Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Buddha and Ananda in College

Modern retelling from archaic 1901 translation by W.H.D. Rouse: The Jataka, Vol. IV

Earlier we presented When the Buddha was Bad (in College) in brief, which stirred great interest. Here is the complete story. The Buddha did in fact receive the best education available to a warrior-caste prince from brahmin tutors -- at a time when college was reserved for brahmins.

But before that, during an earlier birth as an outcast in India, he snuck into college with Ananda. This is the story of that life (Jataka 498) and a few that followed as told by the Buddha himself.

Rebirth Tale of Citta and Sambhūta
W.H.D. Rouse (1901) as retold by Seven Dharmachari (2010)
"Every good deed..." — The Buddha was dwelling in Jetavana when he recounted this birth story. Two monks in the company of Ven. Mahā Kassapa were always together. They were great friends who shared everything evenly. Even on alms round gathering food, they went out and came back together. They couldn't stand to be apart.

One day the other monks were sitting in the Hall of Truth praising their friendship when the Buddha came in. He asked the topic of their conversation. They told him. And he replied, "Monks, their friendship in one life is nothing to wonder at. In the olden days wise people kept friendships unbroken throughout three or four different lives."

Potala Palace, an ancient center of Buddhist higher education in the Himalayas

College Bound
The Buddha then told them how Cid Ta [Citta] and Sam Bhu'Ta [Sambhūta] got into college:

Once upon a time, in Avanti's kingdom, in the city of Ujjenī, there reigned the great King Avanti. There was an outcast ghetto near Ujjenī, and there the Bodhisat (Buddha-to-be) was born and given the name Cid. Ananda-to-be was born as the son of his mother's sister and named Sam.

When they grew up, poor sweepers by birth (lowest-caste caṇḍālas, "untouchables"), they decided to go display their acrobatic [or sweeping] skills and artistry at the city gates of Ujjenī. One of them showed off at the north gate, the other at the east. In Ujjenī there were two witchy girls wise in reading omens, one a merchant's daughter, the other a brahmin's.

The girls were on their way to hang out in the park, having ordered lots of food both hard and soft as well as garlands and perfumes. It so happened that one went out by the northern gate, the other by the eastern. Seeing the two youngsters with their ridiculous caṇḍāla clothes showing off their mad skills, the girls asked, "Who are these guys?"

"Outcasts," they were informed.

"This is an evil omen to see!" they yelled. Then they washed out their eyes with perfumed water and turned back. People cried out, "Hey you filthy outcasts, you made us lose out on free picnic food and strong drinks!" They hassled and finally beat up the two cousins.

When Cid and Sam recovered their senses, they got up, dusted themselves off, and found each other. Each told the other what had happened outside the gates, weeping and wailing and wondering what to do.

"All this misery has come upon us," they lamented, "because of our birth. We'll never be able to play the part of showman outcasts. Hey, let's conceal our caste! Dude, let's go study at the University of Takkasilā disguised as brahmins!" Having made their decision, they went off to college and majored in law under a famous professor.

But a rumor spread all over India that two young outcasts were studying as brahmin students. The wise Cid was very proficient and successful at his studies, but Sam not so much.

One day a villager extended an invitation to their teacher, intending to offer food to the brahmins. It rained overnight muddying the road and flooding the potholes. Early in the morning the old teacher summoned wise Cid and said, "Good student, I can't go with the roads this way. You go with the other young men and pronounce a blessing on my behalf. Eat what you get for yourself, and bring home what there is for me."

Accordingly, the young brahmins set off. While they washed off the mud from the trip and rinsed their mouths, the people prepared hot rice porridge. They served it saying, "Make sure to let it cool first."

But before it was cool, the young men came and sat down. The people offered them the bowls and water. Sam's wits were somewhat muddled, and imagining it to be cool, he took up a portion of the rice and put it in his mouth. It burned him like a red hot ball of iron. In his pain he forgot his part. Glancing at wise Cid, he exclaimed in caṇḍāla slang, "Hot as a %$#&%$@, ain't it!?"

The other forgot himself as well and answered in their peculiar dialect, "Spit it out, man, spit it out!" The other students looked at one another saying, "What kind of language is this?" Wise Cid pronounced a [Vedic] blessing.

When the students got back to campus, they sat around discussing the strange slang they had heard. They finally figured out that it was the caṇḍāla dialect. And very angrily they yelled as they beat up Cid and Sam: "You disgusting, filthy outcasts! You've been tricking everybody all along pretending to be brahmins!" They beat them until finally a goodhearted professor made them stop. Then he advised the outcasts, "Run off! You're smart, but your low-birth is in your blood. Go become ascetics!"

The pair ran off into the forest and there took up the ascetic life. In no long time they died and were reborn as brother deer on the banks of the river Nerañjarā [not far from where the Buddha later bathed before attaining enlightenment].

From the time they were born, they always went about together. One day, when they had eaten their fill of grass, a hunter saw them under a tree ruminating and cuddling, very happy, head to head, nose to nose, horn to horn. He shot an arrow at them and killed them both with a single shot.

They were then reborn as the young of an osprey on the banks of the river Nerbudda. There too, after eating, they would cuddle together, head to head, beak to beak. A hunter saw them, snared them together, and killed them both.

Next the Bodhisat (Cid) was reborn in Kosambī, as a brahmin priest's son. Ananda-to-be (Sam) was reborn as the son of the king of Uttarapañcāla. From the day they were named, they could remember their former births. Sam only remembered the caṇḍāla birth. But Cid could remember the previous four in order. And when he turned 16, he went away to become an ascetic in the Himalayas.

There he developed the jhanas (spiritual ecstasies), dwelling in the bliss of ecstatic meditation. When the prince's father died after some time, Sam had the royal umbrella spread over him becoming king. On the very day of Sam's umbrella ceremony, in front of many well-wishers, he uttered two stanzas in aspiration [recounted below]. It became a ceremonial hymn. When people heard it, the royal wives and musicians chanted it saying, "Our king's own coronation hymn!"

Before long all the citizens sang it, which the king loved. Soon Cid, still meditating in the Himalayas, wondered whether his longtime friend had assumed the throne. Perceiving with mystical vision that he had, he thought, "I will never be able to instruct a young ruler. But when he is older, I will visit him and persuade him to become an ascetic."

The Bodhisat waited 50 years and by that time the king had many sons and daughters. By his supernatural powers, he flew to Pañcāla where Sam was reigning and alighted in the king's pleasure park. There he sat on the ceremonial seat like an image of gold. Just then a boy who was picking up sticks nearby sang the ceremonial hymn. The sage Cid called him to approach. He came up and bowed, and Cid said to him, "Since early morning you have been singing that same hymn. Don't you know any others?"

A Song to Remind Him

"Oh yes, sir," the boy answered, I know many more! But these are the verses the king loves, which is why I sing no others."

"Is there anyone who can sing a refrain to the king's hymn?"

"No, sir."

"Could you?"

"Yes, sir, if I were taught."

"Well, when the king chants these two verses, you sing this by way of a reply." He then recited a hymn. "Now," he said, "go and sing this before the king, and the king will be pleased with you and make much of you for it."

The boy ran to his mother and got himself dressed up then ran to the king's and sent in word that a boy was here to sing a refrain to his hymn.

The king ordered, "Let him approach."

When the boy came in and saluted him, the king said, "They say you will sing an answering refrain to my hymn?"

"Yes, my lord," he said. "Bring in the whole court to hear it."

As soon as the court had assembled, the boy called out, "Sing your hymn, my lord, and I will answer with mine."

Every Good Deed

The king repeated the familiar pair of stanzas:

"Every good deed bears fruit soon or late,
No deed without result, and nothing in vain:
I see Sam mighty grown and great,
Thus do his virtues bear him fruit again!

"Every good deed bears fruit soon or late,
No deed without result, and nothing in vain.
Who knows if Cid may also be great,
And like myself, his heart have brought him gain?"

At the end of those stanzas, the boy chanted the third:

"Every good deed bears fruit soon or late,
No deed without result, and nothing in vain.
Behold, my lord, see the sage Cid at thy gate,
And like thyself, his heart has brought him gain!"

On hearing this the king uttered a fourth stanza:

"Then art thou Cid, or this tale did hear
From him, or did some other make thee know?
Thy hymn is very sweet: I have no fear;
A village and a bounty I on thee bestow.

Then the boy chanted a fifth stanza:

"I am not Cid, but I heard the thing.
It was a sage who laid on me this command —
Go and recite an answer to the king,
And be rewarded by his grateful hand."

Hearing this the king thought, "It must be my cousin Cid! I will go and see him." Then he bid his men with these two stanzas:

"Come, yoke the royal chariots, so finely wrought and made:
Gird up with girths the elephants, in necklaces bright arrayed.

"Beat drums for joy, and let the conchs be blown,
Prepare the swiftest chariots I own:
For to that hermitage I will away,
To see the sage that sits within this very day."

Then mounting his finest chariot, he swiftly headed for the park gate. He checked his chariot and approached the sage Cid, bowing and sitting down to one side [traditional Indian marks of respect]. Greatly pleased, he recited an eighth stanza:

"A precious hymn it was I sang so sweet
While thronging multitudes around me pressed;
For now this holy sage I come to greet
And all is joy and gladness in my breast."

Happy from the instant he saw wise Cid again, he had his subjects prepare a seat for his cousin, and uttered a ninth stanza:

"Accept a seat, and for your feet fresh water: it is right
To offer gifts of food to guests: accept, as we invite."

After this sweet invitation, the king uttered another stanza, offering Cid half of his kingdom:

"Let them make glad the place where thou shalt dwell,
Let throngs of waiting women wait on thee;
O let me show thee that I love thee well,
And let us both kings here together be."

When Cid heard these words, he discoursed in return six stanzas:

"Seeing the fruit of evil deeds, O king,
Seeing what profit deeds of goodness bring,
I fain would exercise stern self-control,
Sons, wealth, and cattle [status indicator in agrarian societies] cannot charm my soul.
"Ten decades has this mortal life, which each to each succeed:
This limit reached, man withers fast like to a broken reed.

"Then what is pleasure, what is love, wealth-hunting what to me?
What sons and daughters? Know, O king, from fetters I am free.
"For this is true, I know it well — death will not pass me by:
And what is love, or what is wealth, when you must come to die?

"The lowest caste that go upon two feet
Are the caṇḍālas, most menial men on Earth,
When all our deeds were ripe, as reward meet
We both as young caṇḍālas had our birth.

"Caṇḍālas in Avanti land, deer by Nerañjara,
Ospreys by the Nerbudda, now brahmin and warrior."

Having thus made clear his menial past births, here also in this birth he declared the impermanence of things created. He then recited four stanzas to arouse effort:

"Life is but short, and death the end must be:
The aged have no hiding where to flee.
Then, O [king of] Pañcāla, what I bid thee, do:
All deeds which grow to misery, eschew.

"Life is but short, and death the end must be:
The aged have no hiding where to flee.
Then, O Pañcāla, what I bid thee, do:
All deeds whose fruit is misery, eschew.

"Life is but short, and death the end must be:
The aged have no hiding where to flee.
Then, O Pañcāla, what I bid thee, do:
All deeds that are with passion stained, eschew.

"Life is but short, and death the end must be:
Old age will sap our strength, we cannot flee.
Then, O Pañcāla, what I bid thee, do:
All deeds that lead to lowest hell, eschew."

The king rejoiced as the Bodhisat spoke and uttered three stanzas:

"True is that word, O cousin! which you say,
You like a holy saint your words dictate:
But my desires are hard to cast away,
By such as I am; they are very great.

"As elephants deep sunken in the mire
Cannot climb out, although they see the land:
So, sunken in the slough of strong desire,
On the ascetic's path I cannot stand.

"As father or as mother would their son
Admonish, good and happy how to grow:
Admonish me how happiness is won,
And tell me by which way I ought to go."

Then the Bodhisat said to him:

"O lord of men! thou cannot cast away
These passions which are common to mankind:
Let not thy people unjust taxes pay,
Equal and righteous ruling let them find.

"Send messengers to north, south, east, and west
The brahmins and ascetics to invite:
Provide them food and drink, a place to rest,
Clothes, and all else that may be requisite.

"Give thou the food and drink which satisfies
Sages and holy brahmins, full of faith:
Who gives and rules as well as in him lies
Will go to heavens all blameless after death.

"But if, surrounded by thy womankind
Thou feel thy passion and desire too strong,
This verse of poetry then bear in mind
And sing it in the midst of all the throng:

"No roof to shelter from the sky, amid the dogs he lay,
His mother nursed him as she walked: but he's a king today."

Such was the Bodhisat's advice. Then he said, "I have given you my counsel. And now do you become an ascetic or not, as you see fit. But I will follow up the result of my own deeds."

Then he rose up in the air and shook off the dust of his feet over Sam and returned to the Himalayas.

And seeing it the king was greatly moved. He therefore relinquished his kingdom to his eldest son. Then he called out his army and set off in the direction of the Himalayas.

When the Bodhisat heard of his coming, he went with attendant sages and welcomed him. Then he ordained him into the supreme life [brahmacariya] and taught him a method of inducing the mystic ecstasy of jhana. He developed the faculty of mystical meditation. Thus the two together became destined for the Brahma world.

When the Buddha concluded his discourse, he added: "Thus, monks, wise people in the olden days continued firm friendships through the course of three or four existences." Then he identified the birth:

"At that time Ananda was the wise Sam [Sambhūta], and I myself was the wise Cid [Citta]."

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