Pancavudha Jataka (#55)

painting of Pancavudha Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a crown prince. Right after the Bodhisatta was born, eight hundred brahmin priests predicted he would be both a powerful, virtuous leader and an expert fighter. When he reached sixteen years of age his father sent him to study in Taxila. When his lessons ended his teacher gave him a set of five weapons and he set off for home. Along the way he came upon a forest where a resident ogre killed everyone he met. Despite being warned of this danger, the Bodhisatta was fearless and walked into rather than around the forest.

The ogre was as tall as a palm tree and gruesome, but when the Bodhisatta saw him he did not run. He fired fifty poison arrows at the ogre, though they got caught in his thick fur and none pierced the skin. The ogre charged the Bodhisatta, who hurled his sword, but it also could not penetrate the fur, and then he smashed the ogre with his club, which also got stuck in the shaggy coat. Full of bluster, the Bodhisatta shouted at the ogre that he would crush him into dust and threw a punch with his right hand. But, like the weapons, it became snarled in the fur, and so did his left hand, right foot, left foot, and head.

The ogre was impressed by the Bodhisatta’s absurd bravery and realized he was no ordinary man, so he decided to let him go free. But before he left, the Bodhisatta explained that the ogre lived his miserable, murderous existence because of sins from bygone days. He could end the cycle by living a good life from then on, and the ogre vowed to do so. The Bodhisatta returned home and in due time became king, serving with virtue and generosity.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

When a backsliding disciple stopped making an effort, the Buddha told him this story as a reminder that perseverance pays rewards.

The ogre was an earlier birth of Angulimala, a dreaded bandit who cut off a finger of each person he murdered and wore it around his neck, and who later became a disciple of the Buddha.

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