Dhammapada Verse 70
Mase mase kusaggena
balo bhunjeyya bhojanam
na so sankhatadhammanam
kalam agghati solasim.
Verse 70: Even though, month after month, the fool (living in austerity)
takes his food sparingly with the tip of a grass blade, he is not worth even
one-sixteenth part of those who have comprehended the Truth (i.e., the ariyas).
The Story of Thera Jambuka
While residing at the Jetavana monastery, the Buddha uttered Verse (70) of
this book, with reference to Thera Jambuka.
Jambuka was the son of a rich man in Savatthi. Due to his past evil deeds he
was born with very peculiar habits. As a child, he wanted to sleep on the floor
with no proper bed, and to take his own excreta for food instead of rice. When
he grew older, his parents sent him to the Ajivakas, the naked ascetics. When
those ascetics found out about his peculiar food habits they drove him away. At
nights he ate human excreta and in the day time stood still on one leg and kept
his mouth open. He used to say that he kept his mouth open because he only lived
on air and that he stood on one leg because it would otherwise be too heavy for
the earth to bear him. "I never sit down, I never go to sleep," he
boasted and on account of this, he was known as Jambuka, a 'jackal'.
Many people believed him and some would come to him with offerings of choice
food. Then Jambuka would refuse and say, "I do not take any food except
air." When pressed, he would take just a little of the food with the tip of
a blade of grass and say, "Now go, this little will give you enough
merit." In this way, Jambuka lived for fifty-five years, naked and taking
One day, the Buddha saw in his vision that Jambuka was due to attain
arahatship within a short time. So, in the evening, the Buddha went to where
Jambuka was staying and asked for some place to spend the night. Jambuka pointed
out to him a mountain-cave not far from the stone slab on which he himself was
staying. During the first, second and third watches of the night, the
Catumaharajika devas, Sakka and Mahabrahma came to pay homage to the Buddha in
turn. On all the three occasions, the forest was lit up and Jambuka saw the
light three times. In the morning, he walked over to the Buddha and enquired
about the lights.
When told about the devas, Sakka and Mahabrahma coming to pay homage to the
Buddha, Jambuka was very much impressed, and said to the Buddha, "You must,
indeed, be a wonderfully great person for the devas, Sakka and Mahabrahma to
come and pay homage to you. As for me, even though I have practised austerely
for fifty-five years, living only on air and standing only on one leg, none of
the devas, nor Sakka, nor Mahabrahma has ever came to me" To him, the
Buddha replied, "O Jambuka! You have been deceiving other people, but
you cannot deceive me. I know that for fifty-five years you have been eating
excreta and sleeping on the ground."
Furthermore, the Buddha explained to him how in one of his past existences
during the time of Kassapa Buddha, Jambuka had prevented a thera from going with
him to the house of a lay-disciple where alms-food was being offered and how he
had also thrown away the food that was sent along with him for that thera. It
was for those evil deeds that Jambuka had to be eating excreta and sleeping on
the ground. Hearing that account, Jambuka was horrified and terror-stricken, and
repented for having done evil and for having deceived other people. He went down
on his knees and the Buddha gave him a piece of cloth to put on. The Buddha then
proceeded to deliver a discourse; at the end of the discourse Jambuka attained
arahatship and joined the Buddhist Order on the spot.
Soon after this, Jambuka's pupils from Anga and Magadha arrived and they were
surprised to see their teacher with the Buddha. Thera Jambuka then explained to
his pupils that he had joined the Buddhist Order and that he was now only a
disciple of the Buddha. To them, the Buddha said that although their teacher had
lived austerely by taking food very sparingly, it was not worth even
one-sixteenth part of his present practice and achievement.
Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
|Verse 70: Even though, month after month, the fool
(living in austerity) takes his food sparingly with the tip of a grass
blade, he is not worth even one-sixteenth part of those who have
comprehended the Truth (i.e., the ariyas).