Buddhist Fables

Buddhist Classics

Life and Legends of Buddha

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

050 – The Lotus Stalk

Once the Bodhisatta was born in an illustrious family of scholars. He had six younger brothers and one sister. Having mastered the Vedas and the Upavedas (medicinal science, military science, music and architecture) he became famous for his erudition. Further, he attended to his old and senile parents with great care; and taught his siblings, too.

When his parents died; and the funeral ceremony was over, he made a sudden announcement to renounce the worldly life. All his seven brothers and his only sister, too, decided to join him as ascetics. So, they all gave up the worldly belongings and started for the forest. They had two faithful servants, too, one male and one female, who also accompanied them as they loved their masters.

One day, he went to a lake to take bath. So, he spat out the box and threw it on the shore. He then took out his woman and anointed her and bathed her in the lake. Then he dressed her in a pretty dress and let her move freely on the shore to enjoy the fresh breath and went to the lake for a dip.

Bhisha-Jataka, Bharhut The Bodhisatta giving discourse to his audience, which was also attendend by an elephant and a monkey.

They went to a forest, where there was a large blue lake, which in the day-time displayed the resplendency of expanding lotus-beds; and at nights the exuberance of myriad water lilies exposing their calyxes. All the ascetics decided to stay there and built as many huts as they numbered. There, they strictly adhered to their vows and observances and would meet only on every fifth day to listen to the discourse of the Bodhisatta. There lived a yakkha, a monkey and an elephant in the same forest, who also joined the audience to listen to the discourse.

The maid servant still served them food. She collected the eatable lotus-stalks out of the lake and divided them in eight equal parts on the large lotus-leaves at a clean place on the lake shore. She would then beat the two pieces of sticks to announce that the food was ready. She would then walk away silently. Each of the mendicants would then come according to the seniority and pick up his or her share and go back to the respective hut. Thus, they avoided talking and interacting with each other as an ascetic practice.

Their penance won them great fame. Sakka, the lord of the celestial beings also heard of their reputation and one day when the food was placed in eight places for the eight ascetics and the announcement of the meal-time was made, he pinched the share of the Bodhisatta to examine the seriousness of his austerity. When the Bodhisatta came and saw his share missing, he quietly went back to his hut to continue with his meditation. Others, however, came and went away with their shares without knowing that the Bodhisatta’s share was stolen. Sakka, likewise, stole the Bodhisatta’s share consecutively for the following four days.

On the fifth day, when all the ascetics assembled they noticed that the Bodhisatta looked extremely emaciated and his voice, too, was feeble. After a brief investigation it was discovered that he had to live without any food for five consecutive days as his food was stolen. All the mendicants then one by one swore that the thief should go back to the house-hold life and become prosperous. No body showed any malice against anybody. The yaksa, the monkey and the elephant who came to listen to the discourse, also prayed for the welfare of the unknown thief.

The prayers and good wishes for the thief made Sakka feel guilty. He then appeared before them and bowed before the Bodhisatta to praise his virtues and to confess his sin.