Jataka Tale Summaries #1-20

Apannaka Jataka (#1)

The Bodhisatta was once a merchant. A gang of goblins convinced a stupid young caravan merchant there was plenty of water on the road ahead, so he dumped his water jars to lighten his load. His men got weak from hunger because, with no water, they could not cook their rice. The goblins ate them all. The Bodhisatta did not fall for the same trick, so his men survived their encounter with the goblins.

Vannupatha Jataka (#2)

The Bodhisatta was once a merchant. Leading an oxcart caravan through a desert at night, he got lost and needed water to survive. The Bodhisatta told his men where to dig, but they struck a rock. The only person who did not lose hope was a young boy who broke the rock and found water.

Serivanija Jataka (#3)

The Bodhisatta was once a traveling salesman. A woman tried to sell a tarnished old bowl to another salesman and he could tell that the bowl was actually made of gold. He offered her a very low price, while the Bodhisatta told her the bowl’s actual value. The Bodhisatta made a huge profit, and the greedy salesman was so angry he died of a heart attack.

Cullaka-Setthi Jataka (#4)

The Bodhisatta was once a royal treasurer. He had an innate understanding of signs and omens. When he saw a dead mouse along the road during a special position of the stars, he said that anyone who took it would have success in business and finding a wife. A young man overheard and picked up the mouse, selling it as cat food, and this began a string of successful business dealings that made him rich in just four months. The Bodhisatta was so impressed that he married off his daughter to the young man.

Tandulanali Jataka (#5)

The Bodhisatta was once a king’s appraiser. He always gave sellers a fair price, so the greedy king replaced him with a random peasant who would lowball sellers. After the new appraiser valued one measure of rice equal to all the city and its suburbs, the king was made to look like a fool and gave the job back to the Bodhisatta.

Devadhamma Jataka (#6)

The Bodhisatta was once a crown prince. He fled the kingdom in fear that the new chief queen, who replaced his dead mother, would have him killed so that her own son could take the throne. This half brother did not crave the crown and so went with him. The Bodhisatta later saved him from being eaten by a demon.

Katthahari Jataka (#7)

The Bodhisatta was once an illegitimate son of a king. When the king denied being the boy’s father, his mother tossed him into the air, praying that if she was telling the truth, he would float. When he did, the king accepted him and made his mother the queen.

Gamani Jataka (#8)

(Duplicate of Jataka #462) The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. When each prince finished his education, the king gave him a province to rule. But the Bodhisatta told the youngest prince to stay in the city. When the king died, the advisors chose the youngest as king, but his brothers were not happy about it. The Bodhisatta told him to give them each an equal share of the royal treasure, and this led them to accept him as the king.

Makhadeva Jataka (#9)

The Bodhisatta was once a king. After eighty-four thousand years on the throne, he found a grey hair on his head and decided to abdicate and live out his final years as an ascetic. During this time, he perfected the four perfect virtues.

Sukhavihari Jataka (#10)

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. While he was staying in a royal park, one of his fellow ascetics came to visit. The king took offense that the ascetic did not rise to greet him. The Bodhisatta explained that this ascetic had also once been a king, and his life of renunciation, rather than his former life of luxury, brought him real freedom and happiness.

Lakkhana Jataka (#11)

The Bodhisatta was once a deer. When he got old, he put his two sons each in charge of half the herd. In the crop season, when people killed deer to protect their fields, the deer migrated to the safety of the mountains. One son was reckless and all the deer in his care died, while his wise brother was cautious, so he didn’t lose a single deer and earned the Bodhisatta’s praise.

Nigrodhamiga Jataka (#12)

The Bodhisatta was once a deer. The king killed a deer daily for food, and because getting shot with arrows caused long, slow deaths, the Bodhisatta started sending a random deer to the chopping block each day so they would die without suffering. When a pregnant doe was chosen, the Bodhisatta took her place. Impressed by this display of charity, the king forbade the killing of all animals.

Kandina Jataka (#13)

The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. A deer fell in love with a doe and he followed her home where there were dangers he did not know about. The doe smelled a human and let the stag walk in front of her, and a hunter killed him. The Bodhisatta discussed these events with the other fairies, explaining that a man who falls under a woman’s sway is a fool.

Vatamiga Jataka (#14)

The Bodhisatta was once a king. He ordered his gardener to capture an antelope from the royal park. The gardener fed it honey and habituated it to his presence, and eventually the antelope followed a trail of honey into the palace where it was caught. The Bodhisatta pitied the terrified antelope and set it free.

Kharadiya Jataka (#15)

The Bodhisatta was once a leader of a herd of deer, and he wanted to teach his nephew tricks to avoid and escape hunters. But his nephew never came to study and died after getting caught in a snare. The Bodhisatta said he got what he deserved.

Tipallattha-Miga Jataka (#16)

The Bodhisatta was once a leader of a herd of deer, and he taught his nephew tricks to avoid and escape hunters. When his nephew got caught in a snare, he played dead and managed to escape.

Maluta Jataka (#17)

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. A lion and a tiger argued about which part of the lunar cycle was the coldest. They asked the Bodhisatta to settle the issue and he told them that cold on earth was caused by wind, not light or dark.

Matakabhatta Jataka (#18)

The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. A brahmin priest prepared a goat as a sacrifice, and the goat both laughed and cried because his next birth would free it from misery, but the priest would suffer because of the killing. The priest chose not to kill the goat and the Bodhisatta materialized to preach about the consequences of killing.

Ayacitabhatta Jataka (#19)

The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. One time a man who had prayed to him for success in a venture sacrificed animals in gratitude. The Bodhisatta told the man that taking life to fulfill a vow was foolish because it results in future karmic suffering.

Nalapana Jataka (#20)

The Bodhisatta was once a king of monkeys. One time they came to a lake inhabited by an ogre that would eat any creature that entered the water. The Bodhisatta miraculously turned the reeds growing there hollow so the monkeys could use them as straws to drink safely.

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