The Perfection of Truthfulness - Harita Jataka I

We should reflect on the Bodhisatta who accumulated the perfections in order to realize the noble Truths. He wanted to understand the truth of the four paramattha dhammas, of citta, cetasika, rupa and nibbana. We should develop panna in order to realize the truth of Dhamma, we should see the benefit of sacca, of the truth. The paramattha dhammas which are the true dhammas have inalterable characteristics. We should find out what the true characteristic is of citta, cetasika, and rupa, which are not self, not a being or person. We should find out what the true nature of nibbana is, the dhamma that is different from citta, cetasika and rupa. If someone seeks the truth, he wants to penetrate it and hence he can see the benefit of the truth. He should develop all degrees of truthfulness, beginning with truthfulness in speech.
We read in the Commentary to the “Harita Jataka” (no. 431) that King  Brahmadatta was at that time reigning in Varanasí. King Brahmadatta in the past was the Venerable Ånanda of the present time. The text states:

“At that time, the Bodhisatta was born in a brahmin family

who possessed wealth worth eighty crores,

and because of his golden complexion his parents called him Young Goldskin, Harita Kumara.

When he was grown up and he had been educated at Takkasila,

he thought: ‘The treasure that my parents assembled is still there,

but my parents who were seeking that treasure have died,

they do not exist anymore.’


When he was considering this,

he understood that he himself would also have to die,

and hence he gave away his wealth and became a recluse in the Himalaya,

where he cultivated Jhana,

until he could realize the five supernatural powers and the eight attainments.


When he wished to obtain salty or sour food,

he left the forest, went to the city of Varanasí and reached the Royal Park.

When the king saw him he had confidence in him

and offered to have a dwelling place built for him in the Royal Park.

He assigned an attendant to wait on him.

The recluse obtained food from the palace and he lived there for twelve years.

Later on the king went away to pacify a conflict at the frontier

and committed the care of the recluse to the queen

who from then on ministered to him with her own hands.


One day she had prepared his food, and as he delayed his coming,

she bathed in scented water, put on a soft tunic of fine cloth,

and opening the lattice,

she lay down on a couch and let the wind play upon her body.

When the recluse came flying through the air to the window,

the queen heard the rustling sound of his bark garments.

When she stood up quickly, her robe of fine cloth fell off.

As soon as the recluse saw this,

his defilements which had been dormant for thousands of aeons,

rose up like a poisonous snake lying in a box,

and hence his skill in jhana disappeared.

The recluse who was unable to apply mindfulness, went inside,

seized the queen by her hand

and then they gave themselves over to misconduct.


His misconduct was rumoured throughout the whole city

and the king’s ministers reported this in a letter to the king.

The king could not believe what was told him and he thought:

‘They say this, because they are eager to damage him.’

When he had pacified the border country,

he returned to Varanasí and asked the queen:

‘Is the rumour true that the recluse Harita and you misconducted yourselves?’

The queen answered that it was true.


The king did not believe this, although the queen said that it was true.

The king went to the park, saluted the recluse,

and sitting respectfully on one side,

he spoke the first Stanza in the form of a question:


‘Great brahmin, I heard it said,

the recluse Harita leads a sinful life.

I take it that this is not the truth

and you are pure of conduct?’


The recluse thought: ‘If I say that I did not indulge in sin, the king would believe me,

but in this world there is no surer foundation than truthful speech.

Someone who forsakes the truth cannot attain Buddhahood,

even if he sits in the sacred enclosure of the Bodhi Tree.

Hence I should only speak the truth.

In certain cases a Bodhisatta may destroy life,

take what is not given to him,

commit adultery,

drink strong liquor,

but he may not tell a lie, speech that violates the truth.’


Therefore, speaking only the truth he uttered the second Stanza:


‘The rumours, great King, you have heard are true. 

Infatuated by the objects of delusion, I have done wrong.’


Hearing this the king spoke the third Stanza:


‘Keen panna is intent on what is beneficial. 

It can abandon lust that has arisen within you.

For what benefit do you have panna,

if you cannot dispel sinful thoughts.’ ”


Sick people generally depend on medicine. Evenso, keen panna is like a 

medicine, it is intent on what is beneficial and it can cure us from lust that has

arisen. We read:


“Then the recluse Harita pointed out the power of defilements to the king

and spoke the fourth Stanza:


‘Four defilements in the world, great King,

are coarse and have great strength,

They are: lust, hate, ignorance and intoxication.

When they overmaster beings, panna cannot develop,

It is as if they fall into a great river.’


The king on hearing this spoke the fifth Stanza:

‘You deserve praise Harita,

you are a saint,

Perfect in síla, of pure conduct,

You are wise, with true panna.’


Then Harita spoke the sixth Stanza:

‘Evil thoughts, great king, cause clinging to an image,

Taking it for beautiful, and they are accompanied by excitement.

They are bound to harm even a person with panna,

who is inclined to the excellence of recluseship.’ ”


These words can remind us of the danger of defilements. Someone may believe

that he is out of danger because he has developed a certain degree of panna, but

he should not be neglectful. Akusala can even harm a person with panna, who

has a keen interest in the Dhamma and enjoys its benefit.


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