Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta, who had chosen an anchorite’s life, built himself a hermitage by the banks of the Ganges, and there won the Attainments and the Higher Knowledges, and so dwelt in the bliss of Insight. In those days the Lord High Treasurer of Benares had a fierce and cruel daughter, known as Lady Wicked, who used to revile and beat her servants and slaves. And one day they took their young mistress to disport herself in the Ganges; and the girls were playing about in the water, when the sun set and a great storm burst upon them. Hereon folks scampered away, and the girl’s attendants, exclaiming, “Now is the time to see the last of this creature!” threw her right into the river and hurried off. Down poured the rain in torrents, the sun set, and darkness came on. And when the attendants reached home without their young mistress, and were asked where she was, they replied that she had got out of the Ganges but that they did not know where she had gone. Search was made by her family, but not a trace of the missing girl could be found.
Meantime she, screaming loudly, was swept down by the swollen stream, and at midnight approached where the Bodhisatta dwelt in his hermitage. Hearing her cries, he thought to himself, “That’s a woman’s voice. I must rescue her from the water.” So he took a torch of grass and by its light descried her in the stream. “Don’t be afraid; don’t be afraid!” he shouted cheerily, and waded in, and, thanks to his vast strength, as of an elephant, brought her safe to land. Then he made a fire for her in his hermitage and set luscious fruits of divers kinds before her. Not till she had eaten did he ask, “Where is your home, and how came you to fall in the river?” And the girl told him all that had befallen her. “Dwell here for the present,” said he, and installed her in his hermitage, whilst for the next two or three days he himself abode in the open air. At the end of that time he bade her depart, but she was set on waiting till she had made the ascetic fall in love with her; and would not go. And as time went by, she so wrought on him by her womanly grace and wiles that he lost his insight. With her he continued to dwell in the forest. But she did not like living in that solitude and wanted to be taken among people. So yielding to her importunities he took her away with him to a border village, where he supported her by selling dates, and so was called the Date- Sage. And the villagers paid him to teach them what were lucky and unlucky seasons, and gave him a hut to live in at the entrance to their village.
Now the border was harried by robbers from the mountains; and they made a raid one day on the village where the pair lived, and looted it. They made the poor villagers pack up their belongings, and off they went with the Treasurer’s daughter among the rest to their own abodes. Arrived there, they let everybody else go free; but the girl, because of her beauty, was taken to wife by the robber chieftain.
And when the Bodhisatta learned this, he thought to himself, “She will not endure to live away from me. She will escape and come back to me.” And so he lived on, waiting for her to return. She meantime was very happy with the robbers, and only feared that the Date sage would come to carry her away again. “I should feel more secure,” thought she, “if he were dead. I must send a message to him feigning love and so entice him here to his death.” So she sent a messenger to him with the message that she was unhappy, and that she wanted him to take her away.
And he, in his faith in her, set out forthwith, and came to the entrance of the robbers’ village, whence he sent a message to her. “To fly now, my husband,” said she, “would only be to fall into the robber chieftain’s hands who would kill us both. Let us put off our flight till night.” So she took him and hid him in a room; and when the robber came home at night and was inflamed with strong drink, she said to him, “Tell me, love, what would you do if your rival were in your power?”
And he said he would do this and that to him.
“Perhaps he is not so far away as you think,” said she. “He is in the next room.”
Seizing a torch, the robber rushed in and seized the Bodhisatta and beat him about the head and body to his heart’s content. Amid the blows the Bodhisatta made no cry, only murmuring, “Cruel ingrates! Slanderous traitors!” And this was all he said. And when he had thus beaten, bound, and laid by the heels the Bodhisatta, the robber finished his supper, and lay down to sleep. In the morning, when he had slept off his over night’s debauch, he fell anew to beating the Bodhisatta, who still made no cry but kept repeating the same four words. And the robber was struck with this and asked why, even when beaten, he kept saying that.
“Listen,” said the Date Sage, “and you shall hear. Once I was a hermit dwelling in the solitude of the forest, and there I won insight. And I rescued this woman from the Ganges and helped her in her need, and by her allurements fell from my high estate. Then I quitted the forest and supported her in a village, whence she was carried off by robbers. And she sent me a message that she was unhappy, entreating me to come and take her away. Now she has made me fall into your hands. That is why I thus exclaim.”
This set the robber a thinking again, and he thought, “if she can feel so little for one who is so good and has done so much for her, what injury would she not do to me? She must die.” So having reassured the Bodhisatta and having awakened the woman, he set out sword in hand, pretending to her that he was about to kill him outside the village as though to kill the sage, clove the woman in twain. Then he bathed the Date Sage from head to foot and for several days fed him with dainties to his heart’s content.
“Where do you purpose to go now?” said the robber at last.
“The world,” answered the sage, “has no pleasures for me. I will become a hermit once more and dwell in my former habitation in the forest.”
“And I too will become a hermit,” exclaimed the robber. So both became hermits together, and dwelt in the hermitage in the forest, where they won the Higher Knowledges and the Attainments, and qualified themselves when life ended to enter the Realm of Brahma.