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 should dump his water jars to lighten his load. His men got weak from lack of water and 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, they got lost and needed water to survive. The Bodhisatta told his men where to dig and they struck a rock. The only one who didn’t 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 dining bowl to another salesman and he saw that the bowl was actually made of gold. He offered her a very low price while the Bodhisatta told her the bowl’s real 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, and he always gave sellers a fair price. But the greedy king replaced him with a random peasant who would lowball sellers. After he valued one measure of rice as equal to all of 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 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 told the truth he would float mid-air. 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 his father died the assistants 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 living in a royal park one of his fellow ascetics came to visit, and so did the king, who took offense that the former did not rise to greet him. The Bodhisatta explained that this ascetic had also once been a king, but the 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 set traps around their fields, the deer migrated to the safety of the mountains. One son led his deer recklessly and hunters killed all of the deer in his care while his wise brother didn’t lose a single deer and earned the Bodhisatta’s praise for being cautious.

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 chose to send 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 forbid 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 where he was killed by a hunter. 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 had an argument about which part of the lunar cycle was the coldest. They asked the Bodhisatta to settle the issue and he told them cold was caused by wind, not light or dark.

Matakabhatta Jataka (#18)

The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. One time 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 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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