Mahapingala Jataka (#240)

temple painting of Mahapingala Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king. His father was a cruel king hated by everyone, including his family, and there was great joy throughout the kingdom when he died. They burned his body with a thousand cartloads of logs and doused the pyre with a thousand jars of water.

The Bodhisatta, on the other hand, was beloved by all, and his coronation was a big, festive celebration. Everybody was happy except for one of the palace’s gatekeepers, who the Bodhisatta saw crying. He wondered if his father had been kind to this man for some reason and asked him why he wept. The gatekeeper explained that he did not cry out of sadness for the king’s death, but for fear that he would return. Every time the former king entered and exited the palace, he would punch his head hard eight times. The gatekeeper feared he would do the same to Yama, the gatekeeper of hell, who would judge him too cruel for the underworld and send him back to earth. The Bodhisatta answered that he need not fear this. Karma is the only thing that determines when a being leaves hell, and people do not return in the same form as their previous lives.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The cruel king was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis and tried to kill him three times. After the earth opened up and swallowed Devadatta into the flames of hell, people, gods, and creatures across all of India rejoiced. The Buddha told his disciples this story so they knew that people had also felt wonderful about Devadatta’s death in the past.

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