Canda-Kinnara Jataka (#485)

temple painting of Canda-Kinnara Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a kinnara, a half-human, half-bird deity. He lived with his wife on a silver mountain in the Himalayas, and one day they went down from their home to play in a stream, covering themselves in flowers, singing and dancing, and swinging in vines.

A king who had come to the Himalayas to hunt heard their sweet voices and snuck up silently to watch them. He immediately fell in love with the Bodhisatta’s wife and shot the Bodhisatta with a poison arrow so he could have her for himself. He fell unconscious with blood oozing out of the wound, and his wife, assuming he was dead, cried out in agony.

When the king stepped out of the bushes, the Bodhisatta’s wife angrily condemned him, but he told her not to grieve because he would make her his queen. She answered, loud as a lion’s roar, that she would kill herself before having anything to do with him. Hearing this, the king lost his infatuation and walked away without an ounce of shame or regret.

The Bodhisatta’s wife embraced his body, and she noticed it was still warm. She cried out, begging a god to save him before it was too late. Her pleas caused the throne of Indra, king of the gods, to become warm. And when he divined the cause, he rushed down from heaven in the form of a brahmin and sprinkled water on the Bodhisatta. The poison was instantly neutralized, the wound disappeared, and he stood up completely healed.

His wife fell at Indra’s feet in praise, and Indra told them they should not come down the mountain to the realm of man again, and they forever after followed his advice.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The Bodhisatta’s kinnara wife was an earlier birth of the Buddha’s wife. One time after reaching enlightenment, the Buddha returned home to visit his family. His father praised the Buddha’s wife, saying that while the Buddha was gone, she had refused all gifts sent by other kings and remained good and faithful at heart. The Buddha said this was no surprise because even in the past when she was born as an animal, she was completely devoted. Then he told this story to explain.

The king was an earlier birth of Anuruddha, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.

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