The Ngan-shih-niu Sûtra By Samuel Beal
- [Translated from the Chinese, the second part of the Volume indicated by ### (Buddhist Tripitaka). 1st Sutra.]
- THUS have I heard. On a certain occasion Bhagava was residing in the country of She-wei (Šrâvasti) in the garden of Jeta, the friend of the orphan, with 1250 great Bhikshus.
- At this time the world-honoured one addressed the Bhikshus in these words:--"Oh Bhikshus! if men only knew the merit (religious merit) of giving their goods or property in charity, and the reward (phalam) of so doing as I know the matter--so that at the time of eating, whether it be the first or the last mouthful taken, this feeling of charity were always uppermost, and if not present so as to make men ready to give all away, then no food were to be taken at all, [--then there would be great profit--]. At which time the world-honoured one uttered the following verses:--
- "If only men of every kind
- Acted in accord with Buddha's words,
- Then the result would be a great reward.
- But whether at the first mouthful
- Or at the last mouthful
- Then a man should not eat at all!"
- At this time the world-honoured one having uttered these stanzas, addressed the Bhikshus, and said:--Oh Bhikshus! at a certain time innumerable ages (kalpas) ago there was a certain Royal capital: the king of which was called Padma:
there was a woman of that city called "Silver-colour," who having all she required at home, went forth to visit other houses to see how the occupants thereof were faring.
At this time, approaching a certain residence, she entered it, and having done so, she found within it a woman just delivered of her first-born child; this child was very fair to look upon, and of a colour surpassingly beautiful.
And now she saw this newly-delivered woman seize the child in her hand with a view to devour it.
At this time the woman called "Silver-colour" in haste addressed the mother, and said: "Sister! what are you going to do"? She replied "I am famished! I have no life left in me! I have not what to eat! I must devour my child!"
Then Silver-colour asked her, saying, "Sister! stop a while, this thing is impossible! Sister! is there not in all the house a morsel of any food fit for you to eat?" She replied at once: "Sister!
I had at one time stores of food which I kept hoarded up with niggard care! and therefore am I now left without a morsel to eat." Then Silver-colour said: "Sister! stop a while, I will run to my house and bring you some food."
She replied: "Sister! my ribs are breaking, my back is rending in twain, my heart is palpitating without a moment's rest, the world seems all dark about me, before my sister reaches her home I shall be dead!"
Then Silver-colour thought thus with herself: "If I take the child and go, then this poor woman will perish; if I do not take it when I leave, she will devour it--what expedient is there then by which I can save these two lives?"
She asked therefore: "Sister! is there a knife in the house I can use?"
She answered "There is," and taking a knife she gave it to Silver-colour: whilst she on her part, holding the knife with her own hand, cut off her two breasts for the woman to eat; then addressing her, she said: "Here--eat these two breasts of mine:" and when she had eaten them, Silver-colour again enquired--"
Sister! are you now satisfied?" she replied "I am," Then Silver-colour continued: "Sister! now this child redeemed with my own flesh is mine! I will take it, and keep it as my own; and in my own house feed it and nourish it as it requires."
Then her relations and friends beholding her thus, flocked around, and asked her saying, "Who has done this?" Silver-colour: replied "I with my own hand have done it." Then they asked
- [1. Silver-White, or Silver-colour, is probably a corruption or supposed derivation from Šivi, and this Sûtra is therefore the Northern form of the Šivi Jâtaka. The derivation would be from the last root ### to shine, from which comes ### "white."]
- p. 146 again, "And why have you acted thus?" Then Silver-colour replied, and said: "I have resolved to cultivate a heart full of compassion, and never to give it up, for thus I seek to arrive at perfection (anuttara samyuk sambodhi)."
Then all her relatives answered, and said: "Though you give your body thus in charity, and afterwards repent of what you have done, all this will not tend to the completion of the Paramita you desire to accomplish (viz., of dâna)."
Then Silver-colour said: "When I had resolved and vowed to cut off my breasts, there was no feeling of regret in my mind, my mind wavered not for a moment"--and then in proof she said: "and now in virtue of my vow let my breasts be restored as they were at first."
Having made this vow, lo! her breasts were restored again as at first.
At this time all the Yakshas and so on, in the city of Padma raised a great cry, and said: "The lady Silver-colour has now with her own hands cut off her breasts!" Then the earth-Devas (gods) hearing this cry took it up, and repeated it in the air. The Devas hearing the cry repeated it in the higher worlds, till the news spread even to the Brahma lokas.
I will go now, and enquire of herself respecting it." So he immediately changed himself into the form of a Brâhman, holding in his left hand a golden pitcher, and bearing a golden begging dish in his right hand, and provided with a golden staff, he went thus to the Royal City of Padma.
At this time the Brâhman addressed her, and said: "Sister (lady): stop a while,
I need no food;" on which she replied--"Why not?" The Brâhman then said, "I am the Divine Sâkra, and I have some doubt in my mind about your conduct. I have come therefore to enquire further of you, answer me then, I pray you."
"Lady! is it true that you cut off your breasts to give as an act of charity to another?" She replied--"It is true, great Brâhman!" The Brâhman then said: "And what led you to do it?" Silver-colour answered--"My great compassion, and my aim to accomplish the condition of perfect wisdom."
The Brâhman replied, "This is a very difficult matter, this so-called perfection--for if there be the least vestige of regret mixed up with the deed, then it can never lead to the (completion of the) Paramita (of charity).
Tell me, then, when you performed the act, did your heart feel happy or not, and when you felt the anguish consequent on the infliction of the wounds, had you no desire to change your purpose?" Silver-colour replied: "Kausika!
I swear that I have never faltered a moment in my purpose to obtain the condition I have named, in order that I may save the world, nor did I falter either when I cut off my breasts, and in proof that I felt no particle of regret,
let me now, if what I say be true, be changed from a woman to a man." Then Silver-colour having made this oath, was changed forthwith into a man, and her heart was filled with joy unutterable and delight without measure.
- And now as in this changed form he wandered forth from place to place--he came to a certain tree, and sitting under it he fell asleep. Now at this time the king of Padma died, and as he was childless, there was great distress in the country.
Then the great ministers went from tree to tree, from village to village, from town to town, from capital to capital, everywhere seeking one possessed of royal marks whom they might choose as their king.
And whilst thus in search they said: "How shall we ever obtain a proper king to reign over us?"
At this time there was a certain powerful minister, who, being worn out with the excessive heat, entered a tank covered with flowers to bathe, and whilst thus occupied he saw there beneath a tree a man asleep of surpassing beauty, and distinguished by all the necessary signs of Royalty,
- [2. Vide Sacha Karîyo, Eastern Monachism, p. 273.
- 3. Vide as before, an explanation of the Sacha Karîya. Hardy. East. Mon. p. 273.]
- p. 147 and he observed that although the sun was declining fast, that the shadow of the tree still remained protecting him.
Then the great minister in a moment caused him to wake, and when he woke he took him to the "Royal City" (Râjagriha, i.e. the capital), and performing the accustomed tonsure, he clothed him in the kingly vesture, and put on his head the jewelled crown, and accosted him thus:--"Now you are a king, act and govern us accordingly!"
To whom he answered: "I am indeed unable to act as your king."
The minister answered: "But indeed you must;" to which he replied:
"If indeed you take me to reign over you, then on your parts you must take on yourselves the ten religious (virtuous) vows (acts)--to which when they agreed, he undertook to govern them as a king in righteousness (religion), and he was called again "Silver-colour."
Now at this time the age of the people reached to 70,000 nahutas of years, so that the king having reigned thus for hundreds and countless thousands of years, at length came to die--and when about to die he repeated these words:--
- "All things that exist are transitory,
- They must of necessity perish and disappear,
- Though joined together, there must be separation,
- All depends on conduct,
- Whether good, or whether bad,
- All things born,
- Are unstable and inconstant."
- Now, after that king's death he returned again to be born in the same kingdom, the Royal capital of which was Padma. He was born as a nobleman's child, very beautiful and fair.
At eight years of age with 500 other youths he entered school; whilst there he enquired of those elder ones who had already finished their school course, why they had gone to school,
and, on their replying they had gone to learn their letters, he said
"What profit is there in learning letters, only one thing is necessary, and that is to aim at the unequalled and unsurpassed condition of heart known as Anuttara-samyak-sambhodi." And what is the meaning of that condition, they said.
And what are the six:--"the paramita of charity (dâna), of moral conduct (šîla),of patience (kshânti), of perseverance (virya), of contemplation (jñâna), and of wisdom (prajña)." Then having heard this they said, we will aim at this. Thus that child having led his companions into this condition he reflected thus,
"Now I desire to do some small act of charity, whether it be for man (biped) or beast (quadruped)." Having so thought he repaired to a public place of burial (sîtavana or šîtavana), and forthwith taking a pocket knife (li-lih, "a knife for use") be began to cut his body till the blood gushed out,
"Come now from far and near, ye two-footed and four-footed creatures all, come here and eat! oh come and eat my flesh from my body."
Now among the birds that frequented that place there was one whose name was yeou-sheu ("having a hand"), this one coming to the hermit perched above his forehead and pecked at his right eye, and havirng pecked at it, he let it go again.
Then the hermit said:
Then the hermit addressed the bird, and said: "Though a thousand times over you pecked at my right eye and still let it go, yet should I feel no anger or resentment in my heart." Then that bird pecked out both his eyes, and the rest of the birds, all assembling in the cemetery, came and devoured bit by bit the hermit's flesh, till naught but the bleached bones were left.
- Having quitted this body he immediately came back, and was reborn in that Royal city of Padma as the child of a Brâhman, very beautiful to behold,and incomparable for grace. Having completed 20 years of age, his parents addressed him, and said: "My son (Mânava), you must now get a home of your own."
Then the young man answered his father and mother, and said: "What reason is there for me to have a house of my own, I have no desire for a family residence, my only wish is to be allowed to enter the deep mountains as a recluse."
Then that youth passed on to different places amid the forest glades, making the earth his dwelling place (living in holes ?) and whilst thus practising himself in religious austerities, he obtained, in virtue of his meritorious conduct, the eyes of a Deva (heavenly sight).
Then looking round about on the place and its neighbourhood, not far off he saw a tigress who dwelt there, and just about to bring forth her young.
Then the youth having observed this, began to think thus with himself: "this tigress not long hence will bring forth her young, and having done so, then perhaps she will die of hunger, or in her famished state desire to eat her young."
and give your flesh to the tiger-mother to eat." On this those two Brâhman .Rishis immediately went to the place where the tigress was, and having come they began to think thus--"who can patiently endure such pain as this in practising charity?
Who can cut off the flesh from his body that he loves to give to a starving tiger?" Having reflected thus, that newly delivered tiger-mother began to follow them at a distance, seeing which they were filled with fear, and mounting into the air, flew away.
- At this time the Mânava youth looking around him spoke to those Brâhmans, and said: "Is this your vow and your oath?"
Having said this he forthwith vowed, and said: "I now give my body to feed this tiger--oh would that in consequence of this sacrifce I may obtain the unsurpassed and perfect condition of being." Having made this vow, he took a knife, and himself cut flesh from his body, and gave it in charity to the tiger mother!
"And now, Oh Bhikshus, entertain no doubt in your minds, it is from compassion to you that I declare this--look no further, but accept my words--it was I who was born in Padma as that Silver-colour who cut off her breasts to rescue and save that child who was no other than Rahula. It was I who gave my body in that Sîtavana to feed the birds.
- [4. The Šivi Jâtaka i