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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Khuddaka Nikaya >> Jataka >>Santhava-Jātaka

Source: Adapted from Archaic translation by W.H.D. RouseEdit

JATAKA No. 162


"Nothing is worse," etc.--This story the Master told while living at Jetavana monastery,. about feeding the sacred fire. The circumstances are the same as those of the Nanguttha Birth (*1). The Brethren(Monks), on seeing those who kept up this fire, said to the Lord Buddha, "Sir, here are topknot (of hair) ascetics practising all sorts of false asceticism. What's the good of it?" "There is no good in it," said the Master. "It has happened before that even wise men have imagined some good in feeding the sacred fire, but after doing this for a long time, have found out that there is no good in it, and have quenched it with water, and beat it down, beat it down with sticks, never giving it so much as a look afterwards." Then he told them a story.

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisattva was born in a brahmin family. When he was about sixteen years old, his father and mother took his birth-fire (*2) and spoke to him thus: "Son, will you take your birth-fire into the woods, and worship the fire there; or will you learn the Three Vedas, settle down as a married man, and live in the world?" Said he, "No worldly life for me: I will worship my fire in the woodland, and go on the way to heaven." So taking his birth-fire, he said farewell to his parents, and entered the forest, where he lived in a hut made of branches and leaves and did worship to the fire.

One day he had been invited to some place where he received a present of rice and ghee (clarified butter). "This rice," thought he, "I will offer to Great Brahma(ArchAngel)." So he took home the rice, and made the fire blaze. Then with the words, "With this rice I feed the sacred flame," he throw it upon the fire. Scarce had this rice dropped upon it, all full of fat as it was--when a fierce flame leapt up which set his hermitage on fire. Then the brahmin hurried away in terror, and sat down some distance off "There should be no dealings with the wicked," said he; "and so this fire has burnt the hut which I made with so much trouble!" And he repeated the first stanza:-

 "Nothing is worse than evil company;
    I fed my fire with plenty rice and ghee (clarified butter);
  And lo! the hut which gave me such bother
    To build it up, my fire has burnt for me."

"I've done with you now, false friend!" he added; and he poured water upon the fire, and beat it out with sticks, and then buried himself in the mountains. There he came. Upon a black deer licking the faces of a lion, a tiger, and a panther. This put it into his mind how there was nothing better than good friends; and after that he repeated the second stanza:

 "Nothing is better than good company;
    Kind offices of friendship here I see;
  See the lion, tiger, and the leopard--
    The black deer licks the faces of all three."

With these thoughts the Bodhisattva plunged into the depths of the mountains, and there he embraced the true life of morality, cultivating the Faculties and the Attainments, until at his life's end he passed into Brahma's upper heaven.

After delivering this discourse, the Master identified the Birth: "In those days I was the ascetic of the story."


(1)No. 144.

(2)A sacred fire was also kindled at a wedding, to be used for sacrifice and constantly kept up. So too now, the Agni-hotri in Kumaon begins fire-worship from the date of his marriage. The sacred fire of the marriage altar is carried in a copper vessel to his fire-pit. It is always kept on fire, and from it must be kindled his funeral pyre.

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