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 mice had gnawed, and this made it so cursed that not even his servants could wear it. His son took the suit out on the end of a stick, like carrying a snake, and flung it with the corpses in the charnel ground. When the Bodhisatta saw the suit, he took it 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 shouldn’t 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

The brahmin priest of the past and his son were earlier births of a brahmin priest and his son who the Buddha divined were destined for salvation. The brahmin of the Buddha’s time also predicted the future by looking at pieces of cloth, and when he found a suit 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 suit despite his earnest warnings. Concerned for the Buddha’s safety, the father tried to give him different clothes, but the Buddha wouldn’t take them. Instead, he preached to the pair that wise men reject superstitions. Hearing this, the father and son 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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