Varana Jataka (#71)

temple painting of Varana Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a teacher, famous around the world. One day his students were gathering firewood. One of them was lazy, and when he encountered a large tree that he thought was dry and rotten, he took a nap at its base before breaking off any branches. When the other students started heading back, they woke him up, and he quickly climbed the tree, still half asleep. He pulled on a branch, and as it snapped off, the end poked him in the eye. With one hand covering his wounded eye, he quickly gathered some green branches and went back after all the others, throwing his bundle on top of the pile.

That night the Bodhisatta told the students that the next morning they were going to visit a country family who wanted to serve them a meal. It was a long journey and they needed to leave early. In the morning, the servant started to cook them some porridge. She picked up the topmost firewood, the green branches gathered by the lazy student, and no matter how hard she blew she could not get a fire started. The sun rose, and since breakfast was not yet ready, the students had to cancel their trip. They told the Bodhisatta what had happened, and he criticized the lazy student, saying that putting off doing things creates problems.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

A group of thirty friends traveled to hear the Buddha preach and were so impressed they became disciples. Five years later, the group, who had remained close while living in the monastery, were ready to go off and practice meditation in the forest. Shortly after they began their journey, however, one of the men, who was weak-willed and less advanced on the path to insight than the others, decided living as an ascetic would be too difficult for him, and he turned back. The others continued on, and after striving for the entire rainy season they all became arahants.

They visited the monastery to pay respect to the Buddha, but planned to return to the forest promptly. Their friend who stayed behind now felt he was ready and wanted to join them. He was so eager that the night before they were to depart, he slept upright, as some ardent ascetics did. At one point, he turned and fell off his plank bed, breaking his thigh. His friends stayed at the monastery to take care of him.

The disciple who broke his leg was an earlier birth of the student who poked his eye, and his friends were among the other students of that time. When the Buddha saw them the next morning, he told them this story so they knew that this disciple had also delayed their departure in the past.

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