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Tipitaka >> Sutta Pitaka >> Khuddaka Nikaya >> Jataka >>APANNAKA-JATAKA

Source: Adapted from Archaic translation by Robert Chalmers[]




This (*2) discourse regarding Truth was delivered by the Lord Buddha, while he was living in the Great Monastery at Jetavana near Shravasti city. But who, you ask, was it that led up to this tale? Well; it was the Treasurer's five hundred friends, disciples of the wrong viewed Gurus (*3).

For, one day Anatha-pindika (*4) the Treasurer, took his friends the five hundred disciples of other schools, and went off with them to Jetavana monastery, where also he had a great store brought of garlands, perfumes, and ointments, together with oil, honey, molasses, cloths, and cloaks. After due salutation to the Lord Buddha, he made his offering to him of the garlands and the like, and handed over to the Order of the Brethren(Monks) the medicinal oil and so forward together with the cloths; and, this done, he took his seat on one side avoiding the six faults in sitting down. Also, those disciples of other schools saluted the Buddha, and took their seats close by the side of Anatha-pindika, gazing upon the Master's composure, glorious as the full moon, upon his excellent presence gifted with the signs and marks of Buddhahood and surrounded to a fathom's (6feet) length with light, and upon the rich glory that marks a Buddha, a glory which issued as it were in paired garlands, pair upon pair.

Then, though in thunderous tones as of a young lion roaring in the Red Valley or as of a storm-cloud in the rainy season, bringing down as it were the Ganges of the Heavens (*5). and seeming to weave a circle of jewels, yet in a voice of eightfold perfection, the charm of which ravished the ear, he preached to them the Truth in a discourse full of sweetness and bright with varied beauty.

They, after hearing the Master's discourse, rose up with hearts converted, and with due salutation to the Lord of Knowledge, burst apart the other teachings in which they had taken refuge, and took themselves to the Buddha as their refuge. From then on without ceasing they used to go with Anatha-pindika, carrying in their hands perfumes and garlands and the like, to hear the Truth in the Monastery; and they were many in charity, kept the Commandments, and kept the weekly fast-day.

Now the Lord Buddha went from Shravasti city back to Rajgraha city again. As soon as the Buddha had gone, they burst apart their new faith, and returning to the other teachings as their refuge, reverted to their original state.

After some seven or eight months' stay, the Lord Buddha came back to Jetavana monastery. Once again too did Anatha-pindika come with those friends of his to the Master, make his salutation and offering of perfumes and the like, and take his seat on one side. And the friends also saluted the Lord Buddha and took their seats in like manner. Then did Anatha-pindika tell the Lord Buddha how, when he (Buddha) had departed on his alms-pilgrimage, his friends had forsaken their refuge for the old teachings again, and had reverted to their original state.

Opening the lotus of his mouth, as though it were a casket of jewels, scented with scents divine and filled with many perfumes by virtue of his having ever spoken properly throughout countless aeons, the Lord Buddha made his sweet voice come forward, as he enquired:-"Is the report true that you, disciples, have forsaken the Three Refuges (*6) for the refuge of other teachings?"

And when they, unable to conceal the fact, had confessed, saying, "It is true, Lord Buddha," then said the Master, "Disciples, not between the bounds of hell (*7) below and the highest heaven above, not in all the infinite worlds that stretch right and left, is there the equal, much less the superior, of a Buddha in the excellences which spring from obeying the Commandments and from other virtuous conduct."

Then he told to them the excellences of the Triratna (Trinity) Three Gems(1.Buddha, 2.Dhamma the nirvanic path and 3.Sangha the holy order ) as they are revealed in the sacred texts, the following amongst the number, "Of all creatures, Brethren(Monks), whether footless.. , of these the Buddha is the chief"; "Whatsoever riches there be in this or in other worlds ..(&same as before)."; and "Truly the chief of the faithful ..(&same as before)." From there he went on to say:-"No disciples, male or female, who seek refuge in the Triratna (Trinity) Three Gems that are gifted with such exceptional excellences, are ever reborn into hell and the like states; but, released from all rebirth into states of suffering, they pass to the Realm of Devas(Angels) and there receive great glory. Therefore, in forsaking such a refuge for that offered by other teachings, you have gone astray."

And here the following sacred texts should be cited to make it clear that who, to find release and the supreme good, have taken refuge in the Triratna (The Three Gems), shall not be reborn into states of suffering:-

Those who took refuge in the Buddha(s) ,
Shall not pass hence to states of suffering;
Straightway, when they shall quit their human frame,
A Deva(angel)-form these faithful ones shall fill (*8).
Those who took refuge in Dhamma
(path of Righteousness, Meditation & Divine Insight to Nirvana)
Shall not pass hence to states of suffering;
Straightway, when they shall quit their human frame,
A Deva(angel)-form these faithful ones shall fill
Those who took refuge in the Sangha,the Holy Order of Enlightened
Shall not pass hence to states of suffering;
Straightway, when they shall quit their human frame,
A Deva(angel)-form these faithful ones shall fill
There are many refuges men seek,
--The mountain peak, the forest's solitude,
(and so on )
When he this refuge shall have searched and found,
Entire release is his from every pain. (*9)

But the Master did not end his teaching to them at this point; for he went on to say:-"Disciples, meditation on the path of the Buddha, meditation on the path of the Dhamma(the righteous path & law leading to Nirvana/Salvation ), meditation on the path of the Sangha (Holy order/good company), this it is that gives Entry to and Fruition of the First, the Second, the Third, and the Fourth Paths to Bliss (*12)." And when he had preached the Truth to them in these and other ways, he said, "In forsaking such a refuge as this, you have gone astray."

(And here the gift of the several Paths to those who meditate on the path of the Buddha and so on..., should be made clear by such scriptures as the following:-"One thing there is, Monks, which, if practised and developed, leads to utter dislike of the world's pleasures, to the cessation of passion, to the end of of rebirths, to peace, to insight, to enlightenment, to Nirvana. What is this one thing?--The meditation on the path of the Buddha....& so on") (Here meditation refers to the austere training/disciplining of body & mind such as Zen, AnaPana, Vipassana,Metta,Satipattana, Samatha etc. leading to stillness of thoughts, emotions, attachments & desires which would further lead to awakening of divine blissful trance, insight , self-illumination and finally transcendence of consciousness from mortal singularity/ego to Enlightenment in infinitude of eternal omnipresence )

When he had thus encouraged the disciples, the Lord Buddha said, "So too in times past, disciples, the men who jumped to the stupid conclusion that what was no refuge was a real refuge, fell a prey to goblins in a demon-haunted wilderness and were utterly destroyed; while the men who stuck to this absolute and indisputable path of truth, prospered in the same wilderness." And when he had said this, he became silent.

Then, rising up from his seat and saluting the Lord Buddha, the layman Anatha-pindika burst into praises, and with clasped hands raised in reverence to his forehead, spoke thus:-"It is clear to us, Sir, that in these present days these disciples were led by error into forsaking the supreme refuge. But the past destruction of those opinionated ones in the demon-haunted wilderness, and the prospering of the men who stuck to the truth, are hidden from us and known only to you. May it please the Lord Buddha, as though causing the full moon to rise in the sky, to make this thing clear to us."

Then said the Lord Buddha:-"It was solely to brush away the world's difficulties that by the display of the Ten Perfections (*10) through countless aeons I won infinite knowledge. Give ear and listen, as closely as if you were filling a tube of gold with lion's marrow."

Having thus excited the Treasurer's attention, he made clear the thing that re-birth had concealed from them, as though he were releasing the full moon from the upper air, the birthplace of the snows.

Once upon a time in the city of Benares in the Kasi country there was a king named Brahmadatta. In those days the Bodhisattva was born into a merchant's family, and growing up in due course, used to journey about trading with, five hundred carts, travelling now from east to west and now from west to east. There was also at Benares another young merchant, a stupid blockhead, lacking resource.

Now at the time of our story the Bodhisattva had loaded five hundred carts with costly wares of Benares and had got them all ready to start. And so had the foolish young merchant too. Thought the Bodhisattva, "If this foolish young merchant keeps me company all along, and the thousand carts travel along together, it will be too much for the road; it will be a hard matter to get wood, water, and so on for the men, or grass for the oxen. Either he or I must go on first." So he sent for the other and laid his view before him, saying, "The two of us can't travel together; would you rather go first or last?" Thought the other, "There will be many advantages if I go on first. I shall have a road which is not yet cut up; my oxen will have the pick of the grass; my men will have the pick of the herbs for curry; the water will be undisturbed; and, lastly, I shall fix my own price for the barter of my goods." Accordingly he replied, "I will go first, my dear sir."

The Bodhisattva, on the other hand, saw many advantages in going last, for he argued thus to himself:-"Those who go first will level the road where it is rough,. while I shall travel along the road they have already travelled; their oxen will have grazed off the coarse old grass, while mine will pasture on the sweet young growth which will spring up in its place; my men will find a fresh growth of sweet herbs for curry where the old ones have been picked; where there is no water, the first caravan will have to dig to supply themselves, and we shall drink at the wells they dug. Haggling over prices is killing work; whereas I, following later, shall barter my wares at the prices they have already fixed." Accordingly, seeing all these advantages, he said to the other, "Then go you first, my dear sir."

"Very well, I will," said the foolish merchant. And he yoked his carts and set out. Journeying along, he left human habitations behind him and came to the outskirts of the wilderness. (Now wildernesses are of the five following kinds:-robber wildernesses, wild-beast wildernesses, drought wildernesses, demon wildernesses, and famine wildernesses. The first is when the way is troubled by robbers; the second is when the way is troubled by lions and other wild beasts; the third is when there is no bathing or water to be got; the fourth is when the road is troubled by demons; and the fifth is when no roots or other food are to be found. And in this fivetimes category the wilderness in question was both a drought, and a demon, wilderness.) Accordingly this young merchant took great big water-jars on his carts, and filling them with water, set out to cross the sixty leagues( x 4.23 km) of desert which lay before him. Now when he had reached the middle of the wilderness, the goblin who haunted it said to himself, "I will make these men throw away their stock of water, and devour them all when they are faint." So he framed by his magic power a delightful carriage drawn by pure white young bulls. With a group of attendants of some ten or twelve goblins carrying bows and arrowcases, swords and shields, he rode along to meet them like a mighty lord in this carriage, with blue lotuses and white water-lilies wreathed round his head, with wet hair and wet clothes, and with muddy carriage-wheels. His attendants, too, in front and rear of him went along with their hair and clothes wet, with garlands of blue lotuses and white water-lilies on their beads, and with bunches of white lotuses in their hands, chewing the edible stalks, and dripping with water and mire. Now the leaders of caravans have the following custom: whenever the wind blows in their teeth, they ride on in front in their carriage with their attendants round them, in order to escape the dust; but when the wind blows from behind them, then they ride in like fashion in the rear of the column. And, as on this occasion the wind was blowing against them, the young merchant was riding in front. When the goblin became aware of the merchant's approach, he took his carriage aside from the track and greeted him kindly, asking him where he was going. The leader of the caravan too caused his carriage to be drawn aside from the track so as to let the carts pass by, while he stopped by the way and thus addressed the goblin: "We are just on our way from Benares, sir. But I observe that you have lotuses and water-lilies on your heads and in your hands, and that your people are chewing the edible stalks, and that you are all muddy and dripping with wet. I ask, did it rain while you were on the road, and did you come on pools covered with lotuses and water-lilies?"

On this the goblin exclaimed, "What did you say? Why, over there appears the dark-green streak of the forest, and from there onward there is nothing but water all through the forest. It is always raining there; the pools are full; and on every side are lakes covered with lotuses and water-lilies." Then as the line of carts passed by, he asked where they were bound for. "To such and such a place," was the reply. "And what wares have you got in this cart and in this?" "So and so." "And what might you have in this last cart which seems to move as if it were heavily laden?" "Oh, there's water in that." "You did well to carry water with you from the other side. But there is no need for it now, as water is abundant on ahead. So break the jars and throw the water away, that you may travel easier." And he added, "Now continue on your way, as we have stopped too long already." Then he went a little way further on, till he was out of sight, when he made his way back to the goblin-city where he lived.

Such was the wrongdoing of that foolish merchant that he did the goblin's asking, and had his jars broken and the water all thrown away, without saving so much even as would go in the palm of a man's hand. Then he ordered the carts to drive on. Not a drop of water did they find on. ahead, and thirst exhausted the men. All day long till the sun went down they kept on the march; but at sunset they unyoked their carts and made a laager, tethering the oxen to the wheels. The oxen had no water to drink, and the men none to cook their rice with; and the tired-out band sank to the ground to slumber. But as soon as night fell, the goblins came out from their city, and killed every single one of those men and oxen; and when they had devoured their flesh, leaving only the bare bones, the goblins departed. Thus was the foolish young merchant the sole cause of the destruction of that whole band, whose skeletons were strewn in every conceivable direction, while the five hundred carts stood there with their loads untouched.

Now the Bodhisattva allowed some six weeks to pass by after the starting of the foolish young merchant, before he set out. Then he proceeded from the city with his five hundred carts, and in due course came to the outskirts of the. wilderness. Here he had his water-jars filled and laid in an ample stock of water; and by beat of drum he had his men assembled in camp , and thus addressed them:-"Let not so much as a palmful of water be used without my consent. There are poison trees in this wilderness; so let no man among you eat any leaf, flower, or fruit which he has not eaten before, without first asking me." With this advice to his men, he pushed on into the wilderness with his 500 carts. When he had reached the middle of the wilderness, the goblin made his appearance on the Bodhisattva's path as in the former case. But, as soon as he became aware of the goblin, the Bodhisattva saw through him; for he thought to himself, "There's no water here, in this 'Waterless Desert.' This person with his red eyes and aggressive look, casts no shadow. Very likely he has induced the foolish young merchant who preceded me, to throw away all his water, and then, waiting till they were worn out, has eaten up the merchant with all his men. But he doesn't know my cleverness and ready wit." Then he shouted to the goblin, "Go away! We're men of business, and do not throw away what water we have got, before we see where more is to come from. But, when we do see more, we may be trusted to throw this water away and lighten our carts."

The goblin rode on a bit further till he was out of sight, and then took himself back to his home in the demon city. But when the goblin had gone, the Bodhisattva's men said to him, "Sir, we heard from those men that over there is the dark-green streak of the forest appearing, where they said it was always raining. They had got lotuses on their heads and water-lilies in their hands and were eating the stalks, while their clothes and hair were wringing wet, with water streaming off them. Let us throw away our water and get on a bit quicker with lightened carts." On hearing these words, the Bodhisattva ordered a halt and had the men all mustered. "Tell me," said he; "did any-man among you ever hear before today that there was a lake or a pool in this wilderness?" "No, sir," was the answer, "why it's known as 'the Waterless Desert'."

"We have just been told by some people that it is raining just on ahead, in the belt of forest; now how far does a rain-wind carry?" "A league( 4.23 km), sir." "And has this rain-wind reached any one man here?" "No, sir." "How far off can you see the crest of a storm-cloud?" "A league, sir." "And has any one man here seen the top of even a single storm-cloud?" "No, sir." "How far off can you see a flash of lightning?" "Four or five leagues, sir." "And has any one man here seen a flash of lightning?" "No, sir." How far off can a man hear a peal of thunder?" "Two or three leagues, sir." "And has any man here heard a peal of thunder?" "No, sir." "These are not men but goblins. They will return in the hope of devouring us when we are weak and faint after throwing away our water at their asking. As the young merchant who went on before us was not a man of resource, most likely he has been fooled into throwing his water away and has been devoured when exhaustion followed. We may expect to find his five hundred carts standing just as they were loaded for the start; we shall come on them today. Press on with all possible speed, without throwing away a drop of water."

Urging his men forward with these words, he proceeded on his way till he came upon the 500 carts standing just as they had been loaded and the skeletons of the men and oxen lying strewn in every direction. He had his carts unyoked and arranged in a circle so as to form a strong laager; he saw that his men and oxen had their supper early, and that the oxen were made to lie down in the middle with the men round them; and he himself with the leading men of his band stood on guard, sword in hand, through the three watches of the night, waiting for the day to dawn. On the next day at daybreak when he had had his oxen fed and everything needful done, he discarded his own weak carts for stronger ones, and his own common goods for the most costly of the derelict goods. Then he went on to his destination, where he bartered his stock for wares of twice or three times their value, and came back to his own city without losing a single man out of all his company.


This story ended, the Master said, "Thus it was, layman, that in times past the stupid came to utter destruction, while those who stuck to the truth, escaping from the demons' hands, reached their goal in safety and came back to their homes again." And when he had thus linked the two stories together, he, as the Buddha, spoke the following stanza for the purposes of this lesson on the Truth:

Then some explained the sole, the exceptional truth;
But otherwise the false teachers spoke.
Let him that is wise from this a lesson take,
And firmly grasp the sole, the exceptional truth

Thus did the Lord Buddha teach this lesson respecting Truth. And he went on to say: "What is called walking by truth, not only gives the three happy gifts, the six heavenly deva/angel states of the realms of sense, and the gifts of the higher Realm of Brahma/archangel, but finally is the giver of Arhatship(Enlightenment equal to Buddha) ; while what is called walking by untruth follows re-birth in the four states of punishment or in the lowest castes(classes) of mankind." Further, the Master went on to explain in sixteen ways, the Four Truths (*11), at the close of which all those five hundred disciples were established in the Fruit of the First Path(*12).

Having delivered his lesson and his teaching, and having told the two stories and established the relation linking them together, the Master concluded by identifying the Birth as follows:-"Devadatta was the foolish young merchant. of those days; his followers were the followers of that merchant; the followers of the Buddha were the followers of the wise merchant, who was myself."


(1)The canonical text of the Jataka book, which consists exclusively of gathas or stanzas, is divided into 'books,' or nipatas, according to the number of gathas. The first volume contains the 150 stories which explain, and form the commentary of, a single gatha in each case, and compose the first book. The later books contain an increasing number of gathas and a decreasing number of stories: e.g. the second book contains 100 two-gatha stories, the third book 50 three-gatha stories, and so on. The total number of the books or nipatas is 22, 21 of which form the text of the five published volumes of the Pali text. The nipatas are subdivided into vaggas, or sets of about 10 stories, named as a rule after their first story. It has not been thought desirable to cumber the translation with these subdivisions.

(2)The Introductory Story usually begins by quoting, as a catchword, the first words of the subsequent gatha(story).

(3)Rivals or 'heretics,' . The six rivals with whom Gautam(Buddha) had chiefly to compete were Purana Kashyapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesa-kambali, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sanjaya Belatthi-putta, and Nigantha Nataputta (also known as Mahavira the guru of Jains ) (see, the Samannaphala Sutta in the Digha Nikaya).

(4)This is a surname, meaning literally 'feeder of the poor.' His ordinary name was Sudatta. He bought from Prince Jeta his garden for as much gold as would pave the ground, and he built on that the Great Monastery Jetavana for the Buddha.

(5)i.e. the Milky Way.

(6)i.e. 1.The Buddha, 2. The Path of Truth he preached, and 3. The Holy Order of Monks, he founded. This triad is known as the 'Three Gems.'

(7)Strictly speaking in Buddhism , 4 planes of woe (including hells) are places of suffering--are temporary and educational and the punishment period is finite , after that rebirth in other plane can occur.

(8)The word deva, which has been retained in its Pali form, means an 'angel,'

(9)Dhammapada, v. 188-192.

(10)i.e. almsgiving, goodness, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truth, resolution, loving-kindness, and equanimity. see also Jataka no. (35).

(11)These four cardinal truths of Buddhism are as follows:-(i)Dukkha: Life is suffering; (ii)Samudaya: cravings (of material nature) cause the arising & continuance of a person/creature; (iii) Nirodha: with the disappearance of cravings, individual would also disappear; and (iv) Magga: cravings disappear by following the meditative Noble Eightfold Path based on righteousness as taught by the Buddha.

(12)Buddhist Eightfold Path of practicing Meditation (with righteous living) results in four stages of achievements also called as Chattaro Magga (Four paths) :

First Path(first magga)--Called Sotapanna,stream winner, with removal of many sins/karma in meditation,first time one experiences the nirvana state in trance, will be reborn 7 times only as human/angel to remove imperfections with meditation & then surely gets Nirvana.

Second Path(Second magga)--Called Sakdagami, has little sin/karma left,with meditation one experiences the nirvana state few times in trance, will be reborn one time only as human to remove imperfections with meditation & then surely gets Nirvana.

Third Path(Third magga)--Called Anagami, has very minute sin/karma left, with meditation one experiences the nirvana state many times in trance, will not be reborn ever as human rather be reborn in Brahma(ArcAngel) realm to remove imperfections with meditation there & then surely gets Nirvana.

Fourth Path(Fourth magga)--Final achievement called Arhatship(Enlightenment equal to Buddha), one has removed all sin/karma completely with meditation in trance, then experiences 3 Pre-Nirvana states (a)Recollection of numerous past lives (b)Learns from these the cause-&-effect cycle of rebirths due to attachments in material realm (c)Attachments & sins now broken ; then experiences 9 Trance states to Nirvana 1.Illuminated blissful state of consciousness within.. 5. Expansion of consciousness out of physical body in all directions becoming infinite space/omnipresence in the material universe..7. Experiences becoming Void i.e. non-experience of material universe.. 9. Finally transforming to the transcendental omnipresent state like a sea of timeless, eternal, unchanging, unseen light - the final enlightenment/salvation/Nirvana ). See Ariyapariyesana Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya 26)in Tipitaka.