WARREN: BUDDHISM IN TRANSLATIONS

153

 

 


 

 

Ī 19. What Is Unity Or One?
The Wish-free Birth-Story

Translated from the Jātaka (ii.257.13), and constituting Birth-Story 244.

THUS HAVE I HEARD.

"What he sees he does not wish for." This was related by The Teacher while dwelling in Jetavana monastery, and it was concerning a certain wandering ascetic who ran away.

It seems this ascetic had not found any one throughout the whole continent of India to refute his propositions; and coming to Sāvatthi, he inquired, "Who is able to debate with me?" On hearing it said, "The Supreme Buddha is able," he went to Jetavana monastery, surrounded by a crowd of people. There he saw The Blessed One in the midst of the four classes of his disciples teaching them the Doctrine; and he propounded to him his questions.

Then The Teacher answered him, and in return asked, "What constitutes a unit?" And he, being unable to reply, rose up and ran away.

And they of the assembly said, --

"Reverend Sir, you silenced the wandering ascetic with the question concerning the unit."

Said The Teacher, --

"Not now for the first time, O lay disciples, have I silenced him with the question concerning the unit; formerly also did I do so."

So saying, he related the by-gone occurrence: --

Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was ruling at Benares, the Future Buddha was born in the family of a Brahman of that kingdom. When he was come of age, he renounced pleasures and adopted the life of a holy recluse, and dwelt for a long time in the Himalaya Mountains. And descending from the hills, he made his abode in a leaf-hut close by a market-village, at a bend of the Ganges.

And a certain wandering ascetic who had not found any one throughout the whole continent of India to refute his propositions, [154] came to that market-village, and inquired, "Is there any one here able to debate with me?" And hearing that the Future Buddha was able, he went to his dwelling-place, surrounded by a crowd of people, and greeting him politely, sat down.

And the Future Buddha said to him, --

"Will you have a drink of Ganges water, fragrant with the scent of the forest?"

Thereupon the wandering ascetic began volubly to debate, saying, --

"What is the Ganges? Is the sand the Ganges? Is the water the Ganges? Is the hither bank the Ganges? Is the further bank the Ganges?"

But the Future Buddha said to him, --

"If you except the water, the sand, the hither bank, and the further bank, where can you find any Ganges?"

The wandering ascetic was confounded, and rose up and ran away.

When he was gone, the Future Buddha began teaching the Doctrine to the assembly that was seated about, and spoke the following stanzas: --

"What he sees he does not wish for,
But something that he does not see;
Methinks that he will wander long,
And what he wishes, not obtain.
 
"He is not pleased with what he gets;
No sooner gained, it meets his scorn.
Insatiate are wishes all!
The wish-free, therefore, we adore!"

Here:-

What he sees: -- The water etc. which he sees, he does not wish to regard as the Ganges.
 
But something that he does not see: -- But he wishes for a Ganges he does not see, for one abstracted from water etc.
 
Methinks that he will wander long: -- Methinks thus: "This wandering ascetic, in his search for such a Ganges, will wander long; or if, in [155] the same manner as for this Ganges abstracted from water etc., he is in search of an Ego abstracted from form etc., he will wander a long time in the round of rebirth."
And what he wishes, not obtain: -- Although he wander a long time, he will not find such a Ganges or Ego as he is looking for.
 
What he gets: -- He is not pleased with the water, or the form etc., which he gets.
 
No sooner gained, it meets his scorn: -- Being thus not pleased with what he gets, any longed-for success which he gains, this he scorns and despises, saying, "What do I care for this?"
 
Insatiate are wishes all: -- Wish or desire is insatiate, as it continually seeks for a fresh object which it scorns as soon as obtained.
 
The wish-free, therefore, we adore: -- Therefore we adore The Buddhas and all others who are free from wishes.

When The Teacher had given this instruction, he identified the characters in the Birth-Story: "The wandering ascetic of that existence was the wandering ascetic of this. The anchorite was I myself."

THE WISH-FREE BIRTH-STORY


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