December 08, 2011

Jataka Tales: The Birth Story of the Great Monkey (Mahavanarajatakam)

The soldiers did as they were told. The king then gently helped the monkey down from the blanket and placed him on a soft couch. The Bodhi·sattva had swooned from fatigue and from the pain brought on by his wounds, but after butter was applied to his injuries and other remedies suitable for soothing fresh wounds, the pain lessened and he revived. The king then approached the monkey, full of curiosity, amazement and respect and after first asking after his welfare, he spoke the following words:

"You rescued these monkeys
by making yourself into a bridge for them,
casting aside concern for your own life.
Who are you to them? And who are they to you?

If I am worthy of hearing it,
please tell me, chief of monkeys.
For the ties of friendship binding your hearts
cannot be small if you are capable of this deed."

The Bodhi·sattva honored in return the kind help the ring had shown him and introduced himself in a congenial nanner, saying:

"Dedicated to following my orders,
the monkeys entrusted me with kingship.
And I accepted that burden,
my heart bound to them like children.

Such is the bond between me and them,
developed over a long time, Your Majesty.
Our friendship derives from our kinship.
We share the same birth and we live together."

The king was filled with utter amazement at hearing these words and addressed the monkey once more, saying:

"Ministers and others serve their king,
but it is not for a king to act for them.
Why then did you sacrifice yourself
for the sake of your dependents?"

"I accept, great king," the Bodhi·sattva replied, "that this is how royal politics works. But I find it a difficult path to follow.

It is extremely painful to ignore
the severe and unbearable sufferings
even of strangers, let alone dear relatives,
their hearts raised up to you in devotion.

Seeing the terrible pain and grief
overwhelming the monkeys,
a feeling of anguish instantly overtook me,
leaving no scope to worry about my interests.

When I saw the bows being stretched,
their stone-tipped arrows spraying out fiercely,
I ignored the terrifYing twang of bowstrings
and leapt swiftly from the tree to this mountain.

But I was drawn back by my companions,
their hearts stricken with immense fear.
So I bound around my feet
a deep-rooted cane of notable length.

Leaping once more from mountain to tree,
intent on saving my companions,
I grasped the tip of an extending branch
which was stretched out like an offered hand.

As I lay stretched between the cane
and the branch-tip offered like a hand,
my troop reached safety through my help,
unconcerned about running over me."

The king was utterly astonished when he saw that the Great Being was joyful despite his plight and addressed him once more, saying:

"But what benefit do you gain
in spurning your own happiness
and taking upon yourself
the calamity afflicting others?"

The Bodhi·sattva replied:

"My body may be wounded, king,
but my mind feels great well-being
at removing the suffering of those
over whom I have ruled a long time.

I bear this pain joyfully, just as heroes
bear on their limbs, like ornaments,
the glorious marks of their bravery
after conquering proud foes in war.

I have on this day paid off my debts
for the devotion of my kinsmen,
attended by veneration and honor,
and for my lordship and easy way of life.

It is not my physical pain that torments me,
nor separation from friends,
nor loss of comfort.
For me the death that has come
is like the arrival of a festival!

The joy of paying off debts for past services,
the quelling of suffering, an untarnished fame,
veneration from a king, fearlessness of death,
and recognition among the good for my gratitude:

these are the virtues I have attained
from this misfortune, tree-like abode of merits!
But a king without compassion for his subjects
acquires the reverse of these virtues.

If a king has no virtues,
if his reputation is ruined
and he is a home for vice,
his only destiny is hell's flaming fires.

I have shown you, mighty king,
the power of virtue and vice.
Rule therefore your kingdom justly.
For Fortune's love is like that of a fickle woman.

Draught animals, armies, countryfolk, ministers,
citizens, destitutes, ascetics, brahmins:
toward all these a king should act like a father,
striving to give them a beneficial happiness.
Thus a wealth of virtue, profit and fame
will bring you joy here and in the next life.
By showing compassion to your people, king,
may you shine with the glory of royal seers!"

After instructing the king like a pupil,
who listened intently to his revered words,
he entered heaven by leaving his body,
which was seized by overwhelming pain.

In this way, those who act morally can influence the hearts even of enemies. If one wishes to influence people, one should therefore follow the conduct of the good.

One should also tell this story when praising the Tatha· 27.65 gata, saying: "Living beings cannot achieve even their own welfare in the same way as the Lord was able to achieve the welfare of others." And when discussing the topic of listening to the Teaching with respect, or when eulogizing compassion, or when advising kings, one should say: "A king should therefore behave with compassion toward his subjects." When discussing gratitude, one should also cite this story, saying: "In this way the virtuous are grateful."

Photo from www.hindu.com.

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marketing2's picture

Toko Susu says -- great post thank you.