Maccha Jataka (#216)

temple painting of Maccha Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king’s chaplain. One day some fishermen caught a large fish and were going to eat it right there on the beach. As they sharpened a spit for cooking, the fish began to cry. The fish was not upset over his impending death; rather he did not want his beloved wife to think he had run off with another fish. The Bodhisatta came down to the river and heard this fish lamenting his fate. Feeling pity for him, the Bodhisatta told the fishermen to release him back into the river.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The two fish were earlier births of one of the Buddha’s disciples and the disciple’s former wife. When the disciple began to long for her, the Buddha told him this story so he knew that she was ultimately harmful to him (he was caught in the fisherman’s net because he was paying attention to her and not to his own safety) and that he had saved him from death in a previous life.

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