The Bodhisatta was once a king and he ruled righteously. He used to play dice with his chaplain and his infallible good luck mantra was “‘Tis nature’s law that rivers wind, and trees grow of wood by law of kind; And given opportunity, all women work iniquity.” Tired of always losing money to the Bodhisatta, the chaplain devised a plan to extinguish the mantra, after which he believed he would win games and get rich. He found a poor pregnant woman and, divining that she was carrying a girl, paid to take her after she was born. He kept this girl confined to his palace under lock and key and had her raised entirely by women, never letting her even see a man other than himself. And when she came of age, he married her.
All this time the chaplain had stopped playing dice, but finally he challenged the Bodhisatta to a game. After the Bodhisatta sang his mantra, the chaplain uttered “except for my girl” at the end – and he won. The Bodhisatta now knew there was a virtuous woman locked up at his chaplain’s home, so he hired a clever young scamp to corrupt her.
Knowing the chaplain sent his wife’s attendant out daily to buy perfumes and flowers, the scamp used the Bodhisatta’s money to open a perfume shop near the chaplain’s house. One day as the captive woman’s attendant passed by, the scamp rushed out of his store, threw himself at her feet and cried out “Oh mother, where have you been all this time?” His friends aided the lie by remarking emphatically how similar the two looked, and eventually the attendant was convinced. The two embraced and discussed their lives. The attendant told her “son” about the beautiful woman she cared for and he promised to give his “mother” all the flowers and perfumes she wanted for free from then on.
The attendant returned with so many flowers and perfumes the wife asked what she had done to please her husband. Her attendant explained that she was not spending more money, she was now getting things from her son, not the regular shop. After a few days the scamp feigned illness. When the attendant came to see him, he told her that because the chaplain’s wife was reportedly so beautiful he had fallen madly in love with her; and if he could not have her, he would die of a broken heart. The attendant said she would try to arrange it.
When she told the wife about her son’s infatuation, she agreed to meet him if the attendant could smuggle him into her room. From this point on the attendant pretended to be clumsy when she left and returned to the palace, spilling dust on the guards who searched everything brought in and out. The guards grew tired of her “accidents” and eventually they all stopped inspecting her baskets. So she had the scamp hide in a flower basket and carried him up to the young wife. She was glad for the company and they fell for each other right away. He stayed for several days, hiding when the chaplain was at home.
Eventually she told her new lover he must leave and he agreed, but said he wanted to hit the chaplain first. She liked the plan, so when her husband next came to her room, she told him she wanted to dance while he played the lute. But he needed to cover his face because she was shy. He agreed and she began her dancing. Then she told her husband she had the urge to hit him once on the head. Again he agreed (since he was a dotard) and the scamp snuck up and whacked him so hard it hurt his eyes and left a bump on his head. His wife took off his blindfold and rubbed oil on his bruise. And when the chaplain left, the scamp went out of the palace in a flower basket and immediately told the Bodhisatta all the had happened.
Soon after, the Bodhisatta took another game of dice with the chaplain. This time, when he added his “except for my girl”, the chaplain lost. Then the Bodhisatta mocked his chaplain for believing that any woman could be trusted to be faithful to just one man and told him about the scamp and what had really happened when he was blindfolded.
When he confronted his wife over her wickedness, she denied everything and said she would brave the ordeal of fire to prove she was telling the truth. Agreeing to her idea, the chaplain had a fire lit and the girl swore to the assembled crowd, “No man’s hand but yours, my husband, has ever touched me. I call on the truth to protect me from this fire.” Now before the ceremony, she had ordered her attendant to tell her lover to come grab her hand just before she walked into the flames. And when the time came, he ran up to her, seized her hand, and condemned the chaplain for forcing her to do this. The woman pulled her hand free and told her husband that she was now unable to test herself in fire because her assertion was technically no longer true. But the chaplain, seeing through the ruse, beat her and sent her away.
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
One of the Buddha’s disciples became attracted to a woman and the Buddha told him this story to remind him women cannot be trusted.
The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.