The Mahavastu (great story)

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

This page describes shyamaka jataka which is Chapter XX 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 XX - Śyāmaka Jātaka

Once upon a time, monks, long ago, in the city of Benares in the province of Kāśi, there was a certain brāhman. For forty-eight years[1] he had lived a chaste life of celibacy and had learnt the Vedas by heart. And when he had thus lived a chaste life of celibacy for forty-eight years and learnt the Vedas by heart, he said, “It is not right for one to be without offspring in this world.”[2] So he took a wife and begat a child. Then he said to himself, “I have enjoyed the sensual pleasures of men.[3] Now it is time for me to take up the life of a recluse.” The brāhman acquainted his wife with this, saying, “Good wife, I tell you that I intend taking to the religious life.” She replied, “Who will take care[4] of our brāhman son? Who will take care of me? If you are bent on taking up the religious life, I, too, will take up the religious life. I, too, will live a life of austerity. I, too, will live a life of chastity. Just as you will live a life of austerity, so will I do also.” The brāhman replied, (210) “So be it. Do you, too, take up the religious life.” And so they left Benares.

In the Himalayas there was a retreat called Sāhañjanī.[5] There a great seer named Gautama dwelt, with a company of five hundred. He had mastered the four meditations and attained the five super-knowledges.

Now the brāhman accompanied by the brāhmaṇī went to the retreat Sāhañjanī and lived the religious life with the seer Gautama. And the brāhmaṇī also took up the religious life. Then not far from that retreat he constructed another retreat and built a hut of straw and leaves. The recluse Pāragā[6] also built a hut of straw apart. And so they lived in that retreat, after the manner of brāhman recluses,[7] in endeavour, application and exertion. They experienced the meditations and super-knowledges; mastered the four meditations and attained the five super-knowledges. They became blessed, given to severe mortifications and living a holy life. When the seer brought in any kind of roots or fruits, such as kodrava,[8] śyāmaka,[9] millet,[10] hemp,[11] prāsādika,[12] green vegetables, or radish, he shared them with Pāragā, who had already become pregnant. (When the child was born) they asked each other “What name shall we give to this child?” And they said “This child is swarthy of complexion, so let his name be Śyāmaka.” Then the parents gave the name Śyāmaka to the child.

The child was brought up there in the retreat. In due time as the child grew up and was able to walk he played about with the young animals. Blessed seers are kindly disposed and wild beasts and birds stand in no fear of them. And that hermitage was graced by thousands of wild beasts and birds. When the young of the wild animals sucked their mothers’ teats, then did Śyāmaka likewise suck a wild animal’s teat. Whatever animal he associated with, that animal would suckle him like her own offspring.

(211) Thus Śyāmaka, the seer’s child, grew up in that retreat along with the young beasts and birds. Wherever the young beasts and birds went, thither did Śyāmaka, the seer’s son, go with them. And the young beasts and birds loved to play with the seer’s son. When the seer’s son was lying in the hut, then many young beasts and birds of various kinds came to lie down at the door of the hut until Śyāmaka, the seer’s son, should come out. Then they would run about the hermitage. Śyāmaka loved to play with the beasts and birds in the hermitage and the beasts and birds loved to play with Śyāmaka. And when the seer’s son was lying down anywhere in the hermitage the young of the beasts, the beasts themselves, and the birds would sit down to watch over him. When the young beasts and the birds wanted to run off they would arouse Śyāmaka, the seer’s son, with their snouts and beaks. And so the seer’s son grew up in the hermitage with the young beasts and birds.

When the seer’s son had grown up he was clothed and covered with the skins of wild animals. Whatever kinds of roots or fruits there were in the hermitage, kodrava, śyāmaka, cinnaka,[13] millet, hemp, prāsādika, vegetables and radish, he fetched and brought them to his parents. He brought them water and wood and constructed huts of grass and leaves. He scoured and swept the hermitage. He attended to[14] his parents with the greatest respect. He would first serve his mother and father and only then would he himself eat. From the time that[15] the seer’s son reached years of discretion[16] he never took (212) food himself before giving some to his parents. Time passed agreeably, desirably, pleasantly, happily, with the seer’s son waiting on his parents.

Now as they went on living in that hermitage the parents grew old, frail of body, blind, and had to be led by others. They were unable to make provision of food, nor go for water, nor enter their huts of leaves and grass. But Śyāmaka the seer’s son went on tending his parents when they were advanced in years, old, weak and blind, with every useful service. He lived following the path of the ten virtues.[17] The seer’s son was gracious, pleasing of aspect, serene because of his good karma,[18] thoughtful of his parents, living the chaste life of celibacy, observing strict austerity, content with a solitary[19] bed and chair, blessed and dear to devas, Nāgas, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas, Piśācas, Kumbhāṇḍas, Kinnaras and Kinnarīs, wild beasts and birds, dear, in fact, to all creatures. Wherever the seer’s son went to gather roots or leaves or flowers or fruits, he was always accompanied by beasts and birds, devas and Nāgas, Kinnaras and Kinnarīs.

One day he took his pitcher and, attended by beasts and birds, devas and Nāgas, Kinnaras and Kinnarīs, went to a mountain stream to fetch water. There he filled his pitcher.

Now the king of Kāśi, named Peliyakṣa,[20] who was powerful, possessing great wealth and many beasts of burdens, was out hunting and chasing a deer on a horse swift as the wind. He outstripped his army and no one else had reached that spot. As the Exalted One says in the Dharmapada,[21]

The way of the wild beasts is the wood, the air that of the birds.[22] Dharma is the way of the Vibhāgīyas,[23] and Nirvana that of the arhans.

(213) The deer was lost there in the forest glade. There in the forest glade the king heard the noise of Śyāma the seer as he was carrying his pitcher of water from the mountain stream. And he reflected, “That is the noise made by the deer. No men move about in this forest.” So he shot an arrow in the direction of the noise made by the seer Śyāma as he was carrying the pitcher of water. And the arrow pierced the heart of the young seer and poisoned him. The beasts and birds hearing the whirr of the poisoned arrow and scenting him who was shooting by sound,[24] fled in all directions.

Śyāma the seer put down his pitcher on the river bank and cried piteously. “Deer and boars,” he said, “are slain for their flesh; lions, tigers and leopards for their skins; yaks for their bushy tails; elephants for their tusks; and partridges and pheasants are killed to provide delicacies. But as for me, no use can be made of my flesh, nor of my skin, hair and teeth. For what purpose then are we three,[25] inoffensive, innocent and guiltless as we are, thus killed by one arrow? Ah, what blazing injustice!’[26]

While the young seer Śyāma thus lamented, the king of Kāśi came to the spot and saw the blessed young seer, in his garb of hide and bark and with his hair matted, as he wailed and wept. When the king saw that he had shot the young seer, he was frightened and terrified lest the seer, with an imprecation, should reduce him, his city and his province to ashes. He therefore dismounted from his horse and, prostrating himself before the young seer, said to him, “Lord, it was in ignorance that I shot that arrow, for I thought that I was shooting at a deer. I crave your reverence’s pardon. Those tear-drops that fall to the ground will burn the whole of Jambuidvīpa, (214) how much more foolish men like me?[27] But why your reverence says that by one arrow three persons were killed, that I do not understand. Your reverence is but one person, not three. How is it that three persons are killed by this one arrow?”

The young seer replied, “Your majesty, my parents are old, advanced in years, frail of body and blind, though they are holy and blessed, worthy of offerings[28] in this world and in the world of devas. But they are dependent on others and I was their attendant. I always gave them their share of food first, and then I ate myself. I did everything that had to do with the care of them.[29] And now there is none at all to look after them. Therefore, when I perish, they, too, perish. With me dead, there is no life for them. It is for this reason that I say that by that one arrow three people were killed.”

The king of Kāśi said to the illustrious young seer Śyāma, “Quite unwittingly I shot you in the heart with a sharp poisoned arrow, and now I know that you have no chance of life. But let that pass. I make you a promise and will faithfully keep it. I will leave my prosperous and rich kingdom, and go and look after your venerable parents. As you did care for them, so will I care for them.”

The young seer replied, “Your majesty, because of that the sting of grief has been withdrawn from my heart. As you have made this promise, treat my venerable parents in accordance with your vow. O mighty ruler, great merit will then be yours. Your majesty, as you have undertaken to serve and tend these blessed ones, take this pitcher of water and go along this footpath to my parents’ retreat. Greet them for me, and say to them, ‘The illustrious Śyāma greets you. Your only son is dead, but you must not grieve nor weep for him. He who is born into this world of life must inevitably die; it is impossible to abide in it permanently. Neither weeping nor mourning for him can ensure (215) his escape from the results of the deeds he has himself committed.[30] Death is not peculiar to me alone; it is the lot of every creature. Therefore, grieve not nor mourn for me. There must needs come parting and separation from all dear and loved ones.’ Your majesty, as you have vowed to do by my venerable parents, so do.”

Having thus instructed him, the young seer succumbed and died. When the king saw that the young seer was dead, he cried and wailed. Then, drying his tears, he took the pitcher of water and went to the hermitage along the footpath pointed out to him by the illustrious Śyāmaka.

As soon as the king of Kāśi left, the illustrious Śyāmaka was surrounded by hundreds and thousands of beasts and birds, by devas, Nāgas, Yakṣas, Kinnaras, Kinnarīs, and other creatures. And when they had gathered round the young seer, they made a great lamentation and raised a great shout. “Now,” said they, “let the evil-doer who brought harm to you who were innocent, blameless and harmless, go from darkness to darkness, from ways of woe to ways of woe.” The whole forest, all the mountain streams, and the hermitage reechoed to the shout of these creatures and were filled with the cries of the beasts and birds.

When the parents of the illustrious Śyāmaka heard these creatures and the beasts and birds they fell to thinking. “What,” said they, “is happening to-day? Never before have we heard such shouts from these creatures, nor such cries from the beasts and birds. May it not be that the illustrious Śyāmaka has been hurt by a lion, or a tiger, or by some other beast of prey? What are these omens? How our hearts are disquieted! How our eyes well with tears!” And ill at ease in body and mind, they thought about the illustrious Śyāmaka.

The king of Kāśi reached the hermitage, whence hundreds of beasts and birds, (216) raising cries of terror, fled. The seers were still more terrified. The king made his horse fast to the branch of a tree and, carrying the pitcher of water, approached the parents of the illustrious Śyāmaka. “I greet you, sir,” said he. With joy they asked him, “Who are you?” The king replied, “Sir, I am the king of Kāśi, named Peliyakṣa. I doubt, sir, whether there is much comfort[31] here in this grove of penance which is haunted by beasts of prey and unfrequented by men. Does it produce roots and fruits? Are kodrava, śyāmaka and vegetables easily[32] procured? Does the body know no sickness? Has the body no contacts with gnats, mosquitoes, and snakes?” They replied, “Your majesty, of a truth we dwell in comfort here in the forest, though it is haunted by beasts of prey and is unfrequented by men. In this retreat, roots and leaves and fruits are obtained without difficulty. The body knows no sickness and has no contacts with gnats, mosquitoes and snakes. Can it be,[33] now, that your citizens and provincials enjoy happy and inviolate peace in your palace, among your princes and ministers, in your army, in your treasure house and granaries? Do not hostile kings molest you? Does the deva send rain in due season? Do your crops prosper? Is your kingdom peaceful, well-supplied with food, and secure?” The king replied, “Of a truth, sir, my people enjoy happy and inviolate peace in the palace, among my princes and ministers, in my army, in my treasure-house and granaries. Hostile kings do not molest me. The deva sends rain in due season and the crops prosper. My kingdom is peaceful, well-supplied with food, and secure.”

Then they said, “Your majesty, pray be seated on these chairs until the illustrious Śyāmaka, who has gone to fetch water, returns. He will bring you fruit and water.”

When the seers had thus spoken, the king burst into tears. They asked him, “Why does your majesty weep?” The king replied, “Sir, the illustrious Śyāmaka who, you say, will come and offer me fruit and water, (217) is dead. He handed me this pitcher of water and sent you his greetings and a message, saying, ‘You must not grieve nor weep for me. Nothing is gained by him who is grieved and wept for. Everyone who is born must inevitably die. Death is not peculiar to me alone; it is the lot of every creature to die and pass away. And there is no escape from the results of the deeds a man has himself committed.’”

Then they asked, “Your majesty, how did the illustrious Śyāmaka come by his death?” The king replied, “I was out hunting, and chasing a deer on a horse swift as the wind. I came to a place close to the water where the illustrious Śyāmaka was filling his pitcher. And there, in a thicket of the forest, I lost the deer. I heard the sound of the illustrious Śyāmaka carrying his pitcher, and I said to myself, ‘There is the deer moving in the water.’ Hearing the noise of its movement, I shot a poisoned arrow in the direction of the noise. The arrow struck the heart of the illustrious Śyāmaka, and the young seer died.”

When they heard the king they cried,[34] sobbed and wailed with tear-stained faces. “Your majesty,” said they, “deer and boars are slain for their flesh; lions, tigers and leopards for their skins; elephants for their tusks, and partridges and pheasants to provide delicacies. But as for us, neither our flesh, nor our skins, nor our hair, nor our teeth are of any use. So why are we three[35] harmless, innocent and inoffensive people killed thus by one arrow?”

The king of Kāśi fell at the feet of the seers and craved forgiveness. “Sir,” said he, “these tears of yours that fall to the ground will bum the whole of Jambudvīpa, how much more foolish men like me?[36] I will abandon my kingdom, my people and my kinsfolk (218) and come to serve you. Just as the illustrious Śyāmaka waited on you, so will I wait on you.”

Then they said, “We are blind and have lost our sight. We cannot go to that place without a guide. Let your majesty lead us to the place where the illustrious Śyāmaka lies. By means of an incantation we will restore the young seer to life, and by means of an incantation we will destroy the poison that was intended for the deer.”[37]

The king reflected, “How blessed these seers must be, that they have the power to restore him to life.” Then he said, “I will lead you sir, to where the illustrious Śyāmaka is.”

They put their hands on the king’s shoulder and thus went to the place. Pāragā, the mother of the illustrious Śyāmaka, clasped the seer’s head to her bosom, wiped his mouth with her hand, and vented her grief in varied cries and lamentation. “Bereft of the illustrious Śyāmaka,” said she, “the hermitage will be desolate, the goddess of the wood will go away wailing piteously, and so will the beasts and birds, when they fail to see the illustrious Śyāmaka, wail piteously and leave the hermitage.”

The seer said, “Pāragā, do not weep, nor grieve. What does it avail him that he is wept[38] and grieved for? Now we have observed stern austerity and have lived a life of chastity. We have the power to restore him with an incantation. Let us pronounce that incantation, destroy the poison and restore him to life.” So they destroyed the poison by means of an incantation, saying, “Son, as you did never harbour unjust thoughts of others, but were kind-hearted to all creatures, so let this poison which is in you be destroyed. Son, as you never took food yourself before giving some to your parents, so let this poison which is in you be destroyed. Son, as you always guarded your parents virtuously and sincerely, (219) so let this poison which is in you be destroyed.” Then the young seer, through the power of his parents and the influence of the incantation and in virtue of his own well-spent life, stood up yawning, like a man rising from his bed.

The Exalted One said, “It may be again, monks, that you will think that at that time and on that occasion the young seer Śyāmaka was somebody else. You must not think so. And why? I, monks, at that time and on that occasion was the young seer named Śyāmaka. You may think, too, that the seer who was the father of Śyāmaka, was somebody else. King Śuddhodana here was at that time and on that occasion the father of Śyāmaka. You may think that at that time and on that occasion the mother of Śyāmaka, who was named Pāragā, was somebody else. But she was Queen Māyā here. You may think that the king of Kāśi, named Peliyakṣa, was somebody else. You must not think so. And why? The elder Ānanda here at that time and on that occasion was the king of Kāśi named Peliyakṣa. Then, too, monks, did King Śuddhodana, on hearing of me that I was dead, refuse to believe, but said, ‘O king, the illustrious Śyāmaka is not dead, but has merely been made insensible by the poison.[39] Do you but lead us to the place, and we will with an incantation destroy the poison and restore the illustrious Śyāmaka to life.’ And now, also, has king Śuddhodana, on hearing of me that I was dead, refused to believe.”

Here ends the preliminary version of the Jātaka of Śyāmaka.

I shall tell[40] of a former life of the virtuous Exalted One, transcendental,[41] yet of infinite glory in the world, the saviour of the world.

It is not possible for anyone to surpass the whole life of the Bodhisattva in the world of men, of devas and of Gandharvas. (220) For the Daśabala is invincible.

As far as memory can recall the Tathāgatas as they lived their various lives bestowing compassion on the world with love and pity,

I shall set forth the good life of the Exalted One as he went on accumulating merit during a hundred-thousand kalpas. Give respectful attention.

At that time the Exalted One, endowed with wisdom, came to life in a perfectly pure ascetic family of brāhman recluses.

His parents were old and blind, and it was for their sakes that the Transcendental One came to birth.

Of wholly faultless body was he, possessing magic power, gentle, and having large eyes. Now his name at that time was Śyāma.

Whatever man or deva beheld the wondrous young seer could not have his fill of contemplating his perfect beauty and virtue.

The merit which a Bodhisattva pursues and attains, that was the pure meritorious dharma in conformity with which he lived.

He himself lived the faultless, stainless and pure holy life, which is hard of achievement by the lazy,[42] and also urged others to strive after it.

He was a hero who tended his parents and devoutly[43] cared for them. He lived a life of holiness, observing his vow of chastity.

(221) And this was a resolve he made for the sake of his dear and beloved parents, saying, “Verily, I must not be remiss,[44] for they are blind and have to be led by others.

“Gathering roots and fruits I shall, with love, respect and honour tend my venerable parents, who are ill, old, and advanced in years.

“I will provide my parents with food and drink, with medicine for their sickness, with clothes and with beds to sleep on.”

And to his parents then the Bodhisattva said, “Let it not be so;[45] you must not be anxious as long as I am here to attend to you.”

Then Kṛṣṇa,[46] clothed in bark, said to him, “Let not this sin be yours. Let not creatures be terrified[36] at you[48] as you wander away from the path.

“Let the king of beasts and the mighty elephant stray in quest of gory flesh, but do not let creatures be terrified of you.”

With the young animals he dwelt in the pleasant retreats. Like an animal the young seer dwelt with the animals in the forest.

And while he thus dwelt in that retreat, in calm and self-control and renunciation, and out of kindliness and pity feeling compassion for the world,

There came on the scene the king of Kāśi, a mighty and powerful lord of men, who terrified the beasts and birds in the retreat.

Within the forest the king espied troops of deer, and when he had seen them, he hurriedly drew his bow and fixed[49] an arrow.

(222) He chased the deer, borne on a horse swift as the wind, a horse wholly excellent, with its mane flying as it raced along.

fust then the young seer, having come there with his pitcher to fetch water, had gone down to the stream which flowed from the hills, while the beasts and birds were affrighted.

And the king, in great fury pursuing the deer with his bow drawn, did not in his fury perceive the young seer.

He fixed[50] a sharp arrow to his bow, aiming it at the deer, but hit Śyāma instead, and he, friendly though he was, fell stricken by the poison-smeared shaft.

And when he was struck he cried out, “By whom am I, inoffensive as I am, and my mother and father, all three of us, thus struck by one arrow? Again does injustice blaze forth.

“Elephants are slain for their tusks and deer for their flesh; yaks for their bushy tails and leopards for their skins.

“But as for me, I have no tusks, nor hide, nor hair, nor flesh. Why then should we, inoffensive as we are, be shot?”

When he heard these words the king went up to the young seer and sought to appease him and craved his forgiveness, saying, “Lord, I shot you quite unwittingly.

“This arrow was not fixed[51] and aimed at you. I was quite unaware that you were struck. So grant me pardon for thus unwittingly doing you harm.

“And as for your lamenting that three people were shot by this one arrow (223), explain this to me, O holy man, tell me the meaning of it.”

Then the Bodhisattva, feeling pity[52] for his dear and beloved parents, spoke these words in reply:—

“Long have my old and aged mother and father lived the holy life. And I was their guide and stay in their blindness.

“Now a destitute death awaits them. That is why, O king, I grieve. Without my care, they will die a destitute death.

“It is for this reason that I say that three people were killed by that one arrow. Still if we are somehow taken under your care we shall not all be lost.”[53]

The king of Kāśi, being keen-witted, was thus made aware of his meaning, and, making a low obeisance to the young seer, he said,

“I shall fall down to hell for that I have slain a harmless seer. For those who have slain such men cannot evade the hells.

“And your tear-drops, the tear-drops of a being of extreme purity, will burn the whole world. How much more foolish men like me?

“What I say is the truth. If by my death life could be yours, I would sacrifice my breath of life. But that is not possible.

“You, O seer, have been pierced in the heart by a sharp poisoned arrow. I know that your life is at end, and that pleases me not.

“So, O glorious one, I make you a promise, and do you believe[54] me. (224) For truth, when it is established in this world of life, is the highest good.[55]

“I shall give up my rich kingdom and renounce my women and my pleasures, and go and gather roots and leaves and tend your venerable parents.”

The Bodhisattva said to him, “O most excellent king, by saying those words you have removed the bitter burning arrow of my grief.

“So now take this pitcher of water, go to our hermitage along this footpath and speak to my parents in my name.

“Greet my mother and my father once more for me, and say to them, ‘Your son is dead and has sent you this greeting.

“‘And he says that you must in no wise grieve for him and that he who is wept[56] and grieved for gains nothing thereby. Everyone born in the world of life must inevitably die.

“‘For this is the order of things.[57] Man’s life does not last long, and death is the end for rich and poor alike.

“‘Nor is it possible to evade the results of deeds committed by oneself. Both pleasure and pain alike befall him who moves in the cycle of rebirth.[58]

“‘Have I not heard learned men speak of, and do I not know myself, the instability of the impermanent and feeble compounded elements which condition life?[59]

“‘I am not afraid of[60] death, and a thing like this is no ill for me. This salutary lesson have I learnt,[61] that death is no wise avoidable in the world.’

“This was the grief that stung me, that my blind and aged parents should be destitute and suffer great sorrow. But this concern of mine is over now that I have heard you.

(225) “Then do you, who bring prosperity to Kāśi, take heed that you have made a promise to Śyāma. By that promise you will see to the care of my venerable parents.

“Wise men extol this serving of the old and weak as a thing of great profit. For, O king, three results issue from it.[62]

“Merit there will be, and glory and fame, and the root of virtue. Go, O king, ask their commands and serve them.”

“So be it,” said he, when he had heard this, disconsolately wiping his tears. And when he saw that Śyāma was dead, the king of Kāśi set out.

And as soon as the king of Kāśi had gone, many herds of beasts and flocks of birds, and devas gathered round Śyāma.

When they saw him lying insensible where he had fallen on the river-bank, they cried and said,

“Now may he who designed this wicked deed against you who were sinless, go from darkness into darkness, from ways of woe to ways of woe.”

The cry of these creatures echoed in the air and over the earth, the winds blew it onwards. In apprehension, the seer[63] exclaimed, “Alas, what is wrong?

“I fear lest harm has come to the young seer, since I hear[64] so many piteous cries like these and repeated sounds of wailing.

“The winds bear evil tidings. There is a dire note in the cries of the birds. My heart leaps from its wonted place,[65] and my whole body is ill at ease.”

(226) While these anxious thoughts passed through his mind, he who was named Peliyaṣa[66] came to the hermitage. Then were the birds and beasts scared.

Terrified they fled in all directions. The devas perceiving them seized with fear were still more terrified themselves when they saw the unexpected sight.

For no human or demon ever came anywhere to these regions. And the crowds of beasts and birds were never struck with fear when they saw the young seer.

Without a doubt, thought they, it must be a great, fearsome and terrible being at the sight of which the herds of beasts and flocks of birds are scared.

When the king had found them he went up to the mother and the father who were disquieted at the absence of their son, and, his murderer though he was, he addressed them with sweet words.

They replied, “Welcome to you, whence do you come? Or whose messenger are you? We are blind, bereft of sight, and Śyāma has gone to fetch water.”

The king said, “I, who am named Peliyakṣa, had gone out of the city of Kāśi with my host to hunt, and was pursuing a deer in the chase.”

“Most excellent king,” said they, “does[67] the deva send you rain in due season and make your crops to grow?”[68] He replied “My palace is free from sickness, and so are my princes and my troops.

“In my cities and my provinces there is peace, and my subjects are loyal. My enemies do not thrive, and all my treasure goes on increasing.

“In my provinces just protection for recluses and brāhmans

(227) is fostered and never fails, and with reverence I bestow my gifts on them.

“In this forest of yours, too, infested though it be by robbers, tigers and many a beast of prey, none, like creatures who have strayed from the right way, do you harm.

“Abundance of flowers and fruits and plenty of śyāmaka and herbs can be easily[69] gathered. And the body knows but little sickness”

“Our lad,” replied they, “has not gone far, so pray sit down on this bed of leaves which belongs to him who is good and righteous and exceeding gracious of heart.”

Then the king, weeping, spoke out the word that to that family of ascetics was as poison, calamitous and life-destroying.

“The holy, righteous and just young seer of whom you speak has just now died. He sent you his greetings, saying,

“That you were in no wise to grieve, for there is no profit in being wept[70] and grieved for; everyone born in the world of life must inevitably die”

When they heard this calamitous, distressing and unwelcome news, they said, “By speaking so you have, of a truth, put a stop to our lives.”

He replied, “This affair was due to indiscretion.[71] Since I committed this misdeed unwittingly, so, good people, forgive me.

“Besides, I have come hither to bear the burden which the young seer (228) bore, and I shall serve you, good people.”

The mother of him who had the rich complexion of the blue lotus wept, disregarding the words her dear son had already smilingly spoken.

“Ah, my dear and lovely Śyāma,” she cried, “association with another, because I have lost you,[72] will sooner[73] consume my heart as the fire burns dry grass and wood.

“Now I know that this hermitage is empty, frightful, fearful and without joy, bereft as it is of him who was good and righteous, the noble seer.

“Since verily he was all our strength, our delight, and in him we had peace, then there could be for me a more acceptable misfortune than one like this.[74]

“I suppose the various and manifold austerities we practised were defective, and the result is that now we are bereft of our dear son”

They went on distressing and wearying themselves still more, by weeping and grieving and calling to mind the hundred good qualities of their good and righteous son.

To the king of Kāśi they spoke, and begged him, “Lead us thither. For we are blind and sightless, and we cannot go by ourselves.”

He replied, “I will lead you to the place where the young seer lies. For surely young was he of life when he was laid low by the poison.”[75]

The king of Kāśi, going by the way he had come, (229) before long came to the place where the young seer was.

When his mother found him lying insensible where he had fallen on the river-bank, she wept, and caressed his pearly mouth with her hand, saying,

“O dear and beloved son of poor and destitute parents, the kinsman of those who have no (other) kindred. How, my darling, were you hurt?

“The devas of the forest were truly of no help, since, when they saw Śyāma among the demons, a tiny body though he was, they did not protect the darling.[76]

“Wherever food is found (for us, though it consist of) many hundreds of herbs (it will be) intolerable (for us), now that we are bereft of our good and righteous son.

“Now do the beasts and birds of the hermitage, failing to see the illustrious Śyāma, their joy, most piteously wail.”

“Grieve not, Pāragā” (said her husband). “You will gain nought by weeping and grieving.

“But we have lived a chaste life and for long refrained from sexual intercourse. We will pronounce a spell, and by it we will destroy the poison.

“As, O beautiful Śyāma, your heart did never cling to sin, so is this poison in you destroyed. By this spell rise up.

“As you virtuously, constantly and sincerely protected your parents, so is this poison in you destroyed. By this spell rise up.

“As in you there was nothing to lead to further existence, no pride, nor intoxication, nor hypocrisy,[77] so is this poison in you destroyed. By this spell rise up.”

(230) Then he rose up yawning, the poison within him gone, through the power of his parents and of his own well-spent life.

When the king saw him raised by that spell he shuddered to the roots of his hair. He fell down at his feet and craved forgiveness.

The Bodhisattva said to him, “May you be blessed in your chariots, your army, your queen, your cities, villages and provinces.

“Behold, you who are the stay of Kāśi, what the result of reverence shown to mother and father is, and how the poison was dispelled by the power of my own good conduct.

“Those who have parents should render them obedience, respect and reverence, if they would go to heaven.[78]

“Honour your mother and father by bringing them all the jewels here in Jambudvīpa. One should not oppose one’s parents. So, O king, your parents will not oppose you.

“Have compassion on them as the ancient teachers of the world.[79] These divine people should be honoured as devas; those who honour their parents know no sorrow.”

She who was the mother at that time is now Māyā. The father of the Exalted One at that time is now King Śuddhodana.

He who because of his great power was raised up by that spell was the Bodhisattva (231), for the Exalted One was then Śyāma.

He who was the king at that time was Ānanda, a relative and a servitor of the Exalted One during many thousand lives.

The latter was not yet perfect Buddha nor had the former broken his bonds.[80] But even then the result of the Exalted One’s dharma in one of his former lives was real.

Here ends the Śyāma-Jātaka.[81]

Footnotes and references:


A traditionally prescribed period of training, see Āpastamba 2, 12 f. (= S.B.E. ii, 7), and other references in a footnote at G.S., 3. 164.


Literally, “There is no dharma of (= for) one without offspring,” nāsti anapatyasya loke dharmo.


Paribhuktā mānuṣyakā kāmā. Cf. J. 1.138, bhuttā kho pana me mānusakā kāmā.


Viveṣyati, an irregular form from viṣ, with the reduplication of the present stem maintained in the future.


BR. gives this as the name of a city founded by a prince, Sāhañjana.


Name of the brāhmaṇī or brāhman’s wife. See below.


Vāhirakena mārgeṇa, see p. 27, n. 6.


“A species of grain eaten by the poor, Paspalum Scrobiculatum.”


“A kind of edible grain, Panicum Frumentaceum or Colonum.”


Priyaṅgu, Panicum Italicum.




Prāsādika, no plant of this name is known. The reading is probably corrupt, and Senart queries whether the right reading should not be prasāraṇikā, which, presumably, is to be equated with prasāraṇa, prasāraṇī, the name of a creeper, Paederia foetida Lin. But cf. prasātika p. 60 (text).


Senart cites BR. for cinna, denoting a kind of grain.


Upasthihati, a hybrid form, cf. Pali upaṭṭahati and BSk. upasthita.


Yata upādāya... tataḥ upādāya.


Vijñaprāpta, “attained wisdom,” possibly denoting the same age as is denoted by Pali vayappatta, “come of (marriageable) age” (i.e. sixteen). See, e.g., J. 3. 39, 194, 270.


See Vol. I, p. 3, n. 4.


Śubhena karmaṇā abhinirvṛtta.


Prānta, BSk. in meaning of Pali.


Pali Piliyakkha. See D.P.N. According to some this is a form of the name Felix.


This verse is not found in the Pali Dhammapada, but there were especial versions of this work in BSk. Mhvu. 1. 132 and 3. 91 quotes Dharmapada verses identical with those in the Pali Canon. At 3. 156 we have another quotation, which is not in the Pali, while on pp. 434 ff., of the same vol. a whole varga (Sahasravarga) of the Dharmapada is quoted containing 24 verses as against the 16 of the Pali Sahassa-vagga. The kernel of both the Pali and the BSk. versions must have consisted of the same collection of verses, but the latter were subsequently much enlarged, and they circulated widely in Central Asia, Tibet and China. See Winternitz: A History of Indian Literature, Vol. 2, p. 237.


Cf. A. 2. 33, bilaṃ bilāsayā pavisanti, dakaṃ dakāsayā pavisanti, vanaṃ vanāsayā pavisanti, ākāsaṃ pakkhino bhajanti.


The allusion here is obscure. No sect of this name is known. Senart suggests that there is a connection between the name and that of the Vibhaṅgas, or treatises on the Pāṭimokkha rules of the Vinaya, i.e. that the Vibhāgīyas were especially devoted to or versed in these rules. But Miss I. B. Horner’s suggestion (communicated to the translator) looks more feasible, namely that the Vibhāgīyas were connected with the Vibhajjavādins. She refers to Mahābodhivaṃsa, p. 95, vibhajjavādinā munindena desitattā. vibhaji avādo tica vuccati.




Implying that by his death his parents, too, would perish.


Literally “How injustice blazes,” yathā samprajvalita adharmo.


Kimaṅga puna: asmadvidhānāṃ bālānām. The genitive is not easily explained here. The accusative would be expected in correlation with Jambudvīpam, as in the corresponding verse passage on p. 223 of text.


Dakṣiṇīya. See Vol. I, p. 61, n. 3.


Literally, “everything bounded by the care of them,” upasthānaparyantaṃ sarvam.


Cf. M. 3. 180, tayā v’ etaṃ pāpaṃ kammaṃkatam, tvaññeva etaṃ vipākaṃ paṭisaṃvedissasi. Similarly A. 1. 139.


Literally, “Can there be comfort?” Kaccid... sukham. Kaccid, as in Pali, is taken in the sense of Latin num or nonne, and is understood as introducing all the immediately following clauses. Otherwise, these become statements of fact, identical with those in the seer’s reply.


Literally, “with little difficulty,” alpakisareṇa. Kisara = Pali kasira, probably to be referred to Vedic kṛcchra. (See P.E.D.)




Praruṇḍā, BSk. past participle of pra-rud. Below, pp. 218 and 224 we have ruṇḍa from the simple verb, and at 3. 116 the form ruṇṇa. Pali has the corresponding forms ruṇṇa and roṇṇa.


See p. 203.


See p. 204, n. 1.


Mṛgaviṣa. Or, perhaps, we should render by “huntsman’s poison” or “poison used in hunting.” Anyhow, this is the term used for the poison throughout the rest of this passage, but after this first occurrence it is rendered “poison” simply.


Ruṇḍa, See p. 207, n. 1.


These words are not in the story itself, as given above.


A metrical version of the same Jātaka, which, apart from the introductory matter, is obviously a ballad of pre-Buddhistic origin.


Lokottara see Vol. 1 pp. xi, 3, 45, 76, 125, n. 3, 132, 174, n. 1.


Kuśīda for kusīda, Pali kusīta.


Or “zealously,” tīvram, a use of the word which Senart found in the edicts of Piyadasi. Cf. use of tibbam in Pali.


Or “must not delay,” prapañcitavya, cf. Pali papañceti.


Mā khu bhave, which would seem to suggest that an incident of the original poem has been omitted here.


Literally, “the dark and fair one,” syāma-sundari. Here, again, there seems to be an omission of some incident in the original, possibly the arrival of Kṛṣṇa on the scene when Śyāmaka was on the point of going hunting. If syāma-sundari does not allude to Kṛṣna, it must be taken as meaning “the fair Śyāma(ka).” But then there would be no means of identifying the person represented by taṃ the object of the verb avaca. Kṛṣṇa appears in the Pali texts, though only faintly in the figure of Vāsudeva who is styled kaṇha (= kṛṣṇa) and kesava, as in Jātaka No. 454. (J. 4. 84. Cf. J. 6. 421.) But not every Kaṇha in the Pali texts is necessarily connected with the legend of Kṛṣṇa, not even the Kaṇha of the Ambaṭṭha-Śutta (D. 1. 87 ff.), in spite of what Winternitz, op. cit., 2. p. 37, says. Śee also p. 119 ibid, and footnote 2 there.


Trāsentu, causal for the radical form. But the reading is doubtful.


Tuhyam, dative for genitive.


Sandahe, from sandahati BSk. and Pali for Sk. sandadhāti; used in this sense also at J. 4. 236, 258.


Sandahita, past part, of sandahati, see preceding note.


Sandhita, Sk. corresponding to sandahita (see above). Senart, however, prefers the meaning “intentional” here. But there does not seem to be any valid reason for thus varying the sense of the word in similar contexts. If “aimed against you” is not justifiably supplied, perhaps the sense can be secured by emending tvam of the following tvamāhato asi into tuhyam, i.e. “the arrow was not fixed for you.”


Reading karuṇam for kāraṇam of the text.


A lacuna in this line makes an exact translation conjectural. The text has kiñci tvayi poṣiyanto na hato... bhaviṣyāmi. Senart renders “moyennant que tu me réconfortes de certaine façon, la mort ne sera plus rien pour moi.” But the translation given above is nearer to the text, though it requires the emendation of poṣiyanto into poṣiyantā, of hato into hatā and of bhaviṣyāmi into bhaviṣyāma. Two MSS. have the first two emended forms.


Pattīya, see p. 106, n. 2.


Reading paramārtho for paramārthaṃ of the text.


Ruṇḍa, see n. 1, p. 207.


Ānupūrvā, cf. Pali ānupubba, “rule, regularity, order.” For the sentiment cf. A. 4. 136, appakaṃ jīvitaṃ manussānam... n’atthi jātassa amaraṇam.


? cakraparivartaka, “turning in the circle.”


Literally, “of what is gone to a saṃskāra,” saṃskāragatasya. For the saṃskāras see Vol. I, p. 99, n. 1. On their impermanency see Dhp. 277, sabbe saṅkhārā aniccā. Cf. also D. 2. 156 and 5. 5. 163.




Literally “This useful (profitable) thing have I experienced,” anubhūto eṣa artho. For the sentiment cf. A. 3. 306; 4. 320.


Literally, “There are three limbs of it,” trīṇi pi tasyāsti aṅgāni.


I.e. Śyāma’s father.


Literally, “are seen,” dṛśyanti.


The reading here is doubtful. Senart’s text is hṛdayaṃ ca vyutthasthāno, where vyuttha evidently represents a form of the past participle of vi-ud-sthā, perhaps showing the influence of a Prakrit form. Even so, and apart from the matter of agreement in form with hṛdayam, the regular form of the compound should be sthānavyuttham. The reading of MS. B, vyutthaṃ sthā° would seem to be better, especially if we can emend sthāno into sthānā (= sthānād, “from its place”). That this was the idea expressed by whatever was the original text is confirmed by the reading of another MS., cyūtaṃ sthā°.


So here for Peliyakṣa.


Kacci, see p. 206, n. 1.


Obviously there is abridgement here. Many more questions are answered than are asked. See also the prose version.


Alpakisareṇa. See p. 206, n. 2.


Ruṇḍa. See p. 207, n. 1.


Eṣo artho (a)nayena jāto.


Literally, “association due to separation from you,” tvayā vinābhāvasambhavo.


Pūrvam, i.e. before anyone else can adequately fill Śyāma’s place.


The meaning of the second verse in this stanza is obscure. The text, which seems to be free of uncertainties, reads, taṃ mama asya varataraṃ na jātu etādṛśaṃ duḥkhaṃ. Taṃ is taken as correlative of yaṃ in the preceding verse, asya as potential (= Pali assa), while na is commonly used after a comparative in the sense of “than.” Senart, “non sans hésitation,” translates thus: “Aussi bien des malheurs seraient plus que celui-là préférables pour moi: il ne saurait jamais y en avoir un pared.” Perhaps, after all, there is a serious flaw in the text.


Mṛgaviṣa. See p. 207, n. 4.


But the text of this stanza and the next is very corrupt, and it might be better to leave them untranslated. The second stanza, besides, has a lacuna, and the translation offered follows Senart’s construction of the context. But it is all very doubtful.


Mrakṣa, BŚk. = Pali makkha.1 Note also Pali makkha1 “(probably = makkha,1 but BSk. differentiated with mrakṣya, Divy. 622, trsl. Index ‘ill-feeling’? B.R. have mrakṣya, ‘wohlgefūhl’), ‘anger,’ ‘rage’.” (P.E.D.)


Svagam, sic for svargam.


Cf. A. 2. 70. Brahmā ti mātāpitaro pubbācariyā ti vuccare “Parents are called Brahmā and ancient teachers.” Cf. also J. 5. 330, and Sn. 404.


Grantha, ‘usually referred to and enumerated as the four bodily ties or knots (kāyaganthā), viz., abhijjha (covetousness) byāpāda (ill-will) sīlabbataparāmāsa (delusion in the sufficiency of good works) and idaṃsaccābhinivcsa (inclination to dogmatise). See P.E.D. for references.


Not in J.

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