Nanguttha Jataka (#144)

temple painting of Nanguttha Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a devout worshipper of the Fire God. When he came of age his parents asked if he was going to take his birth fire into the wilderness to worship it devoutly or live as a married man in town. He chose the religious life and lived by himself in the forest.

One day someone gave him an ox, and he walked it back to his home in the forest where he planned to sacrifice it. Finding he was out of salt, and feeling certain the god would not eat the meat without it, he walked back to the village to get some. While gone, a band of hunters saw the ox, killed it, ate some for dinner, and carried away most of the rest, leaving behind little more than the tail and hide. When the Bodhisatta returned, he was disgusted at the Fire God for not protecting his ox: “If this god cannot protect its special offering,” he thought, “how can it look after me?” So he doused his fire and set off to become an ascetic. And doing so, he won the knowledges and attainments during his life and was reborn in heaven after death.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

A number of naked ascetics did their penances (such as squatting on their heels, reclining on thorns, and burning themselves with fire) behind the Buddha’s monastery. Some disciples asked the Buddha whether any good resulted from these things and the Buddha told them this story to explain there was absolutely no benefit whatsoever.

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

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