The Mahavastu (great story)

by J. J. Jones | 1949 | 502,133 words | ISBN-10: 086013041X

This page describes jataka of the bull which is Chapter XXVIII-b of the English translation of the Mahavastu (“great story”), dating to the 2nd-century BC. This work belongs to the Mahasanghika school of early Buddhism and contains narrative stories of the Buddha’s former lives, such as Apadanas, Jatakas and more..

Chapter XXVIII-b - The Jātaka of the Bull

Once upon a time, O sons of Vasiṣṭha, long ago, in the city of Rājagṛha, there ruled a king who was virtuous, mighty, kind to his servants, liberal and charitable, powerful, wealthy and possessing a great army. His kingdom was flourishing, prosperous, peaceful, well-supplied with food, and densely peopled with happy subjects. Punishments were abolished, riots suppressed, and robbers kept in check, and trade thrived. But a demonic plague broke out there and many thousands perished by it.

Now the king of Aṅga[1] had a bull which was handsome, beautiful, virtuous and strong. By its might and power all the land of Aṅga was rendered immune from afflictions and calamities. The brāhmans and laymen of Rājagṛha heard that the king of Aṅga had a bull which was handsome, beautiful, virtuous and strong, and that by its might and power the land of Aṅga(289) was rid of afflictions and calamities. They therefore informed the king, saying, “Your majesty, we hear that the king of Aṅga has a bull that is handsome, beautiful, virtuous, strong and powerful. Whatever village or town it enters becomes rid of affliction and calamity. O great king, send for the bull, so that when brought here it may allay the demonic plague in Rājagṛha.”

The king of Rājagṛha sent a brāhman to the king of Aṅga. “Go to the king of Aṅga,” said he to him, “make known our troubles to him and entreat him for his bull.” In obedience to the king the brāhman left Rājagṛha and duly arrived at the city of the king of Aṅga. He approached the king of Aṅga and greeted him with a cry of “Victory to the king!” He told him in detail all about the demonic plague in Rājagṛha and asked him for the bull.

Now that king was merciful and ready to succour others. So, when he had heard of the great trouble of the people of Rājagṛha, he gave the bull to the brāhman, saying, “Depart, brāhman, and let the people and all creatures in Rājagṛha be relieved.”

The brāhman took the bull, left the land of Aṅga and came to the land of Magadha. And, O sons of Vasiṣṭha, no sooner had the bull entered the confines of Rājagṛha than all the demons fled, and the whole province of Rājagṛha was rid of affliction and calamity.

Perhaps, again, O sons of Vasiṣṭha, you will think that this king of Aṅga in the city of Aṅga at that time and on that occasion was somebody else. You must not think this. And why? This King Śreṇiya Bimbisāra here was at that time and on that occasion the king of Aṅga. You will, perhaps, think that the king of Rājagṛha at that time and on that occasion was somebody else. You must not think so. Why? That king of Rājagṛha was this general Siṃha here. You will, perhaps, think that the brāhman who at that time and on that occasion brought back the bull was somebody else. You must not think so. And why? (290) This Tomara the Licchavi here, O sons of Vasiṣṭha, was at that time and on that occasion the brāhman of Rājagṛha who brought the bull from the king of Aṅga to Rājagṛha. You will, perhaps, again think that the bull of the king of Aṅga at that time and on that occasion was somebody else. Verily you must not think so. And why? I, O sons of Vasiṣṭha, was the bull of the king of Aṅga at that time and on that occasion. Then did I in the form of a bull enter the confines of Rājagṛha and all the demons fled, just as they have done now when I, in the possession of perfect enlightenment, entered the confines of Vaiśālī.

Here ends the “Jātaka of the Bull” in the Mahāvastu-Avadāna.

Footnotes and references:

1.

One of the sixteen Mahājanapadas or great countries often referred to in the Pali texts. It lay to the east of Magadha.

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