The Careless Lion – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Circumspection]
[Vissāsabhojana-Jātaka]
The Buddha told this story while living in Jetavana
temple with regard to taking reliable gifts [dāna] trustingly.
At that time, the monks used to take food, clothing, and
other requisites from their relatives without any consideration
of circumstances or consequences. The Buddha, seeing this,
decided to admonish the brotherhood [Sa gha] against it,
saying that such acceptance of things given without
circumspection is like taking poison. And poison kills,
whether it is given by a relative or stranger. The Buddha
added that in the past, there were those who took poison
without thinking because it was offered by those who were
dear to them, and they thereby met their end. And the
Buddha told this story of the past:
Once upon a time, the Five Training Steps [pañca-
sīla-s, the first five sikkhā-pada-s] were not yet known in the
world. There was a very wealthy man living in Benares who
owned a large herd of cattle. He hired a man to look after
them.
During the time of year when the rice paddies were
filled with the green growing rice plants, the herdsman took
the cattle to the forest to graze. From there he brought the
milk and butter and cheese to the rich man in Benares.
It just so happened that being in the forest put the cattle
in a very frightening situation. There was a meat-eating lion
living nearby. Sensing the presence of the lion kept the cattle
in constant fear. This made the cows tense and high-strung,
leaving them too weak to give more than a little milk.
One day the owner of the cattle asked the herdsman
why he was bringing such a small amount of milk and butter
and cheese. He replied, “Sir, cows need to be calm and
contented to give much milk. Due to a nearby lion, your cows
are always afraid and tense. So they give hardly any milk.”
“I see,” said the rich man. Thinking like an animal
trapper, he asked, “Is the lion closely connected to any other
animal?” The herdsman answered, “Sir, there happens to be a
variety of deer living in the forest. They are called ‘minideer’
[Sinh. mīmina] because they are so small. Even the adults
only grow to be about one foot tall. The lion has become very
friendly with a certain minideer doe.”
The rich man of Benares said, “So that my cows will be
at peace and able to give their usual milk, this is what you are
to do. Capture the lion’s friend and rub poison all over her
body. Then wait a couple days before releasing her. She will
be like bait in a trap for the lion. When he dies, bring his
body to me. Then my cows will be safe and happy again.”
The herdsman followed his boss’s orders exactly. When
the lion saw his favorite minideer doe, he was so overjoyed
that he threw all caution to the wind. Without even sniffing
the air around her, he immediately began licking her
excitedly all over. Because of too much joy and not enough
caution, he fell into the poisonous trap. The poor lion died on
the spot.
The Buddha said:
“The rich man in those days was I who am today the
Buddha.”
The moral: “Too much of a good thing can be dangerous.”