Tayodhamma Jataka (#58)

painting of Tayodhamma Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a monkey. The king of his troop feared being overthrown and so castrated all newborn males with his teeth. Because of this, when the Bodhisatta’s mother got pregnant by the king, she fled the troop and raised her son alone. When the Bodhisatta grew up, he asked his mother about his father. She told him why she left the troop and explained that they could not return because his father would kill him to protect his leadership. Confident in himself, the Bodhisatta told his mother they need not be afraid and he wanted to go.

When the king saw his son, he feigned happiness and gave him a hug. Really though, he attempted to crush the life out of him; but the Bodhisatta was too strong. So the king hatched another plan. He told his son that because he was getting old, he wanted to pass on the throne to him now. He sent the Bodhisatta to a nearby lake to collect lotuses and water lilies.

When the Bodhisatta reached the lake, he noticed that the footprints on its bank only went down to the water, none came back, so there was surely an ogre living in it and this was another assassination attempt by his father. But the Bodhisatta came up with a plan to get the flowers. He went to a spot narrow enough to jump over and was able to grab some flowers during each leap, landing safely on the opposite bank.

The ogre watched the Bodhisatta picking flowers and had never seen anyone, human or animal, so clever. He rose out of the water and told the Bodhisatta that anyone mastering dexterity, valor, and resourcefulness can never be defeated. Since carrying flowers, the ogre believed, was beneath a being so great, he offered to carry them.

When the monkey king saw his son return with the ogre at his service, his heart burst into seven pieces and he died. The other monkeys chose the Bodhisatta to be their next king.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The monkey king was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis. When he was advised that Devadatta had made plans to kill him, the Buddha told his disciples this story they knew that Devadatta had also tried to kill him in the past.

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