Sigala Jataka (#142)

temple painting of Sigala Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a jackal. There was a festival in the city, and at midnight some men ran out of meat, but still had plenty of alcohol. One of the men said he would go capture a jackal for them to eat, so he snuck out of the city via the sewer and went and lay down in the charnel ground, pretending to be dead.

Soon after, a pack of jackals led by the Bodhisatta came to eat corpses. He saw this man and could tell by sight and scent that he was alive and guessed what he was up to. So the Bodhisatta decided to make him look like a fool. He walked up and pulled at the man’s club with his teeth; the man, not being very bright, tightened his grip. Then the Bodhisatta stepped back and told the man he had betrayed himself by holding onto the club. The man jumped up and threw his club at the Bodhisatta, but missed. The Bodhisatta told him, “You have missed me with your club, but you will not miss the torments of hell.” The man went back to the city empty-handed and the jackals went about their business.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The foolish man was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis. When he heard Devadatta had made plans to kill him, the Buddha told his disciples this story so they knew that Devadatta had unsuccessfully tried to kill him in the past too, and it had made him look like a fool.

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