The story of Maitrakanyaka

(Avadanacataka No. 36; I p. 193205)

In the city of Benares lived a merchant and leader of a caravan, whose wife was about to give birth to a child; his friends advised him, in case a son should be born, to give him a girl's name.

It so happened; the son received the name of Maitrakanyaka and grew up without mishap. While he was still young, his father died on a voyage. When Maitrakanyaka was a man, he asked his mother what trade his father had followed, intending to take up the same work. But his mother, fearing that her son too might travel across the sea, told him that his father had been a shopkeeper. Then Maitrakanyaka set up a shop and earned four karsapan. a's the first day; this money he gave to his mother to be spent in charity. Then some one told him that his father had been a dealer in perfumes, immediately the young man closed his shop, started as perfume-dealer, and earned directly eight karsapana's, which he disposed of in the same way. Then again he was told that his father had been a goldsmith, so he at once started that trade; the first day he earned sixteen karsapana's and the second thirty-two; both sums he gave to his mother for charity. His success made other merchants jealous of him and in order to get rid of a tiresome rival, they told him that he followed a trade unsuited to him, for his father had been a great merchant and caravan-leader. Maitrakanyaka then asked his mother if this was true, which she could not deny, but begged him to stay with her. This he refused and gave out that he was about to fit up a caravan for a tradingvoyage overseas. Five hundred merchants accompanied him. Again his mother besought him not to depart and threw herself in despair at his feet, but her son, furious at her opposition, kicked her on the head and departed.

Arrived at the harbor the caravan went on board but the voyage turned out unfortunate. A sea-monster upset the vessel, Maitrakanyaka saved himself on a raft and was washed ashore. He went inland and reached a city called Ramanaka, where four beautiful apsaras met him at the gate and bade him welcome. In their company he lived a life of pleasure for several years, but at last the longing to travel drove him further South. There he came to the city of Sadamatta, where eight apsaras welcomed him in the same manner. After some pleasant years passed among these, he departed and came to Nandana, where there were sixteen apsaras and these too he forsook in the same way and came still farther South to the palace Brahmottara, where thirty-two ladies received him. But here again the longing to depart laid hold of him and he left this pleasure-city and came at last to Ayomaya. No sooner had he entered this city than the gates closed behind him. When he came into the middle of the place, he saw a man of lofty stature, who carried a revolving iron wheel on his head; this wheel, all in flames, tore open his head and the unhappy man was forced to feed himself with the blood and matter that dripped off. Maitrakanyaka inquired who he was and received the answer: "A man who has ill-treated his mother." Then Maitrakanyaka remembered his evil behaviour to his own mother. And a voice was heard saying: "Those who are bound, are free and those who are free are now bound"; immediately the wheel sprang off the man's head and fastened itself on to the head of Maitrakanyaka, who began to feel the most horrible pains. He asked how long the torture would last and was told sixty thousand and sixty hundred years; then again he asked if another would come to undergo the same torment and the man replied: "One who has committed the same sin as yourself." Though he was overcome by the pain, yet Maitrakanyaka did not lose his compassion for human kind. lIe said: "I am willing to wear this wheel for ever on my head for the sake of my fellow-creatures; may there never come another who has committed such sin." No sooner had he uttered these words than the wheel was lifted from his head and remained floating in the air. And at the same moment the Bodhisattva Maitrakanyaka died and was born again into the heaven of the Tusitagods.

106. Maitrakanyaka gives his mother the money he has earned

The dutiful son and his mother are sitting together in a pendapa; she is on the right on a raised seat with a back, her hand stretched out to receive the bag of money that is laid between two flowers on a tray in front of her. To the left of this, Maitrakanyaka sits on the floor offering his earnings with a respectful sembah. Next to the bench on which the mother is seated, there are four pots with some balls sticking out of them; perhaps these indicate Maitrakanyaka's business and belong to his shop or else they are filled with perfume. On the right behind the merchants widow her servants are standing and sitting, some with dishes, others with flowers in their hand. Behind her son, on the left under some trees, is a group of men, some very much damaged; the front one holds a small round object in his hand, one of the others a large oblong something, neither of them recognizable; two of the men look like brahmans and have beards and their hair in a knot on the top of their heads; one of these last makes a sembah. It might be that these, because of the sembah, are the people who are about to receive alms, but their dress does not look suitable for beggars and they have a lot of things in their hands already, before the distribution begins. Perhaps they are customers of the shop or friends of Maitrakanyaka or merely spectators. In the lefthand corner is a small building, probably to shew us we are in the town; it is an ordinary little temple with steps up to the entrance that is decorated with kalamakara-ornement, and has a roof with a story to it on a rich cornice with antefixes.