Dhonasakha Jataka (#353)

temple painting of Dhonasakha Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a teacher, famed across the land. A cruel and violent prince was sent to Taxila to study with the Bodhisatta. He warned the prince to change his ways because power attained by violence is short-lived, and in the end, one reaps what one sows. The prince thought little of this advice, but he did finish his studies and impressed his father.

When his father died, the cruel prince ascended the throne. His royal chaplain was a similarly cruel and greedy man and he convinced the new king to go on the attack and try to become the ruler of the whole of India. The king marched his army from kingdom to kingdom, defeating and capturing each and every king except for the King of Taxila because the Bodhisatta had fortified Taxila’s city walls so strongly they could not be breached. The chaplain suggested they could have victory if they sacrificed all one thousand of their captive kings to the guardian deity of the banyan tree they were camped under. The marauding king agreed to the plan. The prisoners were brought one by one to the king’s tent where a wrestler squeezed them unconscious. Then their eyes were poked out and their flesh ripped off, and the carcasses were thrown into the Ganges River.

After performing this bloody sacrificial ceremony, the king charged his army forward into battle. But as he did, a god came and tore out one of the king’s eyes, so he returned to his tree and lay down on his couch. Just then a vulture perched in the tree dropped a sharp-tipped bone onto the king’s other eye. Blind and in agony, he remembered the Bodhisatta’s words of advice. He died murmuring that he would never have the pleasure of seeing his beautiful queen again, and he went straight to hell. Moments later, so did the chaplain.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The cruel king was an earlier birth of a cruel prince who commissioned a palace like no other in the world. After construction was done, the prince had the architect’s eyes poked out to prevent another one like it ever being built. When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing how the prince had blinded the architect, he told them this story so they knew that the prince had been evil in the past too.

The chaplain was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis.

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