Samvara Jataka (#462)

temple painting of Samvara Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king’s advisor. He was assigned to teach Prince Samvara, the youngest of the king’s one hundred sons. When the princes finished their education, each with his own teacher, the king gave them a province to rule. The Bodhisatta, however, had devised a plan for his student to take the throne when the king died, and he told Prince Samvara to ask to stay at home rather than be sent away. The king was pleased with his request and agreed. Then the Bodhisatta told the prince to grow fruits and flowers to give to the powerful men of the city, give money for food to the citizens, distribute food to the servants and soldiers in the palace, assign lodging for messengers from other countries, and manage the taxes for merchants. Following this advice, Prince Samvara was loved by all.

When the king was near death, his council of advisors asked him who he wanted to replace him. The king left the decision to them because all his sons were worthy of the throne. When the time came, the assistants unanimously chose Prince Samvara. Everyone was happy, except for his ninety-nine brothers. They all agreed that their eldest should be the king and they surrounded the city, demanding King Samvara resign or fight. Again taking the advice of the Bodhisatta, King Samvara responded that he would not fight, and he divided the royal treasure into one hundred portions and sent ninety-nine of them to his brothers. With this gesture, the brothers all changed their minds about attacking. They accepted Samvara as king, gave back the treasure, and, after a short visit, returned to their provinces.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

One of the Buddha’s disciples spent a rainy season in the forest. He built a leaf hut and eagerly began to meditate. But after three months he had no success reaching insight, so he quit trying and returned to the monastery, content to progress no further than the moderate level of understanding he had already achieved. King Samvara was an earlier birth of this quitter disciple, and when the Buddha learned that he had given up on the quest for salvation, he told him this story so he knew that with the Buddha’s guidance he had reached his goal in a previous life and would be motivated to continue striving in this one.

The eldest prince was an earlier birth of Sariputta, one of the Buddha’s top disciples, and the other princes were earlier births of other elder disciples. The Buddha’s lay followers were earlier births of the provincial subjects of those princes.

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