The Bodhisatta was once a bird living in the Himalayas. He had a rain-proof nest and once asked a cold wet monkey why he didn’t build a home for himself. The monkey answered that he wasn’t wise enough to do so, and out of envy smashed the Bodhisatta’s nest.
The Bodhisatta was once a lion. A hare heard a fruit fall out of a tree and feared the earth was coming to an end, so it ran. A hundred thousand other animals followed, but the Bodhisatta convinced them they were fools and everything was fine.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. He needed a new pair of shoes and a parasol in order to return home, but was too considerate of others to ask the king for them. Twelve years later the king offered the Bodhisatta any gift he wanted, even his entire kingdom, so he finally got the shoes and parasol and was able to go home.
The Bodhisatta was once a merchant. When a ram saw an ascetic approaching it stepped back and the ascetic thought it was showing him respect. The Bodhisatta knew it was about to attack, but before he could warn him, the ram knocked the ascetic over, and he died.
The Bodhisatta was once a lizard. He paid respect to an ascetic living nearby, but after a villager served him lizard meat, he wanted to eat more and tried unsuccessfully to kill the Bodhisatta.
The Bodhisatta was once a god in heaven. He went down to Earth to see a festival and people loved the smell of his kakkaru flower wreath. He said only people possessing exceptional virtue could wear them and the king’s chaplain lied and said he could. But wearing the flowers caused him severe pain, so he confessed his lie.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. A garuda who he played dice with ran off with the chief queen to his remote island home. The Bodhisatta sent a minstrel to find her and when he did, she had sex with him, so the garuda sent her back to the palace.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. His wife had also become an ascetic, and when she died people were shocked that he showed no sorrow. But he explained that sorrow is pointless because everything in the world is impermanent.
The Bodhisatta was once a parrot. He was the king’s favorite pet and got the best food and most attention. Later the king got a monkey and it was treated the best. But the monkey scared the children and was sent away, restoring the Bodhisatta’s honor.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s chaplain. He wanted to know if the king gave him more honor than anyone else because of his virtue or his lineage, so he stole some coins. The king sentenced him to death, and from this the Bodhisatta knew he was judged on virtue. He was forgiven and left to live as an ascetic. While traveling to the forest he saw a hawk being attacked for the food it held, a woman stood up by her lover, and an ascetic meditating, and these all showed that having attachments causes unhappiness.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. A mother crow killed a cuckoo hatchling in her nest when she heard its first cry and realized it was not her offspring. The Bodhisatta used this as a lesson to the king to speak carefully.
The Bodhisatta was once a judge. The king’s chaplain threw his goad stick at a caravan driver, but it bounced and hit his own head. The king punished the caravan workers without investigating, but the Bodhisatta said this was wrong. When the matter was investigated properly, the chaplain’s lie was discovered.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. As a prince was traveling to the city, he was given a lizard 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.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. The Bodhisatta offered the king a delicious fig and said its superior sweetness was proof the king ruled righteously. To test this, the king started to do bad things and the next time he ate one of the Bodhisatta’s figs it tasted bitter. Then the king ruled righteously again.
The Bodhisatta was once a lion. He had a jackal servant who ate the Bodhisatta’s leftovers. One day the jackal decided he wanted to kill an elephant, and when he tried, the elephant crushed him to death.
The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king conquered a neighboring kingdom and hauled off its vast riches, though the prince escaped. He later stole back his father’s treasure, which upset the king. But the Bodhisatta told him he should not be sad because it wasn’t his to begin with.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. A merchant who took care of wandering ascetics was late to host the Bodhisatta during his morning alms round and felt guilt about it.
The Bodhisatta was once a teacher. He divined that someday the son of one of his students, a prince, would try to harm him. So he wrote four verses and told the future king precisely when to recite them. In all four cases, the son heard the verses and stopped his assassination attempts.
The Bodhisatta was once a peacock. Some people in a land that had no birds bought a crow from some merchants because they thought it was beautiful. Later, when the merchants sold them a peacock, they were no longer interested in the crow.
The Bodhisatta was once a wealthy merchant. He was so generous giving alms that Indra, king of the gods, got worried the Bodhisatta would take his job in heaven when he died. Indra made all his possessions disappear, but the Bodhisatta began selling grass to be able to still have something to give away. Eventually Indra restored his prosperity.
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