Sumangala Jataka (#420)

temple painting of Sumangala Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king. A private Buddha (those who reach enlightenment on their own and do not teach the path to others) came to stay in the royal park, and the Bodhisatta, always righteous, made sure he had everything he needed. One time the private Buddha traveled to a village, and he told the park-keeper he would be away for a few days. He returned after dark and took a seat on a stone slab. That same night, some guests came to visit the park-keeper, and he went to the park to shoot a deer for dinner—but he shot the private Buddha by mistake. Full of remorse, the park-keeper apologized and tried to save him by pulling the arrow out, but the private Buddha died in great pain. Fearing the Bodhisatta’s wrath, the park-keeper fled with his family.

After a year, the park-keeper came back to the city and asked one of the Bodhisatta’s advisors to find out what the Bodhisatta thought of him. The next time he saw the king, this advisor spoke the park-keeper’s praises, but the Bodhisatta did not reply. So the park-keeper returned to the countryside and tried again a year later, with the same result. In the third year, when told by the advisor that the park-keeper was in the city, the Bodhisatta summoned him and listened to his story. Satisfied the killing was a mistake, the Bodhisatta gave the park-keeper his old job back. The advisor asked the Bodhisatta why he had not said anything the two times before. He answered that he did not want to do anything hastily in anger. In response, the park-keeper and the entire court sang the Bodhisatta’s praises.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

One time while rebuking a king, the Buddha told this story as a lesson on how kings should act.

The park-keeper was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples.

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