The Bodhisatta was once an antelope. While out eating, the Bodhisatta caught sight of a hunter hiding in a tree and stayed far away. So the hunter threw his spear at the Bodhisatta. He told the hunter, “Even though you missed me, you won’t miss your punishments in hell.”
The Bodhisatta was once a dog. When dogs gnawed the king’s carriage harness’s fine leatherwork, he ordered all dogs in the city killed except his own palace dogs, which he believed would not have done it. The Bodhisatta went to discuss the matter with the king and had the king’s dogs eat some grass mixed with buttermilk, after which they vomited up bits of leather.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s warhorse. When seven rival kings joined forces to capture the kingdom, the king sent out his bravest soldier riding the Bodhisatta to fight them alone. After defeating six of the armies, the Bodhisatta was injured. But he knew he was the best horse, so he continued to fight. After defeating the seventh army, he died.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s warhorse. When seven rival kings joined forces to capture the kingdom, the king sent out his best charioteer pulled by the Bodhisatta to fight them alone. After defeating six of the armies, the Bodhisatta was injured. But he knew he was the best horse, so he continued to fight. After defeating the seventh army, he died.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. One day the king’s warhorse refused to enter the water to bathe. The Bodhisatta figured out that an ordinary horse had been bathed in the same spot earlier and the thoroughbred was acting haughty. The Bodhisatta told the caretaker to wash it elsewhere because change can be beneficial.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. One time the king’s state elephant, who had always been good-natured, started killing everyone who came near. The Bodhisatta figured out that it had been perverted by repeatedly overhearing wicked talk. The Bodhisatta sent good men to sit and talk of virtue, and the elephant became good again.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. One of the king’s elephants became depressed and stopped eating. The Bodhisatta figured out this happened because its best friend, a dog, had been sold. The Bodhisatta got the dog back, and the elephant was happy again.
The Bodhisatta was once an ox. His owner treated him very well. To thank him, the Bodhisatta told his owner to bet he could pull one hundred loaded carts. When it was time for the challenge, the owner shouted, “Go, you rascal!” This upset the Bodhisatta, so he didn’t budge. The next time, the owner called out, “Go, my fine fellow!” and won the bet.
The Bodhisatta was once an ox. One day a caravan passed near the Bodhisatta’s town, and the river ford was so rough the merchant’s oxen could not pull their carts through. He hired the exceptionally strong Bodhisatta to do it for one thousand coins, which he gave to his caring owner.
The Bodhisatta was once an ox. When his owner’s daughter got engaged, he began to fatten up a pig to serve at the wedding. The Bodhisatta’s younger brother envied the pig for eating rice, but the Bodhisatta told him to be thankful for his grass and straw because the fancy food meant the pig would be killed soon.
The Bodhisatta was once a young brahmin. Though it angered their wicked village headman, the Bodhisatta and three of his four wives earned merit by doing good deeds. When the Bodhisatta died, he was reborn in heaven as Indra, king of the gods. He expelled some demons from his realm, and when they tried to fight their way back, he risked sacrificing his life to avoid causing suffering. His four wives eventually joined him in heaven, though it took the non-merit-making wife a long time.
The Bodhisatta was once a golden mallard, and his daughter chose a peacock as her husband. Thrilled at being chosen, the peacock danced with joy and exposed himself. The disappointed Bodhisatta rejected him and made his daughter marry a mallard.
The Bodhisatta was once a quail. He devised a plan to thwart a hunter by having any quails caught in his net stick their heads through the mesh and fly away together. The plan worked until two quails had a falling out, and when caught in the net they began to quarrel, giving the hunter enough time to grab them.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s chaplain. One day a fish saw a net coming and swam around it, but she did not warn her loving husband, who was snared. The Bodhisatta heard this fish lamenting that his wife might think he had run off with another. The Bodhisatta told him to stop being a slave to passion, then threw him back into the river.
The Bodhisatta was once a quail. While still a hatchling, a forest fire swept toward his nest. Unable to flee, he performed an act of truth (a solemn declaration of one’s supreme virtue followed by a request for some miraculous result) and the flames miraculously went out before they reached him.
The Bodhisatta was once a bird. One windy day, branches in his flock’s tree rubbed together hard enough to produce smoke. The Bodhisatta told his flock to leave because the tree could catch fire, but some foolish birds stayed behind. When his prediction came true, the birds still there died.
The Bodhisatta was once a partridge. He and his friends, a monkey and an elephant, treated each other as equals. Later, they decided to respect seniority. To find who was eldest, they shared their earliest memories of a banyan tree, and it was the Bodhisatta who had voided the seed that grew into the tree.
The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. A crane promised to carry some fish from their pond, which was drying up, to another that was full of water; but instead, he ate them. He tried to do the same with a crab, but when the crab knew the crane’s intention, he snipped off his head with his claw. Seeing this, the Bodhisatta praised the crab and preached that deceit is a terrible thing.
The Bodhisatta was once a landowner. His friend, an old man, buried a fortune in the forest so that his son would get the money when he grew up. When it was time for the son to retrieve the treasure, the landowner’s slave took him to the forest; but when they got there, he insulted his master and wouldn’t divulge the secret location. The Bodhisatta suggested the treasure was buried right at the spot where the slave spoke rudely, and he was right.
The Bodhisatta was once a royal treasurer. One morning, to prevent him from giving alms, the demon Mara, enemy of all that is good, created a pit of flaming embers inside his palace. The Bodhisatta was so righteous he knew he need not fear Mara. He stepped into the pit, and a large lotus rose to protect him, so he was able to cross.
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