CULLAKĀLINGA JĀTAKA (NO. 301)
AN UNEXPECTED TWIST TO AN EXPECTED OUTCOME
This story was related by the Buddha while He was living at Jetavana Monastery in relation to the admission of four female ascetics into the nun’s order by Sāriputta after they had lost to him in a debate.
In a previous life, a long time ago, the future Buddha was an ascetic living in a hermitage at the border of two kingdoms, Kālinga and Potali. Powerful King Kālinga of the Kālinga kingdom had a great army but no worthy opponent. So eager was the king for battle that he sent his four daughters, all of unsurpassed beauty, fully adorned with jewellery on a royal carriage, to every town and city as an offering to any king who would fight him and win.
However, wherever the daughters went, the other kings denied them entry into their cities out of fear. Travelling far and wide, the carriage reached the city of Assaka, in the kingdom of Potali, ruled by King Assaka. The king refused the carriage entry into the city for fear of defeat but his wise and astute minister, Nandisena, thought, “India will appear weak as no one wants to battle Kālinga. I will battle with Kālinga.”
With this thought, Nandisena ordered the guards to allow King Kālinga’s daughters to enter the city. Nandisena assured King Assaka that he would emerge victorious, after which the king should wed the princesses and declare them his chief queens.
Informed of this impending battle, King Kālinga, with great excitement, gathered a great army at the border of the country of Potali. Disguising himself, King Kālinga approached the ascetic, the future Buddha and asked, “Between Kālinga and Assaka, who will hold the banner of victory?” The future Buddha answered, “One will conquer, the other will be defeated. I can tell you no more. I will ask Sakka, King of Heaven. Come back tomorrow.”
The next day, the future Buddha reported to King Kālinga that Lord Sakka had predicted his victory. Delighted with the prediction, King Kālinga returned to camp.
Soon, word spread to King Assaka of the ascetic’s prediction. He then confronted Nandisena in anger. Nandisena pacified the king and quickly went to visit the ascetic to ask who would win. Receiving the same answer, Nandisena enquired further, “What will be the omen for the one that conquers and the omen for the one that is defeated?” The ascetic answered, “The guardian deity of the conqueror will be a white bull and the other king’s deity will be a black bull. These gods themselves will fight and one will be victorious, the other defeated.”
Hearing this, Nandisena mustered one thousand of the most loyal warriors who will fight and die for their king. Thus, the battle commenced. The two kings faced each other together with their great armies. The guardian deities were visible only to both kings. King Assaka revealed to Nandisena, “I see Kālinga’s deity in the form of a white bull whilst ours is in the form of a black bull looking distressed.” Nandisena requested the king to throw his spear at Kālinga’s deity and ordered his one thousand best warriors to follow suit.
Following Nandisena’s instructions, Kālinga’s deity, the great white bull, succumbed to the torrent of spears, collapsed and died on the spot. Thus, King Kālinga was defeated. On fleeing back to his own kingdom in fear, he reproached the ascetic, saying, “Honest folk should never lie.”
The ascetic asked Lord Sakka, “Why, as gods do not lie, did you do so in this circumstance?” Sakka replied, “Fixed predictions may not always come true. Through fearless prowess, great courage and adventurous might, Assaka had won the battle instead.”
In that story, the Buddha was the ascetic, Sāriputta was Nandisena and the four female ascetics were the daughters of King Kālinga.
Non-conclusive conclusion starts with Nandisena, the king’s advisor, having the idea of opening the gate to welcome the daughters of King Kālinga. At that point, it was possible to conclude that the great army of King Kālinga would defeat King Assaka. However, even though Nandisena had no specific idea as to how to defeat King Kālinga, the wise Nandisena would not have advised his king to do something so reckless without any positive foresight.
Either of the two views – to not open the gate and be safe but India would appear weak; or open the gate but the great army will definitely defeat King Assaka are both conclusive conclusions. Neither of it brings any benefit. On the other hand, Nandisena’s thought of challenging King Kālinga and finding a way to win may have been a very risky gamble but it was a view which opened up a host of possibilities. This is a great example of non-conclusive conclusion.
Although King Sakka had predicted the victory of King Kālinga, the wise Nandisena probed further with an appropriate question to fully understand the whole conditionality of the prediction. With astute courage, he devised a solution for his king to succeed. Thus, non-conclusive conclusion triumphed over the apparent conditionality of King Kālinga’s victory.
This Jātaka tale further demonstrates that a seemingly inevitable and conclusive prophecy or even reality could miraculously be thwarted with a deeper understanding of Dependent Origination. By comprehending the play of conditions, the ostensible overconsuming reality can be conquered.
In Culla Kālinga Jātaka, the future Buddha,
an ascetic with great equanimity,
answered the questions probed by both the warring parties
of the prophecy of King Sakka.
King Assaka together with
his one thousand well-trained warriors,
won the battle by courageously targeting
to kill the god protector of King Kālinga.
Nandisena confronted and overcame the
state of fear caused by the original prophecy
that King Kālinga shall win.
The equanimity of total conditionality
of the ascetic, the future Buddha,
together with further probing
to go beyond the chain of conditionality
by the wise advisor, Nandisena,
helped King Assaka to win the seemingly unwinnable war.
Ultimately, by not succumbing to any
conclusive conclusion that slowly kills,
Nandisena emerged as a courageous hero.
“The inner conditionality and the outer conditionality
Every generation is conditioned in conditionalities.
And so I ask of Gotama this question:
Who succeeds in disconditioning these conditionalities?”
Truly, the gate to Enlightenment opens with asking the right questions.
 Samyutta Nikāya Sagāthāvagga Devatasamyutta Sativaggo Jatā Sutta 55 Note: The word “jatā” is loosely translated as “conditionality” instead of “entanglement” since entanglement is due to conditionality