Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

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

063 – The Story of Sutasoma

Kalmasapasada’s mother

O nce, the Bodhisatta was born as a prince in the royal house of the Kurus in Indraprastha. His comely face was like moon (Soma). He was, therefore, called Sutasoma. Good conduct, learning, charity, mercy, modesty and wisdom and so on were his virtues for which he was declared as the heir-apparent.

Once in a gorgeous spring day he visited the royal garden with his wives and maids. There the women charmed him with their delightful songs, music, dances and amorous and playful gesticulations. In the meanwhile a hermit named Nanda came to the spot. The prince received him with the due reverence and offered him a place to sit and deliver some religious discourse. However, in the middle of the discourse a ferocious cannibal (born of king Sudasa and a lioness) known as Kalmasapasada attacked the garden and abducted the prince. The cannibal was under a vow to sacrifice one hundred princes to please a goblin, who was his benefactor. Further, before attacking Sutasoma he had already held one hundred princes as captives for the sacrifice.

Though captured, Sutasoma was not terrified. He was rather remorseful for not having presented any gift to the hermit whose discourses he had enjoyed so much. Afflicted with those thoughts: his eyes filled with tears. When the beastly being saw tears in his eyes, he thought that the prince was scared. So, he laughed aloud and remarked, “Why do you bewail, O Prince! Is it not that you are frightened of the death ?” The prince said, “No, I am not scared of the death. I am sad because I just lost an opportunity to hear the complete sermon of the revered ascetic and to offer him some gifts. Will you, therefore, allow me to visit the palace for a short-while?” Kalmasapasada did not trust the prince’s statement, yet he allowed him to fulfil his last wish.

The prince was true to his word. He gave handsome gifts to the ascetic and took his wise lessons and returned to the cannibal.

Upon his return the man-eater was surprised and said, “You are true to your words but you lack political wisdom”.

“No, you are wrong. On contrary, I am better skilled in political wisdom because I know that resorting to such artfulness eventually leads to the fall of a man from the righteousness and perennial bliss; and leads to all sorts of suffering. I am now ready for death”, said the king in his composure.

Deeply Impressed by the prince’s sense of the righteousness the cannibal said, “I am pleased with you. You can ask for some boon from me.”

The prince laughed in reply and said, “what boon you can bestow on others? You are yourself a slave of Passion and chained by animal-like evil karmas. Your righteousness is destroyed every moment. So, how can you show any favour to any one ? It is now time for you to satisfy your cannibalistic passion by killing me.”

Though born of a lioness, Kalmasapasada was a son of a man, who was rather a reputed virtuous king known as Sudasa. So, these words of the prince made him feel ashamed; and opened his eyes. The man in him was, thus, aroused. And he finally pledged to lead a virtuous life. So, he freed all the captive princes and became a disciple of Sutasoma.

Later, Sutasoma helped Kalmasapasada regain his kingdom, which he ruled lawfully.

[Angulimala was Kalmasapasada in his previous existence; the ascetic Nanda was Kassapa Buddha].

See Mahasutasoma Jataka No..537; Chariya Pitaka iii.12; JM 31.