Manoja Jataka (#397)

temple painting of Manoja Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a lion. His son, who did all the hunting for the family (his father, mother, sister, and wife), once met a jackal who asked to be his servant, and the son agreed. So the jackal moved into the son’s den. The Bodhisatta told his son that jackals were wicked beasts and gave bad advice, so he should not befriend them; but the son did not listen.

One day the jackal had a desire for horse flesh, the only meat he had never eaten, and convinced the son to go catch one in the city. He went down to the river where the horses bathed and grabbed one, throwing it on his back to carry it home. While the Bodhisatta ate the horse meat he told his son that all horses are royal property and lions who attack horses don’t live long. But the son again ignored his father’s advice and continued to steal horses, even after the king tried to protect them by building a stable inside the town.

Eventually the king sent an archer to kill the lion. As the arched waited in a tower, the Bodhisatta’s son jumped over the wall and rushed in to kill a horse so fast that the archer could not shoot in time. But carrying the dead horse on his back slowed him down and the archer shot an arrow straight through the son’s body. The son reached the mouth of his den and there fell dead. Seeing the bloody corpse, his family lamented that a terrible fate such as this is sure to come from following the advice of outcasts rather than true friends. The jackal returned to live in the forest.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The Bodhisatta’s lion son was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who had been persuaded by his friend, after being invited time and time again, to skip his alms rounds and eat fancy morning meals at the monastery of Devadatta (the jackal of the story), a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis. The Buddha told this story to the traitorous disciple and those who had reported his misbehavior to let them know that this disciple also kept bad company in the past.

The Bodhisatta’s wife was an earlier birth of the Buddha’s wife, and his daughter and daughter-in-law were Uppalavanna and Khema, two of the Buddha’s top female disciples.

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