Jataka Tale Summaries #538-547

Muga-Pakkha Jataka (#538)

The Bodhisatta was once a crown prince. At one month of age, he remembered that kings must sometimes be cruel, and thus they go to hell. He was an only child, and to avoid becoming king he acted disabled, deaf, and mute, even though his parents tricked and tortured him. When the Bodhisatta turned sixteen, the king’s advisors said he must be killed to avoid bad fortune. After being taken outside the city and freed from his royal fate, the Bodhisatta got up and told the executioner to bring his parents to see him, and they all became ascetics.

Mahajanaka Jataka (#539)

The Bodhisatta was once a widowed queen’s son. She fled to safety after her king died in battle. When the Bodhisatta came of age, he set off to his father’s city to make himself king. His ship sank, and a goddess rescued him and took him to the kingdom, where he was given the throne. After a long reign, the destruction of a mango tree inspired him to become an ascetic.

Sama Jataka (#540)

The Bodhisatta was once the son of two ascetics. Knowing the parents would go blind someday, Indra, king of the gods, gave them a son. While out hunting, the king saw that animals were not afraid of the Bodhisatta and assumed he was a god. The king shot him with a poison arrow so he could talk to him briefly before he died. With the remorseful king’s help, the Bodhisatta’s parents’ prayers saved his life.

Nimi Jataka (#541)

The Bodhisatta was once a king. After eighty-four thousand years on the throne, he found a grey hair on his head and decided to abdicate and live as an ascetic before going to heaven. The next eighty-four thousand less two generations of his descendants followed the same path through life, but it wasn’t enough to earn nirvana. So the Bodhisatta returned to earth as the present king’s son to ensure the line would be finished. He was uncompromisingly righteous and generous, so Indra, king of the gods, invited him to visit heaven, and on the way, he took a detour to witness the horrors of hell. After returning to his kingdom, he made his son the final king of the family’s cycle.

Khandahala Jataka (#542)

The Bodhisatta was once a crown prince. The king’s chaplain was corrupt, and when the Bodhisatta was appointed judge in his place, his bribery income dried up. So the chaplain convinced the king that, to get into heaven, he needed to sacrifice some of his wives and children. Nobody could change the king’s mind, and just as the Bodhisatta was about to become the first victim, Indra, king of the gods, came and saved everybody.

Bhuridatta Jataka (#543)

The Bodhisatta was once a naga king. His mother was a human, given as a bride to resolve a feud between his naga father and a human king that was started by a turtle who ran a ruse to avoid being unjustly killed. The Bodhisatta was diligent about keeping the holy-day vows, and he did so in the human realm, where he would not be distracted. He was captured and tortured by a snake charmer who took away his magic powers with a spell and forced him to perform in shows until his brother rescued him.

Mahanaradakassapa Jataka (#544)

The Bodhisatta was once a god in heaven. One holy day, a righteous king discussed religion with a naked ascetic, and he convinced the king there was no karmic consequence to sin. The king began living his life purely for pleasure and his daughter tried unsuccessfully to sway him away from this false doctrine. Then the Bodhisatta came, and his words put the king back on the path of righteousness.

Vidhurapandita Jataka (#545)

The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. Four kings wondered which of them possessed the greatest virtue, and when the Bodhisatta proclaimed them equal, word of his wisdom spread. A queen of the nagas wanted to hear him preach and told her king to bring her the Bodhisatta’s heart. She meant his wisdom, but the king took her words literally and sent a goblin assassin. The goblin won the Bodhisatta from the king in a game of dice, but the Bodhisatta converted his would-be killer and survived.

Maha-Ummagga Jataka (#546)

The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. He was so smart he began his career at age seven after impressing the king by performing remarkable feats, settling disputes fairly, and solving difficult challenges. Over the years he always outwitted the other four royal advisors, and out of jealousy they tried to kill him. When a powerful king attempted to conquer all of India, the Bodhisatta defeated him through clever schemes. Later, the defeated king duped the Bodhisatta’s king with a false promise of marriage to his beautiful daughter and almost managed to kill him, but the Bodhisatta saved his king by building a magnificent tunnel. The twice-defeated king repented and respected the Bodhisatta, who later went to work for him.

Vessantara Jataka (#547)

The Bodhisatta was once a prince. He was generous to a fault and one time gave away the kingdom’s auspicious white elephant, which guaranteed rainfall, to another kingdom that was suffering a drought. The citizens were so angry they forced his father to banish him, so he and his family went off to live as ascetics in the mountains. There he gave away his children and wife, achieving the supreme perfection of generosity. The elephant and his family were returned and the Bodhisatta was brought back to the city to be king.

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