The Magic Priest And The Kidnapper Gang – Jataka Tales

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Power and Greed]
Once upon a time in Benares, there was a
king named Brahmadatta. In one of the kingdom’s
remote villages, there was a priest who had magi-
cal power. He knew a special magic spell which
was a secret given to him by his teacher.
This spell could be used only once a year,
when the planets were lined up in a certain way.
Only then, the priest could say the secret magic
words into his open palms. Then he looked up into
the sky, clapped his hands, and a shower of pre-
cious jewels came down on him.
The magic priest was also a teacher. He had
a very good student, who was intelligent and able
to understand the most difficult ideas. He was
obedient and faithful, always wishing to honour
and protect his master.
One day, the priest had to go on a trip to a
faraway village, in order to perform an animal
sacrifice. Since he had to take a dangerous road,
the good student went with him.
Along this road there happened to be a
gang of 500 bandits. They were known as the
‘Kidnapper Gang’. They captured people and de-
manded ransom money in return for letting them
live.
Lo and behold, the magic priest and his
good student were captured by the Kidnapper
Gang. They set the ransom at 5,000 gold coins,
and sent the student to go get it, in order to save
his master’s life.
Before leaving, the student knelt before his
teacher and bowed respectfully. He said to him
quietly, so the bandits could not hear, “Oh master,
tonight is the one night of the year when the plan-
ets will be lined up perfectly. Only then can your
magic spell be used to shower you with jewels
from the sky. However, I must warn you, my be-
loved and respected teacher, that to use such a
power to save yourself from such greedy men as
these would be extremely dangerous. Obtaining
great wealth so easily must lead to disaster for
men like them. And if you think only of your own
safety, bringing such harm to them will cause
danger to you as well.
“Therefore, I warn you, do not give in to
the desire to make the spell of jewels. Let the
lucky night pass by for this year. Even if these
bandits harm you, trust your faithful student to
save you, without adding to your danger.” So say-
ing, he took his leave.
That evening, the kidnappers tied up the
magic priest tightly, and left him outside their
cave for the night. They gave him nothing to eat or
drink.
After the moon came out, the priest saw the
planets lining up so his spell could work. He
thought, “Why should I suffer like this? I can
magically pay my own ransom. Why should I care
if harm comes to these 500 kidnappers? I am a
magic priest. My life is worth much more than
theirs. I care only for my own life. And besides,
this lucky night only comes but once a year. I
cannot waste the chance to use my great power!”
Having decided to ignore the advice of the
good student, he called the kidnappers and said,
“Oh brave and mighty ones, why do you want to
tie me up and make me suffer?”
They replied, “Oh holy priest, we need
money. We have many mouths to feed. We must
have money, and lots of it!”
The magic priest said, “Ah, you did this for
money? Is that all there is to it? In that case, I will
make you rich beyond your wildest dreams! For I
am great and powerful. As a holy priest, you can
trust me. You must untie me, wash my head and
face, dress me in new clothes, and cover me with
flowers. Then, after so honouring me properly,
leave me alone to do my magic.”
The kidnappers followed his instructions.
But, not trusting him completely, they hid in the
bushes and secretly watched him.
This is what they saw. The washed and
flower covered priest looked up into the sky. See-
ing that the planets were lined up in the special
lucky pattern, he lowered his head and muttered
the magic spell into his hands. They were sounds
that no one could understand, something like this:
“Nah Wah Shed-nath. Eel Neeah Med-rak. Goh
Bah Mil-neeay.”
Then he gazed into the sky and clapped his
hands. Suddenly he was showered with the most
beautiful jewels!
The Kidnapper Gang came out from hiding
and grabbed all the precious stones. They wrapped
them up in bundles and went off down the road,
with the magic priest following behind.
On the way, they were stopped by another
gang of 500 robbers. They asked them, “Why are
you stopping us?” “Give us all your wealth!” the
others demanded.
The kidnappers said, “Leave us alone. You
can get all the riches you want from this magic
priest, just as we have done. He says magic words,
looks up into the sky, claps his hands, and the
most fabulous jewels come down!”
So they let the Kidnapper Gang go, and
surrounded the priest. They demanded that he
make a shower of precious stones for them as
well.
He said, “Of course I can give you all the
jewels you want. But you must be patient and wait
for one year. The lucky time, when the planets are
lined up properly, has already come this year. It
will not happen again until next year. Come see
me then, and I will be happy to make you rich!”
Robbers are not exactly known for their pa-
tience. They became angry at once. They shouted
at him, “Ah, you tricky lying priest! You made the
Kidnapper Gang wealthy, but now you refuse to
do the same for us. We’ll teach you to take us so
lightly!” Then they cut him in two with a sharp
sword, and left both halves of his body in the
middle of the road.
The robbers chased after the Kidnapper
Gang. There was a terrible bloody battle. After
hours of fighting, they killed all 500 kidnappers
and stole the wonderful jewels.
As soon as they left the battleground, the
500 robbers began quarrelling over the wealth.
They divided into two rival groups of 250 each.
These fought another bloody battle, until only two
were left alive one from each side.
These two collected all the valuable jewels
and hid them in the forest. They were very hungry.
So one guarded the treasure, while the other
started cooking rice.
The one doing the guarding thought,
“When the other is finished cooking, I will kill
him and keep all this loot for myself?”
Meanwhile, the one doing the cooking
thought, “If we divide these jewels in two, I will
get less. Therefore, I will add poison to this rice,
kill the other, and keep all the jewels for myself.
Why share, when I can have it all!”
So he ate some of the rice, since he was so
hungry, and poisoned the rest. He took the rice pot
to the other and offered it to him. But he immedi-
ately swung his sword and chopped off the cook’s
head!
Then the hungry killer began gobbling up
the poisoned rice. Within minutes, he dropped
dead on the spot!
A few days later, the good student returned
with the ransom money. He could not find his
teacher or the Kidnapper Gang. Instead, he found
only the worthless possessions they had left be-
hind after getting the jewels.
Continuing down the road, he came to the
two halves of his teacher’s dead body. Realizing
that the magic priest must have ignored his warn-
ing, he mourned his cruel death. Then he built a
funeral pyre, covered it with wild flowers, and
burned the body of his respected teacher.
A little farther down the road, the good stu-
dent came upon the 500 dead bodies of the Kid-
napper Gang. Farther still, he started seeing the
dead robbers, until he counted 498.
Then he saw the footprints of the last two
going into the forest. He realized that they too
must fight over the treasure, so he followed them.
Finally, he came to the dead body slumped over
the rice pot, the other one with his head chopped
off, and the bundles of valuable jewels. He could
tell immediately what had happened.
He thought, “It is so sad. My teacher had
great knowledge, but not enough common sense.
He could not resist using his magical power, re-
gardless of the results. By causing the deaths of
the one thousand greedy gangsters, he doomed
himself as well.”
The good student took the treasure back to
the village, and used it generously for the benefit
of many.
The moral is: When power has no conscience,
and greed has no limit – the
killing has no end.