Araka Jataka (#169)

temple painting of Araka Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who had many followers studying with him in the Himalayas. He taught them the importance of being kind and generous, and explained that doing so would allow them to be reborn in heaven. The Bodhisatta reached enlightenment and was born into the heaven of Brahma where he lived for seven eons before reaching nirvana. 1The ending of this Jataka is clearly a mistake on the part of the ancient storyteller because if the Bodhisatta reached enlightenment in this lifetime, he could not have become the Buddha. Also, the Dhammaddhaja Jataka (#220) tells us that he was reborn as a human after his time in Brahma heaven.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

One time the Buddha gave a sermon to his disciples about charity, explaining that practicing it fully can result in producing the eleven blessings: sleeping in comfort; waking in comfort; not having bad dreams; being valued by humans; being valued by non-humans; 2The Jataka mistakenly omits this blessing. I have added it to make the list complete. These eleven blessings can be found in another ancient text (, where the Buddha presents them as rewards for practicing loving-kindness (metta). Some suggest that the Buddha discussing them in relation to charity (dana) in this Jataka is an error introduced by some ancient writer, and the text should say he addressed the sangha about loving-kindness. On the other hand, it doesn’t seem at all strange that the benefits for two closely related paramitas—charity is an act that naturally follows from the practice of loving-kindness—are the same. And it makes little difference to the story since good people should be practicing both. being guarded by the gods; not being harmed by fire, poison, or weapons; being able to quickly enter a state of concentration; having a serene facial expression; dying without distress; and entering heaven after death without needing deep insight. And when practicing charity, he said, show kindness and sympathy to all creatures without exception. Doing this leads to rebirth in heaven. To further emphasize his lesson, the Buddha told them this story.

The Bodhisatta’s fellow ascetics were earlier births of the Buddha’s followers.

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