Once upon a time Brahmadatta was the ruling king of Benaras. And a forester, named Sura, who dwelt in the kingdom of Kasi, went to the Himalayas, in search of articles for merchandise.
There was a certain tree there that sprang up to the height of a man with his arms extended over his head, and then divided into three parts.
In the midst of its three forks was a hole as big as a wine jar, and when it rained this hole was filled with water.
Round about it grew two myrobalan plants and a pepper shrub; and the ripe fruits from these, when they were cut down, fell into the hole.
Not far from this tree was some selfsown paddy. The parrots would pluck the heads of rice and eat them, perched on this tree. And while they were eating, the paddy and the husked rice fell there. So the water, fermenting through the sun’s heat, assumed a blood-red color.
In the hot season flocks of birds, being thirsty, drank of it, and becoming intoxicated fell down at the foot of the tree, and after sleeping awhile flew away.
The same thing happened in the case of wild dogs, monkeys and other creatures.
The forester, on seeing this, said, “If this were poison they would die, but after a short sleep they go away as they list; therefore it is no poison.”
He himself drank of it, and becoming intoxicated he felt a desire to eat flesh, and then making a fire he killed the partridges and cocks that fell down at the foot of the tree, and roasted their flesh on the fire, and gesticulating with one hand, and eating flesh with the other, he remained one or two days in the same spot.
Not far from there lived an ascetic, named Varuna. The forester at other times also used to visit him, and the though now struck him, “I will drink this liquor with the ascetic.”
So he filled a reed-pipe with it, and taking it together with some roast meat he came to his hut and said, “Holy sir, taste this liquor,” They both drank it and ate the meat.
So from the fact of this drink having been discovered by Sura and Varuna. They both thought “This is the way to manage it,” and they filled their reed-pipes, and taking it on a carrying-pole they came to a neighbouring village, and sent a message to the king that some wine merchants had come. The king sent for them and they offered him the drink. The king drank it two or three times and got intoxicated. This lasted him only one or two days. Then he asked them if there was any more.
“Yes sir,” they said.
“In the Himalayas, sir.”
“Then bring it here.”
They went and fetched it two or three times.
Then thinking, “We can’t always be going there,” they took note of all the constituent parts, and, beginning with the bark of the tree, they threw in all the other ingredients, and made the drink in the city.
The men of the city drank it and became idle wretches, And the place became like a deserted city.
These wine merchants fled from there and came to Benaras, and sent a message to the king, to announce their arrival.
The king sent for them and paid them money, and they made wine there too. And that city also perished in the same way. Then they went to Saketa, and from Saketa they came to Savatthi.
At that time there was a king named Sabbamitta in Savatthi. He shewed favour to these men and asked them what they wanted.
When they said, “We want the chief ingredients and ground rice and five hundred jars.”
He gave them everything they asked for. So they stored the liquor in the five hundred jars, and, to guard them, they bound cats, one to each jar. And, when the liquor fermented and began to escape, the cats drank the strong drink that flowed from the inside of the jars, and getting intoxicated they lay down to sleep; and rats came and bit off the cats’ ears, noses, teeth and tails.
The king’s officers came and told the king. “The cats have died from drinking the liquor.”
The king said “Surely these men must be makers of poison,” and he ordered them both to be beheaded, and they died, crying out,
“Give us strong drink, give us mead.”
The king, after putting the men to death, gave orders that the jars should be broken. But the cats, when the effect of the liquor wore off, got up and walked about and played. When they saw this, they told the king.
The king said, “If it were poison, they would have died; it must be mead; we will drink it.”
So he had the city decorated, and set up a pavilion in the palace yard and taking his seat in this splendid pavilion on a royal throne with a white umbrella raised over it and surrounded by his courtiers, he began to drink.
Then Sakka, the king of the gods, said, “Who are there that in the duty of service to mother the like diligently fulfill the three kinds of right conduct?”
And, looking upon the world, he saw the king seated to drink strong drink and he thought, “If he shall drink strong drink, all the India will perish: I will see that he shall not drink it.”
So placing a jar full of liquour in the palm of his hand, he went disguised as a Brahmin, and stood in the air, in the presence of the king, and cried, “Buy this jar, buy this jar.”
King Sabbamitta, on seeing him standing in the air and speaking after this manner, said," From where this Brahmin come?” “Who are you?” he asked, “what is there in your hand? Is the jar full of wine and will you sell it to me?”
“Oh king” replied Sakka “I have come to see you.” What are you going to drink?”
“Wine” replied king, “A strong drink.”
Then Sakka said, “Hearken then to me,” and expounding the evil qualities of strong drink, he said "This jar nor oil nor ghee, no honey or molasses here, but vices more than can be told are stored within its rounded sphere. Who soever drinks will fall into some hole or pit impure, poor silly fool, or headlong sink in loathsome pooi and eat what he would fain abjure. So king, buy this jar of mine which is full to the brim of strongest wine. The Asuras made drunk with wine fell from eternal heaven. Nor curds nor honey sweet is here. But evermore remembering. What’s stored within this rounded sphere. Buy, buy my jar"
On hearing this the king recognizing the misery caused by drink, was so pleased with Sakka that he praised him.
On this Sakka revealed his godhead and made himself known.
Thus did Sakka admonish him and then returned to his abode in heaven. The king, abstaining from strong drink, ordered the drinking vessels to be broken. And undertaking to keep the precepts and dispensing alms, he became destined to heaven.