Thusa Jataka (#338)

temple painting of Thusa Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a teacher, famed across the land. When one of his students, a crown prince, mastered his studies and was about to return home, the Bodhisatta divined that some future day when he was king, his son would do him harm. To protect his student, the Bodhisatta wrote four verses and told him to recite them when his son turned sixteen years old: the first verse while eating dinner, the second during a great reception, the third verse standing at the head of the stairs when ascending to the palace roof, and the fourth at the threshold of the royal bedchamber. The prince thanked him and left.

Eventually the former student became king, and the prophecy came true. When the son turned sixteen, he was filled with the desire to seize the kingdom for himself, and his servants encouraged him, saying that having power when one is young is better than waiting until old age. So they planned to kill the king by poisoning his rice. The prince went to eat dinner with his father, who remembered the advice from the Bodhisatta, and when the food was served, the king said, “Rats are choosy, and while they don’t like the husks they do eat the grains.” Hearing this, the prince thought he had been discovered and did not pour the poison into his father’s bowl.

The prince and his servants came up with a new plan: during the next great reception, the prince would stab his father with his sword. While waiting for the right moment, he heard his father say, “I heard the plot devised during the secret meeting in the forest.” Again, thinking his father was on to him, the prince ran away. His servants said he was imagining things and should get on with the assassination.

A week later, the prince hid away with his sword in a closet at the top of a staircase, but when the king climbed the stairs he said, “A monkey made evil plans but could not perform them.” The prince thought he was going to be seized and again ran away.

Two weeks later, realizing that if his father had really known his plans he would have been imprisoned by now, the prince lay with his sword under a couch in the royal bedchamber. When the king entered his room, he stood on the threshold and said, “I know someone is here creeping like a one-eyed goat in a mustard field!” Fearing his father was about to execute him, the prince showed himself and begged forgiveness. The king had his son thrown in prison, not to be released until he died; only then was his son given the throne.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

When a certain prince was conceived, his mother was overcome with the urge to drink blood from her husband’s right knee. When the king heard of this, he consulted his astrologers who told him it was an omen that his queen was pregnant and his future son would kill him to seize the throne. The king wasn’t worried about this prophecy, so he cut open his right knee with a sword and gave his wife the blood she desired in a golden bowl. When the queen learned of the prediction about her son, she twice tried to abort him, but the king put a stop to it both times.

After the queen gave birth, the Buddha came to preach to the king. At this time, someone brought the young prince to the king, and he played with him on his lap so affectionately that he did not pay attention to the sermon. The Buddha commented that most kings who had reason to suspect and fear their sons kept them locked away during their lifetime and told him this story as an example. The Buddha added that kings’ fears of their sons are often justified, but the king still wasn’t worried about it.

The Buddha did not identify any earlier births other than his own.

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