The Story about the Tradesman from Serivā
Serivavāṇijajātaka, Ja 3
(Ver 1.2)

An English translation of the third Jātaka story, including the word commentary, which has never been translated before.

translated by
Ānandajoti Bhikkhu




This Jātaka has interest in being a record of the first time, five aeons previous to the time of the Buddha, there was antagonism between an earlier incarnation of Devadatta and the Bodhisatta. A theme which plays out over and over again the Jātaka stories. Again Devadatta is not mentioned in the Introduction, but he is named as the antagonist in the Conclusion.


After working on a text and translation of the verses and their word commentary in the first three nipātas of the Jātaka I have now updated those sections in this document, so it now constitutes a new edition (Ver 1.2).

I am very grateful to Prof Kapila Abhayawansa and Dr Junko Matsumura, for making many corrections; their expert knowledge of the texts helped me understand what was sometimes a very difficult text.

Ānandajoti Bhikkhu
June, 2022


In the present a monk is about to give up striving. The Buddha tells a story of two merchants, one of whom attempts to cheat a poor family out of its riches, while the other paid a decent price for their golden bowl.

The Bodhisatta = the wise merchant (paṇḍitavāṇija),
Devadatta = the foolish merchant (bālavāṇija).

Keywords: Honesty, Integrity.

The Story of the Present

If here you miss,” this Dhamma teaching the Fortunate One taught while living at Sāvatthi, referring to one monk who had given up effort.

For, having seen the monks bring someone, as in the previous manner, i.e. as they did in the previous Jātaka, no 2: The Teacher... said: “Monks, you have brought this monk here against his will, what has he done?” They said: “Reverent sir, this monk, after going forth in this Dispensation which leads out (of saṁsāra), and doing ascetic practice, has given up his effort, and returned.” the Teacher said: “You, monk, after going forth in this Dispensation which gives both Path and Fruit, {1.111} are giving up effort, and, like the Serivā tradesman, who lost a golden plate worth a hundred thousand, will grieve for a long time.”

The monks begged the Fortunate One to make his meaning appear, and the Fortunate One made clear the deeds that had been concealed by the gap between existences.

The Story of the Past

Five aeons in the past from here the Bodhisatta was a tradesman having a reed-basket in the country of Serivā.

Together with another tradesman having a reed-basket, who was greedy, and also called the Serivā, he traveled round on business. After crossing over the river Nīlavāha, they entered the city called Ariṭṭhapura, and dividing the city streets between them, he wandered round selling his wares on his own designated street, and the other also went along his own designated street.

In that city there was one rich merchant’s family that had decayed, and all the sons and brothers and wealth had been destroyed. One young girl and her grandmother were all that remained, and those two made a living making money for others. i.e. working for others.

But in their house there was a golden dish that previously the great merchant used to eat from. A long time ago it had been discarded amongst the other dishes, and being unused it had become spoiled, and they did not know it was a golden dish.

At that time the greedy tradesman wandered around, calling out: “Get your pots, get your pots”, and he reached the door of the house.

The young girl having seen him, said this to her grandmother: “My dear, please buy me an ornament.” “My dear, we are poor, having given what, could we buy something?” “There is this plate which is of no use to us, having given this, let us buy something.”

After calling the tradesman, and making him sit down, and giving him the dish, she said: “Sir, take this and give your sister something.”

The tradesman took the dish in his hand, and rolling it round, thinking: “This must be a golden dish,” he scratched a line with a needle along the back of the plate, and knowing it was made of gold, he thought: “Without giving anything, I can carry this off,” and he said: “What is this worth, it isn’t even worth a halfpenny,” {1.112} and after throwing it on the floor, he got up and left.

They had agreed: “When one has entered and then left the street, the other has permission to enter it.”

The Bodhisatta, after entering that street, wandered around, calling out: “Get your pots, get your pots”, and he reached the door of the house.

Again the young girl spoke right there to her grandmother. Then her grandmother said: “My dear the first tradesman who came, after throwing the dish on the floor, left. Now having given what, could we buy something?”

“My dear, that tradesman spoke roughly, but this one is pleasant to behold, and speaks softly, maybe he would take it.” “My dear, then summon him.” She summoned him.

Then, after he had entered the house, while sitting, she gave him the dish. He knew it was a golden dish, and said: “My dear, this dish is worth a hundred thousand, but there isn’t a hundred thousand in wares to hand.”

“My dear, the first tradesman who came, having said: ‘This isn’t even worth a halfpenny,’ ” threw it in on the ground and left. It must be through your own merit that this dish became golden, give us something for it, and after giving us, take the dish, and go on your way).”

The Bodhisatta at that moment had to hand five hundred coins, and wares worth another five hundred altogether, and after giving them, he said: “Please give me this scales, bag, and eight coins,” and after begging this much, he took them and departed.

He went quickly to the river side, and after giving eight coins to the boatman, he boarded the boat.

After that the greedy trader went again to that house, and said: “Bring me the dish, I will give you something for it.”

She replied to him, saying: “Our golden dish was worth a hundred thousand and you didn’t value at even a halfpenny, but one righteous trader, like a lord, gave us a thousand, and took it away.”

Having heard that, thinking: “I have lost a golden dish worth a hundred thousand, this has caused me a great loss,” and strong grief arose, and being unable to establish his mindfulness, {1.113} he became deranged, scattering his money and wares from out of his hands at the door of the house.

He abandoned his cloak and undergarments, and taking his weighing stick, and making it into a club, he followed in the footsteps of the Bodhisatta, and went to the river side. Having seen the Bodhisatta going along, he said: “Hey, boatman, turn the boat around!” But the Bodhisatta stayed him, saying: “Dear, do not turn back!”

Seeing the Bodhisatta going away, strong grief arose for the other trader, his heart became hot, and blood spurted from his mouth, and his heart split, like a dam over a reservoir.

Wound up with agitation with the Bodhisatta, right there he arrived at the death. This was the first time Devadatta was wound up with agitation towards the Bodhisatta.

The Bodhisatta, giving gifts and so on and doing other meritorious deeds, passed on according to his deeds.

The Conclusion 1

The Perfect Sambuddha, after teaching this Dhamma discourse, becoming Fully Awakened, spoke this verse:

The Verse and Word Commentary

Idha ce naṁ virādhesi Saddhammassa niyāmataṁ,
If here you miss being certain of (results in) the True Dhamma,

Ciraṁ tvaṁ anutappesi, Serivāyaṁ va vāṇijo ti.
For a long time you will suffer, like the merchant from Serivā.

In this connection, if here you miss being certain of (results in) the True Dhamma, means: in this dispensation of the True Dhamma, you miss the Path of Stream-Entry which is reckoned as a certainty. If you miss, through giving up effort, and do not attain, do not gain (these), is the meaning.

For a long time you will suffer, in this case while grieving, lamenting for a long period of time, you will feel remorse, or, through giving up effort, and losing the Noble Path, and being reborn in hell and so forth for a long time, while experiencing various suffering, you will become remorseful and weary, this is the meaning here.

How? Like the merchant from Serivā, Serivā, such is the name of this trader.

This is what is said: Just as formerly the trader called Serivā, having received the golden dish worth a hundred thousand, because of not having made a (proper) effort to take it, was remorseful at his loss, so you, in this dispensation, like the decorated golden dish, through giving up effort, not attaining the Noble Path, then losing out, you will have remorse for a long time.

But if you do not give up effort, like the wise trader and the golden dish, you will attain the supermundane in nine ways i.e., the four Paths, the four Fruits, and Nibbāna. in my dispensation.

The Conclusion 2

Thus {1.114} the Teacher, taking Worthiness as the summit, presented this Dhamma teaching, and revealed the four truths, and at the end of the truths the monk who had given up effort was established in the highest fruit of Worthiness.

The Teacher, having told these two stories, joined them together, and showed the connection of the Jātaka: “Then the foolish trader was Devadatta, but I was the wise trader,” and so he concluded the teaching.

The Story about the Tradesman from Serivā, the Third