Mandhatu Jataka (#258)

temple painting of Mandhatu Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king. He had great riches and supernatural powers. When he clenched his left hand and touched it with his right, jewels would rain down from the sky knee-deep. He was a prince for eighty-four thousand years, co-ruled the kingdom for another eighty-four thousand, and was supreme king for eighty-four thousand more; but still not all his desires were satisfied. He decided to go to the Heaven of the Four Great Kings. There he was met by the four kings and a host of other gods who gave him rule over them.

A long time passed, but the Bodhisatta still felt discontent from unsatisfied cravings and so ascended higher to the heaven of Indra, king of the gods, where another throng of gods greeted him. Indra gave him half his realm and they ruled together until Indra was thirty-six million years old, and then it was time for him to be reborn on earth. Another god became the new Indra, and the Bodhisatta reigned alongside him for his entire lifetime, and then again with others; thirty-six Indras in all.

But even after all this time, the Bodhisatta remained unfulfilled and his passions grew stronger. Wanting to rule the entirety of heaven, he tried to kill Indra, but couldn’t. The Bodhisatta’s life finally disintegrated due to his greed and he fell from heaven, landing in a park near his former palace. His body was suddenly seized by old age and he was too weary to move.

The present royal family came to see him as he lay dying and asked if he had a final message to share with the people. The Bodhisatta said that even after the tremendous glory he’d had in life, he was now dead: everybody dies eventually.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

A disciple of the Buddha out on his morning alms round saw a beautifully dressed woman and fell in love at first sight. The Buddha told him this story as an example of how worldly desires cannot be satisfied and that the only path to happiness is a religious life.

The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.

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