A Priest Who Worshipped Luck – Jataka Tales

[Superstition]
[Ma gala-Jātaka]
The Buddha told this story while living in the Bamboo
Grove temple with regard to a Brahmin who was skilled in
prognostication from …

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Superstition]
[Ma gala-Jātaka]
The Buddha told this story while living in the Bamboo
Grove temple with regard to a Brahmin who was skilled in
prognostication from pieces of cloth.
An exactly similar situation as happened to the holy
man in the Jātaka story happened to the Buddha himself with
regard to this Brahmin and his son when the Buddha saw
with his divine eye [dibba-cakkhu] that the Brahmin and his
son were predestined to attain Arahant-ship [freedom from
defilement].
The Buddha told this Brahmin that in the past, too, he
held such superstitions. And at the Brahmin’s request, the
Buddha told this story of the past:
Once upon a time, the Enlightenment Being was born
into a high-class family in northwestern India. When he grew
up, he realized his ordinary life could not give him lasting
happiness. So he left everything behind and went to live in
the Himalayas as a forest monk. He meditated and gained
knowledge and peace of mind.
One day he decided to come down from the forests to
the city of Rājagaha. When he arrived he stayed overnight in
the king’s pleasure garden.
The next morning he went into the city to collect alms
food. The king saw him and was pleased with his humble and
dignified attitude. So he invited him to the palace. He offered
him a seat and gave him the best foods to eat. Then he invited
him to live in the garden for good. The holy man agreed, and
from then on he lived in the king’s pleasure garden and had
his meals in the king’s palace.
At that time there was a priest in the city who was
known as ‘Lucky Cloth’ [Dussalakkha a-brāhma a].²⁷ He
used to predict good or bad luck by examining a piece of
cloth.
It just so happened that he had a new suit of clothes.
One day, after his bath, he asked his servant to bring the suit
to him. The servant saw that it had been chewed slightly by
mice, so he told the priest.
Lucky Cloth thought, “It is dangerous to keep in the
house these clothes that have been chewed by mice. This is a
sure sign of a curse that could destroy my home. Therefore, I
can’t even give them to my children or servants. The curse
would still be in my house!
“In fact, I can’t give these unlucky clothes to anyone.
The only safe thing to do is to get rid of them once and for
all. The best way to do that is to throw them in the corpse
grounds, the place where dead bodies are put for wild
animals to eat.
“But how can I do that? If I tell a servant to do it, desire
will make him keep the clothes, and the curse will remain in
my household. Therefore, I can trust this task only to my
²⁷ Literally, ‘a Brahmin, or priest, who believes in prognosticative
marks on
cloth.’
son.”
He called his son to him and told all about the curse of
the clothes that were slightly chewed by mice. He told him
not even to touch them with his hand. He was to carry them
on a stick and go throw them in the corpse grounds. Then he
must bathe from head to foot before returning home.
The son obeyed his father. When he arrived at the
corpse grounds, carrying the clothes on a stick, he found the
holy man sitting by the gate. When Lucky Cloth’s son threw
away the cursed suit, the holy man picked it up. He examined
it and saw the tiny teeth marks made by the mice. But since
they could hardly be noticed, he took the suit with him back
to the pleasure garden.
After bathing thoroughly, his son told Priest Lucky
Cloth what had happened. He thought, “This cursed suit of
clothes will bring great harm to the king’s favorite holy man.
I must warn him.” So he went to the pleasure garden and
said, “Holy one, the unlucky cloth you have taken, please
throw it away! It is cursed and will bring harm to you!”
But the holy man replied, No, no, what others throw
away in the corpse grounds is a blessing to me! We forest
meditators are not seers of good and bad luck. All kinds of
Buddhas and Enlightenment Beings have given up
superstitions about luck. Anyone who is wise should do the
same. No one knows the future!”
Hearing about the truly wise and enlightened ones made
Priest Lucky Cloth see how foolish he had been. From then
on he gave up his many superstitions and followed the
teachings of the humble holy man.
When the Buddha had finished relating the story, he
identified the births:
“The father and son in the past were the same as today.
And I, myself, was the holy man.”
The moral: “A fool’s curse can be a wise man’s blessing.”

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