Asilakkhana Jataka (#126)

temple painting of Asilakkhana Jataka

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 sword-maker knew this, so he put some ground pepper in the sheath and when the chaplain sniffed it, 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 forbid 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 her 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 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 come kill the first person that he 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 decided he wasn’t angry 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. One sneeze 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 sword-maker put ground pepper in the sheath and when the chaplain sniffed it 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.

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