The Bodhisatta was once a prince. The king employed a chaplain who could tell whether swords were lucky or not by smelling them, but he only recommended swords made by people who paid him bribes. One swordsmith knew the chaplain was corrupt, so he put some ground pepper in a sheath. And when the chaplain sniffed this sword, he sneezed so violently he sliced off the tip of his nose. He had a false nose made that could pass for real and continued his work.
The Bodhisatta, who was the king’s nephew and only male heir to the throne, and the king’s daughter fell in love and wanted to marry, but the king would not allow it because he planned for them to each marry into other royal households to strengthen his power. He stopped the young lovers from ever seeing each other again, but the Bodhisatta was determined to get his beloved out of the palace and back to his house, and he paid a wise woman a pocketful of money to make it happen.
The wise woman convinced the king that his daughter was possessed by a demon and needed to go to the cemetery for an exorcism in a magic circle. The wise woman took her there and laid her in a bed over what everyone thought was a corpse. But it was actually the Bodhisatta under her, and when the exorcism began, he took out some ground pepper and sneezed a few times. Fearing that the revived corpse would kill the first person it could catch, everybody who had gathered at the cemetery ran away in terror. This allowed the Bodhisatta and the princess to sneak off to his home.
Her ruse successful, the wise woman told the king what had happened. Realizing the two went together like ghee in rice porridge, the king’s anger vanished and he let the Bodhisatta and his daughter marry and become king and queen.
After he took the throne, the Bodhisatta also employed the sword-sniffing chaplain. One day, while working in the sun, the heat melted the false tip of his nose, and it fell off. The chaplain was embarrassed, but the Bodhisatta found it funny and said, “Sneezing is good for some, but bad for others. Sneezing lost you your nose, but sneezing got me my throne and queen.”
In the Lifetime of the Buddha
A king employed a chaplain to determine whether newly made swords were lucky or not by smelling them, and he only recommended swords made by men who bribed him. One angry swordsmith put ground pepper in a sheath, and when the chaplain sniffed this sword, he sneezed and cut off his nose.
The Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing what had happened, and he told them this story so they knew that this corrupt chaplain had done the exact same thing in an earlier birth, and that things are not always inherently good or bad, sometimes it depends on the situation.