The Mahavastu (great story)

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

This page describes jataka of the bull (rishabha) which is Chapter II 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 II - The Jātaka Of The Bull (ṛṣabha)

(28) The monks said to the Exalted One, “How, Lord, was it that wicked Māra followed closely on the heels[1]of the Exalted One when he was living his austere life, desiring and seeking a chance to tempt[2] him, but had to retire unsuccessful without finding one?” The Exalted One said, “There was another occasion, also, when he followed closely on my heels, desiring and seeking a chance to tempt me, but had to retire unsuccessful, without finding one.” The monks asked the Exalted One, “Was there another occasion, Lord?” The Exalted One replied, “Yes, monks.”

Once upon a time, monks, long ago, there was a bull (ṛṣabha), a lord of cattle, following a herd of cows. Now the organs of that bull were drooping and inert. With his organs thus drooping he was closely[3] pursuing the herd of cows.

In a woodland tract in that place there dwelt a jackal, named Girika, and this jackal espied the bull as he followed the herd of cows with his organs drooping and inert. So he pursued him closely for many years.

Now there was another jackal of the same age as he, and when he saw Girika closely pursuing the bull (ṛṣabha), he addressed him in verses:

“For how many years, Girika, have you been pursuing the lord of the herd? Time and again you have slunk off, and you are full of fear at the sight of him.

“Those organs, though they droop, are strong, and though inert are well-set. They will not fall off, so without a prey will you remain.

“I, too, have pursued him for fifteen years. Inert though his organs are they are well-set. There is no fear of their falling off.”[4]

(29) The Exalted One said, “It may be again, monks, that you will think that at that time and on that occasion that bull (ṛṣabha) was somebody else. But I was that bull. The jackal named Girika was Māra. Then, also, desiring and seeking a chance to tempt me, he had to retire unsuccessful, without finding one.”

Here ends the Jātaka of the Bull (ṛṣabha).[5]

Footnotes and references:


Pṛṣṭhimena pṛṣṭhimam. Cf. Pali piṭṭhito piṭṭhito, “right on one’s heels (back).”


Avatāra, BSk., Pali otāra. See Vol. 2, p. 228, n. 4. Both in this sense only in the Māra myth (P.E.D.). See B.H.S.D. for BSk. references.


Pṛṣṭhimena pṛṣṭhimam. See n. 3, p. 26.


The Sk. is remarkably close to the English idiom hem, nāsti sānaṃ patatāṃ bhayam.


Not in J.