Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C. B. Varma Introduction | Glossary | Bibliography

047 – The Wine-Jar

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.