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The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C.B. Varma

047 - The Wine-Jar  

Introduction | Glossary | Bibliography

Once, the Bodhisatta was born as Sakka, the king of the heaven and upheld the values of  compassion and purity; modesty  and self-restraint; benevolence and charity; and the zeal for the good and happiness of others. 

Sabbamitta involved in drinking. His dress suggests that he was probably a king of Persia, Ajanta

The Thai version

Normally, the creatures under the influence of wealth and opulence are unwatchful to the interests of the others. But Sakka, the lord of heaven, was ever watchful of others’ interests as well.  One day, when he was casting his eyes over the world of men he saw king Sarvamitra, drinking alcohol in some bad company. As he was well aware of the evils of drinking he desired to protect the king as he believed:

Men are prone to imitate one

Who is foremost among them.

Good and evil trickle from top

And the people rally to partake below.

So if the king is cured

The good will flow.

Thinking thus, the Bodhisatta transformed himself into the figure of a majestic personae with a jar filled up with the best quality of wine and appeared in the court of Sarvamitra when he was enjoying liquor with his friends. The sudden appearance of the Bodhisatta was a surprise and they all stood up to welcome him with reverence. The Bodhisatta then showed his intention to sell the jar of wine by saying:

Lo, she is filled up to her neck

Flowers laugh around her neck

She has dressed in a splendid jar

Now who ‘ll  buy this jar.

When the king asked his identity, he added,

Before you know who am I

Buy this jar of mine.

As you fear not -

The sufferings of the other world -

Blended so finely in this wine.

Listening to the wine-seller the king wondered, “How on earth this person is making the publicity of the ills of his own product instead of extolling its good qualities?” The king then asked him to state the real virtues of the wine. And the Bodhisatta said,

One, who drinks

Loses all self-control

By the effect of the stupefying intoxicant;

Mind becomes numb

And no distinction is then done

From what is to be eaten and what not.

So, buy this jar.


If you desire to behave like a brute-beast;

And give a chance to your enemy to laugh

Thank her for making you dance in an assembly

With your mouthful  music.


When she dances on your head

Even the bashful loses all shame

And remembers no dress-restraint

Shedding clothes then like naked Nigantthas

boldly walk on a highway

Such is the merit of jar

Which is on sale.


Soiled all over

You can lie senseless

Vomiting on a cross-road

To invite the street dogs

Lick your face.

Such is the bountiful beauty

Poured in the jar.


Even a woman-addict

By its power can fasten her parents on a tree

And disgrace her husband

No matter he be wealthy like Kubera

Thus is the trade of the jar

Which is on sale.


The noblest of the families

And the lords of the devas

Have lost their splendour of abodes;

And perished

Thus is the virtue of the jar on sale.


This makes one’s tongue and legs stagger

And puts off every check in weeping and laughing;

The eyes become dull to make a demon dwell

And one becomes a living object of contempt.


She lies in this jar

To empower one to boldly make falsehood to be true;

And make a forbidden act

Commitable with pleasure’

To hold one back from what is good;

And propel one to that which is not good,

As she is Curse-incarnate.


O king! if you want to

Kill your innocent father

And mother

And ruin your future

You must then buy this liquor filled in the jar.

The king was wise. He appreciated the message of Sakka and abjured drinking for good.

Even modest folk, intoxicate

With wine, will most indecent be

And wisest men when drunk will prate

And babble very foolishly.  

(E.B.Cowell 512.17)


See Kumbha.Jataka Jataka Pali No.512; Jataka Mala 17.


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