JĀTAKA BOOK I.—EKANIPĀTA
Jataka Story No. 147
"I count it not as pain."--This story was told by the Master while at Jetavana, about a Brother who was passion-tost. Being questioned by the Master, he admitted his frailty, explaining that he longed for the wife of his mundane life, "For, oh sir!" said he, "she is so sweet a woman that I cannot live without her."
"Brother," said the Master, "she is harmful to you. She it was that in former days was the means whereby you were impaled on a stake; and it was for bewailing her at your death that you were reborn in hell. Why then do you now long after her?" And so saying, he told the following story of the past.
Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta was born a Spirit of the Air. Now in Benares there was held the night-festival of Kattikā; the city was decorated like a city of the gods, and the whole people kept holiday. And a poor man had only a couple of coarse cloths which he had washed and pressed till they were in a hundred, nay, a thousand creases. But his wife said, "My husband, I want a safflower-coloured cloth to wear outside and one to wear underneath, as I go about at the festival hanging round your neck."
"How are poor people like us to get safflowers?" said he. "Put on your nice clean attire and come along."
"If I can't have them dyed with safflower, I don't want to go at all," said his wife. "Get some other woman to go to the festival with you."
"Now why torment me like this? How are we to get safflowers?"
"Where there's a will, there's a way," retorted the woman. "Are there no safflowers in the king's conservatories?"
"Wife," said he, "the king's conservatories are like a pool haunted by an ogre. There's no getting in there, with such a strong guard on the watch. Give over this fancy, and be content with what you've got."
"But when it's night-time and dark," said she, "what's to stop a man's going where he pleases?"
As she persisted in her entreaties, his love for her at last made him give way and promise she should have her wish. At the hazard of his own life, he sallied out of the city by night and got into the conservatories by breaking down the fence. The noise he made in breaking the fence roused the guard, who turned out to catch the thief. They soon caught him and with blows and curses put him in fetters. In the morning he was brought before the king, who promptly ordered him to be impaled alive. Off he was hauled, with his hands tied behind his back, and led out of the city to execution to the sound of the execution-drum, and was impaled alive. Intense were his agonies; and, to add to them, the crows settled on his head and pecked out his eyes with their dagger-like beaks. Yet, heedless of his pain, and thinking only of his wife, the man murmured to himself, "Alas, I shall miss going to the festival with you arrayed in safflower-coloured cloths, with your arms twined round my neck." So saying, he uttered this stanza:--
I count it not as pain that, here impaled,
And as he was babbling thus about his wife, he died and was reborn in hell.
His lesson ended, the Master identified the Birth by saying, "This husband and wife were the husband and wife of those days also, and I was the Spirit of the Air who made their story known."