Puta-Bhatta Jataka (#223)

temple painting of Puta-Bhatta Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. The king feared his son and so banished him to a distant village. When his father died, the son was able to return to take the throne. On his way back, someone gave the son some curry with rice to eat, telling him to share it with his wife. But he ate it all himself, which upset her greatly. She became the queen consort, and from that point on the king completely ignored her and took his pleasure with other women.

The Bodhisatta felt the queen deserved some respect because she was a good woman, and he decided to get it for her. His plan started by asking her why she did not give food or cloth to the men of the royal court. “What can I give you,” she replied,” when my husband gives me nothing? Even when we traveled back here, he would not share his food.” The Bodhisatta told her he was going to confront the king about this misconduct, and she needed to give the same direct, honest answer to this question in his presence.

Later that day, the Bodhisatta again asked the queen why she was cruel and did not give the men of the court any food or cloth, and she gave the same answer about not receiving anything from her husband, not even a portion of rice when traveling. The king admitted to the Bodhisatta this was true. Then the Bodhisatta told the queen that loveless marriages bring misery and she should leave. After hearing the Bodhisatta’s speech, the king gave his queen everything she deserved and they lived together happily.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The king and queen were earlier births of a husband and wife who had traveled from the city to the country to collect a debt. The debtor could not pay and this angered the landowner greatly, so he immediately set out for home without taking time to eat. Some people saw him on the road, clearly famished, and gave him some food. They told him to share it with his wife, but he walked behind her and ate it all. When finished, he showed her the empty pot and said it was what the people gave him. She did not believe him and was very annoyed.

Since the Buddha’s monastery was along the way, they decided to stop and pay respect. He asked the wife if her husband was kind and loving. “I love him,” she answered, “but he does not love me. For example, today he did not share any of his food.” The Buddha told them this story so the wife knew she had always been loving and kind and he had always treated her like this, only changing his rotten behavior after somebody pointed out that she deserved better.

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