The Heaven Of 33 – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Chapter 1. Co-operation]
Once upon a time, when King Magadha
was ruling in the land, there was a young noble
called, ‘Magha the Good’. He lived in a remote
village of just 30 families. When he was young,
his parents married him to a girl who had qualities
of character similar to his own. They were very
happy together, and she gave birth to several chil-
dren.
The villagers came to respect Magha the
Good because he always tried to help improve the
village, for the good of all. Because they re-
spected him, he was able to teach the five steps of
training, to purify their thoughts, words and
deeds.
Magha’s way of teaching was by doing. An
example of this happened one day when the vil-
lagers gathered to do handicraft work. Magha the
Good cleaned a place for himself to sit. Before he
could sit down though, someone else sat there. So
he patiently cleaned another place. Again a
neighbour sat in his place. This happened over
and over again, until he had patiently cleaned sit-
ting places for all those present. Only then could
he himself sit in the last place.
By using such examples of patience,
Magha the Good taught his fellow villagers how
to cooperate with each other, without quarrelling.
Working together in this way, they constructed
several buildings and made other improvements
that benefited the whole village.
Seeing the worthwhile results of patience
and cooperation, based on following the gentle
ways of the Five Training Steps, all in the village
became calmer and more peaceful. A natural side
effect was that former crimes and wrong-doing
completely disappeared!
You would think this would make every-
body happier. However, there was one man who
did not like the new situation at all. He was the
head of the village, the politician who cared only
about his own position.
Formerly, when there were murders and
thefts, he handed out punishments. This increased
his position of authority, and caused the villagers
to fear him. When husbands or wives had affairs
with others, the head man collected fines. In the
same way, when reputations were damaged by
lies, or contracts were not lived up to, he also col-
lected fines. He even got tax money from the prof-
its of selling strong liquor. He did not mind that
drunkenness led to many of the crimes.
It is easy to see why the head man was up-
set to lose so much respect and power and money,
due to the people living peacefully together. So he
went to the king and said, “My lord, some of the
remote villages are being robbed and looted by
bandits. We need your help.”
The king said, “Bring all these criminals to
me.”
The dishonest politician rounded up the
heads of all 30 families and brought them as pris-
oners to the king. Without questioning them, the
king ordered that they all be trampled to death by
elephants.
All 30 were ordered to lie down in the pal-
ace courtyard and the elephants were brought in.
They realized they were about to be trampled to
death. Magha the Good said to them, “Remember
and concentrate on the peacefulness and purity
that come from following the Five Training Steps,
so you may feel loving-kindness towards all. In
this way, do not get angry at the unjust king, the
lying head man, or the unfortunate elephants.”
The first elephant was brought in by his
mahout. But when he tried to force him to trample
the innocent villagers, the elephant refused. He
trumpeted as he went away. Amazingly, this was
repeated with each of the king’s elephants. None
would step on them.
The mahouts complained to the king that
this was not their fault. “It must be,” they said,
“that these men have some drug that is confusing
the elephants.”
The king had the villagers searched, but
they found nothing. Then his advisers said,
“These men must be magicians who have cast an
evil spell on your mighty elephants!”
The villagers were asked, “Do you have
such a spell?” Magha the Good said, “Yes we do.”
This made the king very curious. So he himself
asked Magha, “What is this spell and how does it
work?”
Magha the Good replied, “My lord king,
we do not cast the same kinds of spells that others
cast. We cast the spell of loving-kindness with
minds made pure by following the Five Training
Steps.”
What are these Five Training Steps?” asked
the king. Magha the Good said, “All of us have
given up the five unwholesome actions, which are:
destroying life, taking what is not given, doing
wrong in sexual ways, speaking falsely, and losing
one’s mind from alcohol.”
In this way we have become harmless, so
that we can give the gift of fearlessness to all.
Therefore, the elephants lost their fear of the ma-
houts, and did not wish to harm us. They departed,
trumpeting triumphantly. This was our protection,
which you have called a ‘spell’.”
Finally seeing the wholesomeness and wis-
dom of these people, the king questioned them
and learned the truth. He decided to confiscate all
the property of the dishonest village head man and
divide it among them.
The villagers were then free to do even
more good works for the benefit of the whole vil-
lage. Soon they began to build a big roadside inn,
right next to the highway crossroads.
This was the biggest project they had yet
undertaken. The men were confident because they
had learned so well how to cooperate with each
other for a common goal. But they had not yet
learned how to cooperate in this work with the
women of the village. They seemed to think it was
‘man’s work’.
By this time Magha the Good had four
wives. Their names were Good-doer, Beauty,
Happy and Well-born. Of these, the first wife,
Good-doer, was the wisest. She wanted to pave
the way for the women to benefit from cooperat-
ing in doing good work. So she gradually became
friendly with the boss in charge of the roadside
inn project.
Because she wanted to contribute by help-
ing in a big way, she gave a present to the boss.
She asked him, “Can you think of a way that I
may become the most important contributor to
this good work?”
The boss replied, “I know just such a way!”
Then he secretly constructed the most important
part of the building, the roof beam that would hold
the roof together. He wrapped it up and hid it with
Good-doer, so it could dry for the time necessary
to become rigid and strong.
Meanwhile, the men of the village contin-
ued happily in the building project. At last they
got to the point of installing the roof beam. They
began to make one, but the boss interrupted them.
He said, “My friends, we cannot use fresh green
wood to make the roof beam. It will bend and sag.
We must have an aged dry roof beam. Go find
one!”
When they searched in the village, they
found that Good-doer just happened to have a per-
fect roof beam. It was even the right size! When
they asked if they could buy it from her, she said,
“It is not for sale at any price. I wish to contribute
the roof beam for free, but only if you let me par-
ticipate in building the inn.”
The men were afraid to change their suc-
cessful ways. So they said, “Women have never
been part of this project. This is impossible.”
Then they returned to the construction boss
and told him what had happened. He said, “Why
do you keep the women away? Women are part of
everything in this world. Let us be generous and
share the harmony and wholesomeness of this
work with the women. Then the project and our
village will be even more successful.”
So they accepted the roof beam from
Good-doer, and she helped to finish the building
of the inn. Then Beauty had a wonderful garden
built next to the inn, which she donated. It had all
kinds of flowers and fruit trees. So too, Happy had
a lovely pond dug, and planted beautiful lotuses in
it. But Well-born, being the youngest and a little
spoiled, did nothing for the inn.
In the evenings, Magha the Good held
meetings in the roadside inn. He taught the people
to assist their parents and elders, and to give up
harsh words, accusing others behind their backs,
and being stingy.
It is said that the lowest heaven world con-
tains the gods of the four directions, North, East,
South and West. Because he followed his own
teachings, Magha the Good died with happiness in
his heart. He was reborn as Sakka, king of the
second lowest heaven world.
In time, the heads of all the other families of
the village, as well as Good-doer, Beauty and
Happy, also died. They were reborn as gods under
King Sakka. This was known as the ‘Heaven of 33”.
[Chapter 2. Compassion]
At that time, so very long ago, there were
some unfortunate ugly gods called ‘Asuras’. They
had taken to living in the second heaven world.
The one who had been Magha the Good in
his previous life, was now Sakka, King of the
Heaven of 33. He thought, “Why should we, who
are the 33, live in our Heaven of 33 with these un-
fortunate ugly Asuras? Since, this is our world, let
us live happily by ourselves.”
So he invited them to a party and got them
drunk on very strong liquor. It seems that, in being
reborn, King Sakka had forgotten some of his own
teachings as Magha the Good. After getting the
Asuras drunk, he got them to go to a lower world,
just as big as the Heaven of 33.
When they sobered up and realized they
had been tricked into going to a lower heaven
world, the Asuras became angry. They rose up and
made war against King Sakka. Soon they were
victorious, and Sakka was forced to run away.
While retreating in his mighty war chariot,
he came to the vast forest where the Garulas have
their nests. These are gods who, unfortunately,
have no super powers. Instead they are forced to
get around by flapping huge heavy wings.
When King Sakka’s chariot drove through
their forest, it upset their nests and made the baby
Garulas fall down. They cried in fear and agony.
Hearing this, Sakka asked his charioteer where
these sad cries were coming from. He answered,
“These are the shrieks of terror coming from the
baby Garulas, whose nests and trees are being de-
stroyed by your powerful war chariot.”
Hearing this suffering, King Sakka realized
that all lives, including his own, are only
temporary. Hearing this suffering, the compassion
of the Great Being, which passes from life to life,
arose within him and said, “Let the little ones
have no more fear. The first training step must not
be broken. There can be no exception. I will not
destroy even one life for the sake of a heavenly
kingdom that must some day end. Instead I will
offer my life to the victorious Asuras. Turn back
the chariot!”
So the chariot returned in the direction of
the Heaven of 33. The Asuras saw King Sakka
turn around, and thought he must have reinforce-
ments from other worlds. So they ran, without
looking back, down to their lower heaven world.
[Chapter 3. Merit]
King Sakka returned victoriously to his
palace in the Heaven of 33. Next to it stood the
mansion of his first wife, the reborn Good-doer.
Outside the mansion was the garden of his second
wife, the reborn Beauty. And there was the heav-
enly pond of his third wife, the reborn Happy.
However, Well-born had died and been re-
born as a slender crane in the forest. Since he
missed her, Sakka found her and brought her up to
the Heaven of 33 for a visit. He showed her the
mansion and the garden and the pond of his three
wives. He told her that, by doing good work, the
other three had gained merit. This merit had
brought them happiness, both in their previous
lives and in their rebirths.
He said. “You, my dear crane, in your pre-
vious life as Well-born, did no such good work.
So you did not gain either merit or happiness, and
were reborn as a forest crane. I advise you to be-
gin on the path of purity by following the Five
Training Steps.” After being taught the five steps,
the lovely crane decided to follow them. Then she
returned to the forest.
Not long afterwards, King Sakka was curi-
ous about how the crane was doing. So he took
the shape of a fish and lay down in front of her.
The crane picked him up by the head. She was
just about to swallow the King of the Heaven of
33, when the fish wiggled his tail. Immediately
the crane thought, “This fish must be alive!”
Remembering the first training step, she re-
leased the living fish back into the stream. Rising
from the water, King Sakka returned to his godly
form and said, “It is very good, my dear crane,
that you are able to follow the Five Training
Steps.” Then he returned to the second heaven
world.
In the fullness of time, the crane died. Fol-
lowing the Five Training Steps had brought her
both merit and a peaceful mind. So she was re-
born in the wonderful state of mankind, into a pot-
ter’s family in Benares, in northern India.
Again King Sakka was interested in finding
out where the one who had been Well-born, and
then the crane, was now reborn. He found her in
the potter’s family, and wanted to help her in gain-
ing merit and finding happiness.
So he disguised himself as an old man and
created a cart full of golden cucumbers. He went
into Benares and shouted, “Cucumbers! Cucum-
bers! I have cucumbers!”
When people came to buy these amazing
cucumbers, he said, “These golden cucumbers are
not for sale. I will give them away, but only to one
who is wholesome, that is, one who follows the
Five Training Steps.”
The people said, “We never heard of the
Five Training Steps. But we will buy your golden
cucumbers. Name your price!” He repeated, “My
cucumbers are not for sale. I have brought them to
give to any person who practices the Five Training
Steps.” The people said, “This man has come here
only to play tricks on us.” So they left him alone.
Soon Well-born heard about this unusual
man. Even though she had been reborn, she still
had the habit of following the Five Training Steps.
So she thought, “This man must have come to find
me.”
She went to him and asked for the golden
cucumbers. He said, “Do you follow the Five
Training Steps? Have you given up destroying
life, taking what is not given, doing wrong in sex-
ual ways, speaking falsely, and losing your mind
from alcohol?” She answered, “Yes sir, I do fol-
low these steps, and I am peaceful and happy.”
Then the old man said, “I brought these cu-
cumbers especially for you, to encourage you to
gain more merit and future happiness.” So he left
the cart of golden cucumbers with her, and re-
turned to the Heaven of 33.
Throughout the rest of her life, the woman
was very generous with all this gold. Spreading
her happiness to others, she gained merit. After
she died, she was reborn as the daughter of the
King of the Asuras. She grew up to be a goddess
of great beauty. To the Asuras this seemed like a
miracle, since the rest of them were the ugliest of
all the gods.
The Asura king was pleased with his
daughter’s goodness, as well as her famous
beauty. He gathered all the Asuras together and
gave her the freedom to choose a husband.
Sakka, King of the Heaven of 33, knew of
the latest rebirth of the one who had been his wife
Well-born, then a crane, and then a potter’s
daughter. So he came down to the lower heaven
world and took the shape of an ordinary ugly As-
ura. He thought, “If Well-born chooses a husband
whose inner qualities of wholesomeness are the
same as hers, we will be reunited at last!”
Because of her past associations with
Magha the Good, reborn as King Sakka, now dis-
guised as an ordinary Asura, the beautiful princess
was drawn to him. So she picked him from among
all the Asuras.
King Sakka took her to the Heaven of 33,
made her his fourth wife, and they lived happily
ever after.
The moral is: The Five Training Steps are the
beginning of wholesomeness.
Wholesomeness is the begin-
ning of peace and happiness.