Goldsmith Fables in Buddhism

Posted on November 05, 2015 by Mary Hood | 0 Comments

Buddhist Goldsmith Fables | BMJ Blog

Of the precious metals, gold is accompanied by arguably the richest collection of fables and legends that span eras and world cultures. There is even a place for gold in Buddhism, a spiritual tradition that eschews attachment (clinging) to the material pleasures of this world.

As explained in Buddhist Legends (Volume 28), one goldsmith, in particular, led a rather interesting life. It all began when a Vijjadhara (a sorcerer or charmer) flew into the home of a treasurer and made love to his daughter. Once the child of this union was born, his mother placed him in a vessel and sent him down the Ganges where he was found by the woman who would become his foster mother. After the child’s first bath, his hair remained matted, so he was called “Jatila” after a group of ascetics known for their purposely matted hair. Jatila’s foster mother had aspirations for Jatila to become a monk, and, as soon as Jatila could walk, she committed him to the care of Elder Maha Kaccana. Jatila had a few more adventures awaiting him before he could enter that phase of his life, however.

Eventually, Elder Maha Kaccana sent Jatila to work for a lay supporter of his. Jatila sold the accumulated goods in the layman’s house in a single day. The layman was so impressed with Jatila, that he offered Jatila his daughter for marriage and arranged to have a house built for them. As soon as Jatila set foot in his new home, a mountain of gold appeared at the rear of the house. Upon learning of Jatila’s new wealth, the king appointed him treasurer.

Meanwhile, Jatila raised three sons. Once they reached adulthood, he arranged for another, equally wealthy family to take over the role of treasurer, so he could finally become a monk. Jatila gathered his three sons and asked them to each remove a nugget of gold from the mountain of gold. Only the youngest son was capable of completing the task, so Jatila left the entirety of his wealth to him, retired from this world, and attained Arahatship, i.e. residence in the five heavens of the fine-material world.

 Wat Phra Sing, Chiang Mai, Thailand | Barbara Michelle Jacobs Jewelry

Wat Phra Sing, Chiang Mai, Thailand

In another account from the same collection of legends, a goldsmith was commissioned by an elder to contribute to the shrine of Buddha Kassapa. The elder approached the goldsmith about the project when the goldsmith happened be in a dispute with his spouse. “Throw your teacher into the water,” the goldsmith angrily replied to the elder. As punishment, the goldsmith was thrown into the water in seven consecutive states of existence (rebirths).

Finally, the goldsmith was reborn as Jatila. To make reparations for his behavior, he presented three vessels filled with gold flowers to the shrine of Buddha. Of his three sons, only the youngest agreed to help him with this venture. As a reward, the goldsmith and his youngest son were presented with a mountain of gold that existed solely for them.
What are your favorite gold fables?
You may also be interested in:
Gemstones in the Bible
The Tradition of Healing Stones
Legend of the Hope Diamond

Photos: Beverly via Flickr, Akuppa John Wigam via Flickr

Posted in Buddhism, gold, gold fables, gold lore, goldsmith



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