The Story of Gautama,

the Progenitor of Ikshvaku


From the Gilgit Manuscript of the Sanghabhedavastu, being the 17th and Last Section of the Vinaya of the Mulasarvastivadin. Translation from Sanskrit by Lars Adelskogh.


Resumé of the events leading up to this story and told in the first chapters of the Section: On a visit to his home town of Kapilavastu, Gautama the Buddha is very reverently received by his clansmen, the Gautamas, who ask him to tell the earliest history of the clan. The Buddha refrains from doing so, considering that other spiritual teachers could perceive something of the sort as self-praise. Instead, the Buddha asks one of his foremost disciples, Mahamaudgalyayana, to tell the story. Mahamaudgalyayana goes into deep meditation and looks back into the distant past. Thereupon he tells a long story (that is largely to be found in the Aggaññasutta of the Dighanikaya of the Pali Canon) how in the beginning human beings led very long lives as beings of light among the Abhasvara Devas, sustaining themselves on nothing but thought and joy, but later gradually fell into a sensuous and physical existence of an increasingly coarser description, whereupon the struggle for existence began with sexual lust, the desire for possessions, hatred, lies, and crime, so that those primeval men had to appoint a leader to administer justice between them, the first king, Mahajanasammata (which means the “one approved of by the great multitude”). The Gautamas are descendants of Mahajanasammata through countless intervening generations. Thus Mahamaudgalyana is the story-teller:


King Karna (“Ear”), o Gautamas, had two (sons), Gautama and Bharadvaja. Of these two, Gautama was one who rejoiced in living withdrawn from action, whereas Bharadvaja rejoiced in (the prospect of) ruling the kingdom. He (Gautama) saw how his father ruled the kingdom, somewhat justly (actually, with dharma), somewhat unjustly (with adharma). He thought: “I shall as well become king after my father, I shall as well rule the kingdom somewhat justly, somewhat unjustly, whereupon I shall become a denizen of hell. Perhaps the time is up for me to wander forth from home into homelessnes.” Having reached this realization he approached King Karna, prostrated himself before him and announced: “Daddy, permit me to wander forth with faith from home into homelessness!” He (the king) said: “Son, this (kingdom) for whose sake (bloody) sacrifices are offered, libations are poured, penance is done, this kingdom has fallen into your hand (onto your palm). After me you will be the king. Why do you want to wander forth?” He (Gautama) said: “Daddy, it is not possible for me to rule the kingdom somewhat justly, somewhat unjustly. Permit me therefore to wander forth.” Knowing his son to be unyieldingly stubborn, he then gave his permission.

At this very time, there lived in a certain hermitage a rishi by the name of Krishnadvaipayana (which means Black Dvaipayana). Then Prince Karna, with the King’s permission, glad, content, delighted, inebriated with joy, and in the best frame of mind, went to Rishi Krishnadvaipayana, approached him in a disciplined manner, prostrated himself before him and said: (I) have the intention of wandering forth, initiate me into the monkhood. He (K.) initiated him (G.) into the monkhood. Rishi Krishnadvaipayana subsisted on fruits, roots, and water (only). He (G.) became known by the name of Rishi Gautama. (Thus) the name Rishi Gautama came about.

After some time, however, King Karna passed away. Prince Bharadvaja was invested with royal power and authority and ruled the kingdom he had inherited from his father. After some (more) time Rishi Gautama said to his teacher: “Master, I cannot sustain myself on plants from the wood (alone). I shall go down to the outskirts of the village.” He (the teacher) answered: “Very well, son. Whether the rishi lives in the village or in the wood, he must guard his senses in every way. Go to the vicinity of Potala(ka), build a hut out of branches and leaves and make it your dwelling.” Yes, Master,” said Rishi Gautama and built a hut out of branches and leaves and settled down (there).

At that very time there lived in Potalaka a harlot (actually: a woman who earned her living from her body or beauty) by the name of Bhadra, and also a rogue by the name of Mrinala. He had (fine) clothes and jewellery sent (to her) in order have intercourse (with her). She put on these clothes and jewellery and was about to go away (to see Mrinala). But another man appeared bringing five hundred karshapanas. (He said:) “Bhadra, come, have intercourse with me!” She thought: “If I go (with him), I shall receive five hundred karshapanas. And it would be inconsiderate to refuse one (customer) who has come to (my) house to go elsewhere.” She told her servant girl: “Go to Mrinala and say: Madam says: I am not ready yet, I will come later.” And she went away and told him. He (the new customer), too, was a busy person. He had intercourse with her and went away in the first night-watch already. She thought: “There is plenty of time, I shall manage to gratify him (M.) as well.” Once again she told her servant girl: “Go to Mrinala and say: Madam is ready, tell her to which park she should go.” She went away and told him. He said: “Now your mistress is not ready, now she is ready.” The servant girl was at loggerheads with her, (and) she explained it all: “Esteemed sir, it (was) not that she (was) not ready. Nay, even more. She has had intercourse with another man in your clothes and jewellery.” Whatever state of obsession with sensual pleasure he had been in was gone. (Instead,) a state of obsession with destruction arose (in him). Being full of wrath he said: “Girl, go to Bhadra and say: ‘Mrinala says: Go out to that park!’ She went and told Bhadra.

Thereupon she went out to the park. Mrinala the rogue said to her: “Is this what befits you, to have intercourse with another man in my clothes and jewellery?” She said: “Esteemed sir, it is my fault. However, the female sex always makes mistakes. Forgive me! Then, enraged, he drew his sword and took away her life. Then the servant girl screamed very loud: “Madam has been murdered! Madam has been murdered!” A crowd of people heard (her screams) and came running from all directions up to the hermitage where Gautama lived.

Then Mrinala the rogue was terrified, threw the blood-stained sword before Gautama and merged in the big crowd. And when the the big crowd saw the blood-stained sword they said: “It was that monk who killed Bhadra.” Then they surrounded Rishi Gautama and said, enraged: “Hey you, monk, you carry the rishi flag but commit a deed like this!” He said: “What deed?” They said: “You had intercourse with Bhadra and then took away her life.”

He said calmly: “I did not do that.” Although he spoke calmly, the big crowd pinioned his arms firmly with a rope, brought him before the king, and said: “Your Majesty, this monk had intercourse with Bhadra and took away her life.” Kings are not apt to investigate (legal cases) properly. He (the king) said: “If it is so (as you say), go! Fix him on a stake. I have (herewith) delivered this monk to you.”

Thereupon they hung a garland of oleanders around the mendicant’s neck, surrounded him with (a police unit of) blue-clad men with drawn swords, announced (his crime and judgement) at road and street crossings and in places of proclamation, drove him out (of the city) through the southern city-gate, and fixed him on a stake while still alive.

That teacher of his, Krishnadvaipayana, arrived after a while at his hermitage, but when, some time after his arrival,  he did not see (Gautama), he began to seek (him) here and there, until he saw (him) fixed on the stake. Sobbing, with his eyes full of tears, and speaking haltingly because of his pity and grief, he asked: “Alas, son, what is this?” He (G.) answered, sobbing as well and despondent because of the injuries and pains inflicted on his vital organs, “Master, (it is because of my past) deeds. What else could it be (that makes me suffer this)?” He (K.) said: “Son, you are not hurt or injured?” (G. answered: ) “Dad, I am injured in body but not in mind.”

“Son, how should (I) know (it)? “Master, I will fulfil your request. Listen! As true as it is, as truly as (I) said that I am injured in body but not in mind, as true is it, as truly (do I) say that the black colour of the skin of the Master will be gold-coloured.” That great spirit (G.) had a well-developed will-power. Immediately after he had said this, the black skin of Rishi Krishna­dvaipayana disappeared (and) a gold-coloured one appeared (instead). Soon a rumour was abroad that Black Dvaipayana (Krishnadvaipayana) had become Golden Dvaipayana (Suvarna­dvaipayana).  His (name became) Suvarnadvaipayana. (Thus) the name Suvarna­dvaipayana came about. He was utterly astonished.

Thereupon Rishi Gautama said: “Master, when I have left this existence, what will my destiny be? What rebirth, what future (shall I have)?” He (S.) answered: “Son, the Brahmins use to say,‘The man who has no son will not face a (good) destiny.’ Have you begotten any off­spring?” (G. answered:) “Master, I am just a young man without experience of women’s ways. Although my father tried to persuade me with a view to (having me participate in the government of) the kingdom, I became a monk. How could I have any offspring?” (S. said:) “Son, if it is so, you should (instead) recall your experience of previous (sexual) pleasure.” (G. answered:) “Master, right now severe pains are overwhelming me, vital organs have been pierced, my joints have been loosened, and my mind is preoccupied with (approaching) death. How could I recall my experience of previous (sexual) pleasure?” His master had acquired the five superhuman faculties. By means of magical power he created a great downpour, the rain-drops fell on his (G.:s) body. Thanks to the contact of the cool, wet wind, his pain was alleviated. He began to remember experience of previous (sexual) pleasure. While and because he recollected the passion of sexual intercourse, two drops of semen mixed with blood fell (on the ground). Four things are inconceivable: the idea of a soul, the idea of the world, the idea of the ripening of the deeds of sentient creatures (i.e. karma), and the range of the buddha power of the buddhas. The two drops of semen manifested themselves (“were transformed into”) as two eggs. When the sun rose and heated them with its rays, they cracked. Two princes were born.

Not far away there was a sugar cane plantation (ikshuvata). The two (young princes) entered it. Thereupon the sunrays became even  more brilliant. Rishi Gautama was burnt by the sunrays and passed away. Then Rishi Suvarnadvaipayana arrived. He saw that (G.) had passed away. Close to the stake he saw the two cracked eggs, the eggshells (kapalani, plural of kapala, which means eggshell as well as cranium) lay (there). He walked hither and thither in the sugar cane plantation until he saw the two princes and began to ponder “Whose sons are these?” He realized that they were Rishi Gautama’s. Then he was overwhelmed with love. He brought them to his hermitage, gave them drink, gave them food, and brought them up. He also undertook the ceremony of giving them names. “They were born when the sun was rising and were heated by the sunrays. Therefore (they are said to be of) the solar clan.” (Thus) did the name solar clan (suryagotra) come about. They were the sons of Rishi Gautama, Gautamas. (Thus) did the second name, Gautamas, come about. They issued from his own body (anga means body). (Thus) did the third name, Angirasas, come about. Since they were taken from a sugar cane plantation (ikshuvata), they were ikshvakas. (Thus) did the fourth name, Ikshvakas, come about.

After some time King Bharadvaja passed away without (leaving) any sons. The ministers assembled and began to deliberate. (They said:) “Gentlemen, whom should we now anoint a king?” Some of them said: “His brother, Gautama, became a monk among the rishis. Acoording to the rules of succession, this kingdom is his. Him we should anoint.” They finished their deliberation and went away to Rishi Suvarnadvaipayana. When they had arrived, they prostrated themselves before him and said, “Great Rishi, where has Gautama gone?” He answered: “It was you who had him killed!” “Great Rishi, we do not even recall what he looked like. How could we (then) have had him killed?”

(S. said:) “I will help you to remember.” “Splendid.” When he had made them remember, they said: “Great Rishi, if it is so (as you say), his name shall not be mentioned any more. He was an evil-doer, he shall not be praised.” (S.:) “What evil deed did he do?” (They answered:) “This and that.” (S.: ) “He was no evil-doer. It was an innocent, a harmless man that you had killed.” (The ministers:) “How so?” He (then) told them in detail as it was. They were saddened and said: “Great Rishi, if it is so, we are the evil-doers, not he.” They also made an announcement to that effect. 

And the two boys went up to the rishi. The ministers said: “Great rishi, whose are those boys?” He said: “His own ones.” (The ministers:) “How did they come about? What are their names? He told them this from the beginning (and) in detail. When the ministers heard this, they were utterly astonished. Having asked permission from the rishi, they anointed the elder prince king. He passed away, however, without (leaving) a son. Then the other, the younger one, was anointed king. His name was King Ikshvaku (Ikshvakuraja). (Thus) the name Ikshvakuraja came about. O Gautamas! Thanks to the fact that King Ikshvaku had sons and grandsons, nephews and grandnephews, there were again in the city of Potalaka one hundred hundreds (that is: ten thousand) of Ikshvaku kings.


(The above is a translation of a part of the Sanskrit text, The Gilgit Manuscript of the Sanghabhedavastu, being the 17th and last section of the Vinaya of the Mulasarvastivadin, Part I, edited by Raniero Gnoli with the assistance of T. Venkatacharya, Roma, Istituto italiano per il medio ed estremo oriente 1977.) 


Copyright to the English translation © by Lars Adelskogh 2006.