"That is the value of a Measure of rice"--This the Teacher told while sojourning at Jetavana, about a monk called Udayin the Simpleton.
At that time the Elder named Dabba, a Mallian by birth, held the office of steward in the Order. When he issued the food-tickets in the morning, Udayin sometimes received a better kind of rice, and sometimes an inferior kind. One day when he received the inferior kind, he threw the distribution-hall into confusion, crying out, "Why should Dabba know better than any other of us how to give out the tickets?"
When he thus threw the office into disorder, they gave him the basket of tickets, saying, "Well, then, do you give out the tickets to-day!"
From that day he began to distribute tickets to the Order; but when giving them out he did not know which meant the better rice and which the worse, nor in which storehouse the better was kept and in which the worse. When fixing the turns, too, he did not distinguish to what storehouse each monk's turn had come; but when the monks had taken their places, he would make a scratch on the wall or on the floor, to show that the turn for such and such a kind of rice had come thus far, and for such and such a kind of rice thus far. But the next day there were either more or fewer monks in hall. When they were fewer, the mark was too low down; when they were more, the mark was too high up; but ignoring the right turns, he gave out the tickets according to the signs he had made.
So the monks said to him, "Brother Udayin! the mark is too high, or too low." And again, "The good rice is in such a storehouse, the inferior rice in such a store-house."
But he repelled them, saying, "If it be so, why is the mark different? Why should I trust you? I will trust the mark rather!"
Then the boys and novices cast him out from the hall of distribution, exclaiming, "When you give tickets. Brother Udayin, the brethren are deprived of their due. You are incapable of the office. Leave the place!"
Thereupon a great tumult arose in the hall of distribution. The Teacher heard it, and asked of Ananda the Elder, "There is a great tumult, Ananda, in the hall. What is the noise about?"
The Elder told the Successor of the Prophets how it was.
Then he said, "Not now only, Ananda, does Udayin by his stupidity bring loss upon others, formerly also he did the same."
The Elder asked the Blessed One to explain that matter. Then the Blessed One made manifest an occurrence hidden by change of birth.
"Long ago, Brahmadatta was king in Benares, in the land of Kasi. At that time our Bodhisattva was his Valuer. He valued both horses, elephants, or things of that kind; and jewelry, gold, or things of that kind; and having done so, he used to have the proper price for the goods given to the owners thereof.
"Now the king was covetous. And in his avarice he thought, 'If this valuer estimates in this way, it will not be long before all the wealth in my house will come to an end. I will appoint another valuer.'
"And opening his window, and looking out into the palace yard, he saw a stupid miserly peasant crossing the yard. Him he determined to make his valuer; and sending for him, asked if he would undertake the office. The man said he could; and the king, with the object of keeping his treasure safer, established that fool in the post of valuer.
"Thenceforward the dullard used to value the horses and elephants, paying no regard to their real value, but deciding just as he chose: and since he had been appointed to the office, as he decided, so the price was.
"Now at that time a horse-dealer brought five hundred horses from the northern prairies. The king sent for that fellow, and had the horses valued. And he valued the five hundred horses at a mere measure of rice, and straightway ordered the horse-dealer to be given the measure of rice, and the horses to be lodged in the stable. Then the horse-dealer went to the former valuer, and told him what had happened, and asked him what he should do.
"'Give a bribe to that fellow,' said he, 'and ask him thus: "We know now that so many horses of ours are worth a measure of rice, but we want to know from you what a measure of rice is worth. Can you value it for us, standing in your place by the king?" If he says he can, go with him into the royal presence, and I will be there too.'
"The horse-dealer accepted the Bodhisattva's advice, went to the valuer, and bribed him, and gave him the hint suggested. And he took the bribe, and said, 'All right! I can value your measure of rice for you.'
"'Well, then, let us go to the audience-hall,' said he; and taking him with him, went into the king's presence. And the Bodhisattva and many other ministers went there also.
"The horse-dealer bowed down before the king, and said, 'I acknowledge, O king, that a measure of rice is the value of the five hundred horses; but will the king be pleased to ask the valuer what the value of the measure of rice may be?'
"The king, not knowing what had happened, asked, 'How now, valuer, what are five hundred horses worth?'
"'A measure of rice, O king!' said he.
"'Very good, then! If five hundred horses are worth only a measure of rice, what is that measure of rice worth?'
"'The measure of rice is worth all Benares, both within and without the walls,' replied that foolish fellow.
"For the story goes that he first valued the horses at a measure of rice just to please the king; and then, when he had taken the dealer's bribe, valued that measure of rice at the whole of Benares. Now at that time the circumference of the rampart of Benares was twelve leagues, and the land in its suburbs was three hundred leagues in extent. Yet the foolish fellow estimated that so-great city of Benares, together with all its suburbs, at a measure of rice!
"Hearing this the ministers clapped their hands, laughing, and saying, 'We used to think the broad earth, and the king's realm, were alike beyond price; but this great and famous royal city is worth, by his account, just a measure of rice! O the depth of the wisdom of the valuer! How can he have stayed so long in office? Truly he is just suited to our king!' Thus they laughed him to scorn.
"Then the Bodhisattva uttered this stanza:
"'What is a measure of rice worth?
"Then the king was ashamed, and drove out that fool, and appointed the Bodhisattva to the office of Valuer. And in course of time the Bodhisattva passed away according to his deeds."
When the Teacher had finished preaching this discourse, and had told the double story, he made the connection, and summed up the Jataka by concluding, "He who was then the foolish peasant valuer was Udayin the Simpleton, but the wise valuer was I myself."