Kurunga Jataka (#21)

painting of Kurunga Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once an antelope who loved to eat fruit. A clever hunter used to look for footprints below fruit trees. When he found them, he’d build a platform in that tree and wait patiently for animals to come feed on fallen fruit; then he’d kill them with his spear. The Bodhisatta knew of this hunting method and always approached trees with caution. One time he stood near, but not under, a tree where this hunter lay in wait, and the impatient hunter threw fruit in front of the Bodhisatta to lure him in. Suspicious, the Bodhisatta scanned the tree and caught sight of the hunter, but pretended not to see him. The Bodhisatta told the tree that since its behavior was odd, the fruit coming near him rather than dropping straight down, he was going to eat at another tree. When the hunter heard this, he threw his spear at the Bodhisatta, but missed. The Bodhisatta now addressed the hunter directly, telling him, “Even though you missed me, you won’t miss your punishment in hell.”

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The hunter was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis and tried to kill him three times. When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing Devadatta’s attempted murder, he told them this story so they knew that Devadatta had also tried unsuccessfully to kill him in the past.

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