Stories of the Buddha's Former Births
Book 4: Catukanipāta
Translated from the Pāli by
H.T. Francis, M.A., Sometime Fellow of Gonville and Caius College, and
R.A. Neil, M.A., Fellow of Pembroke College
Under the Editorship of Professor E. B. Cowell
Published 1969 For the Pāli Text Society.
First Published by The Cambridge University Press in 1895
This work is in the Public Domain. The Pali Text Society owns the copyright."
"Such is the quality," etc. This story was told by the Master, while dwelling in the Aggā'ava shrine near Ā'avī, concerning the regulations to be observed in the building of cells.
The introductory story has been already set forth in the Maṇikaṇṭha Birth, but on this occasion the Master said, "Is it true, Brethren, that you live here by your importunity in asking and begging for alms?" And when they answered "Yes," he reproved them and said, "Wise men of old, when offered their choice by the king, though they were longing to ask for a pair of single-soled shoes, through fear of doing violence to their sensitive and scrupulous nature, did not venture to say a word in the presence of the people, but spoke in private." And so saying he told them an old-world legend.
 Once upon a time in the Kampillaka kingdom, when a Pañcāla king was reigning in a North Pañcāla city, the Bodhisatta was born into a brahmin family, in a certain market town. And when he was grown up, he acquired a knowledge of the arts at Takkasilā. Afterwards taking orders as an ascetic and dwelling in the Himālaya country, he lived for a long time by what he could glean feeding on wild fruits and roots. And wandering into the haunts of men for the purpose of procuring salt and vinegar, he came to a city of North Pañcāla and took up his abode in the king's garden. Next day he went into the city to beg alms, and came to the king's gate. The king was so pleased with his deportment and behaviour that be seated him on the dais and fed him with food worthy of a king. And he bound him by a solemn promise and assigned him a lodging in the garden.
He lived constantly in the king's house, and at the end of the rainy season, being anxious to return to the Himālayas, he thought, "If I go upon this journey, I must get a pair of single-soled shoes and a parasol of leaves. I will beg them of the king." One day he came to the garden, and finding the king sitting there, he saluted him and resolved he would ask him for the shoes and parasol. But his second thought was, "A man who begs of another, saying, "Give me so and so," is apt to weep. And the other man also when he refuses, saying, "I have it not," in his turn weeps." And that the people might not see either him or the king weeping, he thought, "We will both weep quietly in some secret place." So he said, "Great King, I am anxious to speak with you in private." The royal attendants on hearing this departed. Thought the Bodhisatta, "If the king should refuse my prayer, our friendship will be at an end. So I will not ask a boon of him." That day, not venturing to mention the subject, he said, "Go now, Great King, I will see about this matter by and bye." Another day on the king's coming to the garden, saying, as before, first this and then that, he could not frame his request. And so twelve years elapsed.
Then the king thought,  "This priest said, "I wish to speak in private," and when the courtiers are departed, he has not the courage to speak. And while he is longing to do so, twelve years have elapsed. After living a religious life so long, I suspect, he is regretting the world. He is eager to enjoy pleasures and is longing for sovereignty. But being unable to frame the word "kingdom," he keeps silent. To-day now I will offer him whatever he desires, from my kingdom downwards."So he went to the garden and sitting down saluted him. The Bodhisatta asked to speak to him in private, and when the courtiers had departed, he could not utter a word. The king said, "For twelve years you have asked to speak to me in private, and when you have had the opportunity, you have not been able to say a word. I offer you everything, beginning with my kingdom. Do not be afraid, but ask for whatever you please."
"Great King," he said, "will you give me what I want?"
"Yes, Reverend Sir, I will."
"Great King, when I go on my journey, I must have a pair of single-soled shoes and a parasol of leaves."
"Have you not been able, Sir, for twelve years to ask for such a trifle as this?"
"That is so, Great King."
"Why, Sir, did you act thus?"
"Great King, the man who says "Give me so and so," sheds tears, and the one who refuses and says "I have it not," in his turn weeps. If, when I begged, you should have refused me, I feared the people might see us mingling our tears. This is why I asked for a secret interview." Then from the beginning he repeated three stanzas:
Such is the quality of prayer, O king,
'Twill a rich gift or a refusal bring.
Who beg, Pañcāla lord, to weep are fain,
They who refuse are apt to weep again.
Lest people see us shed the idle tear,
My prayer I whisper in thy secret ear.
 The king, being charmed with this mark of respect on the part of the Bodhisatta, granted him the boon and spoke the fourth stanza:
Brahmin, I offer thee a thousand kine,
Red kine, and eke the leader of the herd;
Hearing but now these generous words of thine,
I too in turn to generous deed am stirred.
But the Bodhisatta said, "I do not, Sire, desire material pleasures. Give me that only which I ask for." And he took a pair of single-soled shoes and the parasol of leaves, and exhorted the king to be zealous in religion and to keep the moral law and observe fast days. And though the king begged him to stay, he went off to the Himālayas, where he developed all the Faculties and Attainments, and was destined to birth in the Brahma-world.
The Master, having ended his lesson, identified the Birth: "At that time Ānanda was the king, and I myself was the ascetic."
 See Suttavibhaŋga vi. 1.
 See Mahāvagga, v. 1. 28. Shoes with more than a single lining were not to be worn by the Brethren, except when they had been cast off by others.