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[New Series, Volume XX]

[London, Trübner and Company]


{Scanned and edited by Christopher M. Weimer, April 2002}

p. 503

ART. XIV.--A Jâtaka-Tale from the Tibetan. By H. WENZEL, PH.D.

IN the History of Tibet called Rgyal-rabs-gsal-vai-me-lo"n ('The mirror illustrating the lineage of the kings') we find, as sixth chapter, the tale translated here, which corresponds to the Valâhassa Jâtaka (Fausböll, ii. 127 ff., also in E. Müller's Pali Grammar, p. 128 ff.). As will be seen, the tale appears here in a richer, and quasi-dramatic, garb, with the addition of some characteristic traits, as e.g. the marvellous food that makes men forget their bygone troubles (cp. Odyssey, ix. 94 f.), etc., etc.

   The Rgyal-rabs itself is a work of the 17th century A.D. It begins with the evolution of the universe (in chapter 1, cp. Rockhill, Life of the Buddha, p. 1 ff.), gives, in ch. 2, a short survey of the Lord's life, and, in ch. 3 and 4, of the beginnings of Buddhism, relates, in ch. 5, the merits of Avalokiteçvara in spreading the Law in Tibet, and goes then, ch. 6, on to our tale. Follows the origin of the Tibetan race from an ape and a râkshasî (ch. 7), the beginning of the royal line (ch. 8), finally, the chief contents and purpose of the book, life and doings of King Sro"n-btsan sgam-po (ch. 9-17), whereon the book closes with a sort of appendix containing the further history of the country to the time of the writer.

   The work has been partially known for a long time by the extracts from the Mongolian translation thereof, called Bodhimor, given in the notes to I. J. Schmidt's edition of the Mongolian historian Ssanang Ssetzen. For my copy of the work I had the use of two blockprints, one belonging formerly to Mr. Jäschke, now in the British Museum; the other of the University Library of St. Petersburg, p. 504 25181 (569), for which latter I am indebted to the kindness of Mr. Saleman. The first is pretty correct, the other gives a few different readings, and has a peculiar, not to say faulty, spelling.


Sixth chapter, (relating) how (Avalokiteçvara), by transforming himself into the horse king, worked the good of living beings.

   When the noble Avalokiteçvara had (thus) in many ways profited living beings, he assumed, in order to give an example of how to choose virtue and to reject sin (according to the Sutra Za-ma-tog), the form of the horse king Bhalaha[1] to work (further) for the good of the living beings. At this time many merchants from the South of India, whose merits were but small, had departed to the outer ocean to search for jewels. With the many implements each one wanted they had gone on board a large vessel, (but) after the expiration of seven days they were brought into danger by an unwelcome wind, thus:[2] "At midday a dark cloud like a dense fog obscures the light of the sun and spreads darkness (everywhere); a fearful red wind seems to shake the foundations of the earth, (so that) the mighty trees of the forest fall. The waves of the sea spring like lions, and the breakers lash sky and earth. The merchants take hold of each other, and calling (loud) on the names of their relatives, they cry; howling in terrified lamentation, they weep, helpless and exhausted, bloody tears, nevertheless the vessel goes to wreck." Then the merchants take firm hold of some beam[3] of the wrecked ship, and, driven in one direction by an unwelcome wind, they were carried to the island of Si"nghala (sic!), which was (a dwelling-place) of Râkshasîs. There the merchants, calling each other by name, came on shore (lit. the dry, viz. land). When the Râkshasîs became aware of this, they changed themselves into young and exceedingly pretty women, and,

[1. sic! in Divyâvadâna his name is spelt Bâlâha, p. 120, 4 ff.; there it is a metamorphosis of Maitreya (122, 29).

2. Verses; cp. Rom. Leg. p. 333 (see appendix).

3. Perhaps 'of the hull.'

p. 505 laden with much food and drink, they came before the merchants and greeted them, 'Are you tired? Have you suffered pain?' Having beguiled them by these greetings, they filled them with food and drink. The merchants, not knowing that they were Râkshasîs, but only seeing in them exceedingly pretty women, were very glad, and conversed with them. Then the Râkshasîs said with one voice: "You merchants must not go into the upper part of the valley."[1] Each of the women led a merchant away into her house, where they became man and wife, and sported together.

   Then a voice was heard (from the sky): "The merchants suffering from (the consequences of) evil deeds of (former) kalpas, have, carried by a contrary wind, run into the hand of those who have power to kill them, like a snared animal into a game-net, and have no means of salvation. Infatuated by the thought of marrying them they mistake the Râkshasîs for goddesses, and, filled with the delusive food, they forget former pains like a dream, and their soul is contented." From this the great captain understood that this was the island of the Râkshasîs, and, lamenting despondingly, he thought; "Now they are happy, but what will the end be like?" and was very unhappy. Then reflecting: "What may signify their prohibition to go into the upper valley?" the captain started in the night when his own wife had fallen asleep, and reaching the upper end of the valley he heard, within an iron house[2] without doors, laments and complaining. Reflecting what it might be, he listened and knew by the language that they were merchants from India. So he climbed up the trunk of a tree[3] standing near and asked, "Who is in there?" The men within answered: "Within here are we merchants who have lost our way." On the question: "How long have you been shut up here?" they answered: "Like you, our ship being driven by a contrary wind, we arrived here, and led on

[1. Rom. Leg. 334, "south of the city."

2. Rom. Leg. p. 335 has 'an iron city.'

3. Rom. Leg. the tree hoh-hwen (united joy).

p. 506 by these women, not recogninng that they were Râkshasîs, we became man and wife. While we thus played together, you came to this island and we were put into this iron house without doors; now we are to be eaten up one by one. You, taking to heart our misery and the fear of death, fly now at once, for now there is a possibility of flying; when (once) you are confined in this iron house, there is neither flight nor means of salvation." The captain saying again: "In truth there is no means of escape," they said, "There is a means of escape. We also thought we must fly, but, clinging to lust, we were taken (again); you (now) cling to nothing and nobody and fly. And the means to fly is this: if you cross from here a small pass there is on the north side in an expanse of golden sand a turkois (gÿu) well, whose rim is surrounded by a vai.dûrya[1] meadow. On the evening of the fifteenth[2] (day of the month) the horse-king Bha-la-ha, on whose croup a hundred men have room, very beautiful, accompanying (or perhaps merely: like) a moon-beam, will come there. After having drunk from the turkois well, having eaten from the vai.dûrya meadow,[3] having rolled three times in the golden sand, and having shaken himself once, he says, sending forth his horse-voice like a human voice: 'O Indian merchants, whoever has come to (this) râkshasî-island, all get on my back, I will bring you to your country.'[4] When this marvellous horse speaks thus, mount him, and, not clinging to whatever enjoyments or sons (you have here), but close your eyes, and flee." The captain thought, 'Thus (we) must act,' and went back. When he came to the bed of his wife, the râkshasî, she knew it, and spoke these words:[5] "Perverted merchant, you will destroy your own life; if you direct your thoughts to aught else (than me), you will perish; where have you been to, lord of merchants?" The merchant lied, "I went mûtram utsrash.tum." Thereon the captain

[1. In Tibetan transliteration mostly spelt negligently vai-du-rya.

2. Rom. Leg. p. 336; Divyâv. 120, 3.

3. Rom. Leg.: having partaken of the pure food.

4. Cp. Divyâv. 120, 5. Rom. Leg. p. 337.

5. In Rom. Leg. 338 he finds all the Râkshasîs asleep.]

p. 507 assembled the young merchants, told them exactly what had happened, and all unanimously agreed to fly. Then, on the evening of the fifteenth day, they gave a narcotic to the râkshasîs, and when they had fallen asleep, the captain led forth the young merchants, and, having crossed the small pass, they reached on (its) north side, the golden sand, before the turkois well, near the vai.dûrya meadow (the place where) the horse-king Ba-la-ha would appear. And after a short while came the horse-king from the sky on a moonbeam, with the light of the rainbow. When now this excellent horse had drunk from the turkois well, had eaten from the vai.dûrya meadow, had rolled three times on the golden sand, and had given himself a shake, he said in a human voice: "Merchants! let all whosoever is shut up in the râkshasî-island, mount on my back; not clinging to the love of the râkshasîs, of (your) little children, or of any enjoyment whatever. Close (your) eyes,[1] I will bring you to your own country." Thereon the captain said: "Thou leader, excellent magic horse, we merchants had started together to the islands of the ocean to fetch jewels, but, because our merits failed, our great ship was wrecked on the ocean, by a contrary wind we were driven to the râkshasî-island. There we entered the houses of the evil-doing râkshasîs, who wanted to kill us. Now there is for us no other means of escape, we implore the help of the merciful horse-lord." Having spoken thus, the captain mounted on the horse's neck and took hold of his ear,[2] the young merchants mounted on his back. Saying: "(Now) do not desire the râkshasî houses, their sons, and whatever enjoyment (you have had there), do not even think of it, but, till we have reached the end of the sea, close your eyes," the horse-lord carried (them) along the sky. When the Râkshasîs perceived this, they came forth (from their houses) leading their children, and spoke thus: "Can you (indeed)

[1 See Divyâv. 120, 21; also Don Quixote, Part II. ch. 41.

2 Jäschke would translate, 'leapt into the ear,' but I do not know how to justify this. Is it meant as a precaution against hearing the râkshasîs' allurements? Compare Odyssey, xii. 178 f.]

p. 508 forsake the high castles, forsake the harmonious community of husband and wife, forsake the sons begotten from your body, forsake (our) savoury food and drink, O ye bad, shameless men!" Speaking thus, some (of them) lifted up their children to the sky, some waved their garments. When the young merchants heard this, they were as if hit in their inmost hearts by an arrow, and thinking, '(This) is indeed very true,' they turned their eyes back, and, except the captain, all, seized by desire, looked and fell. The fallen (men) were seized by the râkshasîs, who, throwing off their former beautiful body, appeared in (true) râkshasî-shape, with shaggy heads, carrying their breasts on the shoulders, and showing their teeth (fangs); and began to eat them up, without waiting a moment. When now the horse-lord had come to the end of the sea, he said to the merchant, "Look with your eyes and alight." When he now opened his eyes and saw that none of the young merchants was on the horse's back, he was deeply grieved, and saying: "O noble horse-king, where are my young merchants?" he wept. The noble horse, beating the earth with his fore-foot and shedding tears, said: "(Those) young merchants, being void of your (high) merits, not remembering their own country Jambudvîpa, but clinging to the island of the evil Râkshasîs, perished; not remembering their parents and dear friends, but clinging to the faces of the young râkshasîs, they perished; not remembering their legitimate (lit. useful[1]) children, but clinging to the deceitful râkshasî-children, they perished. Alas, you miserable beings! when these slain pupils of the diamond-teacher have entered the abode of the hell Avîci, what could even a highly merciful priest (blama) do (for them)? If they, looking after their children, are perverted (in mind) and carried away by a contrary wind, what can their parents do, even with great affection?[2] If, not listening to the word of useful doctrine, the young merchants cast their eyes back and fall, what can even the flying horse-king do? O merchant, do not

[1. This may possibly mean 'natural' as opposed to 'magical.'

2. This sentence seems confused.]

p. 509 weep, but hear me: 'The joy and sorrow of this life is like the illusion of a dream, like a cataract, like a lightning-cloud in the sky, therefore do not desire the joy of the orb (sa.msâra).' " Thus the horse-lord explained the doctrine of the four truths, and carried the chief merchant, when he had dried his tears, to a place whence he (could) see his own house. There this horse-lord went off in the sky like a dissolving rainbow. When now the chief merchant came to his house, his parents and relatives all assembled, and embracing him they wept; then they saluted him. Afterwards the parents and relatives of the young merchants came forth, and shouting, "Where is my father? Where is my elder brother? Where is my uncle? Where is my grandson?" they wept. Then the chief merchant assembled the parents and relatives of the young merchants, and told them explicitly how they first had entered the sea, how the pernicious red wind had wrecked their ship; how they had been carried by a contrary wind to the Râkshasî island, had married them, and begotten children; how they had then found out that they were Râkshasîs, and had sought means of escape; how the men of the iron house had taught them this means; how the young merchants had not listened to the admonitions of the horse-king and fell and so forth. Then he instructed them in the true faith, that, as (all) things within the orb were changeable, they must believe in the fruits born from deeds (karman). Whosoever, clinging to this life, commits sin, will, like the young merchants, who, looking back, fell, err about within the orb, without finding an opportunity of saving himself from the rebirth into evil states (durgati). But those who, not clinging to this life, have received the true law in their minds, will, like the chief merchant, after having obtained the happiness of heaven and salvation, become a buddha.


   Our version of the story is nearly identical with that forming ch. 49 of the "Romantic Legend of the Life of Buddha," translated by Beal, p. 332 ff., and some significant points have been noted above. It is also mentioned by p. 510 Hiuen Thsang in the Si-yu-ki, transl. Beal, ii. 240 ff. That the Râkshasîs (the Yakkhinîs of the Pâli) are the same as the Sirens of Homer, has been pointed out by Mr. Axon and Mr. Morris (Ind. Ant. x. 291), the first giving also a parallel from Malay mythology.

   It is quite clear, I think, from our version, that by the airy horse the moon is understood (candûpamâ kira buddhâ, Dh. 244). He comes on, or with, a moonbeam on the 15th day of the month. It becomes more evident still by the version in the Rom. Leg., where, besides, he bears the significant name of Keçin 'hairy,' which as early as in the Rig Veda is an epithet of flames and heavenly bodies (S. Pet. Dict.). But, again, it is an epithet of, who rides on the Garu.da, as is known from the Pañcatantra, Book I. tale 5. For all these divine magic animals are of the same race. Besides those noticed in Benfey's remarks on the tale, Pañc. vol. i. 159 ff., the wooden bird is found in a tale of the Transilvanian Gipsies, see ZDMG. xlii. 117 fr., and again in the second tale of the Siddhi Kür (ed. Jülg), p. 63 of the translation, where the son of gods Çuklaketu descends on it to the princess; çukla 'bright,' is, with or without paksha, the light half of the month, and also an epithet of He afterwards appears himself in the shape of a bird, a lark (ibid. p. 64), and, having been hurt maliciously, agrees with the princess to visit her on the 15th of every month (p. 65)., of course, is the sun, but the difference of origin of those magic animals, from sun and moon respectively, is obliterated in these later tales.

   In the Buddhist tale, naturally, the divine horse is a birth of the Lord (as in the Jâtaka and in the Rom. Leg.), or of Maitreya (as in the Divyâvadâna); while to the Tibetan he is an incarnation of the country's patron saint, Avalokiteçvara.

   But I cannot go farther here into this absorbing question of the divine bird or horse, which lies at the very root of comparative mythology, as already shadowed forth in A. Kuhn's "Herabkunft des Feuers." I would only call attention, in conclusion, to the latest shape the divine horse has p. 511 taken in the West, in Andersen's "Flying Trunk"; for I think we can discern something of the same moral tendency in both this and the Tibetan tale--the flight from Sa.msâra!


   NOTE.--To valâha, of which Bâlâha is only a wrong Sanskritisation, cp. Divyâv. 127, 17. 19, vâtavalâhakâ devaputrâ.h and varshaval. dev. 'the angels of the wind-clouds and of the rain-clouds,' and Jât. I. 330, vassavalâhakadevarâjâ. Muñja-keça (Jât. II. 129, 9, cf. also the wonderful horse Muñjakesi of king Udena, Dh. 160) 'having hair like reed,' i.e. 'having beams,' is also an epithet of The 'black-headed' of the Jâtaka points most likely to a cloud--so we would have the moon emerging from the black clouds.

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