The Bodhisatta was once an elephant. A hunter wore the yellow robe of a private Buddha (those who reach enlightenment on their own and do not teach the path to others) and killed the last elephant of the herd as it walked by him. The Bodhisatta chose to rebuke the hunter’s behavior instead of killing him.
The Bodhisatta was once a monkey. His mother was blind and depended on the care of he and his brother. When a hunter came to shoot her, they both offered their lives in exchange for hers, but the hunter killed all three. Right after this, lightning struck the hunter’s house killing his family and the earth opened up and swallowed him into hell.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. As a prince was traveling to the city, he was given some food to eat and did not share it with his wife. After the prince became king he completely ignored his wife, so the Bodhisatta shamed him into giving her the respect she deserved.
(Duplicate of Jataka #57) The Bodhisatta was once a monkey. Every day he went to eat fruit on an island in the river by hopping onto a lone rock between the island and the shore. A crocodile once sat on the rock trying to eat the Bodhisatta, but he outwitted the crocodile by convincing it to open its mouth. The Bodhisatta knew that when crocodiles open their jaws they close their eyes, so he was able to jump on the crocodile’s head and get across the river safely.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. One of his best assistants was sleeping with a woman from the harem. When this assistant found that one of his own servants was sleeping with his wife, he went to the Bodhisatta who said you must forgive people who are useful.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. One time the king set off for war in the wrong season. He saw an owl try to fly away from some crows before the nighttime and they pecked it to death. The Bodhisatta used this to explain that those who do things at the wrong time will suffer misery.
The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. He saw a drunk dung beetle challenge an elephant to a fight. Choosing the most appropriate way to fight a dung beetle, the elephant dropped a large dung ball on the beetle, killing it.
The Bodhisatta was once Indra, king of the gods. To teach a greedy king a lesson he offered his help conquering three other kingdoms, but then scuttled the plan and this made the king ill. The Bodhisatta cured him by explaining the misery caused by desire.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. Another king came to capture the Bodhisatta’s kingdom, but when he saw the massive towers on the city gates he realized he could never defeat such a glorious king and fled back home.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. Another king came to capture the Bodhisatta’s kingdom, but when the Bodhisatta appeared and declared that he would be victorious the rival was filled with fear and fled back home.
The Bodhisatta was once a mahout. One of his students was offered a job with the king, but demanded pay equal to the Bodhisatta, so an exhibition was arranged and the Bodhisatta far outperformed the student. Everybody was angry at the student for disrespecting his master by claiming to be equal, so they killed him.
The Bodhisatta was once a merchant. After the woman he chose for his son to marry saw a ceremony to honor a right royal bull, she figured a hunchback must be royal because it also had a hump on its back. So she ran off with him, but the next day the Bodhisatta convinced her to go through with the marriage to his son.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. He regularly fed rice to fish in a lake, and when a crocodile discovered this it came and ate some of them. So the king ordered it to be captured. After being struck by a harpoon the crocodile managed to swim away, but it died soon after.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. A prince and princess banished from their kingdom lived near him. One day the prince became enamored with a fairy and chased after her. His angry wife discussed religion with the Bodhisatta and found bliss, so she left to go live a religious life elsewhere.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. One time he visited the city and became friends with a rich man there. This man wanted the Bodhisatta to give up his unpleasant life, but the Bodhisatta answered that lay life was really the bad life because one can never be at peace.
The Bodhisatta was once a fish. Others in his school saw a crane sitting peacefully and they thought it was pious, but the Bodhisatta told them it was trying to trick them into coming close so it could eat them.
(Duplicate of Jataka #68) The Bodhisatta was once a son, nephew, and grandson of the same man in one thousand five hundred successive lives and then a son, nephew, and grandson in another one thousand five hundred lives to one specific woman.
The Bodhisatta was once a merchant. His young son asked what one word best explained how to be successful, and he answered “skill.”
The Bodhisatta was once a frog. A snake entered a fish trap to eat, but the fish inside attacked him. He asked the Bodhisatta about the fish’s behavior, and he answered that it was appropriate since the snake tried to eat the fish.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. His father was a cruel king hated by everyone and there was great joy when he died. But a palace doorkeeper cried after the king’s death because he feared the king would hit the gatekeeper of hell and be sent back to Earth.
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