Udumbara Jataka (#298)

temple painting of Udumbara Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a tree fairy. During the rainy season, a large monkey, who was wet and miserable, saw a small monkey sitting comfortably at the mouth of its cave home. The large monkey wanted the cave for itself, so it puffed up its belly to look like it had just eaten a lot, walked past the cave, and lied to the small monkey that there were many ripe figs nearby. The small monkey searched for them in vain, then returned home to find the large monkey inside his cave. He knew he couldn’t muscle the monkey out, so he tried to outwit him. “Thanks for telling me about the delicious fruit,” he said. But the large monkey replied that this was a feeble trick and he wasn’t going anywhere. So the small monkey left. The Bodhisatta saw all this happen.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The monkeys were earlier births of two disciples of the Buddha. The elder of the two disciples lived happily in a small comfortable home outside a friendly and supportive village. One day the other disciple was out collecting alms and came upon this house, and the elder hosted him there for a few days. The newcomer didn’t want to leave and schemed to take the house from the elder. He told the elder that if he wanted to visit the Buddha, he would look after his house for him. The elder appreciated the offer and so went away for a few days. While the elder was gone, the newcomer told many lies about him. And upon the elder’s return, the newcomer would not let him back into his own house, and the villagers, who believed what they had heard, would no longer give him any food. So the elder went back to the Buddha’s monastery.

When the Buddha heard some of his disciples talking about the elder’s misfortune, he told them this story so they knew that it was not the first time the wicked disciple had turned the elder out of his own home.

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