Sumsumara Jataka (#208)

temple painting of Vanara Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a monkey. A pair of crocodiles lived nearby. The female got an intense urge to eat the Bodhisatta’s heart and told her mate to get it for her or she would die. He promised he would and went to talk to the Bodhisatta, asking why he didn’t go eat the delicious fruits so abundant on the other side of the Ganges River. When the Bodhisatta answered that he had no way to get there the crocodile offered to carry him over on his back, and the Bodhisatta accepted the ride.

As he swam, the crocodile sank down, plunging the Bodhisatta into the water. “What are you doing?” he asked, and the crocodile explained his wife’s request and the real reason for carrying him. The Bodhisatta told the crocodile his plan was flawed because monkeys remove their hearts when they jump through tree-tops, otherwise they would get knocked to pieces. “Well, where do you keep it?” he asked, promising that if he showed him the place, he wouldn’t kill him. The Bodhisatta pointed out a nearby fig tree. The crocodile took the Bodhisatta back to the shore and he climbed up the tree to safety and mocked the crocodile for being so stupid. The miserable crocodile sulked back home.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The male crocodile was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis. When he was informed that Devadatta had made plans to kill him, the Buddha told this story to his disciples so they knew that Devadatta had also tried to kill him in the past, but couldn’t even make him afraid. The female crocodile was an earlier birth of Cinca-Manavika, a woman who had falsely claimed the Buddha impregnated her.

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