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Hatthipāla Jātaka (No.509)

Esukārī, king of Bārāṇasī, had no sons. His chaplain, hearing that the deity of a certain banyan tree had the power of giving sons, went to the tree and threatened to cut it down unless Esukārī had a son. The tree deity consulted Sakka, who persuaded four devas to be born as the sons, not of Esukārī, but of his chaplain. On the day when the chaplain came to cut down the tree, the deity told him of Sakka’s decision, and also warned him that the sons would not live the household life. In due course the sons were born and were named Hatthipāla, Gopāla, Assapāla, and Ajapāla. Various devices were adopted to prevent them from turning to the ascetic life. However, when Hatthipāla grew up he insisted on leaving home and becoming an ascetic, heedless of the entreaties both of his father and of Esukārī. His brothers, when their time came, acted in the same way. Later, their parents joined them. The king sent for all their wealth, but the queen, being wise, made him realise by means of a simile the folly of such an act. Together they left the world and joined Hatthipāla and his family. The citizens followed their example until the whole city was empty.

Hatthipāla taught them and they all became ascetics. His company covered an area of thirty leagues, and with it he went to the Himavā, where Vissakamma, acting under Sakka’s orders, built for them a hermitage extending over thirty-six leagues, on the bank’s of the Gaṅgā. Soon after, other kings who, with their followers, had gone, one after another, to take Bārāṇasī, realising their folly, joined Hatthipāla and became ascetics.

The story was related in reference to the Buddha’s Great Renunciation. Suddhodana was Esukārī, Mahāmāyā his queen, Mahā-Kassapa the chaplain, Bhaddā Kāpilānī his wife, Anuruddha was Ajapāla, Mahā-Moggallāna was Gopāla, Sāriputta was Assapāla, and the Buddha himself was Hatthipāla.

The large concourse that followed Hatthipāla is called Hatthipāla-samāgama, and in it were several who later attained Arahantship in Sri Lanka — Phussadeva of Kaṭakandhakāra, Mahā Saṅgharakkhita of Uparimaṇḍalakamalaya, Malaya Mahādeva Thera, Mahādeva of Bhaggagiri, Mahāsīva of Vāmantapabbhāra, and Mahānāga of Kāḷavallimaṇḍapa (J.iv.473‑91; referred to at J.i.45). A Burmese monk of Ava, Raṭṭhasāra by name, born in 1468, composed a metrical version of the Hatthipāla Jātaka. Bode, op.cit., 44.

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