Home page Up (parent) Next (right) Previous (left) Abbreviations

Page last updated on 8 October, 2020

Association for Insight Meditation Home Page

Mahānāradakassapa Jātaka (No.545)

Aṅgati, king of Mithilā in Videha, is a good ruler. One full-moon night he consults his ministers as to how they shall amuse themselves. Alāta suggests new conquests; Sunāma suggests that they shall seek pleasure in dance, song, and music; but Vijaya recommends that they shall visit some samaṇa or brahmin. Aṅgati falls in with the views of Vijaya, and in great state goes to Guṇa of the Kassapagotta, an ascetic who lives in the park near the city. Guṇa teaches him that there is no fruit, good or evil, in the moral life; there is no other world than this, no strength, no courage; all beings are predestined and follow their course like the ship her stern. Alāta approves of the views of Guṇa; he remembers how, in his past life, he was a wicked councillor called Piṅgala; from there he was born in the family of a general, and now he is a minister. A slave, Bījaka, who is present, can remember his past life and says he was once Bhavaseṭṭhi in Sāketa, virtuous and generous, but he is now the son of a prostitute. Even now he gives away half his food to any in need, but see how destitute he is!

King Aṅgati is convinced that Guṇa’s doctrine is correct, and resolves to find delight only in pleasure. He gives orders that he shall not be disturbed in his palace; Candaka, his minister, is deputed to look after the kingdom. Fourteen days pass in this manner. Then the king’s only child, his beloved daughter Rujā, comes to him arrayed in splendour, attended by her maidens, and asks for one thousand to be given the next day to mendicants. Aṅgati protests; he will deny his daughter no pleasure or luxury, but has learnt too much to approve of her squandering money on charity or wasting her energy in keeping the fasts.

Rujā is at first amazed, then tells her father that his councillors are fools, they have not taken reckoning of the whole of their past, but remember only one birth or two; they cannot therefore judge. She herself remembers several births; in one she was a smith in Rājagaha and committed adultery, but that sin remained hidden, like fire covered with ashes, and she was born as a rich merchant’s only son in Kosambī. There she engaged in good works, but, because of previous deeds, she was born after death in the Roruva hell and then as a castrated goat in Bheṇṇākaṭa. In her next birth she was a monkey, and then an ox among the Dasaṇṇas; then a hermaphrodite among the Vajjī , and later a nymph in Tāvatiṃsa. Once more her good deeds have come round, and hereafter she will be born only among gods and men. Seven births hence she will be a male god in Tāvatiṃsa, and even now the god Java is gathering a garland for her.

All night she teaches in this way to her father, but he remains unconvinced. The Bodhisatta is a Brahmā, named Nārada Kassapa, and, surveying the world, sees Rujā and Aṅgati engaged in conversation. He therefore appears in the guise of an ascetic, and Aṅgati goes out to greet and consult him. The ascetic praises goodness, charity, and generosity, and speaks of other worlds. Aṅgati laughs, and asks for a loan which, he says, he will repay twice over in the next world, as the ascetic seems so convinced that there is one. Nārada tells him of the horrors of the hell in which Aṅgati will be reborn unless he mends his ways, and mentions to him the names of former kings who attained to happiness through good lives. The king at last sees his error and determines to choose new friends. Nārada Kassapa reveals his identity and leaves in all majesty.

The story was related in reference to the conversion of Uruvela-Kassapa. He came, after his conversion, with the Buddha to Laṭṭhivana, and the people wondered if he had really become a follower of the Buddha. He dispelled their doubts by describing the folly of the sacrifices which he had earlier practised, and, laying his head on the Buddha’s feet did obeisance. Then he rose seven times into the air, and, after having worshipped the Buddha, sat on one side. The people marvelled at the Buddha’s powers of conversion, which, the Buddha said, were not surprising since he possessed them already as a Bodhisatta.

Aṅgati is identified with Uruvela-Kassapa, Alāta with Devadatta, Sunāma with Bhaddiya, Vijaya, with Sāriputta, Bījaka with Moggallāna, Guṇa with the Licchavi Sunakkhatta, and Rujā with Ānanda. J.vi.219 55; see also J.i.83.