Jātakamālā or Garland of Birth Stories

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13. The Story of Unmādayantī (Dhairya)
(Compare Pāli Jātaka, No. 529; Fausböll V, 210-227)

Even when sick with heavy sorrow, the virtuous are disinclined to follow the road of the low-minded, being prevented from such actions by the firmness of their constancy. Compare the note on Story [6, v. 34].01 This will be taught as follows.

In the time when the Bodhisattva by the practice of his surpassing virtues, veracity, liberality, tranquillity of mind, wisdom and so on, was exerting himself for the benefit of the creatures, he was, it is said, a king of the Śibis, behaving like the embodied Righteousness and Discipline, and being intent on promoting the welfare of his subjects like a father.

1. Being withheld from sinful actions and put in the possession of virtues by their king, (who was solicitous of their true happiness) as a father is of his son's, his people rejoiced both in this world and in the next.

2. For his administration of justice followed the path of righteousness, and made no difference between kinsmen and the rest of his subjects. It obstructed [115] for his people the road of wickedness, and accordingly became, so to speak, a flowery ladder to Heaven.

3. Perceiving the welfare of the creatures to be the effect of righteousness, this ruler of men knew no other purpose than this. With all his heart he delighted in the path of righteousness, and did not allow others to violate its precepts.

Now in the capital of that king one of the principal townsmen had a daughter of surpassing beauty, the acknowledged pearl of womanhood. The ravishing loveliness of her figure and charms made her appear like the embodied goddess Śrī or Rati or one of the Apsarasas.

4. No one - except only the passionless - having got the sight of her, was able to withdraw his looks from her figure, as she fascinated by her beauty the eyes of all who beheld her.

And for this reason her relations called her Unmādayantī (“she who makes mad”).

Now her father apprised the king of the fact of his having such a daughter: “Your Majesty, the very pearl of womanhood has appeared in your realm. May Your Majesty therefore deign to decide whether you will accept her as a wife or renounce her.” Then the king ordered some Brāhmans knowing the auspicious marks of women, to go and see the maiden, whether she would be a suitable wife for him or not. The father of Unmādayantī led them to his house, and ordered his daughter to attend upon his guests herself. She said she would do so, and commenced to attend upon them at table in the proper manner. But no sooner did those Brāhmans

5. Behold her, than their eyes were compelled to remain closely fixed on her face. The god of Love had subdued their firmness. They had no power over their looks and minds, and they got rid of their consciousness as if drunkenness had befallen them.

Now, as they were not able to keep their grave and modest countenance nor their imperturbability, still less to take their meal, the householder removed [116] his daughter out of the reach of their looks and attended himself on the Brāhmans. Afterwards they took their leave and went off. And they considered thus: “The lovely beauty of that maiden is, in truth, of an exceedingly enchanting nature, it acts like a very magic spell. For this reason it is not suitable for the king to see her, much less to make her his queen. Having grown mad by her splendid beauty, as he doubtless would, he would abate his zeal for performing his religious and political duties, and his neglect of duly observing his royal occupations would prove of evil consequence to his subjects, inasmuch as it would obstruct the sources of their profit and welfare.

6. The sight of her would be sufficient to put an obstacle in the way even of Munis striving after perfect wisdom, how much more may it obstruct the success of a young prince, who lives in pleasure, and is in the habit of directing his looks to the objects of sense.

Therefore it is now suitable to act so and so.” Having thus made up their mind, they went to the king's presence at a convenient time and reported this to him: “We have seen that maiden, great king. She is a beauty and possesses lovely charms, but no more; she has inauspicious marks, the foretokens of ruin and ill luck. For this reason Your Majesty ought not even to see her, how can there be question about wedding her?

7. A reprehensible wife veils both the glory and the opulence of two families; just as a cloudy, moon-concealing night hides the beauty and the arrangement of all things upon earth and in heaven.”

Thus informed, the monarch imagining her to have inauspicious marks and not to suit his family, no more desired to possess her; and the householder, her father, knowing the king's disaffection, married his daughter to one Abhipāraga, officer of that very king.

Now once, on the occasion of the Kaumudī-festival, it happened that the king desired to contemplate the splendour of that festivity in his capital. He mounted his royal chariot and took a drive through the town, [117] which exhibited a pleasant aspect. Its streets and squares had been sprinkled and cleansed; their white ground was strewed with many-coloured flowers; gay flags and banners were floating aloft; everywhere there was dancing and singing, representations of burlesques, ballets and music; the mingled scents of flowers, incense, odoriferous powders, perfumes, garlands, strong liquors, also of the perfumed water and the ointments used in ablutions, filled the air with fragrance; lovely articles were being exposed for sale; the principal streets were thronged by a merry crowd of townsmen and landsmen in their best dress.

While making this tour, the king came near the house of Abhipāraga. Now Unmādayantī, who was angry with the king because he had spurned her - had she not inauspicious marks? - feigning curiosity to see him, placed herself in his way, illuminating by her brilliant figure the flat roof of her house, as a flash of lightning does the top of a cloud; he at least, she thought within her heart, must be able to keep the firmness of his mind and the power over his senses unshaken by the sight of an inauspicious person such as I am. Accordingly, while the king, curious to behold the splendour of his capital, was looking around, his eye suddenly fell upon her, when she was facing him. On beholding her, the monarch,

8, 9. Though his eyes were accustomed to the attraction of the wanton graces of the beauties in his zenana; though, owing to his attachment to the path of virtue, his disposition was a modest one, and he had exercised himself in subduing his organs of sense; though he possessed in a high degree the virtue of constancy; though he had a strong feeling of shame and his looks were afraid of the looks of young women belonging to others - notwithstanding this, he could not prevent the Love-god's triumph, and gazed a long gaze at that woman, powerless to turn his eyes from her face.

10. “Is she perhaps the embodied Kaumudī or the Deity of that house? is she an Apsaras or a Demoness? For it is no human figure she has.” [118]

Thus the king considered and could not look enough at her; and the chariot passing away did not comply with his heart's desire. He went back to his palace, like one absent-minded, thinking of nothing but her; his firmness of mind had been confounded by Manmatha. So he asked his charioteer Sunanda secretly:

11. “Do you know, whose is the house that was surrounded by a white wall, and who is she whose beauty did shine there like lightning in a white cloud?”

The charioteer answered: “Your Majesty has a high official named Abhipāraga. His is that house, and she is his wife, a daughter to Kirīṭavatsa, of herself she is called Unmādayantī.” After hearing this, the thought that she was the wife of another caused his heart to faint, and sorrowful meditation made his eyes rigid. Often he heaved long and deep sighs, and thinking of nothing but her, said in a low voice to himself:

12. “Alas! She bears her soft and lovely-sounding name rightly, indeed. This sweet-smiling Unmādayantī has made me almost mad.

13. I would forget her, yet I see her always in my mind. For my thoughts are with her, or rather it is she who is the ruler of my mind.

14. And this weakness of mind is mine concerning the wife of another! No doubt, I am mad; shame, it seems, has left me, just as sleep has.

15. While absorbed in representing to myself with rapture the grace of her features, her smiles, her looks, O that sudden sound of the metal plate, Strokes on a metal plate, sounding every half-hour, are to announce the time to the king.02 reminding me by its bold tone of the regular order of my royal business, rouses my wrath.”

In such a way the king's firmness was shaken by the power of passionate love. And although he endeavoured to compose his mind, his languishing appearance and emaciating body, his frequent absorption [119] in thoughts together with his sighs indicated very clearly his state of being in love.

16. However great his firmness was in disguising his heart's disease, it manifested itself in his countenance, his eyes rigid from thoughtfulness, and his emaciated limbs.

Now Abhipāraga, the king's officer, was skilled in the interpretation of the expression of the face and of such gestures as betray internal feelings. When he had observed the behaviour of his master and discovered its cause, he apprehended evil consequences from it, for he loved the king and knew the excessive power of the God of Love. So he asked the king for a secret audience; which having been granted to him, he went up to his master, and having obtained permission, thus addressed him:

17, 18. “While engaged in worshipping the Devas today, O lotus-eyed ruler of men, see, a Yakṣa, presenting himself before my eyes, said to me: ‘How is it that you ignore the king having fallen in love with Unmādayantī? After speaking so, he disappeared immediately, and I, solicitous on this account, approached you. If this is true, why, Your Majesty, do you show in this manner your disaffection to me by your silence?

Therefore, may Your Majesty do me the favour of accepting her from my hand.”

The king was confounded, and dared not lift up his eyes for shame. Nevertheless, even though he was in the power of Love, he did not suffer his firmness to falter, thanks to his being conversant with the Law by long and good practice, and refused that offer in plain terms. “No, that may not be. For what reason? Hear.

19. I would lose my merit and I know myself not to be immortal. Further, my wicked deed would be known also to the public. Moreover, if the fire of sorrow should burn your heart because of that separation, it would erelong consume you, as fire consumes dry grass. [120]

20. And such a deed, which would cause that distress in both this world and the next and would be committed for this reason by the unwise, the wise never will do, for this very reason.”

Abhipāraga answered: “Do not fear, Your Majesty, that you will transgress the Law herein.

21. By assisting in the performance of a gift you will act in accordance with the Law, whereas by not receiving her from my hand you would do wrong, since you obstruct the practice of giving.

Nor do I see in this matter any occasion of damage to the reputation of Your Majesty. Why?

22. This is an arrangement between us; nobody else need know of it. Do not, therefore, put in your mind the fear of blame by public opinion.

Further, to me this will be a favour, not a source of grief. Why so?

23. What harm can be procured to a faithful heart by the satisfaction obtained by serving the interest of his master? For this reason you may quietly indulge in your love; do not apprehend any grief on my side.”

The king replied: “Stop, stop! no more of that wicked reasoning.

24. Surely, your very great attachment to my person prevents you from understanding that the righteous action which consists in the assistance to a deed of giving does not exist in the case of every gift.

25. Who by exceeding attachment to my person does not heed even his own life, is my friend, dearer to me than my kinsmen. His wife I am bound to respect as a friend's.

You do not well, therefore, enticing me to a sinful action. And what you assert, ‘nobody else will know of it’ will it be less sinful for this reason?

26. How can happiness be expected for him who commits a wicked action, though unwitnessed? As little as for him who has taken poison unseen. Both the pure-sighted Celestials and the holy ascetics among men cannot fail to witness him.

Moreover, I tell you this: [121]

27. Who may in earnest believe that you do not love her, or that you will not get into harm, as soon as you have abandoned her?”

Abhipāraga said:

28. “I am your slave, I with my wife and children. You are my master and my deity. What infringement of Law, Your Majesty, can there be, then, if you act as pleases you with respect to this your female slave?

As to your asserting that I love her, what matters it?”

29. Yea, my liege, she is my beloved wife, and it is for this very reason that I desire her to be given to you. He who has given in this world something dear to him, receives in the next dear objects of exceeding loveliness.

Therefore, Your Majesty may take her.”

The king spoke: “Oh, do not say so! It is impossible for me to do so. Why?

30. I should dare throw myself on a sharp sword or into a fire with blazing flames, but I shall not be able to offend against Righteousness, which I have always observed, and to which I owe my royal bliss.”

Abhipāraga said: “If Your Majesty will not take her, because she is my wife, then myself will command her to lead the life of a harlot, whom no one is forbidden to woo. Then Your Majesty may take her.”

The king answered: “Are you mad?

31. If you were to abandon your guiltless wife, you would not only incur punishment from my part, but having become an object of reproach, likewise unavoidable grief in this world and hereafter.

Desist then; do not enforce a bad action. Rather direct your mind to justice and honesty.”

Abhipāraga said:

32. “And if by persisting, I really were to do an action which might be in any respect a violation of Righteousness and the source of censure among men and of the loss of my happiness - be these consequences whatever they may - I fain shall front them with my breast, owing to the gladness of mind I shall feel for having promoted your happiness. [122]

33. No one I know in the world is more worthy than you to be worshipped by a sacrificial offering, O most mighty ruler of the earth. Well then, with the object of increasing my merit, deign to accept, like an officiating priest, Unmādayantī as your sacrificial fee.” Properly speaking, giving the woman into marriage to the officiating priest at the end of a srauta-sacrifice as his fee (dakṣiṇā) is the second of the eight classical forms of wedding, the so-called daivo vivāhaḥ.03

The king said: “No doubt it is your great affection for me that prompts you to the effort to promote my interest without considering what is right and wrong on your side. But this very consideration induces me the more to prevent you. Verily, indifference as to the censure of men cannot at any rate be approved. Look here!

34. Who, neglecting Righteousness, does not mind either the censure of men or the evil consequences in the next world, will attain but this: in this world people will distrust him; and surely, after death he will be destitute of bliss.

And therefore I press this upon your mind.

35. Never delight in injuring Righteousness for the sake of life. The meaning of this seems to be something like this: ‘Do not seek after temporal pleasure here at the risk of long-lasting suffering after death’.04 The sin you would incur would be great and unquestionable, the advantage trifling and doubtful.

Moreover, you should consider also this.

36. The virtuous do not like for themselves a pleasure, procured at the expense of others, whom they have distressed by bringing them into disrepute and the like. For this reason, standing on the ground of Righteousness, I shall bear the charge of my private interests alone without causing pain to others.”

Abhipāraga replied: “But how could there be any room for injustice here, after all, either on my side, if moved by attachment I should take care of the interest of my master, or on the side of Your Majesty receiving [123] her as a present from my hand? All Śibis, townsmen and landsmen, would ask: what is the injustice of this deed? Therefore, be pleased to take her, Your Majesty.”

The king replied: “Verily, you have the intense desire of assisting me. But reflect well upon this: Which of us knows the Law best, the whole of the Śibis, you, or I?”

Then Abhipāraga hastily answered:

37. “Owing to your assiduous and respectful watching of the wise, and your great regard for sacred lore, and the sagacity of your mind, Your Majesty ranks with Bṛhaśpati as the most competent judge in all matters taught in the sciences concerning the “Triad of objects (trivarga).”

The king said: “This being so, you ought not to mislead me in this matter. Why do I say so?

38. The evil and the good of the people depend on the behaviour of their rulers. For this reason, and taking into account the attachment of my subjects, I shall continue to love the Path of the Pious above all, in conformity with my reputation.

39. As cows go after the bull in any direction, whether the right or the wrong one, following his steps, in the very same manner the subjects imitate the behaviour of their ruler without any scruple and undauntedly.

You must take also this into consideration.

40. If I should lack the power of ruling my own self, say, into what condition would I bring this people who long for protection from my side?

41. Thus considering and regardful of the good of my subjects, my own righteousness, and my spotless fame, I don't allow myself to submit to my passion. I am the leader of my subjects, the bull of my herd.”

Then Abhipāraga, the king's official, appeased by this constancy of the king, bowed his head and reverentially folding his hands, spoke:

42. “Oh! excessively favoured by Destiny are these subjects, having such a ruler as you are,” Illustrious King. Love of Righteousness utterly disregardful of [124] pleasures is to be searched for even among those who dwell in penance-groves.

43. In you the appellation of ‘great’, O Mahārāja, is a brilliant ornament. For the name of a virtue, conferred upon persons devoid of virtue, has a rather harsh sound, as if used in contempt.

44. Nor is there any reason for me to be astonished or agitated by this grand deed of yours, who are a mine of virtues, as the sea is of jewels.” This epithet of the sea is very common in Indian rhetorical style.05

In this manner, then, the virtuous, even when sick with heavy sorrow, are disinclined to follow the road of the low-minded, being prevented from such actions by the firmness of their constancy [and their being conversant with the Law by long and good practice. Thus considering, one ought to exert one's self in practising constancy and the precepts of the Law.]

The tale of the maiden making mad all who see her, and the love-smitten monarch who prefers walking on the right path and even death to indulging in passion, is found also outside Buddhism. In the preface of his edition, Prof. Kern points out its being told thrice in the Kathāsaritsāgara; in the fifteenth, the thirty-third, and the ninety-first taraṅga. The last version, being a Vetāla-tale, is found also in the prose-work Vetālapaṅkaviṁsati (Kathā 14). Of the non-Buddhistic redactions all agree in this point, that the king at last dies from love, and that the faithful officer then kills himself. No doubt, this must be the original conclusion.