Jātakamālā or Garland of Birth Stories


9. The Story of Viśvantara (Dāna)

The mean-spirited are not even capable of approving the behaviour of the Bodhisattva, how much less can they act after it. This will be taught by the following.

Once the Śibis were ruled by a king named Saṁjaya, who performed his royal duties in the right manner. Having entirely subdued his organs of sense, and possessing in a high degree the virtues of valour, discretion, and modesty, he was victorious and mighty. Thanks to the constant and strict observance he paid to the elders, he had mastered the essential contents of the three Vedas (trayi) and of metaphysics. His good administration of justice was praised by his [72] affectionate subjects, who loved the exercise of their different trades and duties, and enjoyed the benefits of security and peace.

1. By the progress of his virtues he had gained the affection of Royal Felicity, who, like an honest woman, was faithful to him, not to be thought of by the other monarchs; just as a den kept by a lion is inaccessible to other animals.

2. All such men as spent their labours in any kind of penance, science or art, used to come up to him, and if they proved their merit, they obtained distinguished honour from him.

Next to him in dignity, but not his inferior by a famous set of virtues, his son Viśvantara held the rank of heir-apparent.

3. Though a youth, he possessed the lovely placidity of mind proper to old age; though he was full of ardour, his natural disposition was inclined to forbearance; though learned, he was free from the conceit of knowledge; though mighty and illustrious, he was void of pride.

4. As the extent I suppose the reading of the MSS. dṛṣṭaprayāmāsu to be right.01 of his virtue was conspicuous in all regions and his fame penetrated the three worlds, there was no room for the feeble and trifling reputation of others; it seemed as if they did not venture to show themselves.

5. He could not endure the proud prevalence of calamities and other causes of sufferings among mankind. It was against these foes that he waged war and fought in battle, shooting from his large bow of compassion numberless arrows which had the form of gifts of charity.

So he was wont to fill day after day the mendicants who happened to come to him with the utmost gladness by his bounties, given without difficulty, surpassing the objects asked for, and the more lovely, as they were bestowed with deference and kind words. But on the [73] knotdays, Viz, the sabbath-days.02 as he was distinguished by his strict observance of the restrictions and the quiet of the sabbath, after bathing his head and putting on a white linen dress, he mounted his excellent, well-trained, swift, and vigorous elephant, who (by his colour and size) might be compared to a peak of the Snow-mountain, whose face was adorned with the tracks of the juice flowing in rutting-time, and on whose body auspicious marks were found. Sitting, then, on the back of that far-famed scent-elephant Cp. stanza 6 of Story 2.03 and royal vehicle, he was in the habit of making the round of his alms-halls, which he had established in all parts of the town to be like refreshing wells for the mendicants. So going about, he experienced an excessive gladness.

6. No opulence, in truth, within doors procures to a charitable man such rejoicing, as it produces when transferred to the mendicants.

Now his very great practice of charity being proclaimed everywhere by the rejoiced mendicants, some neighbouring king who had heard of it, considering that it would be possible to deceive the young prince by means of his passion for almsgiving, directed some Brāhmans, his emissaries, to rob him of that excellent elephant. Accordingly one day, when Viśvantara was inspecting his alms-halls, manifesting his gladness of mind by the enhanced beauty of his countenance, the said Brāhmans placed themselves in his way, uttering benedictions with their uplifted and outstretched right hands. He stopped his excellent elephant, and asked them respectfully the reason of their coming; they had but to express their want, he said. The Brāhmans spoke:

7, 8. “Both the excellent qualities of this elephant of thine, who has so graceful a gait, and thy heroic love of charity make us like beggars.

Present us with this (white) elephant, who is like a peak of the Kailāsa [74] mountain, and thou wilt fill the world with astonishment.”

The Bodhisattva being thus addressed, was filled with sincere joy and entered upon this reflection:

“Truly, after a long time I now see mendicants requesting a grand boon. But, after all, what may be the want of such a lord of elephants to these Brāhmans? No doubt, this must be a miserable trick of some king, whose mind is troubled with covetousness, jealousy, and hatred.

9. Yet that prince, who, not minding either his reputation or the precepts of righteousness, is eager, as it were, to promote my good, Inasmuch as his covetousness affords to the Bodhisattva an occasion of performing an extraordinary deed of charity. Compare a similar argument in Story 33, stanza 15.04 must not be saddened by disappointment.”

Having thus considered, the Great-minded One alighted from the back of the excellent elephant and stood before them with uplifted golden pitcher; then he pronounced (the solemn formula) “Accept.”

10. After which, though knowing that the science of politics follows the path of Righteousness (dharma) only as far as it may agree with material interest (artha), he gave away his foremost elephant. His attachment to Righteousness did not allow him to be frightened by the lie of political wisdom.

11. Having given away that lord of elephants, who, adorned with the lovely golden lattice-seat on his back, resembled a massy cloud of autumn, radiant with a flash of lightening, In the Pāli redaction which is the source of Spence Hardy's narration of our tale, it is said that this white elephant had the power of causing rain.05 the royal prince obtained the utmost delight - but the citizens were stricken with consternation, for they were adherents of political wisdom.

In fact, when the Śibis heard of the gift of that lord of elephants, anger and wrath penetrated them and the eldest of the Brāhmans, the ministers, the warriors [75] and the chiefs of the townsmen, making hubbub went into the presence of king Saṁjaya.

Owing to their agitation, resentment, and anger, they neglected the restraint imposed on them by the respect due to their monarch, and spoke: “Why do you overlook in this manner, Your Majesty, the fortune of your kingdom being carried off? Your Majesty ought not to overlook that in this way you are fostering the misfortune of your realm.” When the king, alarmed, asked them what they meant by this, they replied: “Why, are you not aware of what has happened, Your Majesty?

12, 13. That splendid animal, whose face, being fragrant with the scent of the flowing juice, intoxicates crowds of humming bees hovering about, and likewise impregnates the cherishing wind with its perfume, so as to induce him to wipe off gladly and easily the smell caught from the fluid of other haughty elephants; that war-elephant, whose brilliant vigour subdued the strength and the power of your enemies, and abated their pride even unto the motionlessness of sleep - see, that embodied victory has been given away by Viśvantara and is now being carried off abroad.

14. Kine, gold, clothes, eatables, such are the goods fit to give to Brāhmans, but parting with our foremost elephant, the pledge of glorious victory, is an excess of charity, and goes too far.

15. How should success and might ever join this prince who acts up to this point contrary to the maxims of policy? In this matter forbearance from your side is out of place, Your Majesty, lest he should before long afford matter of rejoicing to your enemies.”

On hearing this, the king, who loved his son, was not very kindly disposed towards them: but submitting to necessity, he told them hastily, they were right; after which he tried to appease the Śibis. “I know,” he said, “that Viśvantara indulges in his disproportionate passion for charity so as to neglect for it the rules of political wisdom, which behaviour is not suitable for a person appointed to the royal charge. But as he has resigned his own elephant, as if it were [76] phlegm, who will bring back that animal? Nevertheless, I shall take such measures that Viśvantara will know a limit in his almsgiving. This may suffice to appease your anger.

The Śibis answered: “No, Your Majesty, this will not do. Viśvantara is no person to be brought to reason in this matter by a simple censure.”

Saṁjaya spoke: “But what else can I do?

16. He is averse to sinful actions, only his attachment to virtuous practices is turning into a kind of passion. Why, should you then deem imprisonment or death inflicted on my own son to be the due requital for that elephant?

Therefore, desist from your wrath! Henceforward I will prevent Viśvantara from such actions.”

Notwithstanding this, the Śibis persisted in their anger and said:

17, 18. “Who would be pleased, O king, with the pain of death, or prison, or flogging pronounced upon your son? But being devoted to his religious duties, Viśvantara is not fit to be a bearer of the troublesome burden of royalty, because of his tenderness of heart and his compassion.

Let the throne be occupied by such princes, as have obtained renown for their martial qualities and are skilled in the art of giving its due to each of the three members of the trivarga; but your son, who in consequence of his love of Righteousness (dharma), does not heed Policy (naya), is a proper person to dwell in a penance-grove.

19. Surely, if princes commit faults of bad policy, the results of those faults fall on their subjects. This Indian parallel to the Horatian verse: quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi, runs thus in the original: phalanti kāmaṁ vasudhādīpānāṁ durnītidoṣās tadupāśṛteṣu.06 They are however bearable for them, after all, as is taught by experience; not so for the kings themselves, the very roots of whose power they undermine.

20. Why, then, here say much? Not capable of conniving at a state of things which must lead to your [77] ruin, the Śibis have taken this resolution. The royal prince must withdraw to Mount Vaṅka, the residence of the Siddhas; there he may exert his penance.

Being so addressed for his good in very harsh terms by those dignitaries, who moved by affection and love spoke frankly, foreseeing the calamities to be expected from bad policy, the king was ashamed of the wrath of the chiefs of his people, and with downcast eyes, overwhelmed by the sorrowful thought of a separation from his son, he heaved a deep, woeful sigh, and said to the Śibis: “If this is your peremptory decision, allow him, at least, the delay of one day and night. Tomorrow at daybreak Viśvantara shall accomplish your desire.”

This answer satisfied the Śibis. Then the king said to his chamberlain: “Go and tell Viśvantara what has happened.” The chamberlain said he would do so, and, his face bathed in tears, went to Viśvantara, who was at that moment in his own palace. Overwhelmed by his sorrow, he threw himself at the feet of the prince, weeping aloud. Then Viśvantara anxiously inquired after the health of the royal family; the other said in a voice rather indistinct by affliction:

“O, the royal family is well.” “But why are you thus excited, then?” Viśvantara replied. Being so asked once more, the chamberlain whose throat was choked with tears, uttered slowly and in a faltering tone these words, interrupting and disturbing them by his sobs:

21. “Brusquely disregarding the royal command, though it was declared to them in gentle terms, the Śibis, moved by anger, order you to be banished from the kingdom, my prince.”

Viśvantara said: “Me . . . the Śibis . . . order to be banished, moved by anger! What you say is out of all reason.

22. Never did I take delight in leaving the path of discipline, and I detest carelessness about my duties. What evil action of mine, unknown to me, makes the Śibis angry with me?”

The chamberlain said: “They are offended at your exceeding loftiness of mind. [78]

23, 24. Your satisfaction was pure by the disinterested feeling you experienced, but that of those mendicants was troubled by cupidity.

When you gave away that foremost of elephants, O most noble prince, wrath put the Śibis out of patience and caused them to transgress the limits of their duty. They are furious against you. You must go, indeed, the way of those who live as ascetics.”

At this moment the Bodhisattva displayed both his deeply-rooted affection for the mendicants which his continuous practice of compassion had firmly established, and his grand, immense patience. He said:

“The nature of the Śibis is fickle, and they cannot understand mine, it seems.

25. The objects of sense being outside of ourselves, it is superfluous to say that I would give away my eyes or my head. The Bodhisattva is said to have given away his eyes in one of his existences (Story II). The gift of his head is related in some jātaka, not found in this selection of Arya Śūra. It occurs in Kṣemendra's Avadānakalpalatā, pallava the fifth.07 For the benefit of the creatures I support this body, how much more the possession of clothes and vehicles.

26. Me, wanting to honour the requests of the mendicants, if need be, with my own limbs, the Śibis believe to restrain from charity by fear! So considering, they do but unfold their foolish fickleness of mind.

27. Let all Śibis kill me or banish me, I shall not desist from charity for that reason. With this mind I am ready to set out for the penance-grove.”

After this, the Bodhisattva said to his wife, who had turned pale while hearing the sad news: “Your Highness has heard the resolution of the Śibis.” Madrī It is plain that Śūra supposes the story of Viśvantara to be known to his readers. Neither the name of Viśvantara's wife nor even the fact of his being married has been told before.08 replied: “I have.” Viśvantara said:

28. “Now make a deposit, fair-eyed one, of all your [79] property, taking what you have got from my part as well as from your father's side.” On this strīdhana, or ‘wife's property’, see the paper of Jolly in the Sitzungsber. der bair. Akad. der Wiss., 1876.09

Madrī answered: “Where shall I lay the deposit, my prince?” Viśvantara spoke:

29, 30. “You must always give in charity to people of good conduct, embellishing your bounty by kind observance. Goods deposited in this manner are imperishable and follow us after death.

Be a loving daughter to your parents-in-law, a careful mother to our children. Continue in pious conduct, beware of inadvertence; but do not mourn for my absence, will you?”

Upon this, Madrī, avoiding what might impair the firmness of mind of her husband, suppressed the deep sorrow that put her heart to anguish, and said with feigned calmness:

31, 32. “It is not right, Your Majesty, that you should go to the forest alone. I too will go with you where you must go, my lord. When attending on you, even death will be a festival to me; but living without you I deem worse than death.

Nor do I think the forest-life to be unpleasant at all. Do but consider it well.

33. Removed from wicked people, haunted by deer, resounding with the warbling of manifold birds, the penance-groves with their rivulets and trees, both intact, with their grass-plots which have the loveliness of inlaid lapis lazuli floors, are by far more pleasing than our artificial gardens.

Indeed, my prince,

34. When beholding these children neatly dressed and adorned with garlands, playing in the wild shrubs, you will not think of your royalty.

35. The water-carrying brooks, overhung by natural bowers of perpetually renewed beauty, varying according to the succession of the seasons, will delight you in the forest. [80]

36, 37. The melodious music of the songs of birds longing for the pleasure of love, the dances of the peacocks whom Lasciviousness has taught that art, the sweet and praised buzzing of the honey-seeking bees: they make together a forest-concert that will rejoice your mind.

38, 39. Further, the rocks overspread at night with the silk garment of moonlight; the soft-stroking forest wind impregnated with the scent of flowering trees; the murmuring noise of the rivulets, pushing their waters over moving gravel so as to imitate the sound of a number of rattling female ornaments - all this will gladden your mind in the forest.”

This entreaty of his well-beloved wife filled him with a great desire to set out for the forest. Therefore he prepared to bestow great largesses on the mendicant people.

But in the king's palace the news of the banishment pronounced upon Viśvantara caused great alarm and violent lamentations. Likewise the mendicants, agitated by sorrow and grief, became almost beside themselves, or behaved as if they were intoxicated or mad, and uttered many and various lamentations of this kind:

40. “How is it that Earth does not feel ashamed, permitting the hatchets to hew down that shady tree, her foster-child, the giver of such sweet fruits? It is now plain she has been deprived of consciousness.

41. If no one will prevent those who are about to destroy that well of cold, pure, and sweet water, then in truth the guardians of the world-quarters are falsely named so, or they are absent, or they are nothing but a mere sound.

42. Oh! Indeed Injustice is awake and Righteousness either asleep or dead, since prince Viśvantara is banished from his reign.

43. Who possesses such a refined skill in occasioning distress, as to have the cruelty to aim at starving us, the guiltless, who obtain a scanty livelihood by begging?” [81]

The Bodhisattva then gave away his wealth. He bestowed on the mendicants the contents of his treasury, filled to the very top with precious stones, gold, and silver, of the value of many hundred thousands; his magazines and granaries, containing stores of manifold goods and grains; all his other property, consisting of slaves of both sexes, beasts of draught, carriages, garments and the like. The whole of this he distributed according to the merit of the recipients.

This being done, he paid his respectful homage to his father and mother, taking leave of them, who were overwhelmed with sadness and grief. Then he mounted his royal chariot with his wife and children. He left the capital, while a great body of people uttered lamentations, the streets being as noisy as on a holiday; nor did he succeed without difficulty in making the crowd turn back, who followed him out of affection, shedding tears of sorrow.

Then himself taking the reins, he drove in the direction of Mount Vaṅka. And without the least agitation of mind he passed along the environs of the capital, crowned with charming gardens and groves, and approached the forest, betokened by the gradually increasing rareness of shady trees and of human beings, the sight of flocks of antelopes running at a far distance, and the chirping of crickets.

Now by chance some Brāhmans came to meet him, who begged from him the horses that were drawing his chariot.

44. And he, though on a journey of many yojanas without attendants, and burdened with his wife, gave away to these Brāhmans his four horses, being rejoiced at this opportunity of giving, and not caring for the future.

Now, when the Bodhisattva was about to put himself under the yoke, and was fastening the girth tightly round his waist, there appeared four young Yakṣas, under the form of red deer. Like well-trained excellent horses they put their shoulders under the yoke themselves. On seeing them, the Bodhisattva said to Madrī, who stared at them with joy and surprise: [82]

45. “Behold the extraordinary might of the penance-groves honoured by the residence of ascetics. Their kindness towards guests has in this degree taken root in the breast of the foremost of deer.”

Madrī replied:

46. “This is rather your superhuman power, I suppose. The practice of virtue by the pious, however deeply rooted, is not the same with respect to everybody.

47. When the beautiful reflection of the stars in the water is surpassed by the laughing lustre of the night-waterlilies, the cause thereof is to be found in the beams which the Moon-god sends down as if out of curiosity.” The white waterlilies (kumuda) are said to open at moonrise. The connection between these flowers and the moon is a commonplace in Indian poetry.10

While they were going on, so speaking to each other kind words of affection, see, another Brāhman came near, and asked the Bodhisattva for his royal chariot.

48. And the Bodhisattva, as he was indifferent to his own comfort, but to the beggars a loving kinsman, fulfilled the wish of that Brāhman.

He gladly caused his family to alight from the chariot, presented the Brāhman with it, and taking Jālin, his boy, in his arms, he continued his way on foot. Madrī, she too free from sadness, took the girl, Kṛṣṇājinā, in her arms and marched after him.

49. The trees, stretching out to him their branches adorned at their ends with charming fruits, invited him, as it were, to enjoy their hospitality, and paying homage to his merit-obtained dignity, bowed to him like obedient disciples, when they got sight of him.

50. And, where he longed for water, in those very places lotus-ponds appeared to his eyes, covered on their surface with the white and reddish-brown pollen fallen down from the anthers of the lotuses shaken by the wing-movements of the swans.

51. The clouds overspread him with a beautiful canopy; there blew an agreeable and odoriferous wind; and his path was shortened by Yakṣas not enduring his labour and fatigue.

In this manner the Bodhisattva with his wife and children experienced the pleasure and the delight of a walk, without feeling the sensation of weariness, just as if he were in some park, and at last he perceived mount Vaṅka. Being showed the way by some foresters, he went up to the penance-forest which was on that mountain.

This forest was beset with manifold charming and smooth-barked, excellent trees, with their ornaments of twigs, flowers, and fruits; birds exulting with lust made it resound with their various notes; groups of dancing peacocks enhanced its beauty; many kinds of deer lived in it. It was encircled as with a girdle by a river of pure, blue water, and the wind was agreeable there, carrying red flower-dust.

In this grove stood a desert hut of leaves, lovely to behold, and pleasing in every season. Viśvakarman himself had built it by the orders of Śakra. There the Bodhisattva took up his residence.

52. Attended by his beloved wife, enjoying the artless and sweet talk of his children, not thinking of the cares of royalty, like one who is staying in his gardens, he practised in that grove strong penance for half a year.

One day, when the princess had gone to seek roots and fruits, and the prince watching the children kept himself within the borders of the hermitage, there arrived a Brāhman, whose feet and ankles were stiff with the dust of the journey, and whose eyes and cheeks were sunken by toil; he was bearing over his shoulder a wooden club, from which his waterpot hung down. His wife had despatched him with the pressing errand, to go and search after some attendance.

When the Bodhisattva saw a mendicant coming up to him after a long time, his heart rejoiced, and his countenance began to beam. He went to meet him, and welcomed him with kind words. After the usual complimentary conversation he told him to enter the hermitage, [84] where he entertained him with the honour due to a guest. Then he asked him the object of his coming. And the Brāhman, who through fondness for his wife had banished virtue and shame and was but eager to receive his boon, said in truth something like this:

53. “Where a light is and an even road, there it is easy for men to go. But in this world the darkness of selfishness prevails to such a degree that no other men would support my words of request.

54. Thy brilliant renown of heroic almsgiving has penetrated everywhere. For this reason I have undertaken this labour of begging from thee. Give me both thy children to be my attendants.”

Being so addressed, the Bodhisattva, that Great Being,

55. As he was in the habit of cheerfully giving to mendicants and had never learnt to say no, bravely said that he would give even both his darlings.

“Bless thee! But what art thou still waiting for?” Thus speaking the Brāhman urged the Great Being. Now the children, having heard their father saying he would give them away, became afflicted, and their eyes filled with tears. His affection for them agitated him, and made his heart sink. So the Bodhisattva spoke:

56, 57. “They are thine, being given by me to thee. But their mother is not at home. She went out to the forest in search of roots and fruits; she will come back at evening-time.

Let their mother see them, neatly dressed as they are now and bearing wreaths, and kiss The literal translation is ‘to smell at’. This old and traditional manner of caressing is prescribed in the ritual-books, see for instance, Aśvalāyanagṛbyasūtra I, 15, 9; Pāraskara I, 18; Gobhila II, 8, 22 and 25.11 them (farewell). Rest this night here; tomorrow thou shalt carry them away.”

The Brāhman said: “Thy Reverence ought not to urge me.

58. A metaphorical name of womankind is ‘beautiful [85] charmers,’ I have tried to render approximately the ambiguousness of the original. Women are designated, says the Brāhman, by the appellation of vāmāḥ. Now vāmā means ‘beautiful’, but pronounced with a different accent vāma, it is a word signifying ‘left, contrary, opposite’.12 thou knowest. She might prove a hindrance to the fulfilment of thy promise. Therefore I do not like staying here.”

The Bodhisattva said: “Do not think of that. My wife will not obstruct the fulfilment of my promise. She is in fact the companion of my pious practice. Viśvantara uses here the solemn appellation of sahadharmacāriṇī (= ‘housewife’) with its full meaning. The formula sahobhau carataṁ dharmaṁ is uttered in the fourth or Prājāpatya form of marriage. Manu III, 30.13 But do as pleases Thy Reverence. Yet, great Brāhman, thou shouldst consider this:

59-61. How should these children satisfy thy wants by slavework? They are very young and weak and have never been accustomed to such kind of occupation.

But the king of Śibi, their grandfather, seeing them fallen into this state of bondage, will doubtlessly give thee as much money as thou desirest to redeem them.

Well, for this reason I pray thee, take them to his realm. When acting thus, thou wilt get the possession of great wealth and at the same time of righteousness.”

“No” (said the Brāhman), “I do not venture to come to this king with an offer which would excite his anger; he would be unapproachable like a snake.

62. He would have the children torn from me by force, perhaps he would also inflict punishment on me. I shall bring them rather to my Brāhmaṇī that they may attend on her.”

Upon this the Bodhisattva said nothing but: “Then as thou likest,” without finishing the sentence. He instructed the little ones with persuasive words how they had to act in accordance with their new condition of servants; after which he took the waterpot, bending [86] it over the outstretched hand of the Brāhman, greedy to accept the ratification of the gift.

63. Yielding to his effort, the water poured down from the pot, and at the same time tears fell without effort from his eyes resembling dark red lotus-petals.

Overjoyed with his success, agitated by his excitement, and hastening to carry off the children of the Bodhisattva, the Brāhman uttered a short phrase of benediction, and telling the children with a harsh voice of command to go out, he prepared to make them leave the hermitage. They, however, could not bear the too intense grief of separation, their hearts shrunk together and they embraced the feet of their father. Bathed in tears, they exclaimed:

64. “Mother is out of doors, while you are about to give us away. Do not give us away before we have bidden adieu to mother too.

Now the Brāhman reflected: “The mother will return erelong, or it is likely that his paternal love will make him repent.” Thus considering, he tied their hands like a bundle of lotuses with a creeper, and as they were reluctant and looked back at their father, he began to drag those young and delicate children along with him, threatening them. At this moment Kṛṣṇājinā the girl, having never before experienced a sudden calamity, cried out with tears to her father:

65, 66. “This cruel Brāhman, father, hurts me with a creeper. No, it is no Brāhman, to be sure. Brāhmans are righteous, they say. It is an ogre under the guise of a Brāhman. Certainly he carries us off to eat us. Why do you suffer us, father, to be led away by this ogre?”

And Jālin the boy lamented on account of his mother, saying:

67. “I do not suffer so much by the violence of this Brāhman, as by the absence of mother. It is as if my heart is pierced by grief that I did not see her.

68. Oh! certainly, mother will weep for us for a [87] long time in the empty hermitage, like the bird cātaka This bird, the cuculus melanoleucus, is a favourite with Indian poets and rhetoricians. It is said to feed on raindrops.14 whose little ones have been killed.

69. How will mother behave, when coming back with the many roots and fruits she has gathered in the forest for us, she will find the hermitage empty?

70. Here, father, are our toy horses, elephants, and chariots. Half of them you must give to mother, that she may assuage her grief therewith.

71. You must also present to her our respectful salutations and withhold her at any rate from afflicting herself; for it will be difficult for us, father, to see you and her again.

72. Come, Kṛṣṇā, let us die. Of what use is life to us? We have been delivered by the prince to a Brāhman who is in want of money.”

After so speaking they parted. But the Bodhisattva, though his mind was shaken by these most piteous laments of his children, did not move from the place where he was sitting. While representing to himself that it is not right to repent having given, his heart was burnt by the fire of irremediable grief, and his mind became troubled, as though it were paralysed by torpor occasioned by poison. The fanning of the cool wind made him soon recover his senses, and seeing the hermitage noiseless and silent, as it were, being devoid of his children, he said to himself in a voice choked with tears:

73. “How is it possible that this man did not scruple to strike my very heart before my very eyes in my children? Lit.: ‘On my very heart, whose name is offspring’. This identification of the heart of the father with his children depends on an old formula, forming part of the prayers and sacred mantras of the gṛhya-book. Cp. also Kauśītakibrāhmaṇopaniṣad II, II.15 O, fie on that shameless Brāhman!

74. How may they be capable of making the journey, going barefooted, unable to bear fatigue by reason of their tender age, and become servants to that man? [88]

75. Who will afford rest to them, when they are way-worn and exhausted? Whom may they go and ask, if vexed by the suffering of hunger and thirst?

76. If this sorrow strikes even me, the earnest striver after firmness of mind, what then will be the condition of those little ones, brought up in ease?

77. Oh! the separation from my children is to my mind like a burning fire . . . . Nevertheless, who, holding on to the righteous conduct of the virtuous, would give way to repentance?”

In the meanwhile Madrī was disquieted by ill omens and prognostics, the foretokens of some accident. Desiring therefore to get back with her roots and fruits as soon as possible, she was obstructed on the way by ferocious animals, and was obliged to return to the hermitage by a long circuitous way. And when she did not see her children neither on the way, where they were used to come to meet her, nor in the playground, her uneasiness greatly increased.

78. Apprehending evil because of these dreadful sensations of danger, she was agitated and anxious, and looked round about if she might get sight of the children; then she called them. Receiving no answer, she began to lament, being sore with grief.

79. “Formerly the hermitage, resounding with the shouts of my children, appeared to me a much-frequented region; now not perceiving them, I feel myself helpless in the very same place as in a wilderness.

80. But perhaps they have fallen asleep and are slumbering, tired with playing. Or should they have gone astray in the thicket? Or should they have hidden themselves out of childishness, being displeased that I was so long in coming home?

81. But why do not yonder birds warble? Are they perhaps bewildered, having witnessed mischief, done to the children? Can it be that my darlings have been carried away by that very rapid stream, which is eagerly pushing forth its dashing waves?

Oh! that my suspicions may prove to be groundless [89] and false even now, and the prince and the children be well! Oh! may the evil-boding prognostics find their fulfilment on my body! But why then is my heart big with sadness because of them? Why is it enwrapt in the night of sorrow and as if it would sink away? Why is it that my limbs seem to slacken, that I am no more able to discern the objects around me, that this grove, deprived of its lustre, seems to turn round?”

Having entered the hermitage-ground and put aside her roots and fruits, she went to her husband. After performing the usual salutation, she asked him for the children. Now the Bodhisattva, knowing the tenderness of a mother's love and also considering that bad news is hard to be told, was not able to make any answer.

82. It is a very difficult matter for a pitiful man, indeed, to torment with evil tidings the mind of one who has come to him and deserves to hear pleasant words.

Then Madrī thought: “Surely, some ill has befallen the children; his silence must be the effect of his being overwhelmed by grief and sadness,” and almost stricken with stupor she stared about the hermitage, but saw no children. And again she said in a voice rather indistinct by smothered tears:

83. “I do not see the children, and you do not speak anything to me! Alas! I am wretched, I am forlorn. This silence speaks of some great evil.”

No sooner had she said these words, than over-powered by the sorrow that tortured her heart, she sank down like a creeper violently cut off. The Bodhisattva prevented her from falling to the ground, clasping his arms round her, and brought her to a grass couch, on which lying and being sprinkled with cold water she recovered her senses. Then he endeavoured to comfort her, saying:

84. “I have not told the sad news straightway to you, Madrī, for firmness is not to be expected of a mind rendered weak by affection. [90]

85. See, a Brāhman suffering from old age and poverty has come to me. To him I have given both children. Be appeased and do not mourn.

86. Look at me, Madrī, do not look for the children, nor indulge in lamentations. Do not strike anew my heart, still pierced by the dart of sorrow on account of the children.

87. When asked for my life, should I be able to withhold it? Take this in account, my love, and approve the gift I have made of the children.”

Madrī, whom the suspicion of the death of her children had put to anguish, now hearing by these words that they were alive, began to recover from her fright and affliction. She wiped away her tears with the object of comforting and strengthening her husband; then looking up, she beheld (something) that made her speak with amazement to her husband:

“A wonder! A wonder! To say it in a few words,

88. Surely, even the Celestials are wrapt in admiration at your heart being up to this point inaccessible to selfish feelings.

89. This is evident from the sounds of the divine drums, echoing in all directions. It is in order to celebrate your glory, that Heaven has composed the hymn which it thus pronounces in distinct language from afar.

90. Earth shakes, trembling, I suppose, from exultation, as is indicated by the heaving of her breasts, the huge mountains. Golden flowers, falling down from heaven, make the sky appear as if it were illuminated by lightnings.

91. Leave, then, grief and sadness. That you have given away in charity must rather tend to brighten up your mind. Become again the well that affords benefit to the creatures, and a giver as before!”

Now the surface of Earth being shaken, Sumeru, the lord of mountains, radiant with the lustre of its manifold gems, began to waver. Śakra, the Lord of the Devas, inquiring into the cause of the earthquake, was informed of it by the regents of the world-quarters, [91] who, with eyes expanding with amazement, told him that it had been caused by Viśvantara giving away his children.

Excited with joy and surprise, next day at daybreak he went into the presence of Viśvantara, feigning to be a Brāhman come to him as a mendicant. The Bodhisattva showed him the hospitality due to a guest, after which he asked him to bring forth his request. Then Śakra begged him for his wife.

92. “The practice of almsgiving in virtuous persons,” he said, “comes as little to its end as the water in great lakes dries up. For this reason I ask thee for that woman there who is looking like a deity. Her, thy wife, give to me, I pray thee.”

The Bodhisattva did not lose his firmness of mind, however, and made the promise of giving her.

93. Then taking Madrī with his left hand and the waterpot with his right, he poured down water on the hand of the Brāhman, but fire of grief on the mind of the Love-god. This means not so much that the Indian Amor was afflicted on account of the offence against conjugal love, as the defeat of Māra, the Indian Satan. To conquer the senses and sensuality is to vanquish Māra, who is the same as Kāma.16

94. No anger arose in Madrī's breast, nor did she weep, for she knew her husband's nature. Only keeping her eyes fixed on him, she stood like an image, stupefied by the excessive heaviness of that fresh burden of suffering.

On beholding this, Śakra, the Lord of the Devas, affected with the utmost admiration, magnified the Great Being:

95. “Oh! the wide distance which is between the conduct of the righteous and that of the impious! How will those who have not purified their hearts be even capable of believing this great performance?

96. To cherish an affectionate wife and much-beloved children, and yet to give them up, obeying the self-imposed vow of detachment - is it possible to conceive any loftiness like this?

97. When thy glory will be spread throughout the [92] world by the tales of those who are enthusiastic about thy virtues, the brilliant reputations of others will disappear in thine, beyond doubt, just as the other luminaries dissolve in the splendour of the sunlight.

98. Even now this superhuman fact of thine is praisingly approved by the Yakṣas, the Gandharvas, the snakes, and by the Devas, Vāsava Vāsava is another name of Śakra.17 included.”

After so speaking, Śakra reassumed his own brilliant figure and made himself known to the Bodhisattva. Which being done, he said:

99. “To thee I now give back Madrī, thy wife. Where else should moonshine stay but with the moon?

100. Nor shouldst thou be anxious about the separation from thy son and daughter, nor grieve for the loss of thy royal dignity. Before long thy father will come to thee, accompanied by both thy children, and provide his kingdom with a protector, reestablishing thee in thy high rank.”

Having said these words, Śakra disappeared on the spot.

And that Brāhman, in consequence of Śakra's power, brought the children of the Bodhisattva to the very land of Śibi. And when the Śibis and Saṁjaya, their king, heard of the Bodhisattva's performance of the greatest compassion, hard to be done by others, their hearts became soft with tenderness. They redeemed the children from the hand of the Brāhman, and having obtained the pardon of Viśvantara, led him back and reinstated him in his royal dignity.

[In this way, then, the behaviour of a Bodhisattva is exceedingly marvellous. For this reason such distinguished beings as strive for that state, must not be despised or hindered.

This story is also to be adduced, when discoursing on the Tathāgata and when treating of listening with attention to the preaching of the Law.]

Viśvantara's birth being the last but one of the Lord, the person of that charitable king is held very high among Buddhists. His largesses are also considered to constitute the highest degree of practising the pāramitā of charity. In the memorable night which preceded his attainment of the Buddhahood, the Sākya prince had but to refer to his actions in the Viśvantara-existence to demonstrate his having fulfilled that pāramitā. In the Pāli Jātaka that existence forms the subject-matter of the longest and last tale of the collection, but since it is the last, it is still unpublished; its contents, however, have been communicated by Spence Hardy in his “Manual of Buddhism” (pp. 118-127 of the second edition). From hence Prof. Kern borrowed his exposition of the tale in his Geschiedenis van het Buddhisme, I, pp. 303-317, to which he added copious notes with the object of exploring and expounding the mythological substratum which underlies it.

It is curious to compare the redaction of the Pāli Jātaka with that of Śūra. The latter omitted purposely, it seems, some particulars, for instance, the name of the old Brāhman, that of the mother of Viśvantara, and the etymology of his name; his narration is different in some slight details. But the main features are the same, likewise in the redaction of the Cariyāpiṭaka, where Viśvantara's story is No. 9 of the dānaparamitā and is told in 58 ślokas. From this version it appears that the earthquake, caused by the great liberality of the prince, is something most essential; or rather the earthquakes, for this miracle occurred seven times, once, when he took the determination [not mentioned by Śūra] of giving his heart, eyes, flesh or blood, if requested; secondly, after the gift of the white elephant; thirdly, when he had made his great largesses preceding his withdrawal to Mount Vaṅka; fourthly and fifthly, after giving his children and his wife; the sixth time was when he met again with his father and mother in the forest; the seventh at his entrance in his capital. The sevenfold earthquake is also discussed in the Milinda Pañha, 119 foll. Compare also the parallel performance told of the Bodhisattva, who afterwards was Maṅgala Buddha (Fausböll Jātaka I, p. 31, translated by Rhys Davids, Birth-Stories, I, p. 33).

In Kṣemendra's Avadānakalpalatā the story of Viśvantara is No. 23, not yet published.