Vatamiga Jataka (#14)

temple painting of Lakkhana Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a king. When a wild antelope started spending time in his royal park, the Bodhisatta ordered his gardener to capture it. He began by spreading honey in patches of grass, and after the antelope had a taste, it returned to these same spots daily. Later, the gardener began to stand near the honeyed grass. While initially the timid antelope stayed away, eventually it grew confident and began to eat the honey again. The gardener gradually moved closer and closer, day by day, until it would eat grass from his hand. Finally, he hung a gourd full of honey from his shoulder, stuck a bunch of grass in his waistcloth, and walked away from the antelope, dropping honeyed grass along his path. He walked right into the palace and the antelope, lost in thoughts of treats, followed him through the door. The gardener then slammed it shut, completing his task.

Hearing the commotion of the trembling, terrified antelope running about the entrance hall, the Bodhisatta came down and commented, “Truly, my friends, there is nothing viler in the world than this lust of taste.” Pitying the antelope, the Bodhisatta set it free.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

A man had joined the Buddha’s order against the wishes of his wealthy parents. He became a dedicated disciple and a shining example to others. His parents, though, were depressed at the loss of their only son and hatched a plan with one of their slaves to get him back. They set up a house for her on a street where their son walked his morning alms round. She gave him foods and drinks that he had previously loved in order to rekindle his fondness for them. Later, the slave charmed him into taking a seat in her house each morning to wait for his food. One morning, she feigned illness and did not greet him, so he entered her chamber to see her, breaking his monastic vows. At this point, the slave revealed her plan and convinced the son to quit his religious life and return home.

The wild antelope and the gardener were earlier births of the quitter disciple and the slave. The Buddha told his disciples this story so they knew that this was not the first time this disciple’s bondage to cravings had caused him to fall under her power.

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