Jataka 63

Takka Jātaka

The Date Sage

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 another in the misogyny series, although this one is much more easily edited to be in harmony with the true teachings of the Buddha.

An interesting point in this story is when the robber realizes that if the woman was capable of betraying the Bodhisatta, she was also capable of betraying him. This is a general lesson in life. If you know someone who is treating someone else badly, they can just as easily do it to you.

The fire of lust.” This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana. It is about another monk who was overwhelmed by sexual desire. When he was questioned, the monk confessed that he was overwhelmed by passion. The Master said, “With sensual pleasures as the cause, people indulge in misconduct of body, speech, and mind.” And he told this story of the past.

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta, who had chosen to live as a recluse, built a hermitage for himself by the banks of the Ganges. There he won the Attainments (the jhānas) and the Higher Knowledges (these are supernormal powers, but not awakening), and so he lived in the bliss of Insight.

In those days the Lord High Treasurer of Benares had a fierce and cruel daughter. She was known as Lady Wicked. She used to abuse and beat her servants and slaves. One day they took their young mistress to enjoy herself in the Ganges. The girls were playing in the water when the sun set, and a great storm burst upon them. Everyone there ran away. The girl’s attendants exclaimed, “Now is the time to see the last of this creature!” They threw her into the river and ran off.

The rain poured down in torrents. The sun set, and darkness came. When the attendants reached home without their young mistress, they asked where she was. They replied that she had gotten out of the Ganges, but that they did not know where she had gone. The family searched for her, but they could not find any trace of the missing girl.

Meantime she was screaming loudly and was being swept down the swollen river. At midnight she approached where the Bodhisatta lived in his hermitage. Hearing her cries, he thought to himself, “That’s a woman’s voice. I must rescue her from the water.” So he took a torch of grass and by its light was able to find her in the stream. “Don’t be afraid! Don't be afraid!” he shouted cheerily. He waded in, and thanks to his vast strength – like that of an elephant - he brought her safely to land. Then he made a fire for her in his hermitage and set out delicious fruits of many kinds for her.

When she had eaten he asked, “Where is your home, and how did you fall in the river?” The girl told him all that had happened. “Live here for the time being,” he said, and he settled her in to live in his hermitage.

For the next two or three days he lived outside in the open air. At the end of that time he told her that it was time for her to leave. However, she was determined to make the recluse fall in love with her, and she would not go.

As time went by, she so worked on him by her charm and beauty so that he lost his Insight. For some time they continued to live in the forest. But she did not like living in solitude, and she wanted to be taken back among people. So yielding to her request, he took her away with him to a border village. There he supported her by selling dates, and so he was called the “Date Sage” (In the original Pāli this is a pun. The Pāli word for “date” is “takka,” which also means “logic.”). The villagers also paid him to teach them what were lucky and unlucky seasons (again, presumably through astrology), and they gave him a hut to live in at the entrance to their village.

Now the border was harassed by robbers from the mountains. One day they raided the village where the pair lived and looted it. They made the poor villagers pack up their belongings, and off they went. They took the Treasurer’s daughter with them. Once they arrived, they let everybody else go free. But because the girl was so beautiful, she became the wife of the chief robber.

When the Bodhisatta learned this, he thought to himself, “She will not endure living away from me. She will escape and come back to me.” And so he lived on, waiting for her to return. Meantime, she was very happy with the robbers. She was afraid that the Date Sage would come to take her away. “I would feel more secure,” she thought, “if he were dead. I must send a message to him pretending to love him and in that way I can entice him here to his death.” So she sent a messenger to him with the message that she was unhappy, and that she wanted him to take her away.

In his faith in her, he set out immediately. He came to the entrance of the robbers’ village where he sent a message to her. “To run away now, my husband,” she said, “would only cause the robbers to kill us both. Let us wait until night.” So she took him and hid him in a room.

When the robber came home that night and was consumed with alcohol, she said to him, “Tell me, love, what would you do if your rival were in your power?”

He said he would do this and that to him.

“Perhaps he is not as far away as you think,” she said. “He is in the next room.”

Seizing a torch, the robber rushed in and seized the Bodhisatta and beat him about the head and body to his heart’s content. Amid the blows the Bodhisatta made no cry, only murmuring, “Cruel ingrate! Slanderous traitor!” And this was all he said. And when the Bodhisatta had been beaten, bound, and laid by the heels, the robber finished his supper and lay down to sleep.

In the morning, when he had slept off his overnight debauchery, he started to beat the Bodhisatta again. And again the Bodhisatta made no cry but kept repeating the same four words. And the robber was struck with this and asked why, even when beaten, he kept saying that.

“Listen,” said the Date Sage, “and you shall hear. Once I was a recluse living in the solitude of the forest, and there I won Insight. And I rescued this woman from the Ganges. I helped her in her time of need, and by her charm and beauty I fell from my accomplishments. Then I left the forest and supported her in a village where she was carried off by robbers. Then she sent me a message saying that she was unhappy and that she wanted me to come and take her away. Now she has made me fall into your hands. That is why I say, ‘Cruel ingrate! Slanderous traitor!’”

This got the robber to reflect. He thought, “If she can feel so little for someone who was so good to her and has done so much for her, what wouldn’t she do to me? She must die.” So having reassured the Bodhisatta and having awakened the woman, he set out, sword in hand. He pretended that he was about to kill him outside the village. Then telling her to hold the Date Sage, he drew his sword and split the woman in two. Then he bathed the Date Sage from head to foot, and for several days fed him with delicacies to his heart’s content.

Explaining the Betrayal

Figure: Explaining the Betrayal

“Where do you plan to go now?” said the robber at last.

“The world,” answered the sage, “has no pleasures for me. I will become a recluse once more and go back to my hut in the forest.”

“Then I, too, will become a recluse,” exclaimed the robber. So both became recluses together. They lived in the hermitage in the forest, where they both won the Higher Knowledges and the Attainments. And when life ended. they entered the Realm of Brahma.

After telling these two stories, the Master showed the connection, by reciting, as the Buddha, this stanza:

Burning with the fire of lust,

Passion is the sower of dissension and strife!

Then, brother, tread the path of holiness,

And you will not fail to find bliss.

His lesson ended, the Master preached the Four Noble Truths, at the close of which the passionate monk won the Fruit of the First Path. Also, the Master identified the birth by saying, “Ānanda was the robber chief of those days, and I myself was the Date Sage.”