ART. XIV.--Kumbha Jâtaka or the Hermit Varu.na Sûra and the Hunter. Translated from the Burmese by R. F. ST. ANDREW ST. JOHN, M.R.A.S.
IN times long past, when Brahmadatta reigned in Benares, a certain hunter, who dwelt in the land of Kási, went one day to the Himavanta forest in search of elephant tusks, yák tails, etc. Now in a certain part of the forest, it happened that there was a tree, in which there was a hollow place like a large pot, which became full of water during the rains, and round about it grew a number of fruit trees, the fruit of which dropped into this water when they were ripe. The birds also dropped grains of rice into it when they were eating in the branches of the tree, and the whole becoming fermented by the summer heat, produced a red liquor which was pleasant to the taste. When the birds drank this liquor they became intoxicated and fell to the ground, but when they had slept off the effects, they flew away singing sweetly. The hunter chancing to pass by this tree, saw the birds and monkeys lying about, and thought they had died of poison, but when he saw them get up, after a little time, and go away he felt reassured, and had the curiosity to drink the water in the hollow of the tree. Finding that it had a pleasant taste, and that it also made him feel very merry, he stayed there for some days, eating the birds which he picked up there, and amusing himself by dancing. Not far from that spot there dwelt a hermit, whose acquaintance he had made, so the hunter determined to go and tell him of his wonderful discovery and get him to try the water too; having filled a bamboo bottle with it, and taking some roast birds, he proceeded to the hermit's cell, and presented them to his friend. They both ate and drank together, and the p. 568 hermit got so fond of this liquor that he became known as "Varu.na sûra." He gave up his ascetic life, and went about with the hunter to all the villages, selling this wonderful liquor. At last it came to the ears of the king, and he sent for them. When they were brought into his presence, they made an offering of some of their liquor, and the king enjoyed it so much that he got very drunk, and soon finished all they had. He then asked for more, and Varu.na and the hunter promised to go and get some.
The trade at last became so brisk that they determined to set up a regular brewery in the city, and from the king downwards all the people took to drinking, and were completely ruined. The hunter and Varu.na thereupon removed to another city, and in course of time Benares, Mihtila, Takshasila, Kosambhi, Pataliputra, and Sakéta were visited, and the inhabitants reduced to a state of penury. From Sakéta the pair went to Savatthi, where reigned a king named Sabbamitta (the friend of all), who made much of them, and gave them all the requisites for brewing. In order to keep the mice away from the rice, they tied a cat near each of the vats, and the cats licking up what trickled from them, became drunk and went to sleep. The mice came and bit off the cats' ears, tails, and whiskers. People seeing this, told the king that his cats were all dead, and the king, thinking they had been poisoned, ordered that Varu.na and the hunter should be put to death and the pots broken; but as the cats soon woke up and began to play about, the king eame to the conclusion that the liquor must be pleasant, directed the release of the prisoners, and having erected a great booth in the midst of the city, and sitting there on his throne with all his nobles, commenced a series of drinking bouts. The god Sakka, feeling uncomfortable, roused himself to see who was in need of assistance, and seeing what was going on at Savatthi, thought that if that sort of thing were allowed, all Jambudvipa would be ruined; so, taking the form of a Brahman, with a bowl of liquor in his hand, he displayed himself in the air right in front of the king, and cried out, "Will you buy this bowl?" King p. 569 Sabbamitta, on seeing him, said, "O Brahman, whence comest thou, and what is that in thy pot?" Sakka answered, "O king, listen unto me; this bowl contains neither butter, nor oil, nor molasses, nor honey, but is filled with every kind of evil. He that drinks intoxicating liquors reels to and fro; he falls down precipices, into pools of water, and into the deep mire. Being unable to control himself, he is like the ox that eats the grass that he has defiled, and like one that has no religion. He is like those heretics who walk about naked and are without shame. His mind being diverted from the right path, he is addicted to slothfulness, and when he arises from the place where he has laid himself, he can neither control his head nor his limbs. He is puffed up with pride, and saith, 'Who is like unto me?' He is the ruin of his family, and is slain by the hand of others. He speaks words that he ought not to utter and is ruined utterly. He abuses his father and mother and behaves with his mother-in-law and sister-in-law after the manner of brute beasts. The woman who is a drunkard, respecteth neither her parents-in-law, nor her husband, nor even her own father and mother. The drunkard slays even the Brahman, who is the teacher of that which is good, and falls into the lowest hell. He speaketh not the truth, nor does he even know that which is wrong. He is beset by disease and dies of madness. Who then ought to drink intoxicating liquors, which are like unto poison? Through drunkenness the ten princes, the sons of Andakavanna, fought and slew one another on the shore of the ocean. Through the use of intoxicants, life is shortened, how then can he that is wise drink thereof? O king, I have related to you the evils contained in this vessel; if you still desire to purchase it, do so: you are warned of its nature." On hearing this, King Sabbamitta returned thanks and said, "O Brahman, my father and mother never told me this, but thou, O Brahman, hast done me a great benefit. I will listen to
[1. What is the story of King A.n.dakava.n.na?]
p. 570 thy instructions, for you desirest my welfare. I will reward thee with the revenue of a village that produces one hundred thousand pieces of silver, and I will give unto thee an hundred hand-maidens, seven hundred oxen, and ten chariots drawn by thorough-bred horses." Sakka answered, "O king, be thine the slaves, the villages, the oxen, and the chariots. I am Sakka, King of Távatimsa; live well, eschew that which is evil, and follow the good path that leads upwards." Having thus spoken, he returned unto his heaven, and King Sabbamitta, in accordance with the advice of Sakka, caused an the pots of liquor to be broken, and henceforth observing strictly his religious duties, he acted in accordance with the Law and obtained the reward of Devaland.
Sabbamitta is now Ananda, and Sakka is now I, the Buddha.
[1. The Kumbha Jâtaka is No. 512 in the Pâli. The above version is adapted from one I contributed to the Indian Magazine.]