A Motherless Son – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
The Buddha told this Jātaka story while he was in
Jetavana monastery with regard to a treacherous minister of
the king of Kosala.
The Buddha said, “This man has done exactly the same
treachery in the past, as well.” And at the request of the king
of Kosala, the Buddha told this story of the past:
Once upon a time, King Brahmadatta was ruling in
Benares in northern India. He had a clever minister who
pleased him very much. To show his appreciation he
appointed him headman of a remote border village. His duty
was to represent the king and collect the king’s taxes from
the villagers.
Before long the headman was completely accepted by
the villagers. Since he had been sent by the just King
Brahmadatta, they respected him highly. They came to trust
him as much as if he had been born among them.
In addition to being clever, the headman was also very
greedy. Collecting the king’s taxes was not enough reward
for him. After becoming friendly with a gang of bandits, he
thought up a plan to make himself rich.
The headman said to his friends, the robbers, “I will
find excuses and reasons to lead all the villagers into the
jungle. This will be easy for me, since they trust me as one of
their own. I will keep them busy in the jungle, while you
invade the village and rob everything of value. Carry
everything away before I bring the people home. In return for
my help, you must give me half of all the loot!” The bandits
agreed, and a date was set.
When the day arrived, the headman assembled all the
villagers and led them into the jungle. According to the plan,
the bandits entered the unprotected village. They stole
everything of value they could find. They also killed all the
defenseless village cows, and cooked and ate the meat. At the
end of the day the gang collected all their stolen goods and
It just so happened that on that very same day a
traveling merchant came to the village to trade his goods.
When he saw the bandits he stayed out of sight.
The headman brought all the villagers home in the
evening. He ordered them to make a lot of noise by beating
drums as they marched towards the village. If the bandits had
still been there, they would have heard the villagers coming
for sure.
The village people saw that they had been robbed and
all their cows were dead and partly eaten. This made them
very sad. The traveling merchant appeared and said to them,
“This treacherous village headman has betrayed your trust in
him. He must be a partner of the gang of bandits. Only after
they left with all your valuables did he lead you home,
beating drums as loudly as possible!
“This man pretends to know nothing about what has
happened – as innocent as a newborn lamb! In truth, it’s as if
a son did something so shameful that his mother would say –
‘I am not his mother. He is not my son. My son is dead!’”
Before long, news of the crime reached the king. He
recalled the treacherous headman and punished him
according to the law.
The Buddha then said:
“The treacherous minister of today was also the
treacherous headman of the past. And the traveling merchant
was I who am today the Buddha.”
The moral: “No one defends a betrayer of trust.”

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