Vedabbha Jataka (#48)

temple painting of Vedabbha Jataka

The Bodhisatta was once a student. His teacher, a powerful brahmin priest, knew the magical Vedabbha Spell, which caused gold, silver, pearl, coral, cat’s eye, ruby, and diamond to rain from the sky during a particular alignment of the planets. One time while the two were traveling, they were seized by bandits who kept the priest and sent the Bodhisatta away to gather a ransom. Before departing, the Bodhisatta warned his master not to cast the spell that evening when the planets were aligned; if he did, there would be a terrible result.

But the priest didn’t want to wait to be set free. So, after sunset, he told his captors what he could do, and they untied him, washed his head, brought him fresh clothes, and covered him with perfume and flowers. The priest gazed up to the heavens and made the seven valuables fall down. The bandits gathered their riches and began to walk out of the forest with the priest. But before they got out, a second band of thieves captured the first. When they heard of the priest’s power, they let the other bandits go and demanded he give them treasure too. But when the priest explained that he would have to wait another year to invoke the precious rain, one of the thieves sliced him in half with his sword. This group then chased down the first band of thieves, killed them all, and took their treasure.

But the thieves’ greed was intense and the gang fought among themselves until just two of them remained alive. This pair dragged the treasure away from the road and one guarded it while the other walked to a village to get rice for dinner. Neither was satisfied having just half the haul and each conspired to kill the other and take everything for himself. The bandit guarding the treasure sat with his sword drawn, and he killed the other the moment that he returned. But the bandit who had brought the rice had poisoned half of it, so when the last bandit ate his dinner, he also died.

When the Bodhisatta returned with the ransom and did not find the gang, he knew that his master had not heeded his warning. The Bodhisatta walked down the road and found the bodies and the treasure, and he understood everything that had happened. He mused aloud that those who seek selfish gain always reap ruin eventually; not only for themselves, but for other people too. Tree fairies who heard the Bodhisatta speak shouted applause. He took the treasure home and spent the rest of his life giving alms and doing good deeds.

In the Lifetime of the Buddha

The brahmin priest was an earlier birth of a selfish and obstinate disciple of the Buddha. The Buddha told him this story of his past life so he knew that his refusal to listen to advice had once resulted in devastation.

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