Kacchapa Jataka (#273)

temple painting of Kacchapa Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. He lived alone in the Himalayas, and while he was sitting in daily meditation in his leaf hut, a mischievous, horrible monkey would come and ejaculate in his ear. But being blissfully calm, the Bodhisatta was not disturbed and did not stop him. One time the monkey saw a turtle sunning itself with its mouth open and he stuck his penis in it. The turtle bit down hard, leaving the monkey in agony. He realized that only the Bodhisatta could end his suffering, so he lifted the turtle with both hands and went to see him.

It looked like the monkey was holding an alms bowl, so the Bodhisatta jokingly asked, “Who are you, a brahmin? Where did you go to collect so much food?” implying the monkey was greedy. The monkey replied, “I’m just a foolish monkey who touched something I shouldn’t have. Set me free and I will go away.” The Bodhisatta said, “The marriage between your clans has been consummated: turtle, you can stop having sex now.” On hearing the Bodhisatta’s words, the turtle and the monkey released their grips. They both showed respect to the Bodhisatta and left, the monkey running far away, never to return.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The monkey and the turtle were earlier births of two high-ranking soldiers who hated each other and spoke rudely every time they met. Neither the king nor their friends and family could set them right. One day the Buddha divined that these two men were close to having a spiritual breakthrough, so the next morning he went out collecting alms at their houses. While sitting with them, the Buddha preached about loving-kindness and dharma so eloquently that they both became disciples. The two soldiers forgave each other and were harmonious from then on.

Later, when the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing how he had humbled the two soldiers, he told them this story so they knew that he had also reconciled the same two men in previous lives.

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