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Serivavāṇija Jātaka (No.3)

The Bodhisatta was a hawker of Seriva, and was called Serivā. Once, in the company of a greedy merchant of the same name, he crossed the Telavāha and entered Andhapura. In that city was a family fallen on evil days, the sole survivors being a girl and her grandmother.

The greedy merchant went to their house with his wares. The girl begged her grandmother to buy her a trinket, and suggested that they should give the hawker in exchange the bowl from which they ate. This was an heirloom and made of gold; but it had lost its lustre, and the women did not know its value. The hawker was called in and shown the bowl. He scratched it with a needle and knew it was of gold, but, wishing to have it for nothing, said it was not worth one half farthing. So saying he threw it away and left. Later the Bodhisatta came to the same street and was offered the same bowl. He told them the truth, gave them all the money he had and his stock, leaving only eight pieces of money for himself. These he gave to a boatman, and entered his boat to cross the river.

Meanwhile the greedy merchant went again to the old woman’s house, hoping to get the bowl in exchange for a few trinkets. When he heard of what had happened he lost command of himself, and, throwing down all he had, ran down to the river, to find the Bodhisatta’s boat in mid stream. He shouted to the boatman to return, but the Bodhisatta urged him on. The merchant, realising what he had lost through his greed, was so upset that his heart burst, and he fell down dead.

The story was told to a monk who had given up striving. The greedy merchant is identified with Devadatta, and this was the beginning of his enmity towards the Bodhisatta. J.i.110 ff.

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