(Told in Jataka #545) The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. Four kings wondered which of them possessed the superior virtue. The Bodhisatta proclaimed them equal.
The Bodhisatta was once a wealthy merchant. On a trade trip, his ship sank. A goddess rescued him because, before the journey began, he had given his shoes to a private Buddha (those who reach enlightenment on their own and do not teach the path to others) who was walking barefoot in hot sand.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. His beautiful wife had also become an ascetic, and while they stayed in the royal park, the king seized her for his harem. The Bodhisatta didn’t care and explained to the king that anger brings misery. Impressed by this lesson, the king set her free.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. A fellow ascetic was impaled for a theft he didn’t commit, and the Bodhisatta got the king to pardon him and spare his life. Later, the Bodhisatta spoke an act of truth (a solemn declaration of one’s supreme virtue followed by a request for some miraculous result) to save a child’s life, and in doing so admitted that he only remained an ascetic because he would have felt embarrassed to quit.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. He got the throne after eating a magical chicken. He made his two best friends commander-in-chief and treasurer, but the former was angry about not being chosen king, so he mistreated the others.
The Bodhisatta was once a son of a village householder. His father was dedicated to caring for his own father, but his mother, wanting to get rid of the elderly man, made him seem intolerable by doing things like giving him bad food so he would complain. Then she told her husband that either his father had to leave or she would. He chose his wife and was about to kill his father, but the Bodhisatta halted their plan.
The Bodhisatta was once a student. When his teacher said his son died, the Bodhisatta did not believe him because in his own family, people only died when they were old. The teacher visited the Bodhisatta’s father to find out why this was and learned that it was due to living in pure righteousness.
The Bodhisatta was once a fowl. As a ruse to eat him, a falcon tried to befriend the Bodhisatta, but he refused, saying one should never befriend those who walk in evil ways.
The Bodhisatta was once a god in heaven. When the Bodhisatta died, his father was depressed, so he went back down to earth in the form of a man lamenting lost chariot wheels and said he wanted the moon and the sun to replace them. His father understood the message that there’s no point being sad about something you cannot have.
The Bodhisatta was once Indra, king of the gods. In his earthly life before this, he was wealthy and generous, as were four of his descendants. But when he divined that their descendant on earth had stopped giving charity, the Bodhisatta went down to put him back on the righteous path by pretending to die after eating his cheap food.
The Bodhisatta was once a golden goose. A greedy crow wanted to eat the same food as the Bodhisatta, thinking it would make him beautiful. But the Bodhisatta explained that his beauty was due to good behavior, not good food.
(Told in Jataka #546) The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The Bodhisatta was framed for theft by the king’s four other advisors, and he fled to safety. When the king brought him back, the Bodhisatta criticized the king, but did not show any anger.
The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. He explained that good omens are not what you see, hear, or touch, but are virtuous manners like being modest among one’s friends and spreading joy.
The Bodhisatta was once a co-king along with his brothers. It had been predicted that one of his mother’s sons would destroy the royal lineage, so she secretly swapped her newborn sons for daughters from her servants so the boys would not be killed. The Bodhisatta and his brothers were wicked men and they seized the throne, but they later died because of their sins, fulfilling the prophecy.
The Bodhisatta was once an elephant. He lived in the Himalayas where he cared for his blind mother. He was captured and presented to the king, but when the king learned of the Bodhisatta’s devotion to his mother, he set him free.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. While still a prince, he accidentally broke a priest’s alms bowl and had no money to give, but he told the priest to come to his kingdom in the future for compensation. When the priest came, the Bodhisatta, now on the throne, gave him great treasure.
The Bodhisatta was once a god in heaven. He encouraged people to be righteous, while another god encouraged evil. When their celestial chariots came face to face, the Bodhisatta told the other god to give him the right of way, but he refused and was cast into hell.
The Bodhisatta was once a king, and then Indra, king of the gods, in back-to-back lives. He went down to earth to see if his queen had remained righteous after his passing. She had, and he told her she was on the right path to reach heaven.
The Bodhisatta was once a king. Five people committed minor sins, such as lust, and by contemplating what they had done they reached enlightenment as private Buddhas (those who reach enlightenment on their own and do not teach the path to others). When they went to the Bodhisatta’s palace for alms, their stories inspired him to leave and become an ascetic.
The Bodhisatta was once a crown prince. One morning, he saw dew for the first time, and when he learned that it disappears as the sun rises, he realized life was impermanent like a dewdrop, so he became an ascetic.
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