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Academic Sutta Name Notes PSA Plae Vagga Nikaya PTS Keywords
J.547 Vessandara Jaataka Vessantara (the bodhisatva) was the son of Sa~njaya, king of Sivi and queen Phusati. He spoke as soon as he was born. An auspicious white elephant was born simultaneously. At the age of eight, he wished to make a great gift and the earth trembled. He married Maddi at the age of sixteen and their children were Jali and Kanhajina. When there was a great drought in Kalinga, brahmins came to ask Vessantara for the white elephant which had the power of making the rain fall. He gave the elephant away willingly. The people of Jetuttara were upset that their elephant had given the elephant away and asked the king to make amends by having Vessantara banished. Vessantara accepted the punishment on condition of first performing a great almsgiving called the ‘gift of the seven hundreds’ (sattasataka) in which seven hundred of each thing were given away. People came from all over the Jambudipa to accept his gifts and the almsgiving lasted a whole day. Vessantara left the city with his wife and children in a horse-drawn chariot. Brahmins begged first his horses and then his chariot and he gave those things away continuing on foot via Ceta to Vankagiri. There Vissakamma had already built two hermitages -- one for Vessantara and one for his wife and children. After four months the brahmin Jujaka came looking for slaves at his wife Amittatapana’s request. Vessantara granted Jujaka his own children as a willing gift and the earth trembled with joy. Vessantara waited until Maddi could appreciate the value of his action before telling her that he had given away the children. Lest some vile creature should come asking for Maddi, Sakka himself assumed the form of a brahmin and asked for Maddi’s hand. Vessantara looked at Maddi and she expressed her consent -- so he gave Maddi to Sakka and the earth trembled. Sakka revealed his identity, gave Maddi back to Vessantara and granted him eight boons. Meanwhile, deceived by devas, Jujaka reached Jetuttara instead of his intended Kalinga within fifteen days. Sa~njaya bought the children from him but Jujaka died of overeating. Sa~njaya ordered a road to be built from Jetuttara to Vankagiri and the family went together to restore Vessantara to the throne of Sivi. There was great rejoicing at the reunion of the family and the six royal personages fainted until being revived by heavenly rain that fell only on those who wished to be wetted. On the day Vessantara re-entered the city, every captive including the cats were released. Sakka provided a rainshower of seven types of precious things which filled the palace grounds waist-high so that Vessantara was able to practise generosity to the end of his days, being reborn in Tusita. The Jataka was related on the occasion of the Buddha’s first visit to Kapilavatthu. The Buddha’s kinsmen escorted him to Nigrodharama but sat round him without expressing any respect. The Buddha then performed the Twin Miracle and the Sakyans led by Suddhodana worshipped him. There was a shower of rain which fell only on those who wished to be wetted. When the people expressed their wonder, the Buddha revealed that in the past there had also been such a rain which revived his kinsfolk. Devadatta was Jujaka, Ci~nca was Amittatapana, Anuruddha was Sakka, Sa~njaya was Suddhodana, Mahamaya was Phusati, Rahulamata with Maddi, Rahula and uppalavanna with the two children. The story of Vessantara will be the first Jataka to disappear from the world. 64/484 Jaataka Khuddhaka J.vi.479ff. generosity


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Last modified on: Sunday, 2 January 2000.