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Academic Sutta Name Notes PSA Plae Vagga Nikaya PTS Keywords
J.537 Mahaasutasoma Jaataka Brahmadatta, king of Benares, was much addicted to meat. One uposatha day, the meat which had been prepared for him was eaten by dogs, and the cook, unable to buy more, cut human flesh from a body recently deceased and cooked it. Brahmadatta had been a yakkha in a former birth and therefore enjoyed the dish. Having discovered what the meat was, he developed a taste for human flesh, and, in due course, came to having his subjects murdered in order to supply him with food. His crime was discovered and his guilt brought home by his commander in chief Kalahatthi, but the king refused to give up his cannabalism and was driven out of the kingdom. He dwelled in the forest with his cooks, eating all the travellers they were able to seize. The day arrived when he killed the cook himself and ate his flesh. Some time after he fell upon a brahmin travelling through the forest with a large retinue, and they gave chase to the king. As he ran, an acacia splinter pierced his foot, causing him great pain. Seeing a banyan tree, he made a vow to bathe its trunk with the blood of 101 princes if his foot were healed in seven days. The foot did heal within that time, and with the assistance of a Yakkha who had been his friend in a previous birth, he managed to capture one hundred kings whom he hung on the tree by means of cords through their hands. The deity of the tree was alarmed and, on the advice of Sakka, appeared before the man-eater and demanded that he should bring Sutasoma, Prince of Kuru to complete the number of his victims. Sutasoma had been the king’s friend and private tutor at Takkasila. Anxious to appease the deity, the man-eater went to Sutasoma’s park and hid himself in the pond where Sutasoma would take his ceremonial bath on the festival day of Phussa. On his way to the park, Sutasoma met the brahmin Nanda who offered for 4,000 pieces to teach him four verses learned from Kassapa Buddha. Sutasoma promised to learn them on his return from the park, but he was caught by the man-eating king. Promising to return to the man-eater, Sutasoma obtained leave to keep his appointment with Nanda. This promise fulfilled, Sutasoma returned with the man-eater to the banyan tree. There he told the man-eater of the verses he had learned, and discoursing on the virtues of Truth. The man-eater was greatly pleased and offered Sutasoma four boons. Sutasoma chose as his first that the man-eater should live for 100 years, as his second that the captive kings should be released, for his third that their kingdoms should be restored and as his fourth that the man-eater should give up his cannibalism. Only very reluctantly did the man-eater agree to the fourth. Sutasoma then took him back to Benares, where he restored him to his kingdom, having first assured the people that he would not return to his vicious habits. Sutasoma returned to Indapatta. In gratitude for the tree-sprite’s intervention, a lake was dug near the banyan tree and a village founded nearby, whose inhabitants were required to make offerings to the tree. This village, built on the spot where the man-eater was converted, came to be called Kammasadamma. The story was related in reference to the Buddha’s conversion of Angulimala with whom the man-eater is identified. Kalahatthi was Sariputta, Nanda was Ananda, the tree-sprite was Kassapa, Sakka was Anuruddha and Sutasoma the bodhisatva. See also Jatakamala xxxi and Cariyapitaka iii.12 62/617 Jaataka Khuddhaka J.v.456ff. cannibalism

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Last modified on: Sunday, 2 January 2000.