Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births
Book 1 Ekanipāta
59. Bherivada Jātaka
“Go not too far.”—This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana, about a certain self-willed Brother. Asked by the Master whether the report was true that he was self-willed, the Brother said it was true. “This is net the first time, Brother,” said the Master, “that you have shewn yourself self-willed; you were just the same in bygone times as well.” And so saying, he told this story of the past.
Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta came to life as a drummer, and dwelt in a village. Hearing that there was to be a festival at Benares, and hoping to make money by playing his drum to the crowds of holiday-makers, he made his way to the city, with his son. And there he played, and made a great deal of money. On his way home with his earnings he had to pass through a forest which was infested by robbers; and as the boy kept beating away at the drum without ever stopping, the Bodhisatta tried to stop him by saying, “Don’t behave like that, beat only now and again,—as if some great lord were passing by.”
But in defiance of his father’s bidding, the boy thought the best way to frighten the robbers away was to keep steadily on beating away at the drum.
At the first notes of the drum, away scampered the robbers, thinking some great lord was passing by. But hearing the noise keep on, they saw their mistake and came back to find out who it really was. Finding only two persons, they beat and robbed them. “Alas!” cried the Bodhisatta, “by your ceaseless drumming you have lost all our hard-earned takings!” And, so saying, he repeated this stanza:
His lesson ended, the Master shewed the connexion and identified the Birth by saying, “This self-willed Brother was the son of those days, and I myself the father.”