Sambhava Jataka (#515)

temple painting of Sambhava Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a royal chaplain’s son. The righteous and generous King of Kuru wanted to make a greater effort at doing what was good and true, and he asked his chaplain Sucirata what this was. This was a profound and difficult question, Sucirata said, and he did not feel qualified to answer it. But his friend Vidhura, the King of Varanasi’s chaplain, would be able.

Without delay, the king sent Sucirata out to ask him. On his way, Sucirata visited other sages around India, but none could answer the question. In Varanasi, Sucirata went to Vidhura’s house early in the morning and the two talked as friends. When breakfast was over, Sucirata explained why he came and asked Vidhura to fully explain truth and goodness.

To Sucirata’s surprise, Vidhura said this question was too much for him and he could not answer it. But he said his eldest son was far wiser than he and sent Sucirata to get an answer from him. The son welcomed his father’s friend, but was presently having an affair with a married woman and was thus not in the right frame of mind to answer such a monumental question. He sent Sucirata to the middle son, but he too was distracted by an affair with a married woman. Their youngest brother, the Bodhisatta, was only seven years old, but the middle son told Sucirata not to hesitate asking him because he was one hundred thousand times smarter than he himself was.

Sucirata found the Bodhisatta and other boys playing in the street and asked his question. The Bodhisatta, with a voice as sweet as honey that magically spread across the whole city, said that to reach heaven, the path of truth and goodness should be followed at all times, never doing anything wicked, and one must inspire others to do the same.

For such a wise answer the people roared applause, waved cloth in the air, snapped their fingers, and threw ten million coins worth of jewelry at the Bodhisatta’s feet. Sucirata wrote the entire answer on a golden tablet and gave the Bodhisatta a thousand-weight of gold.

Back in Kuru, the king followed the advice, remaining righteous for the rest of his life, and went to heaven when he died.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing his supreme wisdom, he told them this story so they knew he’d had been very good at answering questions in the past too.

The King of Kuru, Sucirata, Vidhura, the eldest son, and the middle son were earlier births of Ananda, Anuruddha, Maha Kassapa, Moggallana, and Sariputta, five of the Buddha’s top disciples.

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