Godha Jataka (#333)

temple painting of Godha Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king’s son served as viceroy, but as the king grew old, he feared that his son might seize the throne, so he banished him from the city. The son took his main wife to a distant borderland and lived a simple life in a leaf hut eating wild roots and fruit from the forest.

When the son read in the stars that his father had died, he returned to take the throne. While traveling back to the city, some hunters gave him and his wife a roasted lizard to eat. They sat down next to a lake, and while his wife was getting water, he ate the lizard all by himself. When she returned, he showed her the tip of the tail and said the lizard ran away. He tried to catch it, he told her, but the tail broke off and the lizard escaped into a hole. Not showing her anger, she simply said, “There’s nothing you can do when a roasted lizard runs away,” and they continued their journey. Back at the palace, he made her his queen consort, but from that point on, the king completely ignored her and took his pleasure with other women.

The Bodhisatta felt that the queen deserved some respect because she was a good woman, and he decided to get it for her. In the presence of the king, he asked her why she did not give gifts to the men of the royal court. “What can I give you,” she asked, “when my husband gives me nothing? Even when we traveled back here, he would not share his roasted lizard,” and she told him the whole story. “Then why do you stay with a man who disrespects you and makes you feel bad?” the Bodhisatta asked, adding, “When a tree goes barren, birds fly to a new grove.” While the Bodhisatta and his wife spoke, the king remembered all the good things about his wife. He apologized, and from then on gave his queen everything she deserved, and he also thanked the Bodhisatta for reminding him of her virtue.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The king and queen were earlier births of a husband and wife who had traveled from the city to the country to collect a debt. As they returned home, some hunters gave them a roasted lizard to eat. The man ate the whole lizard while his wife was getting water, and he lied that it had run away. Not showing her anger, she simply said, “There’s nothing you can do when a roasted lizard runs away,” and they continued their journey.

Later, they stopped at the Buddha’s monastery, and he asked the wife if her husband was kind and loving. “I love him,” she answered, “but he does not love me.” The Buddha told them this story so they knew that in the past she had been equally loving and kind, and he had mistreated her like this. And after hearing the Buddha’s words, the husband stopped his selfish behavior.

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