Asitabhu Jataka (#234)

temple painting of Asitabhu Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who lived in the Himalayas. As the crown prince’s pomp grew ever more magnificent, the king began to fear a coup from his son and banished him. He and his wife left the realm and lived in a leaf hut near the Bodhisatta. One day the prince saw a woodland fairy and became enamored with her. He ignored his wife and chased after the fairy through the forest, hoping to marry her. His angry wife decided that if he was going to treat her like that, then she was through with him. She went to discuss the holy life with the Bodhisatta, and by staring into a mystical object, she made rapid progress toward insight.

Her husband returned to their hut unsuccessful and alone, having not found the fairy. His wife rose into the air and told him she had found bliss and no longer suffered from desire. She thanked him for unintentionally putting her on a new path through life by his bad behavior, then she flew away to a new place. The prince lamented that his greed and lust had lost him his wife, and he lived there alone until his father died and he returned home to take the throne.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The prince and princess were earlier births of a beautiful and cheerful young woman and the man she had been married off to by her family. He was often away from home and largely ignored her. This woman spent her days studying dharma with some of the Buddha’s top disciples and eventually got her parents’ permission to become a disciple herself. Soon after, she became an arahant.

When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing her achievement, he told them this story so they knew that she had once before sought the highest attainment.

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