A Gang of Drunkards – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Sobriety]
[Pu apāti-Jātaka]
The Buddha told this story while living in Jetavana
monastery about some drugged liquor.
A situation similar to that in this story happened to the
millionaire Anāthapi ika. Some drunkards who needed
money to buy liquor thought of robbing the millionaire
Anāthapi ika of his rings and rich attire on his way from the
palace by giving him drugged liquor. But Anāthapi ika
noticed that they were not drinking their own liquor, and
challenged them to drink it themselves. Thereupon, the gang
of drunkards fled.
Anāthapi ika told this story to the Buddha. And the
Buddha said, “These drunkards have tried the same trick in
the past.” And at Anāthapi ika’s request, the Buddha told
this story:
Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta was king, the
Enlightenment Being was born in a wealthy family. He
became the richest man in Benares.
There also happened to be a gang of drunkards who
roamed the streets. All they ever thought about was finding
ways to get alcohol, the drug they thought they couldn’t live
without.
One day, when they had run out of money as usual,
they came up with a scheme to rob the richest man in
Benares. But they didn’t realize that he was the reborn
Bodhisatta, so he wouldn’t be so easy to fool!
They decided to make a ‘Mickey Finn’, which is a
drink of liquor with a sleeping drug secretly added to it. Their
plan was to get the rich man to drink the Mickey Finn. Then
when he fell asleep they would rob all his money, jewelry,
and even the rich clothes he wore. So they set up a temporary
little roadside bar. They put their last remaining liquor into a
bottle, and mixed in some strong sleeping pills.
Later the rich man came by on his way to the palace.
One of the alcoholics called out to him, “Honorable sir, why
not start your day right – by having a drink with us? And the
first one is on the house!” Then he poured a glass of the
dishonest liquor.
But the Enlightenment Being did not drink any form of
alcohol. Nevertheless, he wondered why these drunkards
were being so generous with their favorite drug. It just wasn’t
like them.
He realized it must be some kind of trick. So he decided
to teach them a lesson. He said, “It would be an insult to
appear before the king in a drunken state, or with even the
slightest smell of liquor on my breath. But please be so kind
as to wait for me here. I’ll see you again when I return from
the palace.”
The drunkards were disappointed. They would not be
able to drink again as soon as they wanted. But they decided
to be patient and wait.
Later that day the rich man came back to the little
roadside bar. The alcoholics were getting desperate for a
drink. They called him over and said, “Honorable sir, why
not celebrate your visit to the king? Have a drink of this fine
liquor. Remember, the first one is free!”
But the rich man just kept looking at the liquor bottle
and glass. He said, “I don’t trust you. That bottle and glass of
liquor are exactly as they were this morning. If it were as
good as you say it is, you would have tasted some yourselves
by now. In fact, you couldn’t help but drink it all! I’m no
fool. You must have added another drug to the alcohol.”
The richest man in Benares went on his way, and the
gang of drunkards went back to their plotting and scheming.
The Buddha said:
“The drunkards today are the same as the drunkards
before.”
The moral: “Keep sober – and keep your common sense.”