Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births
Book 7 Sattanipāta
396. Kukku Jātaka
Once upon a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was his councillor in things temporal and spiritual. The king was set on the way of the evil courses, ruled his kingdom unrighteously and collected wealth by oppressing the people. The Bodhisatta wishing to admonish him goes about looking for a parable. Now the king’s bedchamber was unfinished and the roof was not complete upon it: the rafters supported a peak but were only just set in position. The king had gone and taken his pleasure in the park: when he came to his house he looked up and saw the round peak: fearing it would fall upon him he went and stood outside, then looking up again he thought “How is that peak resting so? and how are the rafters?” and asking the Bodhisatta he spoke the first stanza—
Hearing him the Bodhisatta thought “I have now got a parable to admonish the king,” and spoke these stanzas—
So is the wise man, girt by faithful friends,
By steadfast counsellors and pure:
Never from height of fortune he descends:
As rafters hold the peak secure.
While the Bodhisatta was speaking, the king considered his own conduct, “If there is no peak, the rafters do not stand fast; the peak does not stand if not held by the rafters; if the rafters break, the peak falls: and even so a bad king, not holding together his friends and ministers, his armies, his brahmins and householders, if these break up, is not held by them but falls from his power: a king must be righteous.” At that instant they brought him a citron as a present. The king said to the Bodhisatta, “Friend, eat this citron.” The Bodhisatta took it and said, “O king, people who know not how to eat this make it bitter or acid: but wise men who know take away the bitter, and without removing the acid or spoiling the citron-flavour they eat it,” and by this parable he showed the king the means of collecting wealth, and spoke two stanzas—
The rough-skinned citron bitter is to eat,
If it remain untouched by carver’s steel:
Take but the pulp, O king, and it is sweet:
You spoil the sweetness if you add the peel.
Even so the wise man without violence,
Gathers king’s dues in village and in town,
Increases wealth, and yet gives no offence:
He walks the way of right and of renown.
The king taking counsel with the Bodhisatta went to a lotus-tank, and seeing a lotus in flower, with a hue like the new-risen sun, not defiled by the water, he said: “Friend, that lotus grown in the water stands undefiled by the water.” Then the Bodhisatta said, “O king, so should a king be,” and spoke these stanzas in admonition—
Like the lotus in the pool,
White roots, waters pure, sustain it;
In the sun’s face flowering full,
Dust nor mud nor wet can stain it.
So the man whom virtues rule,
Meek and pure and good we style him:
Like the lotus in the pool
Stain of sin cannot defile him.
After the lesson, the Master declared the Truths and identified the Birth: “At that time the king was Ananda, the wise minister myself.”