Indasamanagotta Jataka (#161)

temple painting of Indasamanagotta Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who had many followers living and studying with him in the Himalayas. One of the ascetics adopted a baby elephant whose mother had died and kept it as a pet. The Bodhisatta told him that when young elephants grow up, they always become deadly, so he should let it go. But the man was stubborn in all things and told the Bodhisatta he loved the elephant dearly, and he kept it.

Years later, after the elephant had grown enormous, the ascetics went out into the forest for a few days to gather roots and fruits. While they were away, the south winds began to blow and the elephant fell into a frenzy. He decided to smash his master’s hut and kill him. The elephant hid in the forest waiting for the ascetics to return, and when they came back he ran up to his master, lifted him with his trunk, and smashed him to death on the ground. Then, trumpeting madly, he ran off into the forest. When the other ascetics told the Bodhisatta what had happened, he used it as a lesson to remind them not to associate with bad people and to be obedient when given advice.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The ascetic with the pet elephant was an earlier birth of a disobedient and impatient disciple of the Buddha who tended to ignore the instruction of his teachers and fellow disciples. The Buddha told him this story of his past so he knew that his failure to follow advice had once led to his death.

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