Kuhaka Jataka (#89)

temple painting of Kuhaka Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a merchant. A landowner had great faith in one ascetic, and he built him a hermitage and supported him with excellent food for every meal. One day the landowner took one hundred gold coins to bury at the hermitage for safe keeping. The ascetic dug up the coins and buried them elsewhere, then announced he had remained in the same place for too long and it was time to move on. The landowner escorted him to the edge of the city before saying good bye. But shortly after they split up the ascetic decided to have a laugh and secretly mock the landowner, so he stuck a piece of straw in his matted hair and turned back. When he caught up to the landowner, he told him straw from his roof had got stuck in his hair and he came to return it. Highly impressed, the landowner bid the ascetic farewell again.

The Bodhisatta was traveling and had stopped in the landowner’s town for the night. He heard the pair’s exchange about the piece of straw and suspected that the ascetic had stolen something. He spoke to the landowner and asked if he had left anything in the ascetic’s care; if so, he should go confirm it was safe. Finding the gold gone, the Bodhisatta and the landowner chased after the ascetic, and when they caught up to him the pair kicked and punched him until he confessed to the theft and told where the money was hidden.

When they recovered the gold, the Bodhisatta ridiculed the ascetic for telling such an implausible story and told him not to do anything like it ever again.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The rogue ascetic was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who claimed to dedicate himself to seeking salvation, but was known by other disciples to be dishonest. When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing the dishonest disciple, he told them this story so they knew that this disciple had also been this way in the past.

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