lake with caution, he studied the footprints on its banks. He noticed that all of them led down to the water but none ever came back. Realizing that the lake was haunted by an ogre, he realized that his father, being unable to kill him himself, wanted the ogre to kill him. “But I’ll get the lotuses,” he said, “without going into the water at all.”

So he went to a dry spot, and running, he leaped from the bank. In his jump, as he was clearing the water, he plucked two flowers which grew up above the surface of the water, and he landed with them on the opposite bank. On his way back, he plucked two more in the same way. And so he made a pile of flowers on both sides of the lake. But he always kept out of the ogre’s watery domain.

When he had picked as many flowers as he thought he could carry, the astonished ogre exclaimed, “I’ve lived in this lake for a long time, but I never saw even a human being so wonderfully clever! Here is this monkey who has picked all the flowers he wants, and yet he has kept safely out of range of my power.” And, parting the waters aside, the ogre came up out of the lake to where the Bodhisatta stood. He said to him, “Oh king of the monkeys, he that has three qualities shall have the mastery over his enemies. And you, I think, have all three.”

And, so saying, he repeated this stanza in the Bodhisatta’s praise:

Someone like you, Oh monkey king, combines

Dexterity and Valor and Resource,

And shall see his routed foe turn and flee.

His praises ended, the ogre asked the Bodhisatta why he was gathering the flowers.

“My father is going to make me king of his tribe,” said the Bodhisatta, “and that is why I am gathering them.”

“But someone who is so peerless should not carry flowers,” exclaimed the ogre. “I will carry them for you.” And so he picked up the flowers and followed along behind the Bodhisatta.

Isn’t that sweet?

Figure: Isn’t that sweet?

Seeing this from afar, the Bodhisatta’s father knew that his plot had failed. “I sent my son to fall prey to the ogre, and here he is returning safe and sound, with the ogre humbly carrying his flowers for him! I am undone!” cried the old monkey. And his heart exploded into seven pieces, and he died then and there. And all the other monkeys met together and chose the Bodhisatta to be their king.

His lesson ended, the Master showed the connection and identified the birth by saying, “Devadatta was then the king of the monkeys, and I was his son.”