Valahassa Jataka (#196)

temple painting of Valahassa Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a flying horse. Five hundred merchants were shipwrecked and landed ashore near a city of she-goblins. Whenever castaways arrived, these goblins would take human form and bring them food. Wanting them to think theirs was an ordinary town of humans, they also magically made new arrivals see herds of cattle, men plowing, and similar sights in order to lure them in. After feeding these five hundred men and asking about their ordeal, they told them that three years ago their husbands had sailed off on a ship and never returned, and they offered to be wives to these castaways. Not knowing who these women really were, the men agreed. The she-goblins brought their new husbands to the city and cast all the husbands they had previously lured there into the house of torment.

That night, as their new husbands slept, the she-goblins snuck out of their homes and ate the men they had just imprisoned. The eldest merchant embraced his new wife when she returned home, and he felt that her body was cold. Now knowing that she was a goblin, he was sure all the others were too. The next morning he warned the men from his ship that they would be eaten by these she-goblins when another ship wrecked. Half of the men escaped right away, but the others did not believe it and stayed.

That morning the Bodhisatta happened to be flying near the fleeing men, and he had some climb onto his back, while the others took hold of his tail or stood to the side saluting respectfully. They all rose into the sky, and the Bodhisatta took them safely home. Those who stayed behind were soon replaced and eaten.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

A disciple of the Buddha had his passions aroused by a beautifully dressed woman, and he no longer took joy in his studies or meditation. The Buddha told the disciple this story to remind him that women tempt men with their beauty and trickery, and once they have power over men, they ruin them with their evil ways, just like she-goblins. The way to avoid such misery is to follow the advice of the Buddha.

The two hundred fifty merchants who fled were earlier births of some of the Buddha’s followers.

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