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Mahāsutasoma Jātaka (No.537)

Brahmadatta, king of Bārāṇasī, was greatly addicted to eating meat. One uposatha day the meat that had been prepared for him was eaten by dogs, and the cook, unable to buy any more, cut a piece from a human body recently dead 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, Kāḷahatthi, but the king refused to give up his cannibalism and was driven out of the kingdom. Kāḷahatthi relates various stories to the king, showing the folly of his behaviour — e.g., the story of the fish Ānanda, of Sujāta’s son, of the geese who lived in Cittakūṭa and of the Unnanābhī spider.

The king dwelt in the forests with his cook, 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 one hundred and one 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 passed through their hands.

The deity of the tree was alarmed and, on the advice of Sakka, appeared before the man eater (who is called in the context Porisāda) and demanded that he should bring Sutasoma, Prince of Kuru, to complete the number of his victims. Sutasoma had been the man-eater’s friend and private tutor (piṭṭhācariya) at Takkasilā. Anxious to appease the deity, the man eater went to Sutasoma’s park and there waited for him hidden in the pond, when Sutasoma came to take his ceremonial bath on the festival day of Phussa. On the way to the park, Sutasoma met a brahmin, Nanda, who offered, for four thousand pieces, to teach him four verses learnt from Kassapa Buddha. Sutasoma promised to learn them on his return from the park, but there he was caught by the Porisāda. Promising to return to the Porisāda, Sutasoma obtained leave to keep his appointment with Nanda. This promise fulfilled, Sutasoma returned to the Porisāda and went with him to the banyan tree. There he told the Porisāda of the verses he had learnt from Nanda, reciting them to him, and discoursing on the virtues of Truth. The Porisāda was greatly pleased and offered Sutasoma four boons. Sutasoma chose as his first boon that the Porisāda should live for one hundred years; as his second that the captive kings should be released; as his third, that their kingdoms should be restored; and as his fourth that the Porisāda should give up his cannibalism. Only very reluctantly did the Porisāda agree to the fourth. Sutasoma then took him back to Bārāṇasī, where he restored to him his kingdom, having first assured the people that the king would never return to his former vicious habits. Sutasoma then 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 Porisāda was converted, came to be called Kammāsadamma.

The story was related in reference to the Buddha’s conversion of Aṅgulimāla, with whom the man eater is identified. Kāḷahatthi was Sāriputta, Nanda was Ānanda, the tree sprite was Kassapa, Sakka was Anuruddha, and Sutasoma the Bodhisatta. J.v.456‑511; cp. Jātakamāla xxxi.

The Sutasomacariyā is given in the Cariyāpiṭaka iii.12.

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