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p. 269


{The Birth Story of the Strider over Battle-fields}

Translated from the Jâtaka (ii.925), and constituting Birth-Story 182.

   "A strider over battle-fields." This was related by The Teacher while dwelling at Jetavana monastery; and it was concerning Nanda the elder.

   For when The Teacher made his first visit home to Kapilapura, he induced his youngest brother, prince Nanda, to join the Order. Then he departed from Kapilapura, and traveling from place to place, he came and dwelt at Sâvatthi.

   Now when the venerable Nanda had taken The Blessed One's bowl, and was leaving home, Belle-of-the-Country heard the report that prince Nanda was going away in company with The Teacher, and with hair half-braided she looked

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out of the window, and called out to him: "Come back quickly, my love!" And her speech remained in the venerable Nanda's mind, so that he became love-sick, and discontented, and pined away until the net-work of his veins showed on the surface of his body.

   When The Teacher heard of all this, he thought: "What if now I were to establish Nanda in saintship." And going to the cell which was Nanda's sleeping-room, and taking his seat on the mat that was offered him, he said:

   "Nanda, are you contented under this dispensation?"

   "Reverend Sir, I am not contented, for I am exceedingly in love with Belle-of-the-Country."

   "Nanda, have you ever taken a trip through the Himalaya Mountains?"

   "Reverend Sir, I never have."

   "Then let us go now."

   "Reverend Sir, I have no magical power. How can I go?"

   "I will take you, Nanda," said The Teacher, "by my own magical power."

   Then he took the elder by the hand, and sprang into the air. As they passed along he pointed out to him a field that had been burnt over, and on a charred stump was seated a she-monkey with her nose and tail destroyed, her hair singed off, her skin fissured and peeled to the quick, and all smeared with blood.

   "Nanda, do you see this she-monkey?"

   "Yes, Reverend Sir."

   "Take good note of her."

   Then he took him and showed him Manosilâ table-land, which is sixty leagues in extent, and Anotatta, and the rest of the seven great lakes, and the five great rivers, and the Himalaya range containing many hundred pleasant spots, and graced with Gold Mountain, Silver Mountain, and Jewel Mountain.

   Then said he, "Nanda, have you ever seen the Heaven of the Suite of the Thirty-three?"

   "Reverend Sir, I never have."

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   "Come, then, Nanda, and I will show it to you."

   And he took him thither, and sat down on Sakka's marble throne.

   And Sakka, the king of the gods, came up with the gods of two heavens, and did obeisance, and sat down respectfully at one side. And his female attendants, twenty-five million in number, and five hundred pink-footed celestial nymphs came up also, and did obeisance, and sat down respectfully at one side.

   The Teacher suffered the venerable Nanda to look upon these five hundred celestial nymphs again and again with passion.

   "Nanda," said he, "do you see these pink-footed celestial nymphs?"

   "Yes, Reverend Sir."

   "Pray, now, are these or Belle-of-the-Country the prettier?"

   "Reverend Sir, as is the burnt she-monkey compared to Belle-of-the-Country, so is Belle-of-the-Country compared to these."

   "Well, Nanda, what then?"

   "Reverend Sir, what does one do to obtain these celestial nymphs?"

   "By performing the duties of a monk does one obtain these nymphs."

   "Reverend Sir, if The Blessed One will be my guarantee that if I perform the duties of a monk, I shall obtain these nymphs, I will perform the duties of a monk."

   "Do so, Nanda. I am your guarantee."

   Thus did the elder take The Tathâgata as guarantee in the presence of the assembled gods. Then he said,

   "Reverend Sir, do not delay. Come, let us go. I will perform the duties of a monk."

   Then The Teacher returned with him to Jetavana monastery; and the elder began to perform the duties of a monk.

   "Sâriputta," said then The Teacher, addressing the Captain

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of the Doctrine, "my youngest brother, Nanda, took me as guarantee for some celestial nymphs in the presence of the gods assembled in the Heaven of the Suite of the Thirty-three."

   Thus he told him. And in the same way he told it to Mahâ-Moggallâna the elder, to Mahâ-Kassapa the elder, to Anuruddha the elder, to Ânanda the elder and Treasurer of the Doctrine, and so on to all the eighty great disciples, and also to the greater part of the other priests.

   The Captain of the Doctrine, Sâriputta the elder, then drew near to Nanda the elder, and said,

   "Is it true, as they say, brother Nanda, that in the presence of the gods assembled in the Heaven of the Suite of the Thirty-three, you took The One Possessing the Ten Forces as guarantee for some celestial nymphs, if you performed the duties of a monk? If that be so, is not your chaste religious life all for the sake of women? all for the sake of your passions? What is the difference between your thus doing the duties of a monk for the sake of women, and a laborer who performs his work for hire?"

   This speech put the elder to shame, and made him quite dispirited. And in the same way all the eighty great disciples, and the remaining priests also, shamed the venerable Nanda. And realizing that he had behaved in an unworthy manner, in shame and remorse he summoned up his heroism, and attained to insight and to saintship; and coming to The Teacher, he said,

   "Reverend Sir, I release The Blessed One from his promise."

   Said The Teacher, "When you attained to saintship, O Nanda, I became released from my promise."

   When the priests heard of this occurrence, they raised a discussion in the lecture-hall:

   "Brethren, how amenable to admonition is Nanda the elder! One admonition was sufficient to arouse in him shame and remorse, so that he performed the duties of a monk, and attained to saintship."

   The Teacher came and inquired, "Priests, what now is the subject of your discourse?"

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   And they told him.

   "Priests, formerly also, and not now for the first time, was Nanda amenable to admonition." So saying, he related the by-gone occurrence:--


   Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was ruling at Benares, the Future Buddha was born in the family of an elephant-trainer; and when he had come of age, and become accomplished as an elephant-trainer, he took service under a king who was hostile to the king of Benares. And he trained the state elephant until it was very well trained.

   Then the king resolved to conquer the kingdom of Benares, and taking the Future Buddha with him, and mounting the state elephant, with a mighty army he went to Benares, and surrounded the place. Then he sent a letter to the king, saying, "Give me the kingdom, or give me battle."

   Brahmadatta resolved to give battle; and having manned the walls, the watch-towers, and the gates, he did so. His enemy had his state elephant armed with a defensive suit of mail, put on armor himself, and mounted on the elephant's shoulders. "I will break into the city, kill my enemy, and take possession of the kingdom." With this thought he seized a sharp goad, and urged the elephant in the direction of the city.

   But the elephant, when he saw the hot mud, the stones from the catapults, and the various kinds of missiles thrown by the defenders, did not dare to advance, but retreated in mortal terror.

   Then his trainer drew near: "Old fellow," said he, "you are a hero, a strider over battle-fields. Retreat at such a time is not worthy of you." And thus admonishing the elephant, he pronounced the following stanzas:--

"A strider over battle-fields,
A hero, strong one, art thou called.
Why, then, behemoth, dost retreat
On coming near the gateway arch?
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"Break down in haste the great cross-bar!
The city-pillars take away!
And crashing through the gateway arch,
Enter, behemoth, quickly in!"

   The city-pillars take away:--In front of city gates are pillars buried eight or sixteen feet of their length in the ground to make them immovable: the command is to quickly pull these up.


   This one admonition was sufficient. For when the elephant heard it, he turned back, twisted his trunk round the city-pillars, and pulled them up like so many mushrooms. Then, crashing down the gateway arch, and forcing the cross-bar, he broke his way into the city, captured the kingdom, and gave it to his master.


   When The Teacher had given this doctrinal instruction, he identified the characters of the Birth-Story:

   "In that existence the elephant was Nanda, the king was Ânanda, while the elephant-trainer was I myself."

The Birth Story of the Strider over Battle-fields.

Next: § 56. The Hare-Mark in the Moon