The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. One of the ascetics who lived at his monastery kept a pet elephant. The Bodhisatta warned him this was dangerous, but he ignored the advice. Later, the elephant smashed him to death. The Bodhisatta used this as a lesson to not associate with bad people and to be obedient when given advice.
The Bodhisatta was once a fire god worshipper. One day he burnt some rice and ghee as an offering, and the flames burned down his hut. Upset over having given himself to a wicked god, he stopped worshipping it and became an ascetic.
The Bodhisatta was once a royal chaplain’s son. His father died just days before he was to lead the king’s elephant festival. To be able to conduct the ceremonies himself, the Bodhisatta mastered all the lessons in one day.
The Bodhisatta was once a vulture. One day a storm forced a flock of vultures to fly from their mountain home to the city. A kind merchant built them a fire and brought them meat. The vultures repaid his kindness by snatching clothes and jewelry and dropping them in his courtyard. The king told the Bodhisatta to stop it, and the merchant returned everything.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. A mongoose and a snake who lived near him constantly quarreled, so he preached about the value of harmony, and then they began to get along.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. An old man wanted his future cremation to be in a pure place where no untouchables had ever been burnt. He picked a remote spot, but the Bodhisatta told him that many people, including the old man in many past lives, had already been burnt there.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. One morning, a nymph saw him bathing and fell in love. She told him to enjoy a life of pleasure first, then live religiously in his later years. But the Bodhisatta replied that nobody knows when they will die.
The Bodhisatta was once a quail. One day while he was out, a falcon grabbed him, and the Bodhisatta said he would have failed to do so at the Bodhisatta’s home field. The arrogant falcon let him go and tried to catch him again at the Bodhisatta’s field. This time the Bodhisatta rolled over, causing the falcon to smash into the dirt and die.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. He taught his followers the importance of kindness.
(Told in Jataka #546) The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. A chameleon bowed to the king, who thanked him by giving him some daily meat. One day he gave the chameleon a coin instead, and he felt so rich he stopped bowing to the king.
The Bodhisatta was once a wealthy merchant. One day his mother-in-law asked her daughter if he treated her well and she replied that he was more virtuous than most ascetics, but the mother-in-law was hard of hearing and only caught the word ascetic. She yelled out her dismay over the Bodhisatta becoming an ascetic, and the neighbors spread this false gossip. The Bodhisatta believed that one must act on lucky words, so when he heard about this, he promptly became an ascetic.
The Bodhisatta was once a lion. While some lions were having fun, a jackal wanted to join in, and when it howled, the lions stopped playing. The Bodhisatta told his cub that jackals are vile creatures and lions loathe them.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. During heavy rain, a monkey dressed up in an ascetic’s clothes, hoping to be invited to warm up by the Bodhisatta’s fire. The Bodhisatta’s young son was tricked by the disguise and wanted to let him in, but the Bodhisatta said no and shooed the monkey away.
The Bodhisatta was once a brahmin. One time he gave a thirsty monkey some drinking water, and instead of being grateful, the monkey took a dump on the Bodhisatta’s head.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. A mischievous monkey made a mess of his camp every day. One morning, the monkey stood next to all the ascetics as they collected alms and acted holy. The villagers were impressed, but when the Bodhisatta told them the monkey’s real character, they chased it away.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. When a rebellion broke out in a border region, the king mustered troops to go fight, even though it was the rainy season. At their camp, a monkey accidentally dropped a single pea, then tossed away all the others to go get it, ending up with nothing. The Bodhisatta told the king he was about to do the same thing.
The Bodhisatta was once a monkey. One night his troop snuck into a village to eat fruit from a tree. When they were discovered, the villagers surrounded the tree ready to kill them all. One monkey set some houses ablaze, and when the people rushed to put out the fires, the monkeys escaped.
The Bodhisatta was once a potter. During a drought, a turtle refused to leave its dried-up lake home and buried itself in mud to stay alive. The Bodhisatta went to dig clay and accidentally killed the turtle. He used this as a lesson explaining the peril of cravings and desires.
The Bodhisatta was once an untouchable. He offered food to a brahmin who didn’t want to eat the food of a low-caste person, but eventually he got so hungry he did it. Then after eating, he was so overcome with shame that he ran off into the forest to die.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. One time the residents of a city gave alms together as a group, and some people gave a lot, while some gave a little. The Bodhisatta said no gift was too small and anyone who gave was a good person.
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