Jataka: The Man Who Told a Lie

If you look at the complete version of this story — Kakkaru-Jataka — you can see the circumstance in the Buddha's life that prompted him to tell this story. It involves the villainous Devadatta whom you read about earlier (Grandmother's Golden Dish): the Buddha tells how after speaking evil words, Devadatta vomited blood, just as, in a past lifetime, he suffered pain because of his evil deeds.

[Notes by LKG]

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

The Man Who Told a Lie

ON one occasion four divine beings made their appearance on the Earth to attend a festival of the Gods.

And they bore in their hands wreaths of the strangest flowers that had ever been seen, and those around asked: "What are these flowers?"

And the Gods made answer and said: "These divine flowers are fit for those possessed of great powers: for the base, the foolish, the faithless, the sinful beings within the world of men, they are not fitted. But, whosoever amongst men is endowed with certain virtues—to them is due the honor of wearing these flowers.

He who steals no thing from another,
Who uttereth no lie,
Who doth not lose his head at the
height of Fame—
He may wear the flowers.

Now there was a certain false Teacher or Priest who thought to himself: "I do not possess one of these qualities, but, by appearing to possess them, I shall obtain permission to wear the wreaths, and the people will believe that I really am what I appear to be, and they will place their confidence in me."

Then, with exceeding boldness, he came to the first of the Gods and exclaimed with great solemnity: "Behold, I am endowed with these qualities of which you speak— I have stolen from no man, never have I uttered a lie, nor has fame ever caused me to be proud or haughty."

And when he had uttered these words, the wreath was placed upon his brow. And, emboldened by his success, he came with the same pride and confidence into the presence of the second God, and asked that the second wreath should be bestowed upon him.

And the God said:

He who earns wealth honestly, and
shuns dishonest means,
Who takes but sparingly of the Cup of Pleasure,
To him shall be awarded this second wreath.

And the false Priest bowed his head and said: "Behold all that I have earned is honestly gotten, and all pleasure have I shunned. Give me the wreath!"

And the wreath was placed upon his brow.

Then, with boldness increased by his success, he approached the third God, and asked that the third wreath should encircle his brow.

And the God said:

He who scorns choice food,
Who never turneth from his purpose,
Who keepeth his faith unchanged,
To him shall be given the wreath.

And the false Priest said: "I have ever lived on the simplest fare. I have been ever steadfast of purpose, and loyal in my faith. Therefore give me the wreath."

And the third wreath was bestowed upon him.

Then did the pride of the false Priest know no bounds, and he went hastily to the fourth God and demanded the fourth wreath.

And the God said:

He who will attack no good man to his
face or behind his back,
And who keeps his word in all things,
To him belongs this wreath.

Then the false Priest cried out in a loud voice: "I have attacked no man, good or evil, and never have I broken my word to any."

The God looked at him sadly, but he placed the wreath upon his brow, and the four divine beings disappeared from the sight of man.

But no sooner had they left the earth than the Priest felt a violent pain. His head seemed to be crushed by spikes, and, writhing in agony, he made full confession and begged that the flowers should be removed from his head; but though all pitied his condition, none could remove the flowers, for they seemed to be fastened on with an iron band.

And he called aloud to the Gods, saying, "O ye great powers, forgive my pride and spare my life!"

And they answered: "These flowers are not meet for the wicked. You have received the reward of your false words."

Then, having rebuked him in the presence of the people, they removed the flowers from the head of the repentant man and returned to the abode of the Blest.

(700 words)

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