Mamgala Jataka (#87)

temple painting of Mamgala Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic. A brahmin priest who predicted the future by looking at pieces of cloth found a suit that had been gnawed by mice, and this made it so cursed not even his servants could wear it. His son took it out on the end of a stick, like carrying a snake, and flung it with the corpses in the charnel ground as ordered. When the Bodhisatta saw this, he took the suit for himself and the priest’s son told his father about it. Fearing the suit would kill the Bodhisatta, the priest pleaded with him to throw it away. But the Bodhisatta told him people should not believe in superstitions not approved by perfect Buddhas, private Buddhas (those who reach enlightenment on their own and do not teach the path to others), or Bodhisattas. Hearing this, the priest gave up his beliefs and followed the teachings of the Bodhisatta.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

One morning the Buddha divined that a brahmin priest and his son were destined for salvation. The superstitious father predicted the future by looking at pieces of cloth, and when he found a suit of clothing that a female mouse had gnawed on he sent his son to discard it in the charnel ground. The Buddha waited for the son there and then took the clothes despite the son’s earnest warnings. Concerned for his safety, the father tried to give the Buddha different clothes, but the Buddha wouldn’t take them. Instead he preached to the pair that wise men renounce superstitions. And just as this father and son had done in earlier births, they abandoned their beliefs and followed the Buddha’s teachings.

The Buddha told them this story so they knew that the exact same thing had happened to them in the past.

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