Jataka 102

Paṇṇika Jātaka

The Green Grocer

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 story has a key point that might get lost a little, and that is the wickedness of the father. This comes out in the verse where the daughter calls him out. The daughter, then, is the true hero of the story.

He who should prove.” This story was told by the Master while he was at Jetavana. It is about a layman who was a greengrocer in Sāvatthi. He made a living by selling various roots and vegetables, and pumpkins and the like.

Now he had a pretty daughter who was as good and virtuous as she was pretty, but she was always laughing. And when she was asked in marriage by a family of his own station in life, he thought “She should be married, but she’s always laughing. A bad girl married into a strange family brings shame to her parents. I must find out for certain whether or not she is a good girl.”

So one day he made his daughter take a basket and come with him to the forest to gather herbs. Then to test her, he took her by the hand and whispered words of love. Straightway the girl burst into tears and began to cry out that such a thing would be as monstrous as fire rising out of water, and she pleaded with him to restrain himself. Then he told her that his only intent was to test her. He asked her if she was virtuous. And she declared that she was, and that she had never looked on any man with eyes of love. Calming her fears and taking her back home, he made a feast and gave her in marriage. Then feeling that he ought to go and pay his respects to the Master, he took perfumes and garlands in his hand and went to Jetavana. His salutations done and offerings made, he seated himself near the Master, who observed that it had been a long time since his last visit. Then the man told the Blessed One the whole story.

“She has always been a virtuous girl,” the Master said. “You tested her now just as you did in days gone by.” Then at the greengrocer’s request he told this story of the past.

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a tree sprite in a forest. And a layman who was a greengrocer of Benares had just the same doubts about his daughter, and all happened as in the introductory story. As her father took hold of her hand the weeping girl repeated these verses:

He that should prove my character strong,

My father, committed me this wrong.

Forlorn in thickest wood I cry,

My helper proves my enemy.

Figure: Remedial Dharma Class

Figure: A Cruel Test

Then her father calmed her fears and asked her whether she was a virgin. And when she declared that she was, he brought her home and made a feast and gave the girl in marriage.

His story ended, the Master gave a discourse on the Four Noble Truths, at the close of which the green grocer attained stream entry. Then the Master identified the birth by saying, “The father and daughter of today were the father and daughter in the story, and I was the tree sprite who witnessed the scene.”