Tundila Jataka (#388)

temple painting of Tundila Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a wild boar. One day he, his mother, and his younger brother were lying in a pit when an old woman using a walking stick approached. The mother was frightened to death by the sound of the stick tapping the ground, and she ran off, leaving her two young sons behind. The old woman felt compassion for the piglets and took them home in her basket, rearing them like children.

When the pair grew up big and fat, the woman refused all offers to buy them until one day during a festival when some men ran out of meat and wanted more right away. After being rejected repeatedly, these men got the woman drunk, and then she agreed to sell the Bodhisatta’s brother. She filled his trough with rice and called him to come eat. When he saw strange men holding nooses standing next to his food, he knew he was about to die, so he ran to the Bodhisatta and stood shaking in fear.

The Bodhisatta told his brother that this is the fate of all pigs reared by humans, so he should not grieve but rather accept his destiny gracefully. The Bodhisatta then preached the perfection of love to his brother, and his voice spread over the whole kingdom so everybody heard him. His lesson was so pure and flawless that people snapped their fingers and waved cloth, and the king brought both pigs to live as his sons in the palace, dressed in robes and jewels. The Bodhisatta became both a judge and a spiritual advisor. After the king died, the Bodhisatta wrote a book about justice (which was used by people for sixty thousand years) and then retired to the forest with his brother to live out his final days.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The Bodhisatta’s brother was an earlier birth of one of the Buddha’s disciples who had an intense fear of death. He ran away shaking when he heard even small sounds like a stick falling or a bird singing. When the Buddha heard some of his disciples discussing this, he told them this story so they knew that it was not the first time this disciple had feared death.

The king was an earlier birth of Ananda, one of the Buddha’s top disciples, and the people who heard the Bodhisatta preach about love were earlier births of the Buddha’s followers.

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