Ja 66 Mudulakkhaṇajātaka
The Birth Story about (Queen) Mudulakkhaṇā (1s)

In the present a meditating monk is overwhelmed with lust when he sees a naked woman. The Buddha explains that this had happened even to himself in the past, and tells how, when an ascetic with higher knowledges, he had seen the queen naked he was overcome with lust. And how she cured him, so that he returned to the higher life.

The Bodhisatta = the sage (isi),
Ānanda = the king (rājā),
Uppalavaṇṇā = (his queen) Mudulakkhaṇā.

Keywords: Lust, Women.

“Before, not having Mudulakkhaṇā.” This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about sensual desire. Tradition says that a young gentleman of Sāvatthi, {1.303} on hearing the Dhamma preached by the Teacher, gave his heart to the dispensation. Renouncing the world for the monk’s life, he rose to walk in the Paths, to practise meditation, and never to slacken in his pondering over the meditation subject he had chosen. One day, while he was on his round for alms through Sāvatthi, he espied a woman in revealing clothes, and, for pleasure’s sake, broke through the higher morality and gazed upon her! Passion was stirred within him, he became even as a fig tree felled by the axe. From that day forth, under the sway of passion, the palate of his mind, as of his body, lost all its gust; like a brute beast, he took no joy in the dispensation, and suffered his nails and hair to grow long and his robes to grow foul.

When his friends among the monks became aware of his troubled state of mind, they said: “Why, sir, is your moral state otherwise than it was?” “My joy has gone,” said he. Then they took him to the Teacher, who asked them why they had brought that monk there against his will. “Because, sir, his joy is gone,” “Is that true, monk?” “It is, Fortunate One.” “Who has troubled you?” “Sir, I was on my round for alms when, violating the higher morality, I gazed on a woman; and passion was stirred within me. Therefore am I [1.162] troubled.” Then said the Teacher, “It is little marvel, monk, that when, violating morality, you were gazing for pleasure’s sake on an exceptional object, you were stirred by passion. Why, in bygone times, even those who had won the five Super Knowledges and the eight Attainments, those who by the power of Absorption had quelled their passions, whose hearts were purified and whose feet could walk the skies, yes even Bodhisattas, through gazing in violation of morality on an exceptional object, lost their Absorption, were stirred by passion, and came to great sorrow. Little recks the wind which could overturn Mount Sineru, of a bare hillock no bigger than an elephant; little recks a wind which could uproot a mighty Jambu tree, of a bush on the face of a cliff; and little recks a wind which could dry up a vast ocean, of a tiny pond. If passion could breed folly in the supremely-intelligent and pure-minded Bodhisattas, shall passion be abashed before you? Why, even purified beings are led astray by passion, and those advanced to the highest honour, come to shame.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born into a rich brahmin family in the Kāsi country. When he was grown up and had finished his education, he renounced all sensual desires, and, forsaking the world for the ascetic’s life, went to live in the solitudes of the Himālayas. There by focusing on the Meditation Object, he won the Super Knowledges and Attainments; and so lived his life in the bliss of Absorption. {1.304}

Lack of salt and vinegar brought him one day to Benares, where he took up his quarters in the king’s pleasure gardens. Next day, after seeing to his bodily needs, he folded up the red suit of bark which he commonly wore, threw over one shoulder a black antelope’s skin, knotted his tangled locks in a coil on the top of his head, and with a yoke on his back from which hung two baskets, set out on his round in quest of alms. Coming to the palace-gates on his way, his demeanour so commended him to the king that his majesty had him brought in. So the ascetic was seated on a couch of great splendour and fed with abundance of the daintiest food. And when he thanked the king, he was invited to take up his dwelling in the pleasure gardens. The ascetic accepted the offer, and for sixteen years lived in the pleasure gardens, exhorting the king’s household and eating of the king’s meat.

Now there came a day when the king must go to the borders to put down a rising. But, before he started, he charged his queen, whose name was Mudulakkhaṇā [Gentleness], to minister to the wants of the holy man. So, after the king’s departure, the Bodhisatta continued to go when he pleased to the palace.

One day queen Mudulakkhaṇā got ready a meal for the Bodhisatta; but as he was late in coming, she betook herself to her own toilette. After bathing in perfumed water, she dressed herself in all her splendour, [1.163] and lay down, awaiting his coming, on a little couch in the spacious chamber.

Waking from the bliss of Absorption, and seeing how late it was, the Bodhisatta transported himself through the air to the palace. Hearing the rustling of his bark-robe, the queen started up hurriedly to receive him. In her hurry to rise, her tunic slipped down, so that her beauty was revealed to the ascetic as he entered the window; and at the sight, in violation of Morality he gazed for pleasure’s sake on the marvellous beauty of the queen. Defilements were kindled within him; he was as a tree felled by the axe. At once all the Absorptions deserted him, and he became as a crow with its wings clipped. Clutching his food, still standing, he ate not, but took his way, all atremble with desire, from the palace to his hut in the pleasure gardens, set it down beneath his wooden couch and thereon lay for seven whole days a prey to hunger and thirst, enslaved by the queen’s loveliness, his heart aflame with lust.

On the seventh day, the king came back from pacifying the border. After passing in solemn procession round the city, he entered his palace. {1.305} Then, wishing to see the ascetic, he took his way to the pleasure gardens, and there in the cell found the Bodhisatta lying on his couch. Thinking the holy man had been taken ill, the king, after first having the cell cleaned out, asked, as he stroked the sufferer’s feet, what ailed him. “Sire, my heart is fettered by lust; that is my sole ailment.” “Lust for whom?” “For Mudulakkhaṇā, sire.” “Then she is yours; I give her to you,” said the king. Then he passed with the ascetic to the palace, and bidding the queen array herself in all her splendour, gave her to the Bodhisatta. But, as he was giving her away, the king privily charged the queen to put forth her utmost endeavour to save the holy man.

“Fear not, sire,” said the queen, “I will save him.” So with the queen the ascetic went out from the palace. But when he had passed through the great gate, the queen cried out that they must have a house to live in; and back he must go to the king to ask for one. So back he went to ask the king for a house to live in, and the king gave them a tumble-down dwelling which passers-by used as an outhouse. To this dwelling the ascetic took the queen; but she flatly refused to enter it, because of its filthy state.

“What am I to do?” he cried. “Why, clean it out,” she said. And she sent him to the king for a spade and a basket, and made him remove all the filth and dirt, and plaster the walls with cowdung, which he also had to fetch. This done, she made him get a bed, and a stool, and a rug, and a waterpot, and a cup, sending him for only one thing at a time. Next, she sent him packing to fetch water and a thousand other things. So off he started for the water, and filled up the waterpot, and set out the water for the bath, and made the bed. And, as he sat with her upon the [1.164] bed, she took him by the whiskers and drew him towards her till they were face to face, saying: “Have you forgotten that you are a holy man and a brahmin?”

Hereon he came to himself after his interval of witless folly.

(And here should be repeated the text beginning, “Thus the defilement of the hindrance of sensual desire lead to ignorance, monks; {1.306} that which leads to ignorance creates blindness.”) [SN. 5.221.]

So when he had come to himself, he bethought him how, waxing stronger and stronger, this fatal craving would condemn him hereafter to the Four States of Punishment.” Hell, the animal world, the departed, the Asuras. “This self-same day,” he cried, “will I restore this woman to the king and fly to the mountains!” So he stood with the queen before the king and said: “Sire, I want your queen no longer; and it was only for her that cravings were awakened within me.” And so saying, he repeated this verse:

1. Ekā icchā pure āsi, aladdhā Mudulakkhaṇaṁ,
Yato laddhā aḷārakkhī, icchā icchaṁ vijāyathā ti.

Before, not having Mudulakkhaṇā, I had but one desire, when I had gained her of wide eyes, desire after desire was born.

Forthwith his lost power of Absorption came back to him. Rising from the earth and seating himself in the air, he preached the Dhamma to the king; and without touching earth he passed through the air to the Himālayas. He never came back to the paths of men; but grew in the Divine Abidings till, with Absorption unbroken, he passed to a new birth in the Realm of Brahma.

His lesson ended, the Teacher preached the Truths, at the close whereof that monk became an Arahat itself. Also the Teacher showed the connection and identified the Jātaka by saying: “Ānanda was the king of those days, Uppalavaṇṇā was Mudulakkhaṇā, and I the ascetic.”