Sukara Jataka (#153)

temple painting of Sukara Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a lion. While drinking from a lake after having just eaten some big game, he saw a boar and thought he would make a good meal some other day when he was hungry again. Knowing that if the boar saw him, he might not return to the lake, the Bodhisatta tried to creep away silently. But the boar did see him and was such a fool he thought the Bodhisatta slunk away out of fear, so the boar challenged him to a fight. The Bodhisatta answered that he would come back to fight the boar in a week.

Excited about his forthcoming fight, the boar told all his friends and relatives. They managed to convince him that he was stupid and was surely going to die—and the Bodhisatta would probably kill all of them as well. They told him he could get out of the fight by going over to the camp of the wilderness ascetics who lived near the lake and rolling around in their feces for the next seven days; then on the day of the fight, moisten himself in the morning dew and stand downwind of the Bodhisatta’s approach.

The plan worked. When the Bodhisatta arrived, he complimented the boar on his clever trick and said he would not touch such filth, so he spared his life. The boar boasted of his “victory,” but the rest of the herd feared the Bodhisatta would return, and they all moved away to another place.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

One evening at the Buddha’s monastery, the elder Moggallana asked the elder Sariputta, two of the Buddha’s top disciples, various questions about dharma, and many people, both disciples and laity, sat enthralled listening to his clear answers. An elderly disciple who was going senile wanted to impress everyone by stumping Sariputta. But his query—”Give me a decision in discrimination or in undiscrimination, in refutation or in acceptation, in distinction or in counter-distinction.”—was utter nonsense.

Embarrassed for the man, Sariputta felt this was a good time to end the night’s assembly, and without addressing the elderly disciple, he got up and went to his room. Moggallana did the same. Many people in the audience were furious at this disciple for causing the discussion to end, and they approached him. He ran away from the mob and fell into a cesspool, getting completely covered in feces. When the people saw this, their anger changed to pity, and some of them woke the Buddha and told him what had happened.

The boar was an earlier birth of the failing disciple, and the Buddha told them all this story so they knew that this was not the first time the elderly disciple had challenged a superior and ended up covered in feces.

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