Vatagga-Sindhava Jataka (#266)

temple painting of Vatagga-Sindhava Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king’s state horse. His grooms regularly bathed him in the Ganges River, and while there one day, a donkey saw him and fell in love so deeply that she stopped eating and drinking and became thin and ill. Her son asked what was wrong. At first she was too embarrassed to admit it, but eventually she told him about her infatuation. Her son promised to bring them together.

The next time the Bodhisatta went out to bathe, the son approached him to explain about his mother and asked him to meet her so her health would be restored. He agreed and told the son to have his mother wait for him along the riverbank, and he would join her after he finished bathing. She went to the meeting place, and when the Bodhisatta approached and began to sniff her, she decided she did not want to appear cheap and easy by letting him have his way with her too quickly. To make it seem she was giving in to him reluctantly, she kicked the Bodhisatta and ran away. The kick broke his jaw and injured him severely, so instead of pursuing her, he just left. The donkey felt terrible and lay down in grief. When her son came and asked why she did it, she explained that it’s feminine nature.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The donkey was an earlier birth of a beautiful woman who fell in love at first sight with a handsome landowner so passionately that she stopped eating and spent all her time lying down, hugging her bed frame. When she finally admitted to her friends and servants what the problem was, they said they would try to bring him to meet her; and eventually they persuaded him. Excited by the good news, the lovesick woman put on her best clothes and waited on her bed.

The landowner arrived at the scheduled time and sat down beside her. Then suddenly, not wanting to lose honor by being too cheap and easy, the woman changed her mind. She decided to reject him that day, but give herself freely to him the next. So when the landowner touched her playfully, the woman grabbed his hand and rudely told him to get out. The other women told her she was a fool to send him away, and it turned out they were right. The landowner never returned to see her, and she soon died of a broken heart.

After the landowner heard about her death, he took some flowers and perfumes as offerings to the Buddha, who asked why he had not come to see him for such a long time. The landowner explained what had happened with this woman and said he stayed away because he felt guilty about what he had done. The Buddha told him this story so he knew that the woman had done the same thing to he himself in the past, and the landowner had no reason to feel ashamed.

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