The Mahavastu (great story)

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

This page describes anangana jataka which is Chapter XXIX 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 XXIX - Anaṅgaṇa Jātaka

(271) The monks asked the Exalted One, “See, Lord, how the house of the householder Jyotiska[1] is bleṣsed with such prosperity, while his wealth is out of the common. He is honoured and illustrious. He has been admitted into the Order and ordained, and has won freedom from the lusts. Lord, of what deed on the part of the householder Jyotiska is this the fruit?” The Exalted One replied:—

Once upon a time, monks, ninety-one kalpas ago,[2] there waṣ a king named Bandhuma.[3] And, monks, the capital city of King Bandhuma was called Bandhumatī. The description of a universal king’s city is to be applied to it in detail.

King Bandhuma, monks, had a son named Vipaśyin. Now Vipaśyin was a Bodhisattva, who went to a certain place, going forth as a wanderer from home into the homeless state, and awoke to the unsurpassed perfect enlightenment.

Once King Bandhuma sent a message to the exalted Vipaśym, saying, “Come, Lord, to thy native place, out of pity for me.” Then, monks, the exalted Vipaśyin, on receiving the message, came to his native place accompanied by sixty-eight thousand Arhans.

Now at that time and on that occasion there was in the capital city of Bandhumatī a merchant, named Anaṅgaṇa, who was rich and wealthy, with plentiful means for a luxurious life.[4] Somehow or other[5] the householder Anaṅgaṇa heard that the exalted Vipaśyin was coming with sixty-eight thousand Arhans. And the thought occurred to him: “What now if I were to be the first of all to go and bow at the feet of the Exalted One?” So Anaṅgaṇa the householder, in a great hurry, hastened to meet the Exalted One and bow at his feet.

Anaṅgaṇa the householder saw the Exalted One coming when he was still some way off, gracious and so on up to[6] attended by his company of monks. (272) Then Anaṅgaṇa the householder approached the Exalted One and so on up to and said to the Exalted One, “Consent, Lord, to be entertained by me for three months, thou and thy company of monks,” and so on up to (and the Exalted One) silently (intimated his consent).

Somehow or other, King Bandhuma also, heard that the exalted Vipaśyin was coming with his great company of monks, sixty-eight thousand Arhans, and so on up to[7] “adorn the city,” and so on up to with great royal power, and so on up to he saw him, gracious, and so on up to he invited him, and so on up to “Your majesty, I have accepted the householder Anaṅgaṇa’s invitation to be entertained by him for three months, I and my company of monks.”

When the king heard this he fretted. “Anaṅgaṇa the householder,” said he, “without asking or obtaining permission,[8] without showing me due respect, went to the Exalted One and extended him an invitation. That is not well.”

To the Exalted One the king said, “Let the Exalted One eat with me one day, and with him the next.” The Exalted One replied, “If Anaṅgaṇa consents, that may be possible.”[9] Then the king sent a message to Anaṅgaṇa, and so on up to “has come.” The king said, “You have reached and come to the end of your term of life, O householder, if you go against the king’s pleasure. You invited him without consulting me. You did not know that he who was coming was Vipaśyin, my son. Give up[10] the idea of entertaining for three months the Exalted One and his company of monks.” The householder replied, “I did not mean to be disrespectful to your majesty. Besides, your majesty has more merit than I,[11] and, morever, I invited the Exalted One thinking that I would be doing what your majesty wished.”

Then the thought occurred to Bandhuma, “If I say, ‘Forbear, householder,’ he will not obey me; nor will the exalted Vipaśyin be pleased with me, nor will he accept my invitation.” Reflecting thus he said to the householder, “In that case I shall entertain him in turn with you. Let him be my guest one day, and yours the next.” Anaṅgaṇa replied, “Very well, (273) there is no reason why that should not be managed.” And so it was arranged that the entertaining should be done by the king on one day and by Anaṅgaṇa the next.

Now whatever hospitality was given by the king on one day, the householder Anaṅgaṇa invariably improved on it the next. Then King Bandhuma spoke to his prime minister. “Chief,” said he, “the resources of Anaṅgaṇa the householder are greater than mine, and thus it is that he succeeds better than I at entertaining. When he sees what the king has done on one day he goes and does better the next. Therefore, chief, something must be done that will hinder[12] him from doing this.” But nothing could be done until of the three months only two days were left, the fourteenth day of the month when it was the king’s turn to entertain, and the fifteenth when it was the householder’s.

Now King Bandhuma had a park, named Munihata, which was large, spacious, cool, fragrant, pleasant and beautiful. On the last day, that is, the fourteenth, he had all this park sprinkled and swept, hung with festoons of bright cloth, fumigated with incense and strewn with heaps of flowers. For each monk a special seat worth a hundred thousand pieces was made from a sandal-wood tree. Four young attendants all decked out in finery fanned each monk with an all-white chowrie fan which had its handle of gold and silver. On one side and in front young maidens, all decked out in finery, compounded ointments from mixtures of scents worth a hundred thousand pieces. Behind, lordly elephants gaily caparisoned and covered with a net-work of gold held up pure white sunshades.

The king issued an order that throughout Bandhumatī and for an area of twelve yojanas around it no one should sell sticks.[13] “Whoever buys (274) or sells them,” said he, “see that he is punished. Under this restriction what will the householder do? How will he cook his food under such a restriction?[14] No one must sell and so on up to punished, and so on up to thus restricted.[15] He will not be able to prepare his curry.[16] Whence can the householder get lovely[17] garden[18] seats, and so on up to whence will he get elephants?”

When Anaṅgaṇa the householder heard of this turn of events, his heart pierced by the arrow of chagrin, he entered upon a sea of reflexion, and sat down. Miserably he pondered and reflected, “If in this way I cannot get wood, I still may be able to get sticks. And if I cannot get that much for preparing curry, I shall prepare other fine and exquisite dishes.[19] Still I shall have no park of sandal-wood trees like this nor special seats like these. I shall not have four young men and four young women as attendants. And I shall have no lordly elephants.” And so he fretted.

Then because of the power of his merit, Śakra, lord of the devas came and stood before him, saying, “O householder, do not fret. Provide a meal. Get a meal ready. Everything will be forthcoming. I will make special seats. I will construct a fine and decorated pavilion.”[20] The householder asked, “Who art thou, sir?” Śakra replied, “O householder, I am Śakra, lord of the devas.”

The householder joyfully cooked his dish over a fire of sandal-wood. He brought a bowl of ghee and sesamum oil, and, taking some out as one takes the grass bhadramusta[21] out of water, he prepared the meal.

Śakra, lord of the devas, ordered the deva Viśvakarman,[22] saying, “Present the Exalted One and his company of monks with a great pavilion and excellent seats.” “So be it, sire,” replied Viśvakarman, and so on up to Viśvakarman obeyed.

(275) The deva Viśvakarman constructed by magic[23] a great pavilion and a grove of sixty-eight thousand palm-trees, the leaves, fruits and flowers of which were of silver when the trunk was of gold, and so on up to[24] of beryl when the trunk was of ruby and so on up to he made special seats for each monk. Four devas all decked out in finery stood on the left and the right of each holding fans of peacocks’ tails. Four deva maidens all decked out in finery compounded celestial ointments the scents of which were wafted on the wind. Behind each monk an elephant like Eravaṇa[25] held over each an exquisite sunshade made of the seven precious stones, with its handle of beryl. And the elephant Eravaṇa itself held a sunshade over the Exalted One. The pavilion was covered knee-deep with celestial flowers and gentle breezes blew through it. As the palm grove was stirred by the wind there arose a celestial sound, and so on up to they announced to the Exalted One that it was time for the meal, and so on up to he entered. The Exalted One sat down, and the householder sent a message to the king, saying, “Come, your majesty. To-day is the last day. Let us wait upon the Saṅgha together.”

The king mounted his fine carriage and set out. When he was still some way off, the king saw an entirely white elephant coming, and when he saw it, he said to himself, “No doubt the householder has had an elephant made all of white clay.” But when he arrived and entered the pavilion and saw such a varied display, he wondered that this marvel had been produced by the power of the householder’s merit.

Now a villager[26] happened to be carrying a bowl of curds as an offering. He was asked to sell it for five hundred purāṇas. The villager was perplexed when he saw this....[27] (276) The villager asked, “What is the meaning of this?” They replied “The exalted Vipaśyin with sixty-eight thousand Arhans is being served with food.” The villager reflected: “Rare is the appearance in the world of Tathāgatas and so on up to perfect Buddhas. What now if I myself were to wait upon the Buddha and his company of monks with this bowl of curds?” So he waited upon the whole company, asking them for all he desired.[28]

Then King Bandhuma and Anaṅgaṇa the householder waited upon the Exalted One and his company of disciples with all that lavish display. And when the Exalted One had finished eating, washed his hands and put away his bowl, the householder expressed his vow, saying, “As I am one who has such a fullness[29] of merit from self-sacrifice in making meritorious gifts[30] and such a fullness of goodness may I partake of a celestial happiness that is unique,[31] and may I win the favour[32] of such a unique Master. May he teach me the dharma. May I understand it, and, abandoning the world, may I be free of the lusts.”

The Exalted One said, “It may be, monks, that you will think that at that time and on that occasion the merchant named Anaṅgaṇa was somebody else. You must not think so. This householder Jyotiṣka at that time and on that occasion was the householder named Anaṅgaṇa, and so on up to his vow has been entirely successful.”[32]

Notes on the Anaṅgaṇa Jātaka:

There is no apparent reason for the introduction of this story here. It is not to be found in J., but the history of Jyotiṣka (see below) is given in Divy. (p. 273 ff.), where his wealth, prosperity and piety are described in detail, and, as here, lead the monks to ask the Buddha what deed Jyotiṣka had performed in a former life to merit such good fortune. The reply, as here, is the recital of this Jātaka.

Footnotes and references:


Pali Jotika or Jotiya. The story of Jotika is mainly post-canonical (chiefly in DhA. See D.P.N. for references).


Ekanavatime kalpe. Cf. D. 2. 2.


I.e. the father of the Buddha Vipaśyin.




? evaṃ ca-evaṃ.


I.e., Yāvat, indicating that the words are to be supplied from stereotyped passages.


Lacuna for yāvat.


Anavaloketvā. Avaloketi is taken as equivalent to Pali apaloketi which may denote “to ask or obtain permission.” See, e.g., V. 4. 225 and VA. 910, where anapaloketvā is explained by anāpucchā and anāpucchitvā, respectively.


Miss I. B. Homer, in a letter to the translator, remarks that Vipaśyin’s refusal to accept the king’s invitation after he had been invited by the householder, is in keeping with the regulation at V. 3. 66, whereby monks were not allowed to accept lodging (senāsana) elsewhere than where they were invited. The same regulation applied to meals, see V. 4. 77.


Osirāhi. See p. 378, n. 1.


Literally, “Your majesty has more merit, I (we) have not more,” devo puṇyādhiko vayaṃ nādhiko.


Literally, “so that there will be a delay,” yathā... utkṣepaṃ bhave, but the reading is suspect, and this sense of utkṣepa is not very natural.


Śalākā. On the next page the usual term for firewood, kāṣṭha is used.


Reading kenapi bhaktaṃ pacati evaṃ vārita for kenapyabhaktaṃ pacyati avārita, which even if it could be construed would seem to give a sense contrary to the context.

The next two lines have, as Senart points out, all the appearance of a gloss. Although yāvad (see p. 255, n. 1.) occurs twice there is no question here of the repetition of stock phrases. The repetition is of what immediately precedes.


Reading evaṃ vārita as before.


Sajjaṃ vyañjanaṃ na bhaviṣyati, “there will be no condiment (or curry) ready.” Sajjam is Senart’s conjecture for the meaningless śatam of the text.


Reading, with Senart, darśanīyā for the meaningless pradarśaka of the text.


Udyānakṛta. For the genitive-adjectival force of the suffix kṛta see Vol. I, p. 295, n. 1.


Vyañjanāni. For the use of this word in the plural to denote “various dishes,” see MA. 1. 150. (The translator owes this reference to Miss I. B. Homer.)


Maṇḍalamāla. So in Pali. But Senart, unaware of the Pali form, doubts its correctness and would prefer the maṇḍavāṭa or maṇḍalavāṭa of Divy. 286, 288, if the MS. reading were not so certain.


Pali bhaddamuttaka, “a kind of fragrant grass (Cyperas rotundus).”


The architect and artificer of the Hindu pantheon. For the Buddhist treatment of Hindu gods see Vol. I, p. 81, n. 1, et al.


Abhinirmiṇitvā. See Vol. I, p. 141, n. 2.


For the full description of these palm trees see Vol. I, pp. 152 f.


Pali Erāvaṇa, Śakra’s elephant, and itself a deva. See D.P.N. The grammatical concord is strange here—nāgaṃ eravaṇena sādṛśāni... dhārenti.


Grāmāluka. Senart refers to Hemacandra. 2. 163.


The rest of this passage is left untranslated. It is made up of incipient statements cut short by yāvad, that is, it purports to be a summary of some stock passage. But nothing like it has occurred in the Mhvu., and the clues are too slight to enable a parallel passage in Pali texts to be traced.

The passage is as follows:

mā tāvad ime (276) (yāvad) arthamākarṣake niścaye (??) [yāvat] sarvasaṃghe (yāvad) arthaṃ yācitvā tattakaṃ eva tato rājā bandhumo anaṅgaṇena mānyaparināyakam ayaṃ ca puna: pañca purāṇaśatāni kimetaṃ bhaviṣyati.

The question marks and the brackets are Senart’s.


The translation of this sentence is conjectural. The text merely repeats part of the fragmentary passage already alluded to—sarvasaṃghe yāvad arthaṃ yācitvā tattakaṃ eva.


Literally, “overflow,” abhisyanda, BSk. = Pali abhisanna = Sk. abhiṣyanda, from syand, “to flow.”


Deyadharma, Pali deyyadhamma. See Vol. I, p. 246, n. 2.


Reading, as Senart tentatively suggests, sukhamasādhāraṇam for sukhasyādhāraṇam of the text, an emendation which is supported by the analogous use of asādhāraṇa in the very next sentence.


Ārāgeyyam from ārāgayati, a distortion from Pali ārādheti (see P.E.D.).


It is to be noted that these words tasya praṇidhi sarvārthasiddhi: do not occur in the story itself as given above.

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