Structure of the Tipitaka
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The Tipitaka
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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Khuddaka Nikaya >> Jataka >>Varaṇa-Jātaka

Source: Adapted from Archaic translation by Robert ChalmersEdit



"Learn you from him."--This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana monastery, about the Elder Monk named Tissa the official's Son. Tradition says that one day thirty young gentlemen of Shravasti city, who were all friends of one another, took perfumes and flowers and robes, and set out with a large group of attendants to Jetavana monastery, in order to hear the Master preach. Arrived at Jetavana monastery, they sat for some time in the several enclosures--in the enclosure of the Iron-wood trees, in the enclosure of the Sal-trees, and so on, till at evening the Master passed from his fragrant sweet-smelling perfumed chamber to the Hall of Truth and took his seat on the gorgeous Buddha-seat. Then, with their following, these young men went to the Hall of Truth, made an offering of perfumes and flowers, bowed down at his feet--those blessed feet that were glorious as full-blown lotus-flowers, and bearing imprint of wheel on the sole!--and, taking their seats, listened to the Truth. Then the thought came into their minds, "Let us take the vows, so far as we understand the Truth preached by the Master." Accordingly, when the Lord Buddha left the Hall, they approached him and with due reverence asked to be admitted to the Brotherhood(Monks Order); and the Master admitted them to the Brotherhood. Winning the favour of their teachers and advisors they received full Brotherhood, and after five years' residence with their teachers and advisors, by which time they had got by heart the two teachings, had come to know what was proper and what was improper, had learnt the three modes of expressing thanks, and had stitched and dyed robes. At this stage, wishing to embrace the ascetic life, they obtained the consent of their teachers and advisors, and approached the Master. Bowing before him they took their seats, saying, "Sir, we are troubled by the round of existence, dismayed by birth, decay, disease, and death; give us a theme, by thinking on which we may get free from the elements which occasion existence." The Master turned over in his mind the eight and thirty themes of thought, and from that selected a suitable one, which he explained to them. And then, after getting their theme from the Master, they bowed and with a ceremonious farewell passed from his presence to their cells, and after gazing on their teachers and advisors went on with bowl and robe to embrace the ascetic life.

Now amongst them was a Brother(Monk) named the Elder Monk Tissa the official's Son, a weak and irresolute man, a slave to the pleasures of the taste. Thought he to himself, "I shall never be able to live in the forest, to work hard with strenuous effort, and survive on alms of food. What is the good of my going? I will turn back." And so he gave up, and after accompanying those Brothers(Monks) some way he turned back. As to the other Brothers, they came in the course of their alms-pilgrimage through Kosala to a certain border-village, hard by which in a wooded spot they kept the Rainy-season, and by three months' striving and wrestling got the germ of Discernment and won Arhatship(Enlightenment equal to Buddha), making the earth shout for joy. At the end of the Rainy-season, after celebrating the Pavarana festival, they set out from there to announce to the Master the attainments they had won, and, coming in due course to Jetavana monastery, laid aside their bowls and robes, paid a visit to their teachers and advisors, and, being anxious to see the Lord Buddha, went to him and with due reverence took their seats. The Master greeted them kindly and they announced to the Lord Buddha the attainments they had won, receiving praise from him. Hearing the Master speaking in their praise, the Elder Monk Tissa the official's Son was filled with a desire to live the life of a hermit all by himself. also, those other Brothers asked and received the Master's permission to return to dwell in that self-same spot in the forest. And with due reverence they went to their cells.

Now the Elder Monk Tissa the official's Son that very night was inflated with a yearning to begin his austerities at once, and while practising with excessive zeal and sincerity the methods of a hermit and sleeping in an upright posture by the side of his plank-bed, soon after the middle watch of the night, round he turned and down he fell, breaking his thigh-bone; and severe pains set in, so that the other Brothers had to nurse him and were debarred from going.

Accordingly, when they appeared at the hour for waiting on the Buddha, he asked them whether they had not yesterday asked his leave to start to-day.

"Yes, sir, we did; but our friend the Elder Monk Tissa the official's Son, while practicing the methods of a hermit with great vigour but out of season, dropped off to sleep and fell over, breaking his thigh; and that is why our departure has been stopped." "This is not the first time, Brethren(Monks)," said the Master, "that this man's backsliding has caused him to work hard with unseasonable zeal, and by that to delay your departure; he delayed your departure in the past also." And on this, at their request, he told this story of the past.

Once upon a time at Taxila in the kingdom of Gandhara(near Afghanistan & Pakistan including Kandahar) the Bodhisattva was a teacher of world-wide fame, with 500 young brahmins as pupils. One day these pupils set out for the forest to gather firewood for their master, and made themselves busy in gathering sticks. Amongst them was a lazy fellow who came on a huge forest tree, which he imagined to be dry and rotten. So he thought that he could safely indulge in a nap first, and at the last moment climb up and break some branches off to carry home. Accordingly, he spread out his outer robe and fell asleep, snoring loudly. All the other young brahmins were on their way home with their wood tied up in bundles, when they came upon the sleeper. Having kicked him in the back till he awoke, they left him and went their way. He sprang to his feet, and rubbed his eyes for a time. Then, still half asleep, he began to climb the tree. But one branch, which he was tugging at, broke off; and, as it sprang up, the end struck him in the eye. Putting one hand over his wounded eye, he gathered green branches with the other. Then climbing down, he corded his bundle of sticks, and after hurrying away home with it, throw his green wood on the top of the others' bundles of stickss.

That same day it was by chance that a country family invited the master to visit them on the next day, in order that they might give him a brahmin-feast. And so the master called his pupils together, and, telling them of the journey they would have to make to the village on the next day, said they could not go fasting. "So have some rice-porridge made early in the morning," said he; "and eat it before starting. There you will have food given you for yourselves and a portion for me. Bring it all home with you."

So they got up early next morning and made a maid to get them their breakfast ready early. And off she went for wood to light the fire. The green wood lay on the top of the stack, and she laid her fire with it. And she blew and blew, but could not get her fire to burn, and at last the sun got up. "It's broad daylight now," said they, "and it's too late to start." And they went off to their master.

"What, not yet on your way, my sons?" said he. "No, sir; we have not started." "Why, I request?" "Because that lazy so-and-so, when he went wood-gathering with us, lay down to sleep under a forest-tree; and, to make up for lost time, he climbed up the tree in such a hurry that he hurt his eye and brought home a lot of green wood, which he throw on the top of our bundles of stickss. So, when the maid who was to cook our rice-porridge went to the stack, she took his wood, thinking it would of course be dry; and no fire could she light before the sun was up. And this is what stopped our going."

Hearing what the young brahmin had done, the master exclaimed that a fool's doings had caused all the mischief, and repeated this stanza:-

Learn you from him who tore green branches down,
That tasks deferred are brought in tears at last.

Such was the Bodhisattva's comment on the matter to his pupils; and at the close of a life of charity and other good works he passed away to fare according to his deeds.

Said the Master, "This is not the first time, Brethren(Monks), that this man has stopped you; he did the like in the past also." His lesson ended, he explained the relation and identified the Birth by saying, "The Brother(Monk) who has broken his thigh was the young brahmin of those days who hurt his eye; the Buddha's followers were the rest of the young brahmins; and I myself was the brahmin their master."

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