Once, Bodhisattva was born as the son of King Brahmadatta of Benaras. He was the youngest of the hundred sons the King had. As he grew up, he became the strongest and wisest of all his brothers. But since he was the youngest, he had no hope of becoming the king. One day, he asked the Silent Buddhas whether he stood any chance of being crowned. The Silent Buddhas informed him that if he could reach Takshila within seven days, he might become the king of Takshila. But they also informed him about the dangerous Devil Wood that would fall on his way.
Next morning, the prince along with his five servants set off for Takshila. He carried a charmed string and some sand, which would ward off evil forces. However, while crossing Devil Wood he lost all his five servants who succumbed to temptations laid down by the devils. A she-devil said, “I will not rest until I eat his soft flesh.” She followed the prince, taking the form of a beautiful woman. Such was his self-control that the prince did not even look at her. After reaching Takshila, the Bodhisattva went straight into a rest house. Since he carried the charmed string and the sand, the devil could not follow him inside. Just then, the king of Takshila was passing by on his royal chariot. He instantly fell in love with the beautiful woman on the roadside. He asked her, “Why are you standing here, dear lady?” “My husband is inside the rest house and he is refusing to accept me as his wife,” answered the devil sorrowfully. Hearing this, the Bodhisattva came out and said, “She is no wife of mine. She is a devil and she intends to eat me.” At this the devil broke into false tears. Sobbing pitiably, she cried, “O Lord! What shall I do if my husband leaves me?” The King felt very sorry for her, took her into his palace and married her that very day.
Now, as the devil was away from the Devil Wood, she had lost her power to subdue others unless they themselves succumbed to temptation. So at night in the royal bedchamber, the devil told the king, “O my Lord, I am sure everyone here envies my good fortune. Give me such power that none can harm me.” Hearing this, the king gave her his arm band and said, “Wear this band. No one within the palace can ever harm you.” At night when all fell asleep, the devil killed and ate everyone within the palace compound. Next morning, people realized that what the Bodhisattva had said was true. His wisdom and self-control impressed them and he was made the new king of Takshila.
In one life, the Bodhisattva came to the earth as a Brahmin and lived in the Himavanta forest. One day, he went to the King’s palace and was invited to stay in the royal park. There he saw a Brahmin sleeping under a tree. Suddenly the Brahmin awoke and took off his shawl. “Oh no! My shawl has been gnawed by rats. I am sure this is the indication of some evil omen. I need to get rid of this rat-bitten shawl,” shouted the Brahmin and called his son. “Throw this shawl away in the river to avoid any disaster,” said the Brahmin throwing the shawl at his son.
The shawl went flying and fell near the Bodhisattva, who picked it up and said, “Learned man, this shawl holds no evil omen. The rats might have been looking for food and just gnawed your shawl. No wise man should believe in omens.”
The Bodhisattva came to the earth once as a peacock. While his mother went out to look for food, she warned him to stay indoors. But the baby peacock soon got bored playing alone. So, he ignored his mother’s advice and went out with his friends to play. As he was enjoying himself, some hunters sneaked up on them and caught them one by one. The baby peacock realized his mistake but it was too late.
He cried his heart out and thought about his mother, but there was no way of escape. If only the baby peacock had listened to his mother and stayed indoors, he would have been safe.
Once the Bodhisattva was born as the son of a yakshini and had the special power to read the footprints of any creature, even if the footprints were twelve years old. Seeing his extraordinary power, the king of Benaras made him his minister. One day, the king and his chaplain stole some public money and hid it in a tank. When the theft was discovered, the king and his chaplain pretended to be innocent and ordered the Bodhisattva to find the thieves. Since the Bodhisattva could read the footprints of any person, he soon found the money and also found out who the thieves were. “Do tell us the names of the guilty,” pleaded the public with the Bodhisattva. After much persuasion, the Bodhisattva revealed the identity of the thieves. The people were infuriated and banished the dishonest king and his chaplain from the kingdom. Soon the Bodhisattva was crowned the new king of the land and the kingdom of Benaras prospered under him.
The Bodhisattva came back as a robber once. He lived in a village near Kasi. His activities brought him to the notice of the king and he was soon arrested. After the trial the king ordered the governor to put him to death. While the robber was being led to the execution site, Sama, the chief courtesan of the city, saw him and immediately fell in love. She sent word to the governor that the prisoner was her brother and bribed him with a thousand gold coins to set him free for a while.
The governor, having accepted the bribe, complied with her wishes. Sama then persuaded an innocent youth who was madly in love with her to take the robber’s place on the execution ground. So in place of the robber, the youth was executed. The robber was happy to be free but he couldn’t trust Sama. “If she can kill her innocent admirer for me then she might kill me for someone else, once she gets tired of me,” thought he. So he went away from Kasi leaving Sama in despair.
The Bodhisattva was once born into a Brahmin family and later grew up to be a teacher. He had many disciples, among who was a very foolish but devoted youth, who had a habit of saying all the wrong things. With the hope to improve him, the Bodhisattva asked him to tell him whatever he saw or did every day. One day, while walking, the youth came upon a snake. When he told the Bodhisattva about it, he asked, “How does the snake look?” The student thought for a while and said, “It looks exactly like the handle of a plough.” The Bodhisattva found the expression good. But when the disciple went on to compare the look of a plough handle to that of an elephant, a sugarcane plant, molasses and even curd and milk, the Bodhisattva realized that his disciple was indeed foolish and could never become as intelligent as the others.
In one of his many lives the Bodhisattva was born as Sakka, the King of Gods. Some demons once attacked the celestial kingdom with a huge army. Sakka boarded his golden chariot that was drawn by a thousand horses and marched ahead to fight the enemy. But the demons tolled heavy on the gods. Seeing that they were losing the battle, the gods began to flee. When Matali, Sakka’s charioteer, saw the gods fleeing, he too turned his chariot and flew up in the air. On the way, the wheels of the chariot almost crushed an eagle’s nest and the eagle’s children in it. Sakka saw this and immediately ordered Matali to turn the chariot around and move towards the battlefield. Seeing Sakka coming back, the demons thought that the King of Gods had come back with some new strategy and fell back in fear. Thus, the gods won the battle.
In one of his lives, the Bodhisattva came back as Jotipala, the son of a priest. He grew up to be a skilful archer and was recruited by the king for a salary or a thousand rupees a day. This made the other servants of the king jealous and they started hating Jotipala for his success. Their behavior greatly disturbed Jotipala and he often wondered, “Why do people hate each other?” In due course, the king made Jotipala the chief archer. But before accepting his new post Jotipala came to the realization that all evil is caused by worldly attachments and decided to go into deep meditation in the forest.
Thus at midnight he dressed in plain saffron robes and left his house in search of the truth. He built a hut in the midst of a dense forest and started living the life of an ascetic. Soon many people including his parents and the king joined him as followers and thus Jotipala became a famous sage.