Musika Jataka (#373)

temple painting of Musika Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a teacher, famed across the world. When one of his students, a crown prince, mastered his studies and was about to return home, the Bodhisatta divined that some future day when he was king, his son would do him harm. To protect his student, the Bodhisatta wrote three verses and told him precisely when to recite them. The prince thanked him and left.

Eventually the former student became king, and when his son turned sixteen years old, he was filled with the desire to seize the kingdom for himself so he could rule as a young man rather than waiting until he was old. Encouraged by his servants, that evening the prince took his sword and stood near the king’s bathing tank, ready to kill his father. While preparing the bath, the king’s slave saw the prince, so he chopped her in two and threw her body in the water. When the king arrived and did not see his slave, he remembered the Bodhisatta’s warning and said out loud, “People ask where has she gone? Only I know she is lying dead in the tank.” Hearing this, the prince thought he had been discovered and fled.

After a week, it appeared that the king had only guessed about his slave’s fate, and the prince thought his plans were still unknown. So the prince stood sword in hand at the bottom of some stairs waiting for his chance to strike. But when the king arrived he said, “Like a beast of burden, you who killed my slave keep turning.” Again the prince took off.

But after two weeks passed with no arrest, the prince once again went to kill his father at the staircase, this time by hitting him with a shovel. And when he approached, the king said, “You are but a weak fool, like a baby holding a toy. I will slay you.” Unable to run away this time, the prince threw himself at his father’s feet and begged that his life be spared. The king had his son thrown in prison, not to be released until he died; only then was his son given the throne.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

When a certain prince was conceived, his mother was overcome with the urge to drink blood from her husband’s right knee. When the king heard of this, he consulted his astrologers who told him it was an omen that his queen was pregnant and his future son would kill him to seize the throne. The king wasn’t worried about this prophecy, so he cut open his right knee with a sword and gave his wife the blood she desired in a golden bowl. When the queen learned of the prediction about her son, she twice tried to abort him, but the king put a stop to it both times.

After the queen gave birth, the Buddha came to preach to the king. At this time, someone brought the young prince to the king, and he played with him on his lap so affectionately that he did not pay attention to the sermon. The Buddha commented that most kings who had reason to suspect and fear their sons kept them locked away during their lifetime and told him this story as an example. The Buddha added that kings’ fears of their sons are often justified, but the king still wasn’t worried about it.

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

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