Surapana Jataka (#81)

temple painting of Surapana Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once an ascetic who had five hundred followers studying with him in the Himalayas. He sent his students down to the city for one rainy season, and they stayed in the royal park at the invitation of the king, who had been informed of their excellent character. When the city had a drinking festival, the king sent a large supply of liquor to the students, and they all got drunk, dancing and singing late into the night. When they woke the next morning, they felt so ashamed of their behavior that they immediately returned to the mountains. When they told the Bodhisatta what they had done, he told them it was normal for students not living under the care of a master to misbehave and they should never do it again.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

One time Sagata, one of the Buddha’s top disciples, who was very adept at magic, pacified a dangerous naga and converted him to respect dharma. When people heard of this, they wanted to give him special alms, but he asked for nothing. Some mischievous disciples suggested giving him liquor, and the next day Sagata received a lot. He got drunk and passed out along the road.

When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing Sagata’s transgression, he told them this story so they knew that it was not the first time people who had renounced the world had gotten drunk.

The Bodhisatta’s students were earlier births of the Buddha’s disciples.

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