3,000 Births – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
When the Buddha was staying in the garden named
Añjanavana near Sāketa, this story was told to a Brahmin of
that town.
One day, when the Buddha was going on alms round in
the city of Sāketa, an old Brahmin fell at the Buddha’s feet
and said, “Son, why have you been gone for so long? It is
the duty of children to take care of their parents in their old
age? Come, your mother is waiting for you at home.” The
Brahmin then took the Buddha, together with the monks, to
his house where his wife, too, greeted the Buddha saying,
“Son, why have you been gone for so long? Is it not the duty
of children to take care of their parents in their old age?”
And the Buddha and the monks were shown hospitality
[dāna]. The Buddha then recited the Jarā Sutta, the sutta
concerning old age.¹⁰ And the Brahmin and his wife attained
the once-returner state of mind, becoming Sakadāgāmin-s.
The Buddha and the monks then went back to Añjanavana.
The monks discussed this in the evening in the
preaching hall. They said that the Buddha must be well
aware that Suddhodana was his father, and Mahāmāyā his
mother, yet the Buddha said nothing when this couple
claimed him as their son. Hearing them talk, the Buddha
said, “Oh monks, this old couple was correct in claiming me
as their son.” And saying this, he told a story of the past:
Once upon a time the Bodhisatta – the Enlightenment
Being – was born into an ordinary family. It just so happened
that he had the same father in his next 500 rebirths. The
father was then reborn as the uncle in the next 500 rebirths,
and the grandfather in the next 500.
In the next 500 rebirths he had the same mother, who
was reborn as the aunt in the next 500, and finally the
grandmother in the next 500.
Amazing as it may seem, after 3,000 rebirths, the man
of 1,500 and the woman of 1,500 rebirths were reborn and
became husband and wife. But the Bodhisatta was reborn
with a different mother and father! However, he wisely
respected everyone, not just the mother and father of his
present rebirth.
The Buddha explained the connection in this way:
“This Brahmin and his wife were those relatives
through all those lives. They were my parents in many
births, and I who am today the Buddha was their son in many
¹⁰ The Jarā Sutta is the sixth sutta in the A hakavagga of the Sutta Nipāta.
The moral: “One way or another, we’re all related.”

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