The Goat Who Saved The Priest – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Ignorance]
Once upon a time, there was a very famous
priest in a very old religion. He decided it was the
right day to perform the ritual sacrificing of a
goat. In his ignorance, he thought this was an of-
fering demanded by his god.
He obtained an appropriate goat for the
sacrifice. He ordered his servants to take the goat
to the holy river and wash him and decorate him
with flower garlands. Then they were to wash
themselves, as part of the purification practice.
Down at the river bank, the goat suddenly
understood that today he would definitely be
killed. He also became aware of his past births
and deaths and rebirths. He realized that the re-
sults of his past unwholesome deeds were about to
finally be completed. So he laughed an uproarious
goat-laugh, like the clanging of cymbals.
In the midst of his laughter, he realized an-
other truth – that the priest, by sacrificing him,
would suffer the same terrible results, due to his
ignorance. So he began to cry as loudly as he had
just been laughing!
The servants, who were bathing in the holy
river, heard first the laughing and then the crying.
They were amazed. So they asked the goat, “Why
did you loudly laugh and then just as loudly cry?
What is the reason for this?” He replied, I will tell
you the reason. But it must be in the presence of
your master, the priest.”
Since they were very curious, they immedi-
ately took the sacrificial goat to the priest. They
explained all that had happened. The priest too,
became very curious. He respectfully asked the
goat, “Sir, why did you laugh so loudly, and then
just as loudly cry?”
The goat, remembering his past lives, said,
“A long time ago, I too was a priest who, like you,
was well educated in the sacred religious rites. I
thought that to sacrifice a goat was a necessary of-
fering to my god, which would benefit others, as
well as myself in future rebirths. However, the
true result of my action was that in my next 499
lives I myself have been beheaded!
“While being prepared for the sacrifice, I
realized that today I will definitely lose my head
for the 500th time. Then I will finally be free of
all the results of my unwholesome deed of so long
ago. The joy of this made me laugh uncon-
trollably.
“Then I suddenly realized that you, the
priest, were about to repeat the same unwhole-
some action, and would be doomed to the same
result of having your head chopped off in your
next 500 lives! So, out of compassion and sympa-
thy, my laughter turned to tears.”
The priest was afraid this goat might be
right, so he said, “Well, sir goat, I will not kill
you.” The goat replied, “Reverend priest, even if
you do not kill me, I know that today I will lose
my head and finally be released from the results
of my past unwholesome action.”
The priest said, “Don’t be afraid, my fine
goat. I will provide the very best protection and
personally guarantee that no harm will come to
you.” But the goat said, “Oh priest, your protec-
tion is very weak, compared to the power of my
unwholesome deed to cause its necessary results.”
So the priest cancelled the sacrifice, and
began to have doubts about killing innocent ani-
mals. He released the goat and, along with his
servants, followed him in order to protect him
from any danger.
The goat wandered into a rocky place. He
saw some tender leaves on a branch and stretched
out his neck to reach them. All of a sudden a
thunderstorm appeared out of nowhere. A light-
ning bolt struck an over-hanging rock, and cut off
a sharp slab, which fell and chopped off the goat’s
head! He died instantly, and the thunderstorm dis-
appeared.
Hearing of this very strange event, hun-
dreds of local people came to the place. No one
could understand how it had happened.
There was also a fairy who lived in a
nearby tree. He had seen all that had occurred. He
appeared, gently fluttering in the air overhead. He
began to teach the curious people, saying, “Look
at what happened to this poor goat. This was the
result of killing animals! All beings are born, and
suffer through sickness, old age and death. But all
wish to live, and not to die. Not seeing that all
have this in common, some kill other living be-
ings. This causes suffering also to those who kill,
both now and in countless future rebirths.
“Being ignorant that all deeds must cause
results to the doer, some continue to kill and heap
up more suffering on themselves in the future.
Each time they kill, a part of themselves must also
die in this present life. And the suffering continues
even by rebirth in hell worlds!”
Those who heard the fairy speak felt that
they were very lucky indeed. They gave up their
ignorant killing, and were far better off, both in
this life, and in pleasant rebirths.
The moral is: Even religion can be a source
of ignorance.