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Mahābodhi Jātaka (No.528)

The Bodhisatta was born in an Udicca-brahmin family, and, on growing up, renounced the world. His name was Bodhi.

Once, during the rains, he came to Bārāṇasī, and, at the invitation of the king, stayed in the royal park. The king had five councillors, unjust men, who sat in the judgment hall giving unjust judgments. One day a man, who had been very badly treated by them, asked Bodhi to intervene. Bodhi reheard the case and decided in his favour. The people applauded, and the king begged Bodhi to dispense justice in his court. Bodhi reluctantly agreed and twelve years passed. The former councillors, deprived of their gains, plotted against Bodhi and constantly poisoned the king’s mind against him; they first decreased all the honours paid to Bodhi, and when this failed to drive him away, obtained the king’s permission to kill him.

A tawny dog, to whom Bodhi used to give food from his bowl, overheard the plot, and, when Bodhi approached the palace the next day, bared his teeth and barked as a warning of the conspiracy. Bodhi understood, returned to his hut, and, in spite of the king’s expression of remorse, left the city, promising to return later, and dwelt in a frontier village. The councillors, nervous lest Bodhi should return, informed the king that Bodhi and the queen were conspiring to slay him. Believing their words, he had the queen put to death. The queen’s four sons thereupon rose in revolt, and the king was in great danger and fear.

When Bodhi heard of this, he took a dried monkey skin, went to Bārāṇasī, and stayed again in the royal park. The king came to do him honour, but Bodhi sat silent, stroking the monkey skin. The king asked him why he did so. He answered, “This monkey was of the greatest service to me; I travelled about on its back, it carried my water pot, swept out my dwelling, and performed various other duties for me; in the end, through its simplicity, I ate its flesh and now I sit and lie on its skin.”¹

The councillors who were present made great uproar, calling him a murderer and a traitor. However, Bodhi knew that of these councillors, one denied the effect of all kamma, one attributed everything to a Supreme Being, one believed that everything was a result of past actions, one believed in annihilation, and one held the khattiya doctrine that one should secure one’s interests, even to the extent of killing one’s parents. He, therefore, argued with one after another, and proved that in accordance with their doctrines no blame whatever attached to him for having killed the monkey. Having thus completed their discomfiture, he exhorted the king not to trust in slanderers, and asked the king’s sons to obtain their father’s pardon. The king wished the councillors to be killed, but Bodhi intervened, and they were disgraced and exiled from the kingdom, their hair fastened in five locks.

The story was related in the same circumstances as the Umaṅga Jātaka. The five ministers are identified with Pūraṇa Kassapa, Makkhali Gosāla, Pakudha Kaccāna, Ajita Kesakambala, and Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta. The dog was Ānanda. J.v.227‑46; cp. Jātakamālā, xxiii.

¹ He had used the skin for his garment, hence “I sat on the monkey’s back”; he had the skin on his shoulder, whence his water pot was suspended, hence “it carried the water pot”; he had swept the cell with the skin, hence “swept my dwelling place”; he had eaten the flesh of the monkey, hence “I ate its flesh.”