The Bodhisatta was once a minor fairy living in kusha grass. A pillar in the palace needed to be replaced and the carpenters chose the home of an important tree fairy, but the Bodhisatta took the form of a chameleon and shook his head rapidly to make the tree look rotten, thus saving his superior friend’s home.
The Bodhisatta was once an elephant. He was so beautiful and perfect that people gave praise to him and not the king, so the jealous king decided to kill him. The mahout and the Bodhisatta flew to another kingdom where a righteous king respected them.
The Bodhisatta was once a teacher. One of his students was good-hearted but extremely dumb. The Bodhisatta asked the student to tell him something he had seen or done that day and make a comparison. Every answer compared things to the shaft of a plow, so the Bodhisatta knew that this boy was stupid beyond hope.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. When a drought came, one of his companions gave water to the forest animals and they repaid his kindness by bringing enough fruit for the entire monastery to eat. The Bodhisatta used this to teach that good deeds are rightly rewarded.
The Bodhisatta was once a royal treasurer. One of his slaves married a rich merchant’s daughter in a far-away kingdom by claiming to be the Bodhisatta’s son and then grew arrogant. The Bodhisatta did not expose the lie, but tricked the slave into becoming humble by teaching his wife a verse to say when he complained.
The Bodhisatta was once a prince. The king’s chaplain sniffed swords to see which were lucky, and one time he sneezed and sliced off the tip of his nose. The king forbid the Bodhisatta to marry the princess, so the Bodhisatta arranged a false exorcism (that included him pretending to be a corpse who sneezed) as a way to elope. The king forgave them and they became king and queen. The Bodhisatta commented that sneezing was great for him, but harmed the chaplain.
The Bodhisatta was once a royal treasurer. One of his slaves, who he’d allowed to get an education, married a rich merchant’s daughter in a far-away kingdom by claiming to be the Bodhisatta’s son. The Bodhisatta sent a parrot to find the slave and then the Bodhisatta brought him back and treated him as a regular slave.
The Bodhisatta was once a rat. A jackal pretended to be holy and conned the Bodhisatta into leading his pack to worship him. Each time they met the jackal, he ate the last one in line. When the Bodhisatta discovered this, he killed the jackal.
The Bodhisatta was once a rat. A jackal pretended to be holy and offered to look after the rats by counting them each morning and evening to see if any were missing. Each time they met the jackal, he ate the last one in line. When the Bodhisatta discovered this, he killed the jackal.
The Bodhisatta was once a teacher. One of his students had a wicked wife who feigned illness by day and snuck off to see lovers at night. The Bodhisatta advised him to tell his wife she either had to take a foul medicine made from cow urine or get beaten.
The Bodhisatta was once a royal treasurer. His friend lost his fortune, so the Bodhisatta gave him half of his. Later the same misfortune befell the Bodhisatta, but his friend only gave him a portion of rice bran. The angry king intervened and the Bodhisatta got back what he had given.
(Duplicate of Jataka #96) The Bodhisatta was once a prince. He knew he would never become a king in his own city, but if he could safely journey to Taxila in seven days he believed he would become king there. He arrived without being killed by the enchanting ogresses along the route, but the king invited one to spend the night with him, and everyone in the palace died. The people knew that the Bodhisatta must be a good man because he resisted the ogress, so they made him their new king. This made him value the importance of determination.
The Bodhisatta was once a bird. His led a flock living in a giant tree that stretched out over a lake where a naga lived. The naga grew tired of their excrement fouling his home, so he made flames shoot out of the water to force the birds away. The Bodhisatta told his flock to flee, but some stayed behind and died.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. His dying words were, “Neither conscious nor unconscious.” His chief disciple explained the meaning, but the other disciples did not believe him, so the Bodhisatta came down from heaven to confirm the explanation was correct.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. His dying words were, “Moonlight and sunlight.” His chief disciple explained the meaning, but the other disciples did not believe him, so the Bodhisatta came down from heaven to confirm the explanation was correct.
The Bodhisatta was once a golden mallard. He could remember his previous life and went to check on his former family, which had become poor. He told them he would give them occasional golden feathers to sell. One day his widow got greedy and plucked out all his feathers, but when taken by force they became normal and when they regrew they were also normal, so she lost her source of easy money.
The Bodhisatta was once a stone cutter. A rich woman reborn as a mouse befriended the Bodhisatta and gave him a coin a day from her old hidden treasure to buy them both lunch. When some cats threatened her, the Bodhisatta carved a block of clear crystal that she used to kill the cats.
The Bodhisatta was once a lizard. He respected an ascetic living nearby, but this ascetic left and another one arrived. After a villager served him lizard meat he wanted to eat more and tried unsuccessfully to kill the Bodhisatta. His true nature now exposed, the ascetic fled.
The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. A fisherman got his hook snagged in a sunken tree, but imagined it was a giant fish. He didn’t want to share, so he had his wife create a commotion so nobody would see him reel it in. Tree branches poked his eyes and blinded him and his wife, who acted crazy, got beaten and fined. The Bodhisatta said the fisherman had failed two-fold, in the water and on the land.
The Bodhisatta was once a crow. A mischievous crow defecated on the head of the king’s chaplain, who thereafter hated all crows. When some elephants suffered severe burns, the chaplain got revenge by suggesting crow fat as medicine and many crows were slaughtered. But the Bodhisatta explained to the king that crows have no fat and kings should not act until they know all the facts.
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