Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

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

025 – The Story of a Tigeress

Vyaghri-Jataka, Mathura

Once, the Bodhisatta was born in a respectable family of the scholars; and mastered several Shastras. Soon he was disillusioned with the worldly life and renounced the same for the spiritual uplift. In course of time, he proved his excellence in his pursuit and became the guru of several ascetics.

One day, when wandering in a forest along with his disciple Ajita, he saw from the top of a hill that a tigress was lurking to kill and eat her own cubs out of hunger. Moved by compassion he thought of sacrificing his own body to feed the tigress and save the cubs. So, he sent away his disciple in search of some food for the tigress lest he might prevent him from his sacrifice. No sooner than Ajita left the site, the Bodhisatta jumped from the precipice in front of the tigress and offered his body. The noise of the fall caught the attention of the hungry tigress, who in no time scooped over him and tore him off in pieces and feasted upon them with her cubs.

When Ajita returned and did not find his guru in the same place, he looked around and was surprised to see that the tigress was no longer looked hungry. Her cubs were also frolicking. But soon, he was shocked to detect the blood stained rags of his guru’s dress scattered there. So, he knew that his guru had offered his body to feed a hungry tigress and protected her young ones as an act of great charity. Now, he also knew why was he sent away by his guru.

The Bodhisatta offering his life to save the cubs, the Thai version

He bowed his head out of reverence for his guru who had exemplified the supreme sacrifice.

Pasya samsara-nairgunya mrgyesa svasutanapi /
Langhitasneha maryada bhoktum anvicchati ksudha //18//

(Lo ! The way of the world:
The tigress transgresses all limits of affection
And casts a desiring gaze to devour [her own babies]
To appease her hunger).

Note: Vyaghri Jataka Jatakamala No.1. This story does not occur in the Pali Jataka.