Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births
Book 5 Pañcanipāta
363. Hiri Jātaka
“Who spite of honour,” etc.—This story the Master, when dwelling at Jetavana, told concerning a rich merchant, a friend of Anathapindika, who lived in a border province. Both the introductory story and the story of the past are related in full in the concluding Birth of the ninth division of the first book, but in this version when the merchant of Benares was told that the followers of the foreign merchant were mulcted of all their property and, after losing everything they possessed, had to take to flight, he said, “Because they failed to do what they ought for the strangers who came to them, they find no one ready to do them a good turn.” And so saying he repeated these verses:
Be thou in deed to every promise true,
Refuse to promise what thou canst not do;
Wise men on empty braggarts look askew.
No friend suspects a quarrel without cause,
For ever watching to discover flaws:
But he that trustful on a friend can rest,
As little child upon its mother’s breast,
Will ne’er by any stranger’s deed or word,
Be separated from his bosom’s lord.
Who draws the yoke of human friendship well,
Of bliss increased and honoured life can tell:
But one that tastes the joys of calm repose,
Drinking sweet draughts of Truth—he only knows
Escape from bonds of sin and all his woes.
The Master, his lesson ended, thus identified the Birth: “At that time I myself was the merchant of Benares.”