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Alīnacitta Jātaka (No.156)

The story of the Bodhisatta, when he was born as Alīnacitta, King of Bārāṇasī.

An elephant, while walking in the forest, trod on a splinter of acacia wood left there by carpenters while felling forest trees for wood for buildings in Bārāṇasī. In great pain he came to the carpenters and lay down before them. They removed the splinter and owing to their treatment the wound healed. The elephant, in gratitude, spent the rest of his life working for them, and, before his death, he enlisted his son, white in colour, magnificent and high-bred, in their service. One day a half-dry cake of the young one’s dung was carried into the river by the flood (we are told that noble animals never dung or stale in water), and, floating down, stuck near the bathing place of the king’s elephants in Bārāṇasī. The royal elephants, scenting the noble animal, refused to enter the water and fled. Having discovered the reason for their behaviour, the king decided to obtain the animal for himself, and going up-stream in a raft, he saw the carpenters and the white elephant working for them. The merchants agreed to give him to the king, but the elephant refused to move until the carpenters were adequately compensated. The animal was taken in procession to the city and with his help the king became supreme ruler over India.

In course of time the Queen Consort bore a son to the king, but the king died before his birth. The Kosala king thereupon laid siege to Bārāṇasī, but desisted from attack for seven days, astrologers having predicted that at the end of that time the child would be born. The men of Bārāṇasī had agreed to surrender unless the baby proved to be a boy. After seven days the queen bore a son named Alīnacitta, and the inhabitants of Bārāṇasī gave battle to the Kosala king. The queen, being told that they were in danger of defeat, dressed the baby and took him to the elephant for protection. The elephant had been kept in ignorance of the king’s death, lest he himself should die of a broken heart. However, on hearing the news, he sallied forth into battle and soon brought back the Kosala king as captive.

Alīnacitta became, in due course, king over the whole of Jambudīpa (J.ii.17‑23). This story and that of the Saṃvara Jātaka were both related in connection with a monk who had become faint-hearted. For details see Saṃvara. The elephant of the Jātaka was the faint-hearted monk and the father-elephant was Sāriputta.

This Jātaka also was related by the Buddha, with reference to the elder Rādha whom Sāriputta had taken under his special spiritual protection and guidance, in gratitude for a ladleful of food that Rādha, as layman, had once given him. The Buddha pointed out that this was not the first time that Sāriputta had shown his gratitude (DhA.ii.106).