Nanda Jataka (#39)

temple painting of Nanda Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a landowner. He was friends with an old man who had a young wife. The old man felt certain that after his death his wife would remarry and spend all his money rather than give it to their son. To thwart her, he buried his fortune in the forest, telling only his slave where the money lay. The old man instructed his slave to not let anyone sell the land and to take his son there when he became an adult.

When the son grew up, his mother told him what his father had done and said it was time for him to get his fortune. The slave took the son to the forest, but when they got there, he grew arrogant and insulted his master with, “You servant of a slave-wench’s son! You don’t deserve to have this money!” The son, a gentleman, pretended not to hear these words and calmly returned home. A few days later, they returned to the forest and again came back with nothing after the slave hurled more abuse.

The frustrated son sought advice from his father’s friend, the Bodhisatta, who explained that since the slave’s change in attitude was surely prompted by thoughts of taking the money himself, it must be buried right at the place where he spoke rudely. He advised that when the slave began to talk, the son should take the spade and dig for the gold and jewels himself, then make the slave carry the treasure back. The son did as suggested and found that the Bodhisatta was right. With his father’s wealth and the Bodhisatta’s wisdom, he lived a happy life, giving charity and doing good deeds.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

One time when Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s chief disciples, went on an alms pilgrimage, one of his resident students who came along had a drastic change in behavior. Usually meek and obedient, he turned haughty and insubordinate because of the attention he received during the trip. But, upon returning to the monastery, he reverted to his natural docile self.

The slave was an earlier birth of this student, and the Buddha told Sariputta this story so he knew that the slave had shown the same odd, inappropriate behavior in the past.

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