The Apannaka and other Births, which in times gone by were recounted on various occasions by the great illustrious Sage, and in which during a long period their Teacher and Leader, desirous of the salvation of mankind, fulfilled the vast conditions of Buddhahood, were all collected together and added to the canon of Scripture by those who made the recension of the Scriptures, and rehearsed by them under the name of THE JATAKA. Having bowed at the feet of the Great Sage, the lord of the world, by whom in innumerable existences boundless benefits were conferred upon mankind, and having paid reverence to the Law, and ascribed honor to the Clergy, the receptacle of all honor; and having removed all dangers by the efficacy of that meritorious act of veneration and honor referring to the Three Gems, he proceeds to recite a Commentary upon this Jataka, illustrating as it does the infinite efficacy of the actions of great men--a commentary based upon the method of exposition current among the inmates of the Great Monastery. And he does so at the personal request of the elder Atthadassin, who lives apart from the world and ever dwells with his fraternity, and who desires the perpetuation of this chronicle of Buddha; and likewise of Buddhamitta the tranquil and wise, sprung from the race of Mahimisasaka, skilled in the canons of interpretation; and moreover of the monk Buddhadeva of clear intellect. May all good men lend him their favorable attention while he speaks!
Inasmuch as this comment on the Jataka, if it be expounded after setting forth the three Epochs, the distant, the middle, and proximate, will be clearly understood by those who hear it by being understood from the beginning, therefore he will expound it after setting forth the three Epochs. Accordingly from the very outset it will be well to determine the limits of these Epochs. Now the narrative of the Bodhisattva's existence, from the time that at the feet of Dipankara he formed a resolution to become a Buddha to his rebirth in the Tusita heaven after leaving the Vessantara existence, is called the Distant Epoch. From his leaving the Tusita heaven to his attainment of omniscience on the throne of Knowledge, the narrative is called the Intermediate Epoch. And the Proximate Epoch is to be found in the various places in which he sojourned (during his ministry on earth). The following is
THE DISTANT EPOCH.
Tradition tells them that four asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles ago there was a city called Amaravati. In this city there dwelt a Brahmin named Sumedha, of good family on both sides, on the father's and the mother's side, of pure conception for seven generations back, by birth unreproached and respected, a man comely, well-favored and amiable, and endowed with remarkable beauty. He followed his Brahminical studies without engaging in any other pursuit. His parents died while he was still young. A minister of state, who acted as steward of his property, bringing forth the roll-book of his estate, threw open the stores filled with gold and silver, gems and pearls, and other valuables, and said, "So much, young man, belonged to your mother, so much to your father, so much to your grandparents and great-grandparents," and pointing out to him the property inherited through seven generations, he bade him guard it carefully. The wise Sumedha thought to himself, "After amassing all this wealth my parents and ancestors when they went to another world took not a farthing with them, can it be right that I should make it an object to take my wealth with me when I go?" And informing the king of his intention, he caused proclamation to be made in the city, gave largess to the people, and embraced the ascetic life of a hermit.
To make this matter clear the STORY OF SUMEDHA must here be related. This story, though given in full in the Buddhavamsa, from its being in a metrical form, is not very easy to understand. He will therefore relate it with sentences at intervals explaining the metrical construction. Four asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles ago there was a city called Amaravati or Amara, resounding with the ten city cries, concerning which it is said in Buddhavamsa,
"Four asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles ago
Then follows a stanza of Buddhavamsa enumerating some of these cries,
"The trumpeting of elephants, the neighing of horses, (the sound of)
It goes on to say,
"A city supplied with every requisite, engaged in every sort of industry,
Now one day the wise Sumedha, having retired to the splendid upper apartment of his house, seated himself cross-legged, and fell a thinking. "Oh! wise man, grievous is rebirth in a new existence, and the dissolution of the body in each successive place where we are reborn. I am subject to birth, to decay, to disease, to death,--it is right, being such, that I should strive to attain the great deathless Nirvana, which is tranquil, and free from birth, and decay, and sickness, and grief and joy; surely there must be a road that leads to Nirvana and releases man from existence." Accordingly it is said,
"Seated in seclusion, I then thought as follows:
Further he reasoned thus, "For as in this world there is pleasure as the correlative of pain, so where there is existence there must be its opposite the cessation of existence; and as where there is heat there is also cold which neutralizes it, so there must be a Nirvana that extinguishes (the fires of) lust and the other passions; and as in opposition to a bad and evil condition there is a good and blameless one, so where there is evil Birth there must also be Nirvana, called the Birthless, because it puts an end to all rebirth." Therefore it is said,
"As where there is suffering there is also bliss,
Again he reasoned thus, "Just as a man who has fallen into a heap of filth, if he beholds afar off a great pond covered with lotuses of five colors, ought to seek that pond, saying, 'By what way shall I arrive there?' but if he does not seek it the fault is not that of the pond; even so where there is the lake of the great deathless Nirvana for the washing of the defilement of sin, if it is not sought it is not the fault of the lake. And just as a man who is surrounded by robbers, if when there is a way of escape he does not fly it is not the fault of the way but of the man; even so when there is a blessed road leading to Nirvana for the man who is encompassed and held fast by sin, its not being sought is not the fault of the road but of the person. And as a man who is oppressed with sickness, there being a physician who can heal his disease, if he does not get cured by going to the physician that is no fault of the physician; even so if a man who is oppressed by the disease of sin seeks not a spiritual guide who is at hand and knows the road which puts an end to sin, the fault lies with him and not with the sin-destroying teacher." Therefore it is said,
"As a man fallen among filth, beholding a brimming lake,
And again he argued, "As a man fond of gay clothing, throwing off a corpse bound to his shoulders, goes away rejoicing, so must I, throwing off this perishable body, and freed from all desires, enter the city of Nirvana. And as men and women depositing filth on a dung-heap do not gather it in the fold or skirt of their garments, but loathing it, throw it away, feeling no desire for it; so shall I also cast off this perishable body without regret, and enter the deathless city of Nirvana. And as seamen abandon without regret an unseaworthy ship and escape, so will I also, leaving this body, which distills corruption from its nine festering apertures, enter without regret the city of Nirvana. And as a man carrying various sorts of jewels, and going on the same road with a band of robbers, out of fear of losing his jewels withdraws from them and gains a safe road; even so this impure body is like a jewel-plundering robber, if I set my affections thereon the precious spiritual jewel of the sublime path of holiness will be lost to me, therefore ought I to enter the city of Nirvana, forsaking this robber-like body." Therefore it is said,
"As a man might with loathing shake off a corpse bound upon his
Having thus in nine similes pondered upon the advantages connected with retirement from the world, the wise Sumedha gave away at his own house, as aforesaid, an immense hoard of treasure to the indigent and wayfarers and sufferers, and kept open house. And renouncing all pleasures, both material and sensual, departing from the city of Amara, away from the world in Himavanta he made himself a hermitage near the mountain called Dhammaka, and built a hut and a perambulation hall free from the five defects which are hindrances (to meditation). And with a view to obtain the power residing in the supernatural faculties, which are characterized by the eight causal qualities described in the words beginning "With a mind thus tranquillized, he embraced in that hermitage the ascetic life of a Rishi, casting off the cloak with its nine disadvantages, and wearing the garment of bark with its twelve advantages. And when he had thus given up the world, forsaking this hut, crowded with eight drawbacks, he repaired to the foot of a tree with its ten advantages, and rejecting all sorts of grain lived constantly upon wild fruits. And strenuously exerting himself both in sitting and in standing and in walking, within a week he became the possessor of the eight Attainments, and of the five Supernatural Faculties; and so, in accordance with his prayer, he attained the might of supernatural knowledge. Therefore it is said,
"Having pondered thus I gave many thousand millions of wealth
Now while the hermit Sumedha, having thus attained the strength of supernatural knowledge, was living in the bliss of the (eight) Attainments, the Teacher Dipankara appeared in the world. At the moment of his conception, of his birth, of his attainment of Buddhahood, of his preaching his first discourse, the whole universe of ten thousand worlds trembled, shook and quaked, and gave forth a mighty sound, and the thirty-two prognostics showed themselves. But the hermit Sumedha, living in the bliss of the Attainments, neither heard that sound nor beheld those signs. Therefore it is said,
"Thus when I had attained the consummation, while I was subjected
At that time Dipankara Buddha, accompanied by a hundred thousand saints, wandering his way from place to place, reached the city of Ramma, and took up his residence in the great monastery of Sudassana. And the dwellers of the city of Ramma heard it said, "Dipankara, lord of ascetics, having attained supreme Buddhaship, and set on foot the supremacy of the Law, wandering his way from place to place, has come to the town of Ramma, and dwells at the great monastery of Sudassana." And taking with them ghee and butter and other medicinal requisites and clothes and raiment, and bearing perfumes and garlands and other offerings in their hands, their minds bent towards the Buddha, the Law, and the Clergy, inclining towards them, hanging upon them, they approached the Teacher and worshiped him, and presenting the perfumes and other offerings, sat down on one side. And having heard his preaching of the Law, and invited him for the next day, they rose from their seats and departed. And on the next day, having prepared alms-giving for the poor, and having decked out the town, they repaired the road by which the Buddha was to come, throwing earth in the places that were worn away by water and thereby leveling the surface, and scattering sand that looked like strips of silver. And they sprinkled fragrant roots and flowers, and raised aloft flags and banners of many-colored cloths, and set up banana arches and rows of brimming jars. Then the hermit Sumedha, ascending from his hermitage, and proceeding through the air till he was above those men, and beholding the joyous multitude, exclaimed, "What can be the reason?" and alighting stood on one side and questioned the people, "Tell me, why are you adorning this road?" Therefore it is said,
"In the region of the border districts, having invited the Buddha,
And the men replied, "Lord Sumedha, dost thou not know? Dipankara Buddha, having attained supreme Knowledge, and set on foot the reign of the glorious Law, traveling from place to place, has reached our town, and dwells at the great monastery Sudassana; we have invited the Blessed One, and are making ready for the blessed Buddha the road by which he is to come." And the hermit Sumedha thought, "The very sound of the word Buddha is rarely met with in the world, much more the actual appearance of a Buddha; it behoves me to join these men in clearing the road." He said therefore to the men, "If you are clearing this road for the Buddha, assign to me a piece of ground, I will clear the ground in company with you." They consented, saying, "It is well;" and perceiving the hermit Sumedha to be possessed of supernatural power, they fixed upon a swampy piece of ground, and assigned it to him, saying, "Do thou prepare this spot." Sumedha, his heart filled with joy of which the Buddha was the cause, thought within himself, "I am able to prepare this piece of ground by supernatural power, but if so prepared it will give me no satisfaction; this day it behoves me to perform menial duties;" and fetching earth he threw it upon the spot.
But ere the ground could be cleared by him,--with a train of a hundred thousand miracle-working saints endowed with the six supernatural faculties, while angels offered celestial wreaths and perfumes, while celestial hymns rang forth, and men paid their homage with earthly perfumes and with flowers and other offerings, Dipankara endowed with the ten Forces, with all a Buddha's transcendent majesty, like a lion rousing himself to seek his prey on the Vermilion plain, came down into the road all decked and made ready for him. Then the hermit Sumedha--as the Buddha with unblenching eyes approached along the road prepared for him, beholding that form endowed with the perfection of beauty, adorned with the thirty-two characteristics of a great man, and marked with the eighty minor beauties, attended by a halo of a fathom's depth, and sending forth in streams the six-hued Buddha-rays, linked in pairs of different colors, and wreathed like the varied lightenings that flash in the gem-studded vault of heaven--exclaimed, "This day it behoves me to make sacrifice of my life for the Buddha: let not the Blessed one walk in the mire--nay, let him advance with his four hundred thousand saints trampling on my body as if walking upon a bridge of jeweled planks, this deed will long be for my good and my happiness." So saying, he loosed his hair, and spreading in the inky mire his hermit's skin mantle, roll of matted hair and garment of bark, he lay down in the mire like a bridge of jeweled planks. Therefore it is said,
"Questioned by me they replied, An incomparable Buddha is born into
And as he lay in the mire, again beholding the Buddha-majesty of Dipankara Buddha with his unblenching gaze, he thought as follows: "Were I willing, I could enter the city of Ramma as a novice in the priesthood, after having destroyed all human passions; but why should I disguise myself to attain Nirvana after the destruction of human passion? Let me rather, like Dipankara, having risen to the supreme knowledge of the Truth, enable mankind to enter the Ship of the Truth and so carry them across the Ocean of Existence, and when this is done afterwards attain Nirvana; this indeed it is right that I should do." Then having enumerated the eight conditions (necessary to the attainment of Buddhahood), and having made the resolution to become Buddha, he laid himself down. Therefore it is said,
"As I lay upon the ground this was the thought of my heart,
And the blessed Dipankara having reached the spot stood close by the hermit Sumedha's head. And opening his eyes possessed of the five kinds of grace as one opens a jeweled window, and beholding the hermit Sumedha lying in the mire, thought to himself, "This hermit who lies here has formed the resolution to be a Buddha; will his prayer be fulfilled or not?" And casting forward his prescient gaze into the future, and considering, he perceived that four asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles from that time he would become a Buddha named Gautama. And standing there in the midst of the assembly he delivered this prophecy, "Behold ye this austere hermit lying in the mire?" "Yes, Lord," they answered. "This man lies here having made the resolution to become a Buddha, his prayer will be answered; at the end of four asankheyyas and a hundred thousand cycles hence he will become a Buddha named Gautama, and in that birth the city Kapilavatthu will be his residence, Queen Maya will be his mother. King Suddhodana his father, his chief disciple will be the thera Upatissa, his second disciple the thera Kolita, the Buddha's servitor will be Ananda, his chief female disciple the nun Khema, the second the nun Uppalavassa. When he attains to years of ripe knowledge, having retired from the world and made the great exertion, having received at the foot of a banyan-tree a meal of rice milk, and partaken of it by the banks of the Neranjara, having ascended the throne of Knowledge, he will, at the foot of an Indian fig-tree, attain Supreme Buddhahood. Therefore it is said,
"Dipankara, knower of all worlds, receiver of offerings,
The hermit Sumedha, exclaiming, "My prayer, it seems, will be accomplished," was filled with happiness. The multitudes, hearing the words of Dipankara Buddha, were joyous and delighted, exclaiming, "The hermit Sumedha, it seems, is an embryo Buddha, the tender shoot that will grow up into a Buddha." For thus they thought, "As a man fording a river, if he is unable to cross to the ford opposite him, crosses to a ford lower down the stream, even so we, if under the dispensation of Dipankara Buddha we fail to attain the Paths and their fruition, yet when thou shalt become Buddha we shall be enabled in thy presence to make the paths and their fruition our own,"--and so they recorded their prayer (for future sanctification). And Dipankara Buddha also having praised the Bodhisattva, and made an offering to him of eight handfuls of flowers, reverentially saluted him and departed. And the Arhats also, four hundred thousand in number, having made offerings to the Bodhisattva of perfumes and garlands, reverentially saluted him and departed. And the angels and men having made the same offerings, and bowed down to him, went their way.
And the Bodhisattva, when all had retired, rising from his seat and exclaiming, "I will investigate the Perfections," sat himself down cross-legged on a heap of flowers. And as the Bodhisattva sat thus, the angels in all the ten thousand worlds assembling shouted applause. "Venerable hermit Sumedha," they said, "all the auguries which have manifested themselves when former Bodhisattvas seated themselves cross-legged, saying, 'We will investigate the Perfections,'--all these this day have appeared: assuredly thou shalt become Buddha. This we know, to whom these omens appear, he surely will become Buddha; do thou make a strenuous effort and exert thyself." With these words they lauded the Bodhisattva with varied praises. Therefore it is said,
"Hearing these words of the incomparable Sage,
Unrivaled in miraculous powers I have reached this bliss.
And the Bodhisattva, having heard the words of Dipankara Buddha, and of the angels in ten thousand worlds, filled with immeasurable resolution, thought thus within himself, "The Buddhas are beings whose word cannot fail; there is no deviation from truth in their speech. For as the fall of a clod thrown into the air, as the death of a mortal, as the sunrise at dawn, as a lion's roaring when he leaves his lair, as the delivery of a woman with child, as all these things are sure and certain,--even so the word of the Buddhas is sure and cannot fail, verily I shall become a Buddha." Therefore it is said,
"Having heard the words of Buddha and of the angels of ten thousand
And having thus made the resolution, "I shall surely become Buddha," with a view to investigating the conditions that constitute a Buddha, exclaiming, "Where are the conditions that make the Buddha, are they found above or below, in the principal or the minor directions?" investigating successively the principles of all things, and beholding the first Perfection of Almsgiving, practiced and followed by former Bodhisattvas, he thus admonished his own soul: "Wise Sumedha, from this time forth thou must fulfil the perfection of Almsgiving; for as a water-jar overturned discharges the water so that none remains, and cannot recover it, even so if thou, indifferent to wealth and fame, and wife and child, and goods great and small, give away to all who come and ask everything that they require till nought remains, thou shalt seat thyself at the foot of the tree of Bodhi and become a Buddha." With these words he strenuously resolved to attain the first perfection of Almsgiving. Therefore it is said,
"Come, I will search the Buddha-making conditions, this way and