Once Bodhisattva, the Enlightened Being, was born into a highly educated family. When he reached his youth, he decided to renounce all worldly pleasures and lead the life of an ascetic. His wife too resolved to accompany him through all the hardships of an ascetic’s life. They built a hut deep in a forest to live in all for a few months. One day, the king of the land came to hunt in the forest, and seeing the Bodhisattva’s wife, fell in love. He decided to kidnap her. To find out if Bodhisattva had supernatural powers, the king asked him what he would do if a thief or a wild animal were to attack his wife. He said, “I would not be angry.” The king laughed at this and forced Bodhisattva’s wife into the chariot. But Bodhisattva remained calm. The king was surprised and asked how he could remain so calm under such circumstances. “Anger is the greatest enemy of man. It destroys his inner beauty and leads him away from the path of happiness.” The king was impressed by these words and begged for the Bodhisattva’s forgiveness.
Once upon a time, there lived a green frog. One day some fishermen came to the lake where he lived and set a wicker cage under the water to catch fish. A water snake, who was very hungry and was looking for fish to eat, came to the spot and fell inside the cage. The fish saw the snake and attacked him. Badly bitten all over, he somehow managed to escape and came to the edge of the river. Just then, the green frog came hopping by to save the fish. Seeing the frog, the snake called out, “O wise frog, the fish you’re trying to save have attacked and tried to kill me. Tell me, were they right in doing so?” The frog looked at the snake and said, “Of course, they were. When a fish enters your territory don’t you kill and eat it? So also the fish have attacked you when you came their way.” The frog was actually the Bodhisattva.
The Bodhisattva was once born as a deer. Every animal in the forest admired his handsome looks. One day, a prince came to hunt in the forest. “The forest is a good hunting ground,” remarked the prince when he saw the surrounding greenery with many birds chirping overhead and a variety of animals running around. The prince’s eyes fell on the deer and he followed it, aiming his bow and arrow. The charioteer drove the chariot at a breakneck speed but the deer ran even faster. Suddenly one of the wheels of the chariot came off and “Plop!” the prince fell headlong into the nearby river. “Help… Someone get me out, or else I’ll drown,” shouted the frightened prince who did not know how to swim. The deer, who was nearby, heard the prince’s cries and dragged him out of the water. Seeing that he was saved by the very deer he had wanted to shoot, the prince felt ashamed and vowed never to hunt animals.
The Bodhisattva was once born as an ascetic. He would wander from place to place, meditating, seeking inner peace and becoming one with God’s creation. Like all ascetics, he led a life of simplicity. In the course of his wanderings, he came to Benaras. It was the rainy season then, and the Bodhisattva was welcomed as the king’s royal guest. He was treated with great respect and every care was taken so that he may spend his time peacefully. He stayed in the royal park and spent his time in meditation.
Now, the king had been blessed with a son but there was a very big problem. The prince was an ill-natured boy. He was named Dutthakumara. The king tried his best to improve his son’s nature. He gave his son everything he desired, all the riches of the world were his for the taking. But alas, all efforts failed. The king was heartbroken. He had an heir to his throne, but who would tolerate an ill-tempered king? So he requested the Bodhisattva to help him.
One day, the ascetic and the prince were strolling in the royal garden. The ascetic asked him to taste the leaf of a nearby plant. The moment the prince tasted the leaf, he spat it out as it was bitter. Seeing this, the Bodhisattva said, “It is the leaf of a young plant, but yet it is so bitter. Imagine how bitter it would taste when the tree grows up.” Hearing him, the young prince realized what the Bodhisattva meant. He was still a young boy and he had the most terrible temper. If his own father could not tolerate this, how bad must other people feel about it! And what would happen when he matured into a man? His bad qualities would grow manifold, just like the bitterness of the tree leaves. The prince felt truly humbled by the lesson that the Bodhisattva had taught him so gently. From that day onwards, the young prince tried to mend his ways and become a better person.
Once in a forest, there lived an ascetic who had a pet elephant whom he had reared since it was just a baby. But all his fellow hermits felt it was risky to have a wild elephant as a pet. One day the Bodhisattva, who was his teacher, told him, “My son, it was kind of you to rear this motherless elephant. But now that he has grown up and is strong enough to fend for himself, I will advise you to leave him on his own. Since we stay in the forest, the elephant is well acquainted with the wild. He may drop his benign nature and behave like a wild elephant at any moment.”
But the stubborn ascetic laughed away his teacher’s advice. One day, when all the hermits were away in a nearby village, the elephant was seized with frenzy. His master was the only one present in the forest and in a fit of madness, the elephant killed him.
The Bodhisattva came back as a buffalo in one of his rebirths and lived with a mischievous monkey in the forest. The monkey used to trouble the buffalo every day by either pulling the buffalo’s tail, throwing nuts on the buffalo’s head or jumping from the treetop on to the buffalo’s back. Though disturbed by the monkey’s pranks, the buffalo bore everything patiently without complaining. The other animals of the forest saw this and wondered why the buffalo tolerated all the mischief without losing his patience or scolding the monkey.
Unable to hold back his curiosity, the elephant one day asked the buffalo why he never punished the truant monkey. At this the buffalo smiled and said that he was thankful to the monkey for teaching him how to be patient. The monkey who was sitting on the tree heard this and was ashamed of himself. He came down at once to seek the buffalo’s forgiveness and thereafter they became good friends.
Champeyya, the serpent king, was actually a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva. He married a beautiful serpent princess called Sumana and led a happy life. However, he soon grew tired of his life of luxury and went to the forest to meditate, leaving his wife behind.
One day, while he was sitting on an anthill deep in meditation, a snake charmer saw him and trapped him with the help of his magical powers. The serpent kind was then made to dance on the streets to the tunes of the snake charmer’s flute. Meanwhile, his devoted wife went from town to town looking for her husband and at last saw him dancing in the royal court of Benaras. Champeyya stopped his dance at the sight of his tearful wife. Sumana freed her husband with the help of the king and took him home.