Pancagaru Jataka (#132)

temple painting of Telapatta Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a prince, the youngest of a king’s one hundred sons. Once when some private Buddhas (those who reach enlightenment on their own and do not teach the path to others) were eating at the palace, the Bodhisatta asked 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 on a route inhabited by ogresses who enchanted men with their beauty and charm, and then ate them—he would become king there. Believing he had the power to resist, and taking a charmed thread and some charmed sand from the private Buddhas, he said goodbye to his family and set out. Five royal courtiers respected him so much that 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. All five were killed and eaten. One ogress followed the Bodhisatta, telling everyone they passed that they were husband and wife. When the Bodhisatta explained that she was actually 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. They 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.

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 tenacity, 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 he reached enlightenment that the daughters of the demon Mara, enemy of all that is good, tried to seduce him, he told them this story so they knew that he had also successfully resisted lust and won a kingdom in a past life.

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

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