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Suvaṇṇasāma Jātaka (No.540)

v.l. Sāma Jātaka.– Once two hunters, chiefs of villages, made a pact that if their children happened to be of different sexes, they should marry each other. One had a boy called Dukūlakumāra, because he was born in a wrapping of fine cloth; the other had a daughter called Pārikā, because she was born beyond the river. When they grew up the parents married them, but, because they had both come from the Brahma world, they agreed not to consummate the marriage. With their parents’ consent they became ascetics, and lived in a hermitage provided for them by Sakka on the banks of the Migasammatā. Sakka waited on them, and perceiving great danger in store for them, persuaded them to have a son. The conception took place by Dukūlakumāra touching Pārikā’s navel ¹ (nābhiṃ) at the proper time. When the son was born they called him Sāma, and, because he was of golden colour, he came to be called Suvaṇṇasāma. He was the Bodhisatta.

One day, after Sāma was grown up, his parents, returning from collecting roots and fruits in the forest, took shelter under a tree on an anthill. The water that dripped from their bodies angered a snake living in the anthill, and his venomous breath blinded them both. When it grew late Sāma went in search of them and brought them home. From then onwards he looked after them.

Pīḷiyakkha, the king of Bārāṇasī, while out hunting one day, leaving his mother in charge of the kingdom, saw Sāma drawing water, and, lest he should escape, shot at him with his arrow. The king took him for some supernatural being, seeing that the deer, quite fearless, drank of the water while Sāma was filling his jar.

When Pīḷiyakkha heard who Sāma was and of how he was the mainstay of his parents, he was filled with grief. Sāma fell down fainting from the poisoned arrow, and the king thought him dead. A goddess, Bahusundarī, who had been Sāma’s mother seven births earlier, lived in Gandhamādana and kept constant watch over him. This day she had gone to an assembly of the gods and had forgotten him for a while, but she suddenly became aware of the danger into which he had fallen. She stood in the air near Pīḷiyakkha, unseen by him, and ordered him to go and warn Sāma’s parents. He did as he was commanded, and, having revealed his identity, gradually informed them of Sāma’s fate and his own part in it. However, neither Dukūlakumāra nor Pārikā spoke to him one word of resentment. They merely asked to be taken to where Sāma’s body lay. Arrived there, Pārikā made a solemn Act of Truth (saccakiriyā), and the poison left Sāma’s body, making him well.

Bahusundarī did likewise in Gandhamādana, and Sāma’s parents regained their sight. Then Sāma taught the marvelling king, telling him how even the gods took care of those who cherished their parents.

The story was told in reference to a young man of Sāvatthi. Having heard the Buddha teach, he obtained his parents’ leave with great difficulty and joined the Order. Five years he lived in the monastery, and, failing to attain insight, he returned to the forest and strove for twelve years more. His parents grew old, and as there was no one to look after them, their retainers robbed them of their goods. Their son, hearing of this from a monk who visited him in the forest, at once left his hermitage and returned to Sāvatthi. There he tended his parents, giving them food and clothing which he acquired by begging, often starving himself that they might eat. Other monks blamed him for supporting lay folk, and the matter was reported to the Buddha. However, the Buddha, hearing his story, praised him and taught him the Mātuposaka Sutta (q.v.)

Dukūlakumāra is identified with Mahā-Kassapa, Pārikā with Bhaddā Kāpilānī, Pīḷiyakkha with Ānanda, Sakka with Anuruddha, and Bahusundarī with Uppalavaṇṇā

The Sālikedāra Jātaka was taught in reference to the same monk.

¹ Presumably a euphemism for the vulva. The Pāḷi says: “Bhante, sace evaṃ na karotha, pārikāya tāpasiyā utunikāle nābhiṃ hatthena parāmaseyyāthā”ti.” i.e. Sakka tells Dukūlakumāra, “Venerable sir, if you cannot do that (indulge in the worldly dhamma of sexual intercourse) then touch Pārikā’s vulva with your hand when she is in season.” So this is probably a case of artificial insemination rather than one of divine conception. (ed.)

² J.vi.68‑95; the story is referred to at Mil.198 f; J.iv.90, etc; see also Mtu.ii.212 ff.

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