The Mahavastu (great story)

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

This page describes yashodhara as a tigress (vyaghri) which is Chapter VII 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 VII - Yaśodharā as a tigress (vyāghrī)

When the Bodhisattva had renounced the protection[1] of his remonstrating, sobbing and tearful parents, (69) his rule as a universal king and his life in his comfortable[2] home, and had gone forth from home into the homeless state, then did Deva-datta address Yaśodharā, saying to her, “My brother[3] has become a recluse. Come, be my chief queen.” But she would not consent, because she yearned so much for the Bodhisattva. Sundarananda also said to her, “My brother has become a recluse. Come, be my chief queen.” But she would not consent, because she yearned so much for the Bodhisattva.

When the Bodhisattva had set rolling the wheel of dharma, this got to the ears of the monks. They asked the Exalted One, “How is it, Lord, that Yaśodharā though wooed by both Sundarananda and Devadatta will not have them, but desires the Exalted One so much?” The Exalted One replied, “Monks, this is not the first time that Yaśodharā was wooed by both Sundarananda and Devadatta, but rejected them because of her great desire for me. There was another occasion also when she was wooed by them, but refused them because of her great desire for me.

Once upon a time, monks, long ago, there was a gathering of all four-footed animals at the foot of the Himalayas. And they said, “We have no king. Let a king of the four-footed animals, therefore, be appointed.” And they agreed that it would be a very good thing to appoint a king of the four-footed animals. So they said, “Who, now, shall be appointed king of the four-footed animals?” And they decided thus: “Whosoever among us on the seventh day from this will be the first to reach the Himalayas, the monarch of mountains, shall become king of the four-footed animals.”

So they made a rendezvous, and thence they raced for the Himalayas, the monarch of mountains. A tigress (vyāghrī), outstripping all the others, was the first to reach the Himalayas, the monarch of mountains. And when she had reached the Himalayas, the monarch of mountains, she waited there for the other four-footed animals. And in due course all the four-footed animals reached the Himalayas, the monarch of mountains. There they saw the tigress waiting for them.

And when the four-footed animals (70) saw the tigress they were aggrieved and vexed. “We have been beaten by a tigress,” said they. “And yet nowhere are females kings. Everywhere males are kings. Let us see to it that we do not break our promise,[4] and yet have a male for king.”

And they spoke to the tigress, saying, “Lady, he whom you choose as mate shall be king of the four-footed animals.” A bull caressed the tigress and said to her, “Lady, choose me for mate. I bring good luck in affairs of the world. With my ordure the temples of the gods are smeared and by its means their transactions are carried out.”[5] The tigress replied, “I could not wish you for mate, for you are always broken and fastened to ploughs and carts.”

An elephant also approached the tigress and said to her, “Lady, I am strong and big in body and invincible in fights. Take me.” But the tigress replied, “No, for when a lion roars you will not stop even to ease yourself, but run away.”

Then a lion, the lord of beasts, caressed the tigress and said to her, “Lady, choose me for mate, the whole crowd of animals stand in awe of me.” And the tigress replied, “Lord of beasts, I bow before you and accept you.”

There was a great concourse of four-footed animals and they said: “Here are we without a king.[6] Who then shall be made king over us?

“Whosoever seven days hence will be the first to reach the Himalayas, the monarch of mountains, he will be made king.”

Lions, tigers, deer, elephants, bulls and wolves failed to win the race and be the first to reach the mountain.

It was a tigress who came first to the stately, lovely and gigantic Himalayas. There she was, waiting for the other four-footed animals.

And when these arrived, there they saw the tigress. (71) Seeing her they were aggrieved. “Lo,” said they, “we are beaten by a female.

“Females cannot be kings. But let us not break our promise. Whomsoever the tigress shall choose for mate, he shall be made king.”

“By means of my ordure,” said a bull, “the due affairs of the gods are carried out. Therefore, lady, choose me for mate.”

The tigress (vyāghrī) replied:—

“I would not choose for mate one who is continually busy with ploughs and carts and always tired out, since he would live in the world of men.”

An elephant said:—

“I have others in my train.[7] I am invincible in fight, a sturdy elephant. Therefore, lady, choose me for mate”

The tigress replied:—

“When the lion roars you are scared and run away, even though at the moment you may be easing yourself. I could not have such a one for mate.”

A lion said:—

“I am a lion with regular well-formed shoulders, and I range the mountains at will. All herds of beasts stand in awe of me. So, lady, choose me for mate.”

(72) The tigress replied:—

“I would choose for mate one like you endowed with all sterling qualities and independent as a mountain. I bow before you and accept you.”

It may be again, monks, that you will think that at that time and on that occasion that lion, king of beasts, was somebody else. You must not think so. And why? I, monks, at that time and on that occasion was that lion, king of beasts. You may think that at that time and on that occasion the bull was somebody else. Indeed you must not think so. And why? Sundarananda here, monks, at that time and on that occasion was that bull. It may be again, monks, that you will think that at that time and on that occasion the elephant was somebody else. Indeed you must not think so. And why? Devadatta here, monks, at that time and on that occasion was that elephant. It may be again, monks, that you will think that at that time and on that occasion that tigress was somebody else. But she was Yaśodharā here. Then, too, when wooed by these she would not have them because of her great yearning for me. And now, also, when wooed by them she will not have them because she yearns so much for me.

Here ends the Jātaka of Yaśodharā as a Tigress (vyāghrī).[8]

Footnotes and references:

1.

The text has hastoktaṃ = hasta-uktaṃ, of which Senart remarks, “Je ne puis m’ expliquer hastokta que dans le sens générique de ‘prédit,’ primitivement annoncé d après [les signes de] la main (?)” This is obviously a, strained explanation. Even if the compound could have this meaning it would still remain to explain bodhisattvo in the nominative, for we should expect bodhisattvena “when it was said by the B.” In these circumstances we may be justified in reading hastatvam (Pali hatthattha or hattatthatā. Cf. below, p. 182) “power,” “control,” or “protection.”

2.

Alūha. See note p. 63.

3.

Strictly speaking, Devadatta was Gotama’s cousin.

4.

Literally “that nothing of ours be false,” yathā asmākaṃ na alikaṃ bhaveya. Alika, like Pah, for Sk. alīka, “false,” “contrary,” “disagreeable.”

5.

An allusion to the magic use of ordure in primitive religious rites.

6.

Reading arājakaṃ for ārājakaṃ (sic).

7.

? anucaropeta = anucara-upeta.

8.

Not in J.