Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

The Illustrated Jataka & Other Stories of the Buddha by C. B. Varma Introduction | Glossary | Bibliography

022 – The Feast of the Dead

Once a brahmin priest decided to sacrifice a goat on the occasion of the Feast of the Dead. So, he had a goat fetched and asked his pupils to bathe it in the river. When being bathed the goat first burst out into laughter but soon began to cry.

When the surprised pupils asked the goat to explain the reason for such behaviour, it promised to oblige them only in presence of the priest. So, the pupils brought the goat before the priest and asked the same question. The goat then narrated the story of its previous birth when it, too, was a brahmin priest and had sacrificed a goat on a similar occasion. As a result of that it had had his head cut off four hundred and ninety-nine times; and the present sacrifice would be its last one. So, it laughed at the prospect of redemption from the guilt. Further, explaining the reason for its cry it said that the brahmin would be doomed for five hundred times in similar way. So, it cried for him out of sheer compassion.

The priest said, “fear not O compassionate goat! I spare your life”.

The goat said, “Sir! You may spare me; but the evil deed of my past life shall not spare me. My head shall be chopped off, today.”

“We shall protect you from being killed”, said the priest.

“No Sir! Weak is your protection; and strong is the force of my evil karma. My head has to be chopped off, today”, said the goat.

The priest then let the goat go loose under surveillance. Soon the goat reached out its neck to browse the leaves of a bush. Just then a thunder-bolt struck the rock above the bush; and its fragment hit the neck of the goat, which tore its head off.

Mataka-Bhatta Jataka Pali Jataka No.18.