The Story of An Industrious Lad


(By U Thein Han, Research Officer)

        During the reign of King Brahmadatta in Banares, the Head of the cartmen, the Bodhisatta, together with the five hundred followers, went on trade, the journey being of 59 yojanas (1 yojana=about 13 miles) and then reached a desert called Vannapatha. In the desert, travellers could not travel in day-time as it was extremely hot and so they had to take rest in a tent built by themselves. At night-time only, travelling could be made by seeing the position of stars (in the form of a compass) together with the help of a guide.

        The Bodhisatta made out that the remaining journey could be travelled during night-time only. So, the travellers went on travelling after finishing their dinner, threw away all the remaining fire-wood and water which they brought from their homes. As the guide had to pass through so many sleepless nights, he became very tired and fell fast asleep. The bullocks which drew the carts, turned around and travelled back the past journey for the whole night. The guide, waking up from the bed at dawn and seeing the correct astrological signs in the sky, cried out, "Turn back! Turn back!"While the cart-men were making arrangements for their forward journey, the sun appeared. When they realized that they were back again in the same rest-camp, they became disappointed and slept in the tent built by themselves. They became very thirsty.

        The Bodhisatta, after examining the situation in the neighbourhood for a while, saw a collection of tiny-leafy grass. Hence, he let the travellers dig around that place as he assumed that there must be water below. After digging the depth of 60 elbows-length , (i.e..30 yards) under the ground, they saw a mat (large and thick pad) of rocks, became disappointed and gave up the digging-process. The Bodhisatta, going down along the pit, tried to test the sound of possibly existing water by placing one of his ears close to the mat of rocks. After hearing the sound of the flowing-water, he came up. He then let a lad break-open the mat of rocks with an iron-hammer. A big water-fountain in a cylindrical size of a palm-tree-trunk was forced to rush upwards onto the ground. The travellers, after drinking as much water as they required, and after bathing themselves and cooking rice and curry with water and having meal, went on trading purpose to the place that they previously intended and returned home safely at last.

Main Lesson of the Jataka

        The learned-man, the Bodhisatta, could easily overcome all the difficulties, on account of his steadfast endeavour and singleness of purpose.

Past Episode

        The Lord Buddha preached this Suttanta Jataka in relation with a monk who readily gave up himself in the practice of meditation, while He (the Lord Buddha) was residing in Jetavana Monastery. When the story reached its climax the readily giving-up monk was in former birth not readily giving-up lad who broke open the mat of rocks so as to be able to get water. The Lord Buddha was then the Head-Trader among all the cartmen or traders.

The Story of a Prince who was Famous for His Five Kinds of Weapons

Pancavudha jataka

(Translated by U Thein Han, Research Officer)

        Once upon a time, in the reign of King Brahmadatta in Banares, the Bodhisatta happened to be a prince. When the time came for his naming ceremony, the king consulted his one hundred and eight Brahmanas (royal palmists) for their remarks. They prophesied that his son would surely become a powerful prince. When the King passed away, the son would succeed to the throne. Moreover, his son would become famous especially for his five kinds of weapons. Lastly, he would become the noblest one in the whole universe.

        The King, after receiving the prophecies of his royal palmists, named his son "Prince Pancavudha." When the prince attained the age of sixteen, his father, the king, let him go to the Professor in the Texila Country, Gandhara Division and learn all kinds of Arts and to carry with him one thousand gold coins for the payment of fees.

        The Prince went there and soon completed his learning. Then he brought five kinds of weapons that had been given by his Professor, and started to return home. On his return journey, he met a fearful giant ogre who had sticky feathers. The ogre transformed himself to assume terrific shapes, sizes and appearances, and threatened the prince. However, he was not afraid of the ogre. Moreover he fought the ogre with his five kinds of weapons namely, bow and arrows, royal sword, sharp and pointed wheel, large stick (Indian Club) and also with his hands, legs and head. Nevertheless, all of his weapons became stuck on the feathers of the ogre, one after another. At last, both of his hands and legs, and his head were hanging on the ogre's body. Even then, he did not lose his courage at all.

        The ogre thought to himself that that man was very brave and courageous as a lion. He must not be ordinary person but a hero. For, the ogre had never seen such a kind of man before. Therefore he dared not eat the prince and asked the latter why he was not frightened. The prince replied that he didn't need to fear because he had a thunderbolt weapon in his stomach. If the ogre ate him up that weapon would destroy him. Thus both of them would perish at the same time. (In this instance, the Bodhisatta meant to say that the thunder bolt weapon was nothing but the weapon of wisdom in his body). That was why he was not afraid of the ogre.

        After hearing his reply, the ogre thought that the prince had spoken the truth and so, he set him free. The prince then preached to the ogre by showing the advantages of the "Five Precepts"* that everyone should always abide by.

       At last, the prince succeeded to the throne in Banares on the death of his father, and ruled the country with justice throughout his life.

Main Lesson of the Jataka

       The learned man who is full of endeavour and courage can easily overcome all dangers, difficulties and disasters.

Perseverance is the best source of success.

Discouragement is the worst evil in life.

Past Episode

        This Pancavudha Jataka was told by the Lord Buddha in connection with a bhikkhu who was feeling lazy in the Insight Meditational Practice. At that time the Lord Buddha was residing in Jetavana Monastery. That bhikkhu (now known as Angulimala) was at that time the orge. The Lord Buddha was at that time Prince Pancavudha.

* The Five Precepts are:

Abstaining from taking other lives.

Abstaining from stealing other's property.

Abstaining from indulging in unlawful sexual intercourse.

Abstaining from telling lies.

Abstaining from drinking intoxicants.)

The Story of A Heron

Baka Jataka

(Translated by U Thein Han, Research Officer )

(First published in 'The Light of the Dhamma', vol.III, No. 1, 1983, Department of Religious Affairs, Rangoon)


        Once upon a time the Bodhisatta happened to be a guardian spirit of a tree known as Cratoeva Hygrophila* which was situated near a pond. During the time of summer, due to intense heat, the water level became very low. Great hardship was felt by the fishes and other animals. Since there were countless numbers of fishes living in the pond, death threatened in the hot weather. A heron, being cunning and with evil intention to deceive these innocent creatures, thought of a plan to devour them. So one day he perched on a branch of the tree by the pond to deceive the fishes. Seeing him in intensive meditative mood, the fishes asked him the reason for his quiet behaviour. With dishonest mind he replied that he was thinking out a plan to save them by carrying them one by one to a big lake full of water. He elaborated about that beautiful lake where five kinds of lotus were flourishing. The fishes were very much impressed by his talk. But they replied that since time immemorial no heron had had pity on fish, let alone save them.

        In order to make them believe his words, the heron carried one big, black fish to a lake full of water and put him there for a while. He then brought him back to his old place to report the matter to his associates. When the returning fish told them of the new lake, all fishes wanted to go and so requested the heron to carry them all.

        The cunning heron then took the fish one after another and, instead of putting them in the new lake, ate the helpless victims. All the fish were carried onto the branches of the Khadet tree where the heron made a great feast. So in course of time all fish were eaten up by the heron, leaving bones scattered at the foot of the tree near the lake. Only a crab was left in the pond. At last the cunning heron found him and, being greedy, he also wanted to eat him. By deceiving him he thought he could get what he wanted. So the heron said that he wanted to carry the crab to the big lake full of water. But the wise crab, thinking of the unusual manner of the heron, did not trust him. The possibility of deceit was too apparent to have faith in the heron's sweet words. In case there was a danger he must try to escape death. The crab therefore asked permission to grip his strong claws around the heron's neck. Since the grip of the claws of the crab seemed natural as told by the crab, the greedy heron allowed him to do so, while travelling in the air. But as previously, the heron actually brought the crab onto the branch of the tree. When asked about this strange trip and its reason, the heron replied that he planned to eat the crab up.

        Now the far-sighted crab realised that the cunning heron had already deceived all the poor fish. But, because of his wit, he prepared to meet this danger. The real hour had come. So he threatened the heron by tightening and twisting his neck with his huge pincers. The heron, feeling great pain, begged for his life and promised to carry the crab into the lake. The crab ordered the heron to carry him to the bank of the lake and release him. The frightened heron did as he was commanded. However, the crab cut the cunning heron's neck with his sharp pincers before he went into the water. Thus the cunning heron met his death due to his cunning greed. At that moment the Bodhisatta,the tree spirit, uttered the words of wisdom saying that a cunning person reaps the results of his bad deeds.

Main Lesson of the Jataka

        One who causes harm to others receives the same effects sooner or later.

        There is the Law of Kamma and Results. One should avoid greed. Every person reaps the fruits of his good or bad actions. So good thoughts and actions are the true saviour. Mindfulness will save one from danger.

Past Episode

        This Baka Jataka was told by the Lord Buddha in connection with a monk who exchanged worn-out robes for new ones from his unsuspecting fellow-monks. This monk was in turn deceived by a village monk. The city-dwelling monk was at that time the cunning heron. The village monk was at that time the wise, alert crab who cut the neck of the heron with his claws.

        * Cratoeva Aygrophila—A shrub from two to five feet high, bearing flowers in the axils of the leaves, and spindle-shaped berries one or two inches in length [Dictionary by Judson, p. 848].


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