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Source: Adapted from Archaic translation by Robert ChalmersEdit

JATAKA No. 150


"Befriend a villain."--This story was told by the Master when at the Bamboo-grove, about King Ajatashatru's adherence to false teachers(Devadatta) (*1). For he believed in that hostile rival of the Buddhas, the lowly and wicked Devadatta, and in his infatuation, wishing to do honour to Devadatta, expended a vast sum in erecting a monastery at Gayasisa. And following Devadatta's wicked advices, he killed the good and virtuous old King his father, who had entered on the Paths, by that destroying his own chance of winning like goodness and virtue, and bringing great suffering upon himself.

Hearing that the earth had swallowed up Devadatta, he feared a like fate for himself. And such was the frenzy of his terror that he looked after not of his kingdom's welfare, slept not upon his bed, but ranged abroad quaking in every limb, like a young elephant in an agony of pain. In fancy he saw the earth yawning for him, and the flames of hell darting on; he could see himself fastened down on a bed of burning metal with iron lances being thrust into his body. Like a wounded cock, not for one instant was he, at peace. The desire came on him to see the All-Knowing Buddha, to be reconciled to him, and to ask guidance of him; but because of the magnitude of his transgressions he withdrew from coming into the Buddha's presence. When the Kattika festival came round, and by night Rajgraha city was illuminated and decorated like a city of the gods, the King, as he sat on high upon a throne of gold, saw Jivaka Komarabhacca sitting near. The idea flashed across his mind to go with Jivaka to the Buddha, but he felt he could not say outright that he would not go alone but wanted Jivaka to take him. No; the better course would be, after praising the beauty of the night, to propose sitting at the feet of some sage or brahmin, and to ask the courtiers what teacher can give the heart peace. Of course, they would rigorously praise their own masters; but Jivaka would be sure to praise the All-Enlightened Buddha; and to the Buddha the King with Jivaka would go. So he burst into fivetimes praises of the night, saying--"How fair, sirs, is this clear cloudless night! How beautiful! How charming! How delightful! How lovely ! What sage or brahmin shall we seek out, to see if by chance he may give our hearts peace?"

Then one minister recommended Purana Kashyapa, another Makkhali Gosala, and others again Ajita Kesakambala, Kakudha Kaccayana, Sanjaya Belatthiputta, or Nigantha Nataputta (Mahavira, Guru of Jains). All these names the King heard in silence, waiting for his chief minister, Jivaka, to speak. But Jivaka, suspecting that the King's real object was to make him speak, kept silence in order to make sure. At last the King said, "Well, my good Jivaka, why have you nothing to say?" At the word Jivaka arose from his seat, and with hands clasped in adoration towards the Lord Buddha, cried, "Sire, over there in my mango-grove dwells the All-Enlightened Buddha with thirteen hundred and fifty Brethren(Monks). This is the high fame that has arisen concerning him." And here he proceeded to recite the nine titles of honour ascribed to him, beginning with 'Venerable (*2).' When he had further shown how from his birth onwards the Buddha's powers had surpassed all the earlier predictions and expectations, Jivaka said, "Unto him, the Lord Buddha, let the King go, to hear the truth and to put questions."

His object thus attained, the King asked Jivaka to have the elephants got ready and went in royal state to Jivaka's mango-grove, where he found in the perfumed pavilion the Buddha amid the Brotherhood(Monks) which was tranquil as the ocean in perfect rest. Look where he would, the King's eye saw only the endless ranks of the Brethren, exceeding in numbers any following he had ever seen. Pleased with the behavior of the Brethren, the King bowed low and spoke words of praise. Then saluting the Buddha, he seated himself, and asked him the question, 'What is the fruit of the religious(hermit) life(of path taught by Buddha)?' And the Lord Buddha gave utterance to the Samannaphala Sutta in two sections (*3). Glad at heart, the King made his peace with the Buddha at the close of the Sutta, and rising up departed with due reverence. Soon after the King had gone, the Master addressed the Brethren and said, "Brethren, this King is uprooted; had not this King killed in lust for dominion that righteous ruler his father was, he would have won the Arhat's clear vision of the Truth(Enlightenment), before he rose from his seat. But for his sinful favouring of Devadatta he has missed the fruit of the First Path(Trance)."

Next day the Brethren talked together of all this and said that Ajatashatru's crime of father killing, which was due to that wicked and sinful Devadatta whom he had favoured, had lost him salvation (nirvana); and that Devadatta had been the King's ruin. At this point the Master entered the Hall of Truth and asked the subject of their talk. Being told, the Master said, "This is not the first time, Brethren, that Ajatashatru has suffered for favouring the sinful; like conduct in the past cost him his life." So saying, he told this story of the past.

Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisattva was born into the family of a wealthy brahmin. Arriving at years of discretion, he went to study at Taxila, where he received a complete education. In Benares as a teacher he enjoyed world-wide fame and had five hundred young brahmins as pupils. Among these was one named Sanjiva, to whom the Bodhisattva taught the spell for raising the dead to life. But though the young man was taught this, he was not taught the counter charm. Proud of his new power, he went with his fellow-pupils to the forest wood-gathering, and there came on a dead tiger.

"Now see me bring the tiger to life again," said he.

"You can't," said they.

"You look and you will see me do it."

"Well, if you can, do so," said they and climbed up a tree then.

Then Sanjiva repeated his charm and struck the dead tiger with a broken pottery. Up started the tiger and quick as lightning sprang at Sanjiva and bit him on the throat, killing him outright. Dead fell the tiger then and there, and dead fell Sanjiva too at the same spot. So there the two lay dead side by side.

The young brahmins took their wood and went back to their master to whom they told the story. "My dear pupils," said he, "know in this regard how by reason of showing favour to the sinful and paying honour where it was not due, he has brought all this calamity upon himself." And so saying he uttered this stanza:-

      Befriend a villain, aid him in his need,
      And, like that tiger which Sanjiva raised
      To life, he straight devours you for your pains.

Such was the Bodhisattva's lesson to the young brahmins, and after a life of almsgiving and other good deeds he passed away to fare according to his deeds.

His lesson ended the Master identified the Birth by saying, "Ajatashatru was the young brahmin of those days who brought the dead tiger to life, and I the world-famed teacher."


(1)In the Samannaphala Sutta, the Digha Nikaya gives the incidents of this introductory story and makes the King confess to having killed his father. Also all that happened because Ajatshatru took advice from his (false) teacher Devadatta.

(2)See p. 49 of Vol. I. of the Digha Nikaya for the list.

(3)In the Digha Nikaya there is no division of the Sutta into two sections.

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