Jataka: The Bull that Proved His Gratitude

Here you will read about story of a Bodhisat, which is another way to refer to a Bodhisattva, an enlightened being who is motivated by self-sacrifice or else a being who is on the path to enlightenment. In the jataka tradition, the Buddha often refers to his earlier incarnations as bodhisattvas, as you can see here. For more, see Wikipedia: Bodhisattva.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Jataka Tales unit. Story source: Eastern Stories and Legends by Marie L. Shedlock (1920).


The Bull that Proved His Gratitude

LONG ago ... the Bodisat returned to life as a Bull.

Now, when it was still a young calf, its owners stopped a while in an old woman's house, and gave him to her when they settled their account for their lodging. And she brought him up, treating him like a son, and feeding him on gruel and rice.

He soon became known as "The Old Woman's Blackie." When he grew up, he roamed about, as black as collyrium, with the village cattle, and was very good-tempered and quiet. The village children used to catch hold of his horns, or ears, or dewlaps, and hang on to him, or amuse themselves by pulling his tail, or riding about on his back.

One day he said to himself: "My mother is wretchedly poor. She's taken so much pains, too, in bringing me up, and has treated me like a son. What if I were to work for hire, and so relieve her distress!" And from that day he was always on the look-out for a job.

Now, one day a young caravan owner arrived at a neighboring ford with five hundred bullock-wagons. And his bullocks were not only unable to drag the carts across, but even when he yoked the five hundred pair in a row they could not move one cart by itself.

The Bodisat was grazing with the village cattle close to the ford. The young caravan owner was a famous judge of cattle, and began looking about to see whether there were among them any thoroughbred bull able to drag over the carts.

Seeing the Bodisat, he thought he would do, and asked the herdsmen: "Who may be the owners, my men, of this fellow? I should like to yoke him to the cart, and am willing to give a reward for having the carts dragged over."

"Catch him and yoke him then," said they. "He has no owner hereabouts."

But when be began to put a string through his nose and drag him along, he could not get him to come. For the Bodisat, it is said, wouldn't go till he was promised a reward.

The young caravan owner, seeing what his object was, said to him: "Sir! if you'll drag over these five hundred carts for me, I'll pay you wages at the rate of two pence for each cart—a thousand pieces in all."

Then the Bodisat went along of his own accord, and the men yoked him to the cart. And with a mighty effort he dragged it up and landed it safe on the high ground. And in the same manner he dragged up all the carts.

So the caravan owner then put five hundred pennies in a bundle, one for each cart, and tied it round his neck.

The Bull said to himself: "This fellow is not giving me wages according to the rate agreed upon. I shan't let him go on now!" And so he went and stood in the way of the front cart, and they tried in vain to get him away.

The caravan owner thought: "He knows, I suppose, that the pay is too little;" and wrapping a thousand pieces in a cloth, tied them up in a bundle, and hung that round his neck. And as soon as be got the bundle with a thousand inside, he went off to his "mother."

Then the village children called out: "See! what's that round the neck of the old woman's Blackie?" and began to run up to him. But he chased after them, so that they took to their heels before they got near him; and he went straight to his "mother." And he appeared with eyes all bloodshot, utterly exhausted from dragging over so many carts.

"How did you get this, dear?" said the good old woman, when she saw the bag round his neck.

And when she heard, on inquiry from the herdsmen, what had happened, she exclaimed: "Am I so anxious, then, to live on the fruit of your toil, my darling! Why do you put yourself to all this pain?"

And she bathed him in warm water, and rubbed him all over with oil, and gave him to drink, and fed him up with good food. And at the end of her life she passed away according to her deeds, and the Bodisat with her.





(700 words)









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