The Bodhisatta was once a poor man. He wanted to become an ascetic, but his wife was pregnant and asked him to wait until after their child was born. Then she asked him to stay until their child was weaned. When she announced that she was pregnant again, the Bodhisatta fled to the Himalayas in the middle of the night.
The Bodhisatta was once Indra, king of the gods. The king was a cruel man and he tormented old people, so when people aged, they went to live far away. And since people could no longer care for their parents, they went to hell when they died. So the Bodhisatta embarrassed the king and threatened to kill him if he did not change his ways, and the king did.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. Many of his fellow ascetics died from snakebites. The Bodhisatta told them if they showed kindness to all creatures, snakes would stop biting them.
The Bodhisatta was once a crow. He could catch fish, and when another crow saw him do it, he figured he could do it too. But they were not of the same tribe, and, as the Bodhisatta predicted, he died trying to do it.
The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. He once saw two fish quarreling about who was the most beautiful. They asked a tortoise to decide, and he said he was more beautiful than either of them.
The Bodhisatta was once an antelope. When he got caught in a hunter’s trap, his tortoise and woodpecker friends freed him. But then the hunter captured the tortoise, and the Bodhisatta freed him.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. A king was deeply depressed after his queen died. The Bodhisatta arranged for the king to meet the reborn queen in her new life as a dung beetle, in which she was very happy. This encounter revived the king’s spirits.
The Bodhisatta was once a monkey. A crocodile wanted to eat the Bodhisatta’s heart, so her husband offered to carry the Bodhisatta on his back to eat fruit on the river’s opposite shore. When he began to sink into the river and learned the crocodile’s real intention, the Bodhisatta said he stored his heart in a tree and told the crocodile to take him there, where he escaped.
The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. He once saw a hunter cover himself in branches while pursuing a bird. The bird mocked him for being dumb.
The Bodhisatta was once a woodpecker. He lived amidst acacia trees, and his woodpecker friend lived in a softwood forest. When the friend ignored the Bodhisatta’s warning and tried to peck acacia wood, he smashed his head and died.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. When one of his oxen died, the Bodhisatta’s father wanted to ask the king for another. He was very bashful, so he practiced before doing it. When meeting the king for real, his father misspoke. But the Bodhisatta smoothed the situation with a clever comment, and the king gave his father sixteen oxen.
The Bodhisatta was once a street-begging acrobat. One day a brahmin returned home while his wife’s lover was in his house. The Bodhisatta had been outside the house the whole time and told the brahmin that the lover was hiding in the storeroom.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. One time when his band of ascetics went down to the city, they found another group of ascetics camped where they had previously stayed. Both groups bribed the king to be able to stay there, but soon they grew ashamed of their immoral behavior and returned home. The king’s greed angered some spirits, so they flooded the kingdom and killed everyone.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s chaplain. Once the king got angry and had him banished, but soon regretted it. Instead of directly asking the Bodhisatta to come back, the king sent a riddle about crows, and the Bodhisatta understood it and returned to the palace.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. A tortoise who lived nearby was invited by his friends, two geese, to visit their home. He bit down on a stick and the geese carried him through the air. While flying, the tortoise tried to speak and fell to his death. The Bodhisatta used this as a lesson to the king that being excessively talkative leads to misfortune.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s chaplain. One day some fishermen snared a fish in their net, and they planned to eat him right away. The Bodhisatta heard this fish lamenting that his wife might think he had run off with another and, feeling pity for him, told the fishermen to release him back into the river.
(Duplicate of Jataka #102) The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. He watched a man who doubted his daughter’s chastity test her by asking to have sex. She refused, so he believed that she was virtuous and he could marry her off without fear of shame.
The Bodhisatta was once a judge. A city merchant who agreed to store five hundred of his villager friend’s plow blades at his home sold them and lied that they had been eaten by mice. Later, the villager kidnapped the city man’s son and claimed a hawk had carried him away. They went before the Bodhisatta, who was impressed by the villager’s trick and told the city merchant to return the plow blades, then he would get his son back.
The Bodhisatta was once a monkey. He was captured and lived as a king’s pet for a long time before being returned to the forest. His fellow monkeys wanted to know what humans were like and were horrified to hear how selfish and foolish they were.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s chaplain. The king’s commander-in-chief was corrupt, and when the Bodhisatta was appointed judge in his place, his bribery income dried up. So the commander-in-chief convinced the king that the Bodhisatta wanted to take the throne, and they gave him impossible tasks, planning to execute him for his failure. But Indra, king of the gods, did them and saved the Bodhisatta.
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