Ja 56 Kañcanakkhandhajātaka
The Birth Story about the Block of Gold (1s)

In the present a newly ordained monk is finding the many rules burdensome and is about to disrobe. The monks take him to the Buddha who asks him to follow just three rules, related to mind, voice and body. He does so and becomes an Arahat. The Buddha tells a story of a farmer who found a huge block of gold that he couldn’t carry away, until he decided to cut it into four, at which point it was easy to move.

The Bodhisatta = the man who found the block of gold (kañcanakkhandhaladdhapurisa).

Keywords: Simplification, Analysis.

“That person who has a cheerful heart.” [1.140] {1.276} This story was told by the Teacher while at Sāvatthi, about a certain monk. Tradition says that through hearing the Teacher preach, a young gentleman of Sāvatthi gave his heart to the jewel of a dispensation Or perhaps ratanasāsanaṁ means ‘the creed connected with the (Three) Gems,’ viz. the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha. and became a monk. His teachers and masters proceeded to instruct him in the whole of the Ten Precepts of Morality, one after the other, expounded to him the Short, the Medium, and the Long Moralities, These are translated in Rhys Davids’ Buddhist Suttas, pp. 189-200. set forth the morality which rests on self-restraint according to the Pātimokkha, The Pātimokkha is translated and discussed in Pt. i. of the translation of the Vinaya by Rhys Davids and Oldenberg (Sacred Books of the East Vol. 13). the morality which rests on self-restraint as to the Senses, the morality which rests on a blameless walk of life, the morality which relates to the way a monk may use the Requisites. Thought the young beginner, “There is a tremendous lot of this morality; and I shall undoubtedly fail to fulfil all I have vowed. Yet what is the good of being a monk at all, if one cannot keep the rules of morality? My best course is to go back to the world, take a wife and rear children, living a life of generosity and other good works.” So he told his superiors what he thought, saying that he proposed to return to the lower state of a layman, and wished to hand back his bowl and robes. “Well, if it be so with you,” they said, “at least take leave of the One with Ten Powers before you go,” and they brought the young man before the Teacher in the Dhamma Hall.

“Why, monks,” said the Teacher, “are you bringing this monk to me against his will?”

“Sir, he said that morality was more than he could observe, and wanted to give back his robes and bowl. So we took him and brought him to you.”

“But why, monks,” asked the Teacher, “did you burden him with so much? He can do what he can, but no more. Do not make this mistake again, and leave me to decide what should be done in the case.”

Then, turning to the young monk, the Teacher said: “Come, monk; what concern have you with morality in the mass? Do you think you could obey just three moral rules?”

“Oh, yes, sir.”

“Well now, watch and guard the three avenues of the voice, the mind, and the body; do no evil whether in word, or thought, or act. Cease not to be a monk, but go hence and obey just these three rules.”

“Yes, indeed, sir, I will keep them,” here exclaimed the glad young man, and back he went with his teachers again. And as he was keeping his three rules, he thought within himself, “I had the whole of morality told me by my instructors; but because they were not the Buddha, they could not make me grasp even this much. Whereas {1.277} the Fully Awakened One, by reason of his Buddhahood, and of his being the Lord of Dhamma, has expressed so much morality in only three rules concerning the avenues, and has made me understand it clearly. Verily, a very present help has the Teacher been to me.” And [1.141] he won Insight and in a few days attained Arahatship.

When this came to the ears of the monks, they spoke of it when met together in the Dhamma Hall, telling how the monk, who was going back to the world because he could not hope to fulfil morality, had been furnished by the Teacher with three rules embodying the whole of morality, and had been made to grasp those three rules, and so had been enabled by the Teacher to win Arahatship. How marvellous, they cried, was the Buddha. Entering the Hall at this point, and learning on enquiry the subject of their talk, the Teacher said: “Monks, even a heavy burden becomes light, if taken piecemeal; and thus the wise and good of past times, on finding a huge mass of gold too heavy to lift, first broke it up and then were enabled to bear their treasure away piece by piece.” So saying, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a farmer in a village, and was ploughing one day in a field where once stood a village. Now, in bygone days, a wealthy merchant had died leaving buried in this field a huge bar of gold, as thick round as a man’s thigh, and four whole cubits in length. And full on this bar struck the Bodhisatta’s plough, and there stuck fast. Taking it to be a spreading root of a tree, he dug it out; but discovering its real nature, he set to work to clean the dirt off the gold. The day’s work done, at sunset he laid aside his plough and gear, and attempted to shoulder his treasure-trove and walk off with it. But, as he could not so much as lift it, he sat down before it and fell to thinking what uses he would put it to. “I’ll have so much to live on, so much to bury as a treasure, so much to trade with, and so much for generosity and good works,” thought he to himself, and accordingly cut the gold into four. Division made his burden easy to carry; and he bore home the lumps of gold. After a life of generosity and other good works, he passed away to fare thereafter according to his deeds.

His lesson ended, the Teacher, after Fully Awakening, recited this verse: {1.278}

1. Yo pahaṭṭhena cittena, pahaṭṭhamanaso naro,
Bhāveti kusalaṁ dhammaṁ, yogakkhemassa pattiyā,
Pāpuṇe anupubbena sabbasaṁyojanakkhayan-ti.

That person who has a cheerful heart, who is cheerful in his mind, who cultivates wholesome thoughts, in order to attain safety, gradually arrives at the destruction of all of the fetters.

And when the Teacher had thus led his teaching up to Arahatship as its crowning point, he showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “In those days I myself was the man who got the nugget of gold.”