Ja 90 Akataññujātaka
The Birth Story about Ingratitude (1s)

In the present a wealthy man from the border lands sends merchandise to Sāvatthi, asking his correspondent Anāthapiṇḍika to help exchange it, which he did. When the good man sends his produce to the border lands, however, his entourage is despised. Later, when another caravan arrives from the border it is pillaged and destroyed in revenge. The Buddha explains similar events that happened in a previous life.

The Bodhisatta = the wealthy man from Benares (Bārāṇasiseṭṭhi),
the border dweller = the same in the past (paccantavāsī).

Present Source: Ja 90 Akataññu,
Quoted at: Ja 363 Hiri.

Keywords: Ingratitude, Reciprocity.

“He who doesn’t acknowledge the good deed.” [1.220] This story was told by the Teacher while at Jetavana, about Anāthapiṇḍika.

On the borders, so the tale goes, there lived a merchant, who was a correspondent and a friend of Anāthapiṇḍika’s, but they had never met. There came a time when this merchant loaded five hundred carts with local produce and gave orders to the men in charge to go to the great merchant Anāthapiṇḍika, and barter the wares in his correspondent’s shop for their value, and bring back the goods received in exchange. So they came to Sāvatthi, and found Anāthapiṇḍika. First making him a present, they told him their business. “You are welcome,” said the great man, and ordered them to be lodged there and provided with money for their needs. After kindly enquiries after their master’s health, he bartered their merchandise and gave them the goods in exchange. Then they went back to their own district, and reported what had happened.

Shortly afterwards, Anāthapiṇḍika similarly dispatched five hundred carts with merchandise to the very district in which they dwelt; and his people, when they had got there, went, present in hand, to call upon the border merchant. “Where do you come from?” said he. “From Sāvatthi,” replied they, “from your correspondent, Anāthapiṇḍika.” “Anyone can call himself Anāthapiṇḍika,” said he with a sneer; and taking their present, he bade them begone, giving them neither lodging nor a gift. So they bartered their goods for themselves and brought back the wares in exchange to Sāvatthi, with the story of the reception they had had.

Now it chanced {1.378} that this border merchant dispatched another caravan of five hundred carts to Sāvatthi; and his people came with a present in their hands to wait upon Anāthapiṇḍika. But, as soon as Anāthapiṇḍika’s people caught sight of them, they said: “Oh, we’ll see, sir, that they are properly lodged, fed, and supplied with money for their needs.” And they took the strangers outside the city and bade them unyoke their carts at a suitable spot, adding that rice and a gift would come from Anāthapiṇḍika’s house. About the middle watch of the night, having collected a band of serving-men and slaves, they looted the whole caravan, carried off every garment the men had got, drove away their oxen, and took the wheels off the carts, leaving the latter but removing the wheels. Without so much as a shirt among the lot of them, the terrified strangers sped away and managed to reach their home on the border. Then Anāthapiṇḍika’s people told him the whole story. “This capital story,” said he, “shall be my gift to the Teacher today,” and away he went and told it to the Teacher.

“This is not the first time, sir,” said the Teacher, “that this border merchant has shown this disposition; he was just the same in days gone by.” Then, at Anāthapiṇḍika’s request, he told the following story of the past.

In the past when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was a very wealthy merchant in that city. And he too had as a correspondent a border merchant whom he had never seen and all came to pass as above. [1.221]

Being told by his people what they had done, he said: “This trouble is the result of their ingratitude for kindness shown them.” And he went on to instruct the assembled crowd in this verse:

1. Yo pubbe katakalyāṇo katattho nāvabujjhati,
Pacchā kicce samuppanne kattāraṁ nādhigacchatī ti.

He who doesn’t acknowledge the good deed, merit, done in the past, finds when a need arises in the future no one comes to help.

After this wise did the Bodhisatta teach the truth in this verse. After a life spent in generosity and other good works, he passed away to fare according to his deeds. {1.379}

His lesson ended, the Teacher identified the Jātaka by saying: “The border merchant of today was the border merchant of those days also; and I was the merchant of Benares.”