Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

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

053 – Supparaka – The Ancient Mariner

Ship in storm saved by Supparaka

Once there lived a great mariner, whose name was Supparaka. One day, when he was trying to save his ship from storm, the salt-water hit his eyes and he became blind.

Though blind, he was endowed with several other abilities. So, he soon entered the service of the king of the land as a valuer. The accuracy in his valuations often surprised the people because he was blind. Nonetheless, the king never paid him adequately.

One day, the king wanted to buy an elephant. So, he asked Supparaka to suggest the price. Having examined the elephant, he pointed out that the animal’s hind leg was not right. When the people examined the leg they found the valuer’s judgment correct. Yet, the king paid him only eight pieces of money for his counselling.

Likewise, his judgements with regard to a horse, a chariot and a blanket, which the king wanted to purchase, proved to be accurate and honest; and reflected his loyalty to the king. But on each occasion the king paid him only eight pieces of money.

Disgusted with the king’s attitude, he, one day left the king’s service to start a fresh life.

But soon, he received a lucrative offer from some rich merchants, who had commissioned a ship and were looking for an experienced ship captain. First, he turned down the offer, as he was blind. But when requested repeatedly, he accepted the offer. Finally, he became the captain of the ship, which sailed to a foreign port. But after seven days, it was caught in a terrible storm. To save the ship, Supparka drove it to several oceans, namely, Khuramala, Aggimala, Dadhimala, Nilavannakusamala, Nalamala and Valabhamukha. Yet, he could not bring it to the shore. When the people on board were losing heart and all their hopes were being withered away, he conducted the Sacchakiriya’ (‘Act of Truth’) by reciting, “if he was righteous, the ship shall be saved”. Next day, the ship sailed back to the port of Bharukaccha and was anchored there, safely.

See Supparaka Jataka Jataka Pali No.463.