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Sarabhaṅga Jātaka (No.522)

The Bodhisatta was once born as the son of the chief priest (purohita) of the king of Bārāṇasī. He was called Jotipāla because, on the day of his birth, there was a blaze of all kinds of arms for a distance of twelve leagues round Bārāṇasī. This showed that he would be the chief archer of all India.

After having been educated in Takkasilā, he returned to Bārāṇasī and entered the king’s service, receiving one thousand a day. When the king’s attendants grumbled at this, the king ordered Jotipāla to give an exhibition of his skill. This he did, in the presence of sixty thousand archers. With the bow and arrow he performed twelve unrivalled acts of skill and cleft seven hard substances. Then he drove an arrow through a furlong of water and two furlongs of earth and pierced a hair at a distance of half a furlong. The sun set at the conclusion of this exhibition, and the king promised to appoint him commander-in-chief the next day. However, during the night, Jotipāla felt a revulsion for the household life, and, departing unannounced, went into the Kapiṭṭhavana on the Godhāvarī and there became an ascetic. On Sakka’s orders, Vissakamma built a hermitage for him, in which he lived, developing great psychic powers. When his parents and the king with his retinue visited him, he converted them to the ascetic life, and his followers soon numbered many thousands.

He had seven pupils — Sālissara, Mendissara, Pabbata, Kāladevala, Kisavaccha, Anusissa and Nārada. When Kapiṭṭhavana became too crowded, Jotipāla, now known as Sarabhaṅga, sent his pupils away to different parts of the country: Sālissara to Lambacūḷaka, Mendissara to Sātodikā, Pabbata to Añjana Mountain, Kāḷadevala to Ghanasela, Kisavaccha to Kumbhavatī and Nārada to Arañjara, while Anusissa remained with him. When Kisavaccha, through the folly of a courtesan, was ill-treated by King Daṇḍakī of Kumbhavatī and his army, Sarabhaṅga heard from the king’s commander-in-chief of this outrage and sent two of his pupils to bring Kisavaccha on a palanquin to the hermitage. There he died, and when his funeral was celebrated, for the space of half a league round his pyre there fell a shower of celestial flowers.

Because of the outrage committed on Kisavaccha, sixty leagues of Daṇḍakī’s kingdom were destroyed together with the king. When the news of this spread abroad, three kings — Kaliṅga, Atthaka and Bhimaratha — recalling stories of other similar punishments that had followed insults to holy men, went to visit Sarabhaṅga in order to get at the truth of the matter. They met on the banks of the Godhāvarī, and there they were joined by Sakka. Sarabhaṅga sent Anusissa to greet them and offer them hospitality, and, when they had rested, gave them permission to put their questions. Sarabhaṅga explained to them how Daṇḍaka, Nālikira, Ajjuna and Kalābu, were all born in hell owing to their ill-treatment of holy men, and went to expound to them the moral law. Even as he spoke the three kings were filled with the desire for renunciation, and at the end of Sarabhaṅga’s discourse they became ascetics, under him.

The story was told in reference to the death of Mahā-Moggallāna Thera (q.v.) It is said that after Moggallāna had been attacked by brigands and left by them for dead, he recovered consciousness, and, flying to the Buddha, obtained his consent to die. The six deva worlds were filled with great commotion, and, after his death, the devas brought offerings of flowers and incense to his pyre, which was made of sandalwood and ninety-nine precious things. When the body was placed on the pyre flowers rained down for the space of one league round and for seven days there was a great festival. The Buddha had the relics collected and deposited in a shrine in Veḷuvana. The Buddha identified Moggallāna, with Kisavaccha and related this Jātaka. Of the others, Sālissara was Sāriputta, Mendissara was Mahā-Kassapa, Pabbata was Anuruddha, Devala was Kaccāyana, and Anusissa was Ānanda. J.v.125‑51.