On a ridge of the Himalaya stands a city called the Golden City, for it gleams from afar like the rays of the sun. And in that city, once upon a time, lived the king of the fairies, and his name was Jimuta-Ketu. And in the garden of his palace grew a wishing-tree, and its name was Granter of Desires, for it granted all desires. By the favor of that tree the king obtained a son, who was none other than the Future Buddha, and his name was Jimuta-Vahana. He was valiant in generosity, of mighty courage, and compassionate towards all living beings.
When Jimuta-Vahana was become of age, his father made him crown-prince. Thus did he become the fairy-prince. And when he had become the fairy-prince, the ministers of the kingdom came to him and said: "O fairy-prince, do reverence always to this wishing-tree, for it grants all desires, and cannot be resisted by any living creature. For so long as we possess this tree, we cannot suffer injury of any kind from any one, even from Indra, king of the gods, much less from any other."
When Jimuta-Vahana heard these words, he thought to himself: "Alas! our forefathers, for all their possession of this noble tree, obtained by the favor of this tree naught but wealth and victory over their enemies; thus did they demean themselves, and thus did they demean this tree likewise. For no such purposes as these will I employ this tree. For I know that the good things of this world endure but for a short while, and then perish and vanish utterly. But friendliness and compassion and generosity towards all living beings yield abundant fruit, both in this world and in the next. As for wealth, if it be not used for the benefit of others, it is like lightning which for an instant stings the eye, and then flickers and vanishes. Therefore if this wishing-tree which we possess, and which grants all desires, be employed for the benefit of others, we shall reap from it all the fruit that it can give. Accordingly I will so act that by the wealth of this tree all living beings shall be delivered from poverty and distress."
Then Jimuta-Vahana went to the wishing-tree and said: "O tree-spirit, thou that dost grant to us the fruit that we desire, fulfil to-day this one wish of mine: Deliver all living beings from poverty and distress." Straightway--wonderful to relate!--the wishing- tree showered a shower of gold upon the earth, and all living beings rejoiced thereat and became well-disposed to Jimuta-Vahana, and the fame and glory of him spread both near and far. But the relatives of Jimuta-Ketu, seeing that his throne was firmly established by the glory of his son, were moved to jealousy and became hostile to him. And because the kingdom of Jimuta-Ketu was weak, they determined to attack it and overthrow it, and to take possession of the wishing-tree that granted all desires. And they assembled and met together and began preparations to attack the kingdom of Jimuta-Ketu and to overthrow it and to take possession of the wishing-tree that granted all desires.
Thereupon Jimuta-Vahana the fairy-prince said to Jimuta-Ketu the fairy-king his father: "Why should we seek to obtain new wealth, or to retain the wealth that we possess? Is not this body of ours like a bubble in the water, which bursts in an instant and vanishes? Is it not like a candle, which, when it is exposed to the wind, flickers for an instant and goes out? Should a wise man desire to obtain wealth or to retain it when it is obtained, by the killing of living beings? I will not fight with my relatives. Therefore I will leave my kingdom and go to some forest-hermitage. Let these miserable wretches do as they like, but let us not kill the members of our own family."
And Jimiita-Ketu the fairy-king said to Jimuta-Vahana the fairy-prince his son: "Then will I too go, my son. For what desire for rule can I have, who am old, when you, who are young, out of compassion towards all living beings, abandon your kingdom as though it were so much straw and stubble?" Thereupon Jimuta-Vahana, with his father and mother, went to the Malaya mountain, and took up his abode in a forest-hermitage, the dwelling of the fairy-magicians, the Siddhas, where the brooks were hidden by the sandalwood trees, and devoted himself to the care of his father and mother.
One day, as he was roaming about with a companion, he came to a wood on the shore of the sea. There he saw many heaps of bones. And he said to his companion: "Whose bones are these?" His companion replied: "Give ear, and I will tell you the story in a few words.
"In times past Kadru and Vinata, the two wives of Kashyapa, had a quarrel. Kadru said that the horses of the Sun were black, and Vinata said that they were white, and they made a wager that whichever of the two was wrong should become a slave of the other. Then Kadru, bent on winning, actually induced her sons the snakes to defile the horses of the Sun by spitting venom over them; and showing them to Vinata thus defiled, she conquered her by a trick and made her her slave.
"When the griffin, the son of Vinata, heard of that, he came and tried to induce Kadru to release Vinata from slavery. Then the snakes, the sons of Kadru, said to the griffin, the son of Vinata: 'O griffin, the gods have begun to churn the sea of milk. Fetch thence the drink of immortality and give it to us as a substitute, and then take your mother away with you.' When the griffin heard these words, he went to the sea of milk and displayed his mighty prowess in order to obtain the drink of immortality. Then the god Vishnu, pleased with his mighty prowess, condescended to say to him: 'I am pleased with thee; choose some boon.' Then the griffin, angry because his mother had been made a slave, asked the following boon of Vishnu: 'May the snakes become my food!' Vishnu granted him this boon. Now Indra, king of the gods, listened to the conversation, and when the griffin, by his mighty prowess, had obtained the drink of immortality, he said to him: 'O griffin, take steps to prevent the foolish snakes from consuming the drink of immortality, and to enable me to take it away from them again.' The griffin agreed, and elated by the boon of Vishnu, he went to the snakes with the vessel containing the drink of immortality.
"And he called out from afar to the snakes: 'To you have I brought the drink of immortality. Take it, and release my mother. But if you are afraid, I will put it on a bed of darbha-grass. So soon as my mother is released, I will go; therefore take the drink of immortality thence.' Now the snakes were terrified by reason of the boon which Vishnu had granted to the griffin, and at once agreed to the bargain. Then the griffin set on a bed of darbha-grass the vessel containing the drink of immortality, and the snakes released his mother from slavery, and the griffin departed with her.
"But while the snakes, not suspicious of a ruse, were in the very act of taking the drink of immortality, Indra, king of the gods, suddenly swooped down, and confounding them with his mighty prowess, carried off the vessel containing the drink of immortality. Then the snakes in despair licked the bed of darbha-grass with their tongues, thinking that there might be so much as a drop of the drink of immortality spilt thereon; whereupon--wonderful to relate!--their tongues became split, and they became double-tongued for nothing.
"Thus did the snakes fail to obtain the drink of immortality. And straightway their enemy the griffin, relying on the boon which he had obtained from Vishnu, swooped down on them and began to devour them. And this he did again and again. And he wrought such havoc among them that the snakes in Patala were nigh unto death from sheer fright, and their females miscarried, and the whole race of the snakes was nigh unto utter destruction. Then Vasuki, king of the snakes, fearing that the whole race of the snakes would be rooted out, begged the griffin to relent, and made the following agreement with him: 'O king of birds, every day, on the hill that rises out of the sand of the sea, I will send you a single snake to eat. But you must not commit the folly of entering Patala, for by destroying utterly the whole race of the snakes, you will only defeat your own purpose.' The griffin consented. So every day, on the hill that rises out of the sand of the sea, Vasuki, king of the snakes, sends to the griffin, the king of the birds, a single snake to eat. And the griffin, the king of the birds, devours each day the snake which Vasuki, king of the snakes, sends to him to eat. These heaps of bones are the bones of the snakes which the griffin has eaten, and which, gradually accumulating, have come to look like the peak of a mountain."
When Jimuta-Vahana, the fairy-prince, embodiment of generosity and compassion towards all living beings, heard this story from the lips of his companion, he was pricked to the heart. And he said to his companion: "Of a truth, Vasuki, king of the snakes, is to be pitied, for that, like a coward, he delivers with his own hand into the hands of his most bitter enemy the snakes that are his subjects. Since he has a thousand faces and a thousand mouths, why can he not say with one of his mouths to the griffin who is his enemy: 'Eat me first, O griffin!'" Then did the noble-hearted Jimuta-Vahana make the following Earnest Wish: "May I, by the sacrifice of my own body and blood, obtain Supreme Enlightenment!"
At that moment a servant summoned Jimuta-Vahana's companion to return home, and Jimuta-Vahana, embodiment of generosity and compassion towards all living beings, was left alone. And Jimuta-Vahana roamed about alone, intent on carrying out the resolution which he had formed. And as he roamed about, he heard afar off a piteous sound of weeping. And drawing near, he beheld on a lofty slab of rock a youth of handsome appearance plunged in bitter grief. And by his side stood an officer of some monarch, as if he had brought him and left him there. And the youth was seeking to persuade an old woman who was weeping, to cease her weeping and return whence she had come.
And Jimuta-Vahana stood and listened, melted with pity, eager to know who he might be, and she. And the old woman, overwhelmed with the burden of her grief, began to look again and again at the youth, and to lament her misfortune in the following words: "Alas, Shankha-Chuda! thou that wast obtained by me at the cost of a hundred bitter pangs! Alas, virtuous youth! Alas, son, only scion of our family, where shall I behold thee again? Bereft of thee, thy father will be plunged into the darkness of sorrow, and will not for long endure to live. That body of thine, which would suffer even from the torch of the sun's rays,--how can it endure the agony of being devoured by the griffin? How comes it that Fate and the king of the snakes were able to discover thee, the only son of ill-starred me, though the world of the snakes is wide?" Thereupon the youth said: "Mother, I am afflicted enough as it is. Why do you afflict me more? Return to your home, I beg you. This is my last reverence to you. The griffin will soon be here." When the old woman heard those words, she cast her sorrowful eyes all around the horizon, and cried aloud: "Alas, I am undone! Who will deliver my son from death?"
Then Jimuta-Vahana with joy and delight went up to the old woman and said: "Mother, I will deliver your son!"
When the old woman heard those words, she was frightened and terrified, for she thought that the griffin had come. And straightway she cried out: "Eat me, O griffin! eat me!" Then said the youth her son: "Mother, be not afraid, for this is no griffin!" Then said Jimuta-Vahana: "Mother, I am the prince of the fairies, disguised in the garb of a man. I am come to deliver your son from death. I will give my own body and blood to the hungry griffin. Therefore return to your home, and take your son with you." But the old woman said: "By no means! for in a still higher sense you yourself are my very own son, since you have shown such a measure of compassion to me and my son at this time." Then said Jimuta-Vahana: "I have formed a resolution, and you must not defeat my purpose."
Then said the youth: "O thou of great and noble heart! I cannot consent to save my own body at the cost of thine. Should a common stone be saved by the sacrifice of a precious stone? The world is full of those who, like myself, pity only themselves. But few in number are those who entertain sentiments of compassion for the whole world and for all the living beings that are therein." At that moment the trees began to sway with the wind of the wings of the griffin, and seemed to utter a cry of dissuasion. And the sea, churned by the wind, seemed with the eyes of its bright-flashing jewels to be gazing in wonder and astonishment at the greatness of his courage and the depth of his compassion. Then came the griffin, hiding the heavens with his outspread wings. And swooping down, he smote the valiant hero Jimuta-Vahana with his beak, and gripping him with his talons, carried him off from that slab of rock; and soaring aloft, flew quickly with him to a peak of the Malaya mountain, to eat him there. And Jimuta-Vahana's crest-jewel was torn from his head, and drops of blood fell from his body, as the griffin carried him through the air. And while the griffin was devouring his body and blood, he uttered the following Earnest Wish: "May my body and blood be offered thus in every state of my existence, and may I not obtain rebirth in heaven or deliverance from the round of existences if thereby I shall be deprived of the opportunity of doing good to my neighbor!"
But afterwards, through the finding of his crest-jewel, his kinsfolk and friends effected his deliverance from the power of the griffin, and a goddess sprinkled him with a potion, whereupon he arose more glorious than before, with all his limbs made whole again. And the goddess said to him: "My son, I am pleased with this sacrifice of thy body and blood. Therefore I sprinkle thee king of the fairies, and thy reign shall endure for a cycle of time." Thereupon a rain of flowers fell from the sky, and the drums of the gods resounded with approbation. And the griffin repented of his evil deeds, and said: "From this day henceforth I will not again eat snakes. As for those which I have already eaten, let them return to life again!" Then--wonderful to relate!--all the snakes that he had previously eaten returned to life again. Then Jimiita-Vahana was escorted to the Himalaya, and was sprinkled king over all the kings of the fairies, and his reign endured for a cycle of time.