This discourse on the True (Apannaka), the Blessed One delivered while at the Jetavana Wihara, near Savatthi.
What was the circumstance concerning which this tale arose? About the five hundred heretics, friends of the Merchant.
For one day, they are told, Anatha Pindika the merchant took five hundred heretics, friends of his, and had many garlands and perfumes and ointments and oil and honey and molasses and clothes and vestments brought, and went to Jetavana. And saluting the Blessed One, he offered him garlands and other things, and bestowed medicines and clothes on the Order of Mendicants, and sat down in a respectful and becoming manner on one side of the Teacher. And those followers of wrong belief also saluted the Blessed One, and sat down close to Anatha Pindika. And they beheld the continence of the Teacher like the full moon in glory; and his person endowed with all the greater and lesser marks of honor, and surrounded to a fathom's length with brightness; and also the clustering rays (the peculiar attribute of a Buddha), which issued from him like halos, and in pairs. Then, though mighty in voice like a young lion roaring in his pride in the Red Rock Valley, or like a monsoon thunder-cloud, he preached to them in a voice like an archangel's voice, perfect and sweet and pleasant to hear, a discourse varied with many counsels,--as if he were weaving a garland of pearls out of the stars in the Milky Way!
When they had heard the Teacher's discourse, they were pleased at heart; and rising up, they bowed down to the One Mighty by Wisdom, and giving up the wrong belief as their refuge, they took refuge in the Buddha. And from that time they were in the habit of going with Anatha Pindika to the Wihara, taking garlands and perfumes with them, and of hearing the Truth, and of giving gifts, and of keeping the Precepts, and of making confession.
Now the Blessed One went back again from Savatthi to Rajagaha. And they, as soon as the Successor of the Prophets was gone, gave up that faith; and again put their trust in heresy, and returned to their former condition.
And the Blessed One, after seven or eight months, returned to Jetavana. And Anatha Pindika again brought those men with him, and going to the Teacher honored him with gifts as before, and bowing down to him, seated himself respectfully by his side. Then he told the Blessed One that when the Successor of the Prophets had left, those men had broken the faith they had taken, had returned to their trust in heresy, and had resumed their former condition.
And the Blessed One, by the power of the sweet words he had continually spoken through countless ages, opened his lotus mouth as if he were opening a jewel-casket scented with heavenly perfume, and full of sweet-smelling odors; and sending forth his pleasant tones, he asked them, saying, "Is it true, then, that you, my disciples, giving up the Three Refuges, have gone for refuge to another faith?"
And they could not conceal it, and said, "It is true, O Blessed One!"
And when they had thus spoken, the Teacher said, "Not in hell beneath, nor in heaven above, nor beyond in the countless world-systems of the universe, is there any one like to a Buddha in goodness and wisdom--much less, then, a greater." And he described to them the qualities of the Three Gems as they are laid down in the Scripture passages beginning, "Whatever creatures there may be and others, the Successor of the Prophets is announced to be the Chief of all." And again, "Whatsoever treasure there be here or in other worlds and others." And again, "From the chief of all pleasant things and others."
And he said, "Whatever disciples, men or women, have taken as their refuge the Three Gems endowed with these glorious qualities, they will never be born in hell; but freed from birth in any place of punishment, they will be reborn in heaven, and enter into exceeding bliss. You, therefore, by leaving so safe a refuge, and placing your reliance on other teaching, have done wrong."
And here the following passages should be quoted to show that those who, for the sake of Perfection and Salvation, have taken refuge in the Three Gems, will not be reborn in places of punishment:--
Those who have put their trust in Buddha,
Those who have put their trust in the Truth,
Those who have put their faith in the Order,
They go to many a refuge--.
(And so on down to)
Having gone to this as their refuge,
The above was not all the discourse which the Teacher uttered to them. He also said, "Disciples! the meditation on the Buddha, the Truth, and the Order, gives the Entrance and the Fruit of the First Path, and of the Second, and of the Third, and of the Fourth." And having in this way laid down the Truth to them, he added, "You have done wrong to reject so great salvation!"
And here the fact of the gift of the Paths to those who meditate on the Buddha, the Order, and the Truth, might be shown from the following and other similar passages: "There is one thing, O mendicants, which, if practiced with increasing intensity, leads to complete weariness of the vanities of the world, to the end of longings, to the destruction of excitement, to peace of mind, to higher knowledge, to complete enlightenment, to Nirvana. What is that one thing? The meditation on the Buddhas."
Having thus exhorted the disciples in many ways, the Blessed One said, "Disciples! formerly, too, men trusting to their own reason foolishly mistook for a refuge that which was no refuge, and becoming the prey of demons in a wilderness haunted by evil spirits, came to a disastrous end. Whilst those who adhered to the absolute, the certain, the right belief, found good fortune in that very desert." And when he had thus spoken, he remained silent.
Then Anatha Pindika, the house-lord, arose from his seat, and did obeisance to the Blessed One, and exalted him, and bowed down before him with clasped hands, and said, "Now, at least, O Lord! the foolishness of these disciples in breaking with the best refuge is made plain to us. But how those self-sufficient reasoners were destroyed in the demon-haunted desert, while those who held to the truth were saved, is hid from us, though it is known to you. May it please the Blessed One to make this matter known to us, as one causing the full moon to rise in the sky!"
Then the Blessed One said, "O householder! it was precisely with the object of resolving the doubts of the world that for countless ages I have practiced the Ten Cardinal Virtues, and have so attained to perfect knowledge. Listen, then, and give ear attentively, as if you were filling up a golden measure with the most costly essence!" Having thus excited the merchant's attention, he made manifest that which had been concealed by change of birth,--setting free, as it were, the full moon from the bosom of a dark snow-cloud.
"Once upon a time in the country of Kasi and the city of Benares, there was a king called Brahmadatta. The Bodhisattva was at that time born in a merchant's family; and in due course lie grew up, and went about trafficking with five hundred bullock-carts. Sometimes he traveled from east to west, and sometimes from west to east. At Benares too there was another young merchant, stupid, dull, and unskillful in resource.
"Now the Bodhisattva collected in Benares merchandise of great value, and loaded it in five hundred bullock-carts, and made them ready for a journey. And that foolish merchant likewise loaded five hundred carts, and got them ready to start.
"Then the Bodhisattva thought, 'If this foolish young merchant should come with me, the road will not suffice for the thousand carts, all traveling together; the men will find it hard to get wood and water, and the bullocks to get grass. Either he or I ought to go on first.'
"And sending for him he told him as much; saying, 'We two can't go together. Will you go on in front, or come on after me?'
"And that other thought, 'It will be much better for me to go first. I shall travel on a road that is not cut up, the oxen will eat grass that has not been touched, and for the men there will be curry-stuffs, of which the best have not been picked; the water will be undisturbed; and I shall sell my goods at what price I like.' So he said, 'I, friend, will go on first.'
"But the Bodhisattva saw that it would be better to go second: for thus it occurred to him, 'Those who go in front will make the rough places plain, whilst I shall go over the ground they have traversed:--the old rank grass will have been eaten by the oxen that have gone first, whilst my oxen will eat the freshly grown and tender shoots:--for the men there will be the sweet curry-stuffs that have grown where the old was picked:--where there is no water these others will dig and get supplies, whilst we shall drink from the wells that they have dug:--and haggling ahout prices too is killing work; whereas by going afterwards, I shall sell my goods at the prices they have established.' So seeing all these advantages, he said, 'Well, friend, you may go on first.'
"The foolish merchant said, 'Very well, then!' yoked his wagons and started; and in due course passed beyond the inhabited country, and came to the border of the wilderness.
"Now there are five kinds of wildernesses, those that have become so by reason of thieves, of wild beasts, of the want of water, of the presence of demons, and of insufficiency of food; and of these this wilderness was demon-haunted and waterless. So the merchant placed great water-pots on his carts, and filled them with water, and then entered the desert, which was sixty leagues across.
"But, when he had reached the middle of the desert, the demon who dwelt there thought, 'I will make these fellows throw away the water they have brought; and having thus destroyed their power of resistance, I will eat them every one!'
"So he created a beautiful carriage drawn by milk-white bulls; and attended by ten or twelve demons with bows and arrows, and swords and shields, in their hands, he went to meet the merchant, seated like a lord in his carriage,--but adorned with a garland of water-lilies, with his hair and clothes all wet, and his carriage wheels begrimed with mud. His attendants too went before and after him, with their hair and clothes all wet, decked with garlands of white lotuses, carrying bunches of red lotuses, eating the edible stalks of water-plants, and with drops of water and mud trickling from them.
"Now the chiefs of trading caravans, whenever a head-wind blows, ride in their carriage in front, surrounded by their attendants, and thus escape the dust; and when it blows from behind, they, in the same manner, ride behind. At that time there was a headwind, so the merchant went in front.
"As the demon saw him coming, he turned his carriage out of the way, and greeted him kindly, saying, 'Where are you going to?'
"And the merchant hurrying his carriage out of the way, made room for the carts to pass, and waiting beside him, said to the demon, 'We have come thus far from Benares. And you I see with lotus wreaths, and water-lilies in your hands, eating lotus stalks, soiled with dirt, and dripping with water and mud. Pray, does it rain on the road you have come by, and are there tanks there covered with water-plants?'
"No sooner had the demon heard that, than he answered; 'What is this that you say? Yonder streak is green forest; from thence onwards the whole country abounds with water, it is always raining, the pools are full, and here and there are ponds covered with lotuses.' And as the carts passed by one after another, he asked, 'Where are you going with these carts?'
"'To such and such a country,' was the reply.
"'And in this cart, and in this, what have you got?' said he.
"'Such and such things.'
"'This cart coming last comes along very heavily, what is there in this one?'
"'There's water in that.'
"'You have done right to bring water as far as this; but further on there's no need of it. In front of you there's plenty of water. Break the pots and pour away the water, and go on at your ease.' Then he added, 'Do you go on, we have already delayed too long!' and himself went on a little, and as soon as he was out of sight, went back to the demons' home.
"And that foolish merchant, in his folly, accepted the demon's word, and had his pots broken, and the water poured away (without saving even a cupful), and sent on the carts. And before them there was not the least water. And the men, having nothing to drink, became weary. And journeying on till sunset, they unyoked the wagons, and ranged them in a circle, and tied the oxen to the wheels. And there was neither water for the oxen, nor could the men cook their rice. And the worn-out men fell down here and there and slept.
"And at the end of the night the demons came up from their demon city, and slew them all, both men and oxen, and ate their flesh, and went away leaving their bones behind. So on account of one foolish young merchant these all came to destruction, and their bones were scattered to all the points of the compass! And the five hundred carts stood there just as they had been loaded!
"Now for a month and a half after the foolish merchant had started, the Bodhisattva waited; and then left the city, and went straight on till he came to the mouth of the desert. There he filled the vessels, and laid up a plentiful store of water, and had the drum beaten in the encampment to call the men together, and addressed them thus: 'Without asking me, let not even a cupful of water be used! There are poisonous trees in the wilderness: without asking me, let not a leaf nor a flower nor a fruit you have not eaten before, be eaten!' And when he had thus exhorted his followers, he entered the desert with his hundred wagons.
"When he had reached the middle of the desert, that demon, in the same way as before, showed himself to the Bodhisattva as if he were coming from the opposite direction. The Bodhisattva knew him as soon as he saw him, thinking thus: 'There is no water in this wilderness; its very name is the arid desert. This fellow is red-eyed and bold, and throws no shadow. The foolish merchant who went on before me will doubtless have been persuaded by this fellow to throw away all his water; will have been wearied out; and, with all his people, have fallen a prey. But he doesn't know, methinks, how clever I am, and how fertile in resource.'
"Then he said to him, 'Begone! We are traveling merchants, and don't throw away the water we've got till we see some more; and as soon as we do see it, we understand quite well how to lighten carts by throwing ours away!'
"The demon went on a little way, and when he got out of sight, returned to his demon city. When the demons were gone, his men said to the Bodhisattva, 'Sir! those men told us that yonder was the beginning of the green forest, and from there onwards it was always raining. They had all kinds of lotuses with them in garlands and branches, and were chewing the edible lotus-stalks; their clothes and hair were all wet, and they came dripping with water. Let us throw away the water, and go on quickly with light carts!'
"And when he heard what they said, the Bodhisattva made the wagons halt, and collecting all his men, put the question to them, 'Have you ever heard anybody say that there was any lake or pond in this desert?'
"'We never heard so.'
"'And now some men are saying that it rains on the other side of that stretch of green forest. How far can a rain-wind be felt?'
"'About a league, Sir.'
"'How does the rain-wind reach the body of any one of you?'
"'And how far off is the top of a rain-cloud visible?'
"'About a league. Sir.'
"'Now does any one of you see the top of a single cloud?'
"'No one, Sir.'
"'How far off can a flash of lightning be seen?'
"'Four or five leagues, Sir.'
"'Now has the least flash of lightning been seen by any one of you?'
"'How far off can thunder be heard?'
"'A league or two, Sir.'
"'Now has any of you heard the thunder?'
"'These fellows are not men, they are demons! They must have come to make us throw away our water with the hope of destroying us in our weakness. The foolish young merchant who went on before us had no power of resource. No doubt he has let himself be persuaded to throw away his supply of water, and has fallen a prey to these fellows. His wagons will be standing there just as they were loaded. We shall find them to-day. Go on as quickly as you can, and don't throw away a single half-pint of water!'
"With these words he sent them forward; and going on he found the five hundred carts as they had been loaded, and the bones of men and oxen scattered about. And he had his wagons unyoked, and ranged in a circle so as to form a strong encampment; and he had the men and oxen fed betimes, and the oxen made to lie down in the midst of the men. And he himself took the overseers of the company, and stood on guard with a drawn sword through the three watches of the night, and waited for the dawn. And quite early the next day he saw that everything that should be done was done, and the oxen fed; and leaving such carts as were weak he took strong ones, and throwing away goods of little value he loaded goods of greater value. And arriving at the proposed mart, he sold his merchandise for two or three times the cost price, and with all his company returned to his own city."
And when he had told this story, the Teacher added, "Thus, O householder, long ago those who relied on their own reason came to destruction, while those who held to the truth escaped the hands of the demons, went whither they had wished to go, and got back again to their own place." And it was when he had become a Buddha that he uttered the following verse belonging to this lesson on Holding to the Truth; and thus uniting the two stories, he said--
"Some speak that which none can question;
Thus the Blessed One taught those disciples the lesson regarding truth. "Life according to the Truth confers the three happy conditions of existence here below, and the six joys of the Brahmalokas in the heaven of delight, and finally leads to the attainment of Arhatship; but life according to the Untrue leads to rebirth in the four hells and among the five lowest grades of man." He also proclaimed the Four Truths in sixteen ways. And at the end of the discourse on the Truths all those five hundred disciples were established in the Fruit of Conversion.
The Teacher having finished the discourse, and told the double narrative, established the connection, and summed up the Jataka by concluding, "The foolish young merchant of that time was Devadatta, his men were Devadatta's followers. The wise young merchant's men were the attendants of the Buddha, and the wise young merchant was I myself."