sunset

Jataka 143

Virocana Jātaka

The Shining

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 Jātaka references one of the iconic stories in the Pāli Canon. It is how Devadatta tried to take over the Saṇgha from the Buddha. In order to make the Buddha look bad, Devadatta publicly asked the Buddha to institute five new rules in the monastic code. These “five points” were (1) that monks could only live in the forest and not in a village, (2) they could only eat begged-for-almsfood and could not accept an invitation to a meal, (3) they could only wear robes made from rags, (4) they could not live in buildings, and (5) they could not eat fish or meat.

But the Buddha refused. This allowed Devadatta to say that the Buddha’s monks were “soft.” After this Devadatta converted 500 of the Buddha’s monks to be loyal to him. He took them to Gayāsīsa where King Ajatasattu had built a monastery for him. However, eventually Sāriputta and Moggallana were able to win the monks back.

Your mangled corpse.” This story was told by the Master while he was at the Bamboo Grove. It is about Devadatta’s efforts to pose as a Buddha at Gayāsīsa. For when his spiritual faculties left him and he lost the honor and profit which once were his, he asked the Master to concede the Five Points. (Devadatta once had supernormal powers, but he lost them when he lost his virtue in betraying the Buddha.) This being refused, he caused a schism in the Saṇgha and went to Gayāsīsa with 500 young monks They were students of the Buddha’s two chief disciples. However, they had not yet been fully instructed in the Dharma and Discipline.

With this following he created a separate Saṇgha in the same region. Knowing when the wisdom of these young monks should ripen, the Master sent the two Elders (Sāriputta and Moggāllana) to them. Devadatta misunderstood why they were there. He thought they had come over to join his Saṇgha.

Devadatta joyfully started speaking far into the night, pretending to have the masterly power of a Buddha. Then he said, “The assembly, reverend Sāriputta, is still alert and sleepless. Will you be so good as to give a Dharma talk to the monks? My back is hurting from my effort, and I must rest awhile.” So saying he went away to lie down.

Then those two chief disciples taught the monks, enlightening them as to the Fruitions and the Paths until in the end they won them all over, and they went back to the Bamboo Grove.

Finding the Monastery emptied of the monks, Kokālika (one of Devadatta’s chief lieutenants) went to Devadatta and told him how the two disciples had broken up his following and left the Monastery empty. “And yet here you still lie sleeping,” he said. He stripped off Devadatta’s outer robe and kicked him on the chest with as little hesitation as if he were knocking a roof peg into a mud wall. Blood gushed out of Devadatta’s mouth, and ever after he suffered from the effects of the blow. (The Vinaya account [Cv vii.4] omits the kicking, simply stating that Kokālika “awoke” Devadatta, and that, at the news of the defection, “warm blood gushed out of Devadatta’s mouth.” In later legends it is stated that Devadatta died then and there.)

The Master said to Sāriputta, “What was Devadatta doing when you got there?” And Sāriputta answered that, although he was posing as a Buddha, evil had befallen him. The Master said, “Even as now, Sāriputta, so in former times Devadatta imitated me to his own dismay.” Then, at the Elder’s request, he told this story of the past.


Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as a lion. He lived at Gold Den in the Himalayas.

Bounding forth one day from his lair, he looked north and west, south and east, and roared out loud as he went in search of prey. He killed a large buffalo and ate the best meat of the carcass. After that he went down to a pool, drank his fill of crystal-clear water, and then turned to go back to his den.

Now a hungry jackal, suddenly meeting the lion, was unable to escape. He threw himself at the lion’s feet. Being asked what he wanted, the jackal replied, “Lord, let me be your servant.”

“Very well,” the lion said. “Serve me and you will eat prime meat.”

He went back to the Golden Den with the jackal following behind. After that the lion’s leftovers went to the jackal, and the jackal got fat.

Lying one day in his den, the lion told the jackal to scan the valleys from the mountain top, to see whether there were any elephants or horses or buffalos or any other animals of which he, the jackal, was fond. If there were any in sight, the jackal was to report back and say with due obeisance, “Shine forth in your might, Lord.” Then the lion promised to kill and eat whatever he wanted, giving a part to the jackal.

So the jackal started to climb the heights, and whenever he saw below animals that he liked, he would report it to the lion. He would fall at his feet and say, “Shine forth in your might, Lord.” Then the lion would nimbly bound forth and kill the beast, even if it were a rutting elephant (a very belligerent elephant). The he shared the prime meat of the carcass with the jackal. Stuffed with his meal, the jackal would then retire to his den and sleep.

Now as time went on, the jackal grew bigger and bigger until be grew vain and arrogant. “Do I not also have four legs?” he asked himself. “Why do I live off of someone else’s leftovers? From here on I will kill elephants and other beasts for my own eating. The lion, king of beasts, only kills them because of the formula, ‘Shine forth in your might, Lord.’ I'll make the lion call out to me, ‘Shine forth in your might, jackal,’ and then I’ll kill an elephant for myself.”

Accordingly, he went to the lion. He pointed out that he had long lived on what the lion had killed. He stated his desire to eat an elephant that he had killed. He ending with a request to the lion to let him, the jackal, rest in the lion’s corner in Gold Den while the lion climbed the mountain to look out for an elephant. When he found the quarry, he asked the lion to come to him in the den and say, “Shine forth in your might, jackal.” He begged the lion not to begrudge him this much.

The lion replied, “Jackal, only lions can kill elephants. The world has never seen a jackal who is able to kill them. Give up this fantasy and continue to eat what I kill.”

But no matter what the lion said, the jackal would not give in. He continued to beg for his request. So at last the lion gave in. He told the jackal to lie down in the den. Then he climbed the peak and there he saw a rutting elephant. Returning to the den, he said, “Shine forth in your might, jackal.”

Then the jackal nimbly bounded forth from Gold Den. He looked around him on all four sides and howled three times. He sprang at the elephant, meaning to bite down on its head. But he missed his target and landed at the elephant’s feet. The infuriated brute raised its right foot and crushed the jackal’s head, trampling the bones into powder. Then he pounded the carcass into a mass, defecated on it, and ran off trumpeting into the forest.

Figure: This Will Not End Well

Figure: This Will Not End Well

Seeing all this, the Bodhisatta observed, “Now shine forth in your might, jackal,” and uttered this stanza:

Your mangled corpse, your brains smashed into clay,

Prove how you’ve shone forth in your might today.

Thus spoke the Bodhisatta. And living to a ripe old age he passed away in the fullness of time to fare according to his karma.


His lesson ended, the Master identified the birth by saying, “Devadatta was the jackal of those days, and I was the lion.”