Once, the great Bodhisattva was born as Prince Duyyodhana of Rajagaha. When he reached his youth, his father became an ascetic and left for the forest crowning him as the king. Now the forest was frequented by a pious Naga king named Sankhapala. Impressed with the ascetic’s wisdom, Sankhapala visited him regularly to hear his discourses.
One day, Duyyodhana came to visit his father and met the wise Sankhapala in the hermitage. He was fascinated with Sankhapala’s ideologies and wished to follow in his footsteps. After many years, when Duyyodhana died, he was reborn in the Naga kingdom. He took on the name Sankhapala, after the Naga king, and became an ascetic. One day, while he was in the middle of his meditation, some men attacked him. They pierced his body and fastened him with ropes to torture him. But Sankhapala did not show them any sign of anger. A pious man passing by named Alara, saw the ascetic and rescued him from the hands of those cruel men.
The Bodhisattva once came back as golden goose. Every day he flew around in search of food and on his way would perch on a palasa tree to take rest. Gradually, a strong bond developed between him and the tree spirit that lived on the palasa. One day a bird dropped a seed of a banyan tree in a crack of the palasa tree and a sapling sprang from it. The Bodhisattva noticed it and knew it could be dangerous for his friend. He immediately drew his friend’s attention to it and said, “My dear friend, destroy this sapling right now before it grows up and destroys you.” But the tree spirit brushed aside his warning saying, “What can a sapling do to me, my friend? You don’t have to worry.” The sapling soon grew up till it became so strong and heavy that it crushed the palasa tree. This the tree spirit met his end due to his overconfidence.
Once, the Bodhisattva was born as a vulture named Gijjakuta. One day, there was very heavy rainfall and Gijjakuta and his friends had to take shelter in a ditch. As night fell, the vultures and feeling pity, gave them fire and food to make themselves comfortable. When the storm was over, the vultures went back to their haunts but they did not forget the merchant’s kindness. They decided to show him their gratitude. So they started picking up jewellery and other precious things and dropping them in the merchant’s garden. When the king came to know about this, he got Gijjakuta caught. The merchant too was summoned and when the king came to know the truth, he released Gijjakuta and asked the merchant to return the fineries back to the owners.
A sprite living in a clump of hedges was actually the Bodhisattva. Close to the hedges was a huge mahogany tree in which lived another sprite. Both the sprites were good friends. One day the king’s carpenter came looking for strong wood to make some furniture for the king’s palace. “Aha! This tree suits the purpose well,” thought the carpenter when he saw the mahogany tree and prepared to cut it down. As the carpenter took out his saw, the sprite saw him and realized that his friend was in trouble.
“I need to save my friend and stop the carpenter from felling the tree,” thought the sprite. He changed himself into a chameleon and cast a magical spell on the carpenter so that the tree appeared to him to be completely rotten. “This tree is of no use,” murmured the carpenter and left. The tree sprite at once came down and hugged his friend for saving his life.
The king of a very prosperous kingdom was actually the Bodhisattva. However, as time passed, diseases, untimely deaths, floods and other calamities began plaguing his empire. The king became very worried and called an urgent meeting of his ministers and head priests. “Sir, we feel the gods and unhappy with us,” suggested a minister. “In that case we must organize a grand ritual and sacrifice a hundred lambs to appease them,” declared the head priest. Everybody, except the king, at once welcomed this idea of a sacrificial ceremony. “I do not want to bring happiness to my kingdom by slaughtering animals!” the king protested. “But Sir, as a king you must do everything possible to keep your subjects happy,” urged a minister.
“I will not spill innocent blood for the sake of happiness, as that would mean committing sin!” the king replied firmly. “Only with peace, love and a righteous rule will I appease the gods!” he declared. And rightly so, within a few days, the diseases and deaths ceased and peace and prosperity was once again restored to the kingdom.
Once, the Bodhisattva was born as Brahmadatta, the king of Benaras. In the neighbouring kingdom, there ruled Mallika, another famous king. One day, both of them disguised themselves and roamed the streets to make sure no injustice was happening in their kingdoms. Both came upon a narrow street and their chariots stood face to face with each other. The chariot drivers started arguing who should go forward first. None of them was ready to let the other pass.
Each driver sang the praises of his own master. As they argued, they discovered that Mallika was good to the good and bad to the bad people, while Brahmadatta was good to both the good and the bad. So finally Mallika’s chariot driver accepted Brahmadatta as superior to Mallika and made way for the latter’s chariot.
The Bodhisattva was once born as the leader of the iguanas and lived with his family in the forest. He had a young son who made friends with a chameleon. The Bodhisattva did not approve of this and often warned his son, “Don’t be so friendly with the chameleon. He might bring us trouble.” But the son refused to listen. Fearing that the chameleon might harm them, the Bodhisattva prepared a secret route to escape in case of danger. Meanwhile, the chameleon grew tired of the iguanas’ friendship and showed a trapper the nesting ground of the iguanas. The trapper lit a fire around it, killing most of the iguanas while they tried to escape. But the Bodhisattva and his family ran away unhurt through the secret route. Once they were in a safe place far away from home, they young iguana sought his father’s forgiveness and promised never to disobey him.
The Bodhisattva was once born as a king-hearted prince named Great Gift. One day, the prince went to a nearby village and saw the sufferings of his poor subjects. Moved with pity, he offered them riches. But it wasn’t enough to rid everybody’s poverty. So he decided to get the Wish-fulfilling Gem for them and set out on a long voyage to the fountain on Jewel Island.
But he was an unwelcome guest on the Jewel Island. The inhabitants did not welcome the prince, who was a stranger to them. But Prince Great Gift did not lose heart. He helped the king of the island to guard the castle where the Wish-fulfilling Gem was kept. Pleased with the prince’s goodness and his services, the king gifted him the Gem. The prince took it home and it brought everyone riches enough to fulfill their needs.