"The Determined Ones"--This discourse was uttered by the Blessed One while at Savatthi. About what? About a mendicant who had no perseverance.
For whilst the Successor of the Prophets, they are told, was staying at Savatthi, a young man of good family dwelling there went to Jetavana, and heard a discourse from the Teacher. And with converted heart he saw the evil result of lusts, and entered the Order. When he had passed the five years of noviciate, he learnt two summaries of doctrine, and applied himself to the practice of meditation. And receiving from the Teacher a suitable subject as a starting-point for thought, he retired to a forest. There he proceeded to pass the rainy season; but after three months of constant endeavor, he was unable to obtain even the least hint or presentiment of the attainment of insight. Then it occurred to him, "The Teacher said there were four kinds of men; I must belong to the lowest class. In this birth there will be, I think, neither Path nor Fruit for me. What is the good of my dwelling in the forest? Returning to the Teacher, I will live in the sight of the glorious person of the Buddha, and within hearing of the sweet sound of the Law." And he returned to Jetavana.
His friends and intimates said to him, "Brother, you received from the Teacher a subject of meditation, and left us to devote yourself to religious solitude; and now you have come back, and have given yourself up again to the pleasures of social intercourse. Have you then really attained the utmost aim of those who have given up the world? Have you escaped transmigration?"
"Brethren! I have gained neither the Path nor the Fruit thereof. I have come to the conclusion that I am fated to be a useless creature; and so have come back and given up the attempt."
"You have done wrong, Brother! after taking vows according to the religion of the Teacher whose firmness is so immovable, to have given up the attempt. Come, let us show this matter to the Buddha." And they took him to the Teacher.
When the Teacher saw them, he said, "I see, O mendicants! that you have brought this brother here against his will. What has he done?"
"Lord! this brother having taken the vows in so sanctifying a faith, has abandoned the endeavor to accomplish the aim of a member of the Order, and has come back to us."
Then the Teacher said to him, "Is it true you have given up trying?"
"It is true, O Blessed One!" was the reply.
"How is it, brother, that you, who have now taken the vows according to such a system, have proved yourself to be--not a man of few desires, contented, separate from the world, persevering in effort--but so irresolute! Why, formerly you were full of determination. By your energy alone the men and bullocks of five hundred wagons obtained water in the sandy desert, and were saved. How is it that you give up trying, now?"
Then by those few words that brother was established in resolution!
But the others, hearing that story, besought of the Blessed One, saying, "Lord! We know that this brother has given up trying now; and yet you tell how formerly by his energy alone the men and bullocks of five hundred wagons obtained water in the sandy desert, and were saved. Tell us how this was."
"Listen, then, O mendicants!" said the Blessed One: and having thus excited their attention, he made manifest a thing concealed through change of birth.
"Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, in the country of Kasi, the future Buddha was born in a merchant's family; and when he grew up, he went about trafficking with five hundred carts.
"One day he arrived at a sandy desert twenty leagues across. The sand in that desert was so fine, that when taken in the closed fist, it could not be kept in the hand. After the sun had risen it became as hot as a mass of charcoal, so that no man could walk on it. Those, therefore, who had to travel over it took wood, and water, and oil, and rice in their carts; and traveled during the night. And at daybreak they formed an encampment, and spread an awning over it, and taking their meals early, they passed the day sitting in the shade. At sunset they supped; and when the ground had become cool, they yoked their oxen and went on. The traveling was like a voyage over the sea: a so-called land-pilot had to be chosen, and he brought the caravan safe to the other side by his knowledge of the stars.
"On this occasion the merchant of our story traversed the desert in that way. And when he had passed over fifty-nine leagues he thought, 'Now in one more night we shall get out of the sand,' and after supper he directed the wood and water to be thrown away, and the wagons to be yoked; and so set out. The pilot had cushions arranged on the foremost cart, and lay down looking at the stars, and directing them where to drive. But worn out by want of rest during the long march, he fell asleep, and did not perceive that the oxen had turned round and taken the same road by which they had come.
"The oxen went on the whole night through. Towards dawn the pilot woke up, and, observing the stars, called out, 'Stop the wagons, stop the wagons!' The day broke just as they had stopped, and were drawing up the carts in a line. Then the men cried out, 'Why, this is the very encampment we left yesterday! Our wood and water is all gone! We are lost!' And unyoking the oxen, and spreading the canopy over their heads, they lay down, in despondency, each one under his wagon.
"But the Bodhisattva, saying to himself, 'If I lose heart, all these will perish,' walked about while the morning was yet cool. And on seeing a tuft of Kusa-grass, he thought 'This must have grown by attracting some water which there must be beneath it.'
"And he made them bring a hoe and dig in that spot. And they dug sixty cubits deep. And when they had got thus far, the spade of the diggers struck on a rock: and as soon as it struck, they all gave up in despair.
"But the Bodhisattva thought, 'There must be water under that rock,' and descending into the well, he got upon the stone, and, stooping down, applied his ear to it, and tested the sound of it. And he heard the sound of water gurgling beneath. And he got out, and called his page. 'My lad, if you give up now, we shall all be lost. Don't you lose heart. Take this iron hammer, and go down into the pit, and give the rock a good blow.'
"The lad obeyed, and though they all stood by in despair, he went down full of determination, and struck at the stone. And the rock split in two, and fell below, and no longer blocked up the stream. And water rose till its brim was the height of a palm-tree in the well. And they all drank of the water, and bathed in it. Then they split up their extra yokes and axles, and cooked rice, and ate it, and fed their oxen with it. And when the sun set, they put up a flag by the well, and went to the place appointed. There they sold their merchandise at double and treble profit, and returned to their own home, and lived to a good old age, and then passed away according to their deeds. And the Bodhisattva gave gifts, and did other virtuous acts, and passed away according to his deeds."
When the Buddha had told the story, he, as Buddha, uttered the verse--
"The men of firm resolve dug on into the sand,
When he had thus discoursed, he declared the Four Truths. And when he had concluded, the despairing priest was established in the highest Fruit, in Arhatship (which is Nirvana).
After the Teacher had told the two stories, he formed the connection, and summed up the Jataka, by saying, in conclusion, "The page who at that time despaired not, but broke the stone, and gave water to the multitude, was this brother without perseverance: the other men were the attendants on the Buddha; and the caravan leader was I myself."