The Life of Sariputta

by Nyanaponika Thera | 1994 | 26,620 words

Compiled and translated from the Pali texts by Nyanaponika Thera The Wheel Publication No. 90/92 ISBN 955-24-0015-5 Copyright © 1987 Buddhist Publication Society For free distribution only. You may print copies of this work for your personal use. You may re-format and redistribute this work for use on computers and computer networks, provided th...

Part V - Sariputta In The Jatakas

As might be expected, the Venerable Sariputta makes frequent appearances in the Jatakas, the stories of the Buddha's previous lives. In these, the Bodhisatta and Sariputta assume various roles; in some existences we find Sariputta as the teacher and the Bodhisatta as pupil, as for example in the Susima (163), Cula Nandiya (223), Silavimamsa (305), Karandiya (356) and Maha Dhammapala (447) Jatakas. In the last-mentioned Jataka, however, the Bodhisatta, as pupil, gives his teacher, Sariputta, a valuable lesson: not to give the Five Precepts indiscriminately to those who have no desire to accept them nor the intention to observe them.

In several births Sariputta appears as a human being and the Bodhisatta an animal. Some examples are the Cula Nandiya Jataka (223), the Romaka Jataka (277) -- where Sariputta, as a wise ascetic, instructs a partridge, the Bodhisatta -- the Bhojajaniya Jataka (23) and the Dummedha Jataka (122).

In other stories the roles are reversed, as in the Jarudapana (256) and Kundakakucchi Sindhava (254) Jatakas (for the latter, see below), where Sariputta is an animal and the Bodhisatta human. Sometimes, as in the Kurungamiga Jataka (206), both are animals.

The following are summaries of Jatakas in which the Venerable Sariputta's previous personalities appear.

  • Lakkhana Jataka (11):
    As the wise one of two brother stags, each leader of a herd, Sariputta brings his herd safely back to the hills from a dangerous track, while his foolish brother (Devadatta) loses his whole herd.
  • Bhojajaniya Jataka (23):
    The Bodhisatta is a superb warsteed, while Sariputta is a knight entrusted with the task of capturing seven hostile kings. He succeeds, thanks to the endurance and sacrificing spirit of the steed.
  • Visavanta Jataka (69):
    Sariputta is a snake which refuses to suck back its poison from a man bitten by it, preferring death. This Jataka was told when Sariputta, the Great Disciple, gave up the eating of meal cakes, which he enjoyed, and never went back on his resolution.
  • Parosahassa Jataka (99):
    Sariputta, as pupil of a hermit teacher, is able to understand short, enigmatic sayings. A comment on his penetrative mind.
  • Dummedha Jataka (122):
    Sariputta, as a king of Benares, is able to appreciate excellence when he sees it. The Bodhisatta is a superb white elephant. Devadatta, as king of Magadha, had owned that elephant but lost it through jealousy.
  • Rajovada Jataka (151):
    Sariputta and Maha Moggallana are both charioteers of powerful kings. Meeting one another on a narrow road, each expects the other to give way, and they decide the issue by proclaiming the virtues of their respective monarchs. Sariputta, whose king is the Bodhisatta, wins the contest by showing that his master's virtue is superior: he is not only good to those who are good, he is good to the bad as well.
  • Alinacitta Jataka (156):
    Sariputta, as an elephant, shows the virtue of gratitude.
  • Kurungamiga Jataka (206):
    Sariputta as a woodpecker and Maha Moggallana as a tortoise save the life of the Bodhisatta, who is an antelope, from a hunter (Devadatta). Later, the woodpecker saves the imprisoned tortoise.
  • Cula Nandiya Jataka (223):
    As a wise brahman teacher, Sariputta advises his pupil, Devadatta, not to be harsh, cruel and violent, but his exhortation is in vain.
  • Kundakakucchi Sindhava Jataka (254):
    Sariputta, as a wondrous horse owned by the Bodhisatta, a horse-dealer, benefits an impoverished old woman who had owned the horse previously.
  • Jarudapana Jataka (256):
    Sariputta, as a Naga king, helps the Bodhisatta, a merchant, to transport some treasure which the latter found.
  • Vyaggha Jataka (272):
    In a former life as a Yakkha, the monk Kokalika could not live together with Sariputta and Maha Moggallana, nor could he live without them.
  • Romaka Jataka (277):
    Sariputta, as a wise ascetic, instructs a partridge, the Bodhisatta.
  • Abbhantara (281) and Supatta (292) Jatakas:
    Incidents of Sariputta's last life. Rahula, whose mother is a bhikkhuni, requests the Venerable Sariputta to get sugared mango juice as a medicine for her flatulence, which he does. In (292), for another illness of hers, the Venerable Sariputta procures rice cooked with ghee and flavored with red fish (rohita-maccha).
  • Sayha Jataka (310):
    Ananda, as a king sends his courtier, Sayha (Sariputta) to a friend of his youth (the Bodhisatta) who had become an ascetic, asking him in vain to return and be the court brahman.
  • Khantivadi Jataka (313):
    When the Bodhisatta was a wise ascetic, the Preacher of Patience (Khantivadi), and was tortured by King Kalabu (Devadatta), Sariputta was that king's commander-in-chief of the army. Sariputta bandaged the Bodhisatta's wounds.
  • Mamsa Jataka (315):
    Sariputta was a hunter and the Bodhisatta a merchant's son. Addressing the hunter as ""friend", and winning him over with kind words, the Bodhisatta persuaded him to give up his cruel profession.
  • Vannoroha Jataka (361):
    In their last lives, when the Great Disciples Sariputta and Maha Moggallana were living in solitude, a beggar who attended on them and ate the remnants of their food, tried to set them at variance but failed. Each of them just smiled at the calumnies and told to go away. The Jataka relates that the same had happened in an earlier life when the beggar was a jackal and Sariputta and Maha Moggallana were a lion and a tiger.
  • Kotisimbali Jataka (412):
    Sariputta, as a king of the Garudas (supanna-raja) saves a tree which was the home of a tree spirit, the Bodhisatta.
  • Kanha Dipayana Jataka (444):
    Sariputta is the ascetic Ani-Mandaviya. Impaled by the king on a false accusation, he bears the torture patiently and without resentment, knowing it to be the result of past evil kamma. The Bodhisatta is his brother-ascetic, Kanha Dipayana, who in an Act of Truth confesses that all throughout he has lived the ascetic life unwillingly, except for the first week.
  • Maha Paduma Jataka (472):
    Sariputta, as a hill spirit, saves the life of the Bodhisatta, who is Prince Maha Paduma.
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