Pancagaru Jataka (#132)

temple painting of Telapatta Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a prince, the youngest of a king’s one hundred sons. Many private Buddhas (those who reach enlightenment on their own and do not teach the path to others) regularly took their meals at the palace and one day the Bodhisatta decided to ask them if he would become king someday. They answered that it would never happen in his city. But if he could journey in seven days to Taxila, two thousand leagues away, a route inhabited by ogresses who enchant men with their beauty and charm and then eat them, he would become king there. Believing he had the power to resist, and taking a charmed thread and charmed sand from the private Buddhas, he said good bye to his family and set out. Five men of his household respected him so much they insisted on joining him despite stern warnings of the danger.

As they walked, one by one these men were ensnared by the ogresses’ temptations and they lagged behind the others to indulge their pleasures. And all five were killed and eaten. Now one ogress followed the Bodhisatta, telling everyone they passed that they were husband and wife. When the Bodhisatta explained the truth, that she was a murderous ogress, she replied that he was only saying this because he was angry with her; and because she was so charming, everybody believed her.

When they reached Taxila and the king saw the ogress’s beauty, he was so smitten that he ignored the Bodhisatta’s warning and invited her to stay in the best room in his palace. That evening he went to be with her. After he fell asleep, she rushed back to her city and returned with all the other ogres, who devoured every person and animal in the palace, leaving nothing but bones behind. In the morning, when the people broke down the palace doors and saw the carnage, they realized the Bodhisatta had been right and she really was an ogress. Because the Bodhisatta had been the only one to resist her, they knew he must be a noble, steadfast, and wise person. So they made him their king and he ruled righteously for the rest of his life.

The city and palace were decorated like a city of the gods, and when the Bodhisatta took his seat on the jeweled throne, sixteen thousand women danced, sang, and played music. As he took in the spectacle, the Bodhisatta thought about how if he had let himself be snared by the ogresses, none of this would have come to pass. He always remembered the importance of determination and staying the path, and he ruled with righteousness and charity for the rest of his life.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

When the Buddha heard some of his disciples talking about the time shortly after reaching enlightenment when the daughters of the demon Mara, enemy of all that is good, tried to seduce him, he told them this story so they knew he had also successfully resisted lust in the past and won a kingdom.

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

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