Ubhatobhattha Jataka (#139)

temple painting of Ubhatobhattha Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. A fisherman got his hook snagged in a sunken tree and thought it was a giant fish. He didn’t want to share the catch, so he sent his son back to the village to tell his wife to create such a huge commotion that nobody would come there and see him reel the fish in. Fearing the line would break, he took off his clothes and walked into the water to grab his fish. As he groped about the muddy water, branches of the tree that snagged his line poked his eyes, blinding him. And then a thief stole his clothes.

His wife, meanwhile, stuck a palm leaf behind her ear, painted one eye black with soot, and started nursing a dog. One of her neighbors told the wife she was crazy. The wife replied that she would not tolerate such slander and demanded the village headman fine her neighbor eight coins. Instead, he ordered the wife to pay eight coins to the neighbor, and she was tied up and beaten to make her pay. After all this happened, the Bodhisatta exclaimed to those listening that the fisherman had failed twofold: in the water and on land.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The fisherman was an earlier birth of Devadatta, a disciple of the Buddha who became his nemesis. One time the Buddha’s disciples were discussing how Devadatta had a twofold failure in life by missing out on the comforts of lay life and also not receiving any benefit from his time as a disciple. The Buddha told them this story so they knew that Devadatta also had a twofold failure in the past.

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