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 had come 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 poisoned arrow so he could have her for himself. The Bodhisatta fell unconscious with blood oozing out of the wound, and his wife, assuming he was dead, cried out in agony.

At this time the king stepped out of the bushes and 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 with no feeling of shame or regret.

His wife embraced the Bodhisatta’s body and she noticed it was still warm. She cried out begging a god to come 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, and they forever after followed his advice.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

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

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

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