Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Shakyamuni Buddha - Jataka (previous lives)

ཤཱཀྱ་ཐུབ་པ། 释迦牟尼佛
(item no. 50211)
Origin Location Mongolia
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Gelug
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Person

Appearance: Buddha

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Shakyamuni Buddha, Previous Life Stories (Sanskrit: jataka. Tibetan: kye rab): from the famous Indian text presenting 34 morality tales drawn from the previous life stories of the historical buddha, Shakyamuni.

#21 The Story of Kuddhabodhi

A Tale of Subduing Anger

Born to a noble family of Brahmans who owned a large flourishing estate, the Bodhisattva devoted his life to learning. His name was Kuddhabodhi. By the time he was fully grown his fame among the learned had spread far and wide. He married a beautiful woman who loved him deeply.

Because of his constant practice of the Dharma, he eventually reached the stage of wisdom where the idea of renunciation was so familiar that the life of the householder no longer gave him pleasure. Disturbed by the suffering of greed, quarrels, war, and attachment that are inherent in the householder's life, he decided to take up the life of an ascetic.

His wife insisted that she join him and become an ascetic as well. Although he tried to dissuade her, saying the ascetic life is difficult and dangerous and not suitable for a woman, she entered the woods with him anyway. She looked brilliant and attractive in her simple robes as she meditated in the shade of a tree. One day a king passed through their forest domain and after the usual ceremonious greeting with Kuddhabodhis, he saw the beautiful women and was poisoned with lust. She seemed to glow, enchanting the world around her. The king became utterly lost in desire, contriving a plan to take the young woman away to his palace. However, the king had heard about the terrible wrath that can ensue from wronging an ascetic and was afraid of being cursed. He decided he needed to test Kuddhabodhi's power. Because ascetics are supposed to live the life of non-attachment, the king decided that if he saw Kuddhabodhi was still attached to his companion, that he surely had no exceptional power and would not be able to harm him. He questioned Kuddhabodhi, asking what he would do if someone kidnapped his wife. The bodhisattva replied that if that happened, he would never let his enemy escape. This reply seemed to indicate that he was still full of attachment and passion and therefore was no true ascetic. The king ordered his men to carry off Kuddhabodhi's wife to his palace in the city.

Kuddhabodhi watched them take his wife away and appeared oblivious to her cries. Confused by this, the king then taunted Kuddhabodhi, asking why he was not following through with his threat, and how he was going to attempt to keep them from leaving. Kuddhabodhi replied that the enemy he was to keep imprisoned was not them, but that the enemy he was referring to was anger. He would not let his anger escape from him, telling the king that even in the face of such a crime, he would keep his rage controlled while focusing his mind on the virtue of forbearance. The king realized that he had been mistaken about Kuddhabodhi and that he was in fact a powerful ascetic. He bowed to Kuddhabodhi and apologized, returned his wife, and vowed to serve him from then on.

Monty McKeever 9-2005

Key Events in the Story

1. Kuddhabodhi and wife become ascetics

2. A King kidnaps the wife

3. Kuddhabodhi's virtue impresses the king who then returns the wife

View other items in the Thematic Set: Collection of Zanabazar: Jataka Stories