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Jataka 88

Sārambha Jātaka

Abusive Speech

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


In the Jātaka that is referenced here (28), the Bodhisatta is born as a very strong bull. His owner makes a bet that he can pull 100 carts. But when it comes time to settle the bet, the owner berates the bull and calls him names. This causes the bull to refuse to pull the 100 carts, thus losing his owner the bet.

But the story has a happy ending. The bull agrees to win another bet for his owner, but his owner must agree to treat the bull with respect. He does so, and the owner wins the second bet.

Speak kindly.” This story was told by the Master while at Sāvatthi. It is about right speech and abstaining from abusive language. The introductory story and the story of the past are the same as in the Nandivisāla Jātaka (Jātaka 28 – The Bull Who Won the Bet).

But in this case, instead of a bull, the Bodhisatta was an ox named Sārambha. He belonged to a brahmin of Takkasilā in the kingdom of Gandhāra. After telling the story of the past, the Master, as Buddha, uttered this stanza:

Speak kindly, do not disparage your fellow.

Love kindness. Speaking abusively breeds sorrow.

When the Master had ended his lesson he identified the birth by saying, “Ānanda was the brahmin of those days, (the Elder Nun) Uppalavaṇṇā his wife, and I was Sārambha.”

Figure: Abusing an Ox… Such a Bad Idea

Figure: Abusing an Ox… Such a Bad Idea