The Bodhisatta was once a prince. When his father died, he let his younger brother take the throne, but then had to flee to another kingdom when his brother worried he would overthrow him. When the kingdom was threatened, he returned and just by reputation as an excellent archer made the invaders flee in fear.
The Bodhisatta was once a mahout. When the king he worked for led his elephant into battle, it got scared and would not charge. The Bodhisatta told the elephant its actions were shameful and then it went on to fight bravely, securing victory for its king.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. One time the king fed his war horses strong wine and then strained their droppings to make a weak second batch for his donkeys. The horses stood quietly in their stalls while the donkeys ran around noisily. The Bodhisatta said the different behavior was because the low-born lack self-control.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. When the king’s warhorse started limping the Bodhisatta found that it had no physical problem, rather it was imitating its trainer. So the king replaced the trainer and the limp went away.
The Bodhisatta was once a teacher. One of his students mastered the three vedas, but after he got married he could no longer repeat them by memory. The Bodhisatta told him a clouded mind is like muddy water, things cannot be seen clearly through them.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. A wicked man stole magical tools from three ascetics and a wild boar, and by the power of these he was able to make himself king. His mango tree produced the most delicious fruits and a jealous rival had his own gardener secretly plant trees and vines around the mango tree to turn the fruits bitter. The Bodhisatta discovered the cause and had the bad plants removed, restoring the mangoes.
The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. He had regular discussions about religion with two geese who perched in his tree. One day a jackal came and asked to join the conversation. Disgusted, the geese flew home and the Bodhisatta told the jackal to go away because it was not worthy of joining them.
The Bodhisatta was once a lion. He mated with a jackal and the cub looked like his father, but sounded like his mother. One day the cub tried to roar, and out came a jackal’s howl. The Bodhisatta told him to not speak again or the rest of the pride would know what he really was.
The Bodhisatta was once a farmer. A traveling salesman used a donkey to carry his wares, and when it was not needed he draped a lion skin over it and set it loose in farm fields. People were normally afraid and left it alone, but in the Bodhisatta’s village they made noise to chase it away. The donkey got scared and let out a hee-haw, so the villagers ran up and clubbed it to death.
The Bodhisatta was once a spirit of the sea. A devoutly religious man and his companion were shipwrecked on a deserted island. The Bodhisatta rescued the religious man with a golden boat, but his non-religious companion could not go. The religious man passed on his own merit to his companion and then the Bodhisatta took them both on board.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. He gave his foolish chaplain a horse, and when people saw it they praised its beauty. The chaplain’s wicked wife told him that if he wore the horse’s saddle himself and pranced down the street, people would say the same about him. He did it, and after people mocked him he got a new wife.
(Told in Jataka #546) The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. A boy was married against his will and he abandoned his wife in a tree. The king saw her and made her his chief queen. When she next saw her first husband she smiled and the jealous king wanted to kill her, but the Bodhisatta talked him out of it.
The Bodhisatta was once a crown prince. Lost in a forest with his six brothers, each day they killed and ate one of their wives to survive. When it was time to eat his own wife, the Bodhisatta fled. Then his wife began an affair with a robber who’d had his hands, feet, nose, and ears cut off. She tried to kill the Bodhisatta, but unbeknownst to her he survived. When his father died, the Bodhisatta took the throne. Later his wife and the thief came to his city to beg and he had them punished and banished.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. Before taking the throne he was an ordinary householder with a beautiful wife. The king was so enamored with her that he framed the Bodhisatta for theft and ordered him beheaded. Because the wife was completely righteous, Indra, king of the gods, switched the Bodhisatta and king’s places just before the axe fell and made the Bodhisatta the new king.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king found out one of his most useful servants had slept with a woman of his harem who he liked very much. The Bodhisatta advised him to forgive both of them, and the king did.
The Bodhisatta was once a flying horse. Five hundred merchants were shipwrecked and landed ashore near a city of she-goblins. The goblins disguised themselves as human and convinced these men to become their husbands. When the men discovered the truth, half chose to leave and the Bodhisatta flew them home. The others were later eaten.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. Against his advice, one of the other ascetics in his group adopted a young orphaned elephant, and when it grew large it killed its master. The Buddha then advised how to tell friend from foe.
The Bodhisatta was once a parrot. He and his brother lived in the home of a brahmin, who treated them like his own children. When the brahmin went away for business, his wicked wife brought many lovers into the house. When his brother spoke against her misconduct, she killed him, so the Bodhisatta flew away to live in the forest.
The Bodhisatta was once a householder. His wife was having an affair with the village headman and he caught them together. The pair pretended the headman was there to collect a debt, but the Bodhisatta knew it was a lie. He savagely beat the headman and threatened his wife with a severe punishment if it ever happened again.
The Bodhisatta was once a teacher. A father had four daughters and they had four suitors, one handsome, one old, one from a noble family, and one virtuous. The Bodhisatta said virtue was the best quality, so the father gave all four daughters to the virtuous man.
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