Duta Jataka (#260)

The Bodhisatta was once a king. He was a very fussy eater, demanding only the best, most expensive food, served on a dish that cost one hundred thousand coins. He always dined outdoors in a bejeweled pavilion so his subjects could come watch him eat and, he believed, make merit by being so close to such extravagant food.

A greedy man desperately wanted to taste this food and one day he ran out of the crowd toward the Bodhisatta with his hands up yelling “Messenger, messenger!” It was the custom of the day to not stop messengers from approaching a king, so he was allowed to run up to the table. When he got there, he took some rice off the Bodhisatta’s plate and ate it. The guard drew his sword to cut off the man’s head, but the Bodhisatta stopped him and told the man to have a seat and join in.

The meal over, the Bodhisatta finally asked what news he had to tell, and he said he was a messenger from his lust and his belly, and their power was so great he could just not control himself: “For their belly’s sake men will go very far; Oh lord of chariots, please do not be angry.” The Bodhisatta understood these urges and felt the greedy man spoke so honestly and beautifully that he gave him one thousand cows and a bull and showered him with honor.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The greedy man was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who was very greedy. The Buddha told him this story so he knew he had been greedy in the past too, and also said that at another time he’d had his head cut off by a sword due his greed.

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