During lockdown spring cleaning I found a jātaka story, and thought I’d share it just as a bit of light-hearted escapism from all the very serious world events.
It is one that I wrote, with my undergraduate Buddhist Studies buddy Hannah, on a trip to Oxford in spring 2003, where we attended the Spalding Symposium on Indian Religions for the first time. (I vividly recall this – we had to write our own name badges, and so “Naomi” and “Hannah” were deeply intimidated by “Gombrich” and “Cousins”, and were thrilled to meet “Dermot Killingley”, who wrote the Sanskrit textbook that had got us sucked in to begin with!)
Composed in Buddhist Hybrid English (inspired by Cowell et al.), this jātaka recounts a real-life adventure on the river, and is called the Viriya-puntiṃ-jātaka:
In the past, two scholars named Oscar and Nicky dwelled in a town called Oxford. At that time on that occasion, having received visitors, having acquired food, they took them punting. Oscar, having punted, having chosen the smaller potentially-stagnant way, encountered a fallen tree blocking the way. Having striven to remove the obstacle, having given up, having turned around, having seen another punt, they cried: “Turn back! The way is unsuitable!” The punter, named Competitive Dad, replied: “We will not turn back! We will find a way!” Laughing, mocking, abusing and reviling Competitive Dad, the scholars returned to the easier route.
Having arrived at the big river, the scholars were swept into deep water. Having regained control with much vigourous use of the Patronising Paddle, having punted against the current, Oscar for a short time left the boat for the shore. Re-entering the boat he almost fell in the water. Determined to re-encounter Competitive Dad on the impossible rivulet, having entered the rivulet from the other side, the water being shallow, having run aground, having climbed bushes, having dug mud from beneath the boat, calm and vigourous the scholars reached deeper water. Having reached the place of the falling of the tree, they saw that Competitive Dad had cleared the way. Rejoicing, praising, honouring and revering Competitive Dad, the scholars punted home.
He who mocks Competitive Dad, the clearer of the way,
Will run into deep water, and may be swept away.
He who strives through difficult waters, with unfailing strength,
Will, with the help of Competitive Dad, punt easily the length.
At this time on this occasion, O monks, the punting scholar named Oscar was Ānanda, his calm companion Nicky was Uppallavaṇṇā, and I myself was Competitive Dad. Following the punting adventure, all the company became stream enterers.