Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
The Buddha told this Jātaka story while he was living in
Jetavana temple about a monk who always bragged and
exaggerated the truth.
This monk used to boast ceaselessly about his ancestry,
deluding everyone as to his noble descent. But another
monk, on inquiry, exposed his deceit.
One day, the monks gathered in the preaching hall were
discussing this monk’s lying boasts. When the Buddha
entered and inquired as to the monks’ topic of discussion, he
said, “This is not the first time, oh monks, that this monk has
gone about boasting. He did the same in the past, too.” And
at the invitation of the monks, the Buddha told this story of
Some say that the world comes into being, disappears,
and comes into being … over and over, throughout time. In
one of these previous worlds, countless years ago, Truth
[Dhamma] was unknown and the Five Training Steps
[pañca-sīla-s, the first five sikkhā-pada-s] were practiced by
only a few. Even the Enlightenment Being – the Bodhisatta –
did not know Truth, and had not yet discovered the Five
Once upon a time in that long ago world, there was a
king named Brahmadatta. Like many other kings of that
name, he ruled in the place known today as Benares.
The Bodhisatta was born in a rich high-class family in a
market town, also in northern India. He happened to be a
dwarf, bent over and partly hunchbacked. When he became a
young man he remained short and stooped. Many people
found him unpleasant to look at.
He studied under a very outstanding teacher. He learned
all there was to know, at that time, about the two great
branches of knowledge – religion [Veda] and science
[Vedā ga].²¹ He also learned how to use a bow and arrow
better than anyone else in India. For this reason his teacher
called him ‘Little Archer’ [Culladhanuggaha].
Like most new graduates he was quite clever. He
thought, “Many people judge by appearance alone. If I go to
a king and ask for a job, he’ll probably ask, ‘Having such a
short body, what can you possibly do for me?’ Therefore it
would be better if I can team up with a front man – someone
who is handsome in appearance, tall and well-grown in body,
and strong in personality. I will provide the brains, but
remain out of sight behind his shadow. In this way we can
earn a good living together.”
One day he was walking in the district where the
weavers live and work. He happened to see a big, strong
looking man. He greeted him and asked his name. The
²¹ The Veda is the most sacred Hindu text, consisting principally of
inspired hymns and prayers. There are six Vedā ga-s ‘limbs of the
Vedic sciences. These are phonology, metre, grammar, etymology,
and ritual with the rules for ceremonial and sacrificial acts.
weaver said, “Because of my appearance, people call me Fear
“With such an impressive name,” said Little Archer,
“and being so big and strong looking, why do you have such
a low paying job?” “Because life is hard,” he replied.
“I have an idea,” said the dwarf. “In all India there is no
one as skilled with a bow and arrow as I am. But I don’t look
the part! If I asked a king for work he would either laugh or
get angry at me. He would not believe that a hunchbacked
little dwarf could be the greatest archer in India!
“But you look perfect. And your name helps too.
Therefore, let us go together to the king. You will be the
front man and do all the talking. The king will hire you
immediately. Meanwhile I will remain as if hidden
underneath your shadow. I will be the real archer and we will
prosper and be happy. You just have to do whatever I tell
Thinking he had nothing to lose, Fear Maker agreed,
saying, “It’s a deal, my friend!”
The two partners went off to Benares to see the king.
When they entered the throne room, they bowed respectfully
to the king. He asked them, “Why have you come here?”
Fear Maker stood in front and did all the talking. He
answered, “I am the great archer known as Fear Maker.
There is no one in all India who understands the science of
archery as well as I do. I wish to be in your service, your
The king was quite impressed. He asked, “What shall I
pay you?” “I will serve you for 500 pieces of money per
week, your majesty,” he replied.
Nodding, the king noticed the silent dwarf stooping
behind him, almost out of sight. “Who is this little man?” he
asked. “What does he do for you?” “He’s my little assistant,”
said Fear Maker. “Very well,” said King Brahmadatta, “the
job is yours.”
In this way Fear Maker was accepted into the king’s
service, but it was Little Archer who did all the work.
Before long, news came to the palace that there was a
ferocious tiger living in the jungle next to the king’s
highway. He ambushed travelers, and then killed and ate
them. Many began to avoid the king’s highway out of fear of
The king summoned Fear Maker and asked, “Can you
capture this rampaging tiger, young man?” “Your majesty,”
he answered, “I am known as your best archer. Why
wouldn’t I be able to capture a tiger?” Hearing this, the king
gave him an extra sum of money and sent him out to catch
Fear Maker went home and told all this to his partner.
“All right,” said Little Archer, “be on your way!” “Aren’t
you coming too?” asked the surprised Fear Maker. “No, I
won’t go,” he replied, “but I will give you a perfect plan. You
must do exactly as I say.” “I will, my little friend. Please tell
me,” said the big front man.
The clever little dwarf said to his friend, “Go to the
district of the tiger, but don’t rush straight to his home by
yourself. Instead, gather together a thousand local villagers
and give them all bows and arrows. Take them directly to the
tiger’s home. But then you must let them go on ahead while
you hide in the underbrush.
“The local villagers will be very afraid of the tiger.
When they see him they will surround him and beat him.
Being so terrified, they won’t stop beating him until he’s
“Meanwhile you must cut a piece of vine with your
teeth. Then come out of hiding and approach the dead tiger,
holding the vine in your hand. When you see the tiger’s body,
shout at the people, ‘Hey! Who has killed the tiger? I was
going to capture him with this vine and lead him like a bull to
the king. That’s why I’ve been searching in the jungle. Now
tell me who has killed the tiger before I could get here with
“The villagers will be easily frightened by this. They
will say, ‘Lord Fear Maker, please don’t tell the king!’ Then
they will give you a big bribe to be quiet. Thinking you have
killed the dangerous tiger, King Brahmadatta will also reward
you greatly.” This was the tricky plan of the clever Little
Fear Maker did exactly as he had been instructed. The
man-eating tiger was killed, and fear was removed from that
part of the king’s highway. Followed by a big crowd he
returned to the king and said, “Your majesty, I have killed the
tiger and made the jungle safe for people again.” The king
was pleased and gave him a huge reward.
Before long there were similar complaints about a
buffalo who threatened another royal road. Again the king
sent Fear Maker. Following Little Archer’s strategy he did
exactly as before. He took credit for killing the buffalo and
was greatly rewarded again by the grateful king.
By this time Fear Maker had become a very rich and
powerful nobleman. All the wealth and praise, which he
didn’t really deserve, soon went to his head. He became
intoxicated with his own conceit, and began thinking he was
a ‘big man’ in his own right. He even looked down on Little
Archer and ignored his advice. He said to him, “You think
this is all because of you. But I don’t need you. I can do all
this without you!” He had come to believe the appearance
created by Little Archer’s plan.
Then it happened that an enemy king attacked. He
surrounded the city of Benares with his army. He sent a
message to King Brahmadatta that he must either surrender
his kingdom or wage war. The King of Benares ordered his
greatest hero, Fear Maker, to go out and fight the enemy.
Fear Maker was dressed in full military armor. He
mounted the mightiest armored war elephant. Little Archer
knew that the ungrateful conceited braggart, called Fear
Maker, was really scared to death underneath. So he too
mounted the elephant and sat behind Fear Maker. The mighty
elephant walked through the city gates towards the
battlefield, followed by a big crowd.
When Fear Maker heard the huge noise made by the
war drums, he began trembling with fear. To keep him from
falling off the elephant and being killed, Little Archer tied a
rope around him and held him with it.
When Fear Maker saw the field of battle he was
overwhelmed by the terrible fear of death. So much so, that
he couldn’t help but release his bowels and urinate at the
same time – all over the back of the poor brave war elephant!
The Enlightenment Being said, “Before, you bragged
and spoke roughly like a big man. But now, the only big
thing you do is make a filthy mess all over this elephant’s
back! Your present actions prove your past appearance was
Fear Maker had embarrassed himself. Little Archer had
humbled him by speaking the truth. But he couldn’t help
feeling sympathy for him. He said, “Don’t be afraid anymore,
my friend. With me to protect you, your life is safe. Climb
down from the elephant and go home and take a bath.”
Alone atop the great elephant, the Enlightenment Being
thought, “Now is the time to show what is in the heart of this
hunchbacked little dwarf!” Shouting mightily as he rode, he
charged into the field of battle. Without killing any men or
animals, he crashed through the enemy’s defenses. He broke
into the king’s camp, captured him, and took him back as
prisoner to the King of Benares.
King Brahmadatta was delighted with Little Archer’s
great victory. He rewarded him with wealth and fame. He
became known throughout all India as ‘Little Archer the
Wise’. He sent his friend Fear Maker back to his home
village and supported him with monthly payments.
Little Archer the Wise practiced generosity and other
meritorious deeds. When he died he was reborn as he
The Buddha then identified the births, saying:
“Fear Maker was this boastful monk today who
exaggerates. And Little Archer was I who am today the
The moral: “‘Appearances can be deceiving.’”
Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old