The Priest Who Gambled With a Life – Jataka Tales

[Misguided Morality]
[A abhūta-Jātaka (Andhabhūta-Jātaka)]
The Buddha told this story while living in Jetavana
monastery with regard to a monk whose dis …

Buddha’s Tales for Young and Old
[Misguided Morality]
[A abhūta-Jātaka (Andhabhūta-Jātaka)]
The Buddha told this story while living in Jetavana
monastery with regard to a monk whose discipline was
distracted by a woman and who wanted to give up his
Once upon a time, there was a king [Brahmadatta] who
loved to gamble with his royal priest. When he threw the
dice, he always recited this lucky charm:
“If tempted any woman will, for sure,
Give up her faithfulness and act impure.”
Amazing as it may seem, by using this charm the king
always won! Before long, the royal priest lost almost every
penny he owned.
He thought, “I have lost almost all my wealth to the
king. It must be because of his lucky charm. I need to find a
way to break the spell and win back my money. I must find a
pure woman who has never had anything to do with a man.
Then I will lock her up in my mansion and force her to
remain faithful to me!”
This seemed like a good plan to him. But then he
started having doubts. He thought, “It would be nearly
impossible to keep a woman pure after she had already
become accustomed to men. Therefore I must find the purest
woman possible – one who has never even seen a man!”
Just then he happened to see a poor woman passing by.
She was pregnant. The royal priest was an expert in reading
the meaning of marks on the body. So he could tell that the
unborn baby was a girl. And the thought occurred to him,
“Aha! Only an unborn baby girl has never seen a man!”
The royal priest was willing to do anything to beat the
king at dice. So he paid the poor woman to stay in his house
and have her baby there. When the wonderful little girl was
born, the priest bought her from her mother. Then he made
sure she was raised only by women. She never saw a man –
except of course the royal priest himself. When she grew up,
he still kept her completely under his control. It was just as if
he owned the poor girl!
The cruel priest did all this only because of his
gambling habit. While the girl was growing up, he had
avoided playing dice with the king. Now that she was of age,
and still his prisoner, he challenged the king to a game of
dice once again.
The king agreed. After they had made their bets, the
king shook the dice and repeated his favorite lucky charm:
“If tempted any woman will, for sure,
Give up her faithfulness and act impure.”
But just before he threw down the dice, the priest
“Except my woman – faithful evermore!”
Lo and behold, the king’s charm didn’t work. He lost
that bet, and from then on the priest won every throw of the
The king was puzzled by this turn of events. After
considering, he thought, “This priest must have a pure
woman locked up at home, one who is forced to be faithful to
him alone. That’s why my lucky charm doesn’t work
He investigated and discovered what the cruel priest
had done. So he sent for a well-known playboy character. He
asked him if he could cause the lady’s downfall. He replied,
“No problem, my lord!” The king paid him handsomely and
told him to do the job quickly.
The man bought a supply of the finest perfumes and
cosmetics. He set up a shop just outside the royal priest’s
mansion. This mansion was seven stories high, with seven
entrance gates – one on each floor. Each gate was guarded by
women, and no man except the priest was allowed to enter.
The priest’s lady was waited on by only one servant.
She carried everything in and out, including perfumes and
cosmetics. The priest gave her money for her purchases.
The playboy saw the servant going in and out of the
priest’s mansion. Soon he realized she was the one who could
get him inside. So he devised a plan and hired some cronies
to help him.
The next morning, when the serving lady went out to do
her shopping, the playboy dramatically fell to the ground
before her. Grabbing her knees he tearfully cried, “Oh my
dear mother, it’s so wonderful to see you again after such a
long time!”
Then his cronies chimed in, “Yes, yes, this must be she!
She looks the same – her hands and feet and face and type of
dress. Yes, yes, this must be she!” They all kept saying how
amazing it was that her looks had changed so little in all that
The poor woman must have had a long lost son, for
soon she was convinced this must be he. She hugged the
king’s clever playboy, and both sobbed tears of joy over their
miraculous reunion.
In between bouts of sobbing, the man was able to ask
her, “Oh dear, dear mother, where are you living now?” “I
live next door,” she said, “in the royal priest’s mansion.
Night and day I serve his young woman. Her beauty is
without equal, like the mermaids sailors love to praise.”
He asked, “Where are you going now, mother?” “I’m
going shopping for her perfumes and cosmetics, my son.”
“There’s no need, mother,” he said, “from now on I will give
you the best perfumes and cosmetics free of charge!” So he
gave them to her, along with a bouquet of lovely flowers.
When the priest’s lady saw all these, much better
quality than usual, she asked why the priest was so happy
with her. “No, no,” said the serving woman, “these are not
from the priest. I got them at my son’s shop.” From then on
she got perfumes and cosmetics from the playboy’s shop, and
kept the priest’s money.
After a while the playboy began the next part of his
plan. He pretended to be sick and stayed in bed.
When the servant came to the shop she asked, “Where
is my son?” She was told he was too sick to work, and was
taken to see him. She began massaging his back and asked,
“What happened to you, my son?” He replied, “Even if I
were about to die, I couldn’t tell you, my mother.”
She continued, “If you can’t tell me, whom can you
tell?” Then, according to his plan, he broke down and
admitted to her, “I was fine until you told me about your
beautiful mistress – ‘like the mermaids sailors love to praise’.
Because of your description, I have fallen in love with her. I
must have her. I can’t live without her. I’m so depressed,
without her I’ll surely die!”
Then the woman said, “Don’t worry, my son, leave it
up to me.” She took even more perfumes and cosmetics to
the priest’s lady. She said to her, “My lady, after my son
heard from me about your beauty, he fell madly in love with
you! I don’t know what to do next!”
Since the priest was the only man she had ever seen, the
lady was curious. And of course she resented being locked up
by force. So she said, “If you can sneak him into my room,
it’s all right with me!”
Everything the servant took in and out was searched by
the women guards at the seven gates. So she had to have a
plan. She swept up all the dust and dirt she could find in the
whole mansion. Then she began taking some of it out each
day in a large covered flower basket. Whenever she was
searched, she made sure some of the dust and dirt got on the
guard women’s faces. This made them sneeze and cough.
Pretty soon they stopped searching her when she went in and
Finally one day she hid the playboy in her covered
flower basket. He was trim and fit, not heavy at all. She was
able to sneak him past all seven guarded gates, and into the
priest’s lady’s private chamber. The two lovers stayed
together for several days and nights. So the playboy was able
to destroy her perfect faithfulness, which had been forced on
her by the cold-hearted priest.
Eventually she told him it was time to go. He said, “I
will go. But first, since the old priest has been so mean to
you, let me give him one good blow to the head!” She agreed
and hid him in a closet. This too was part of his secret plan.
When the priest arrived, his lady said, “My lord and
master, I’m so happy today! I’d like to dance while you play
the guitar.”
The priest said, “Of course, my beauty.” “But I’m too
shy to dance in front of you,” she added, “so please wear this
blindfold while I dance.” Again he agreed to her request and
she put a blindfold over his eyes.⁸
The priest played a pretty tune on his complicated
Indian guitar, while his lady danced. After a bit she said, “As
part of my dance, won’t you let me give you a tap on the
head?” “As you wish, my dear,” he said.
Then she motioned to the playboy, who came out of the
closet, snuck up from behind, and hit the old priest on the
head! His eyes nearly popped out, and a bump began rising
from the blow. He cried out and the lady put her hand in his.
He said, “Such a soft hand sure can deliver a wallop, my
The playboy returned to the closet. The lady removed
the priest’s blindfold and put some ointment on his bump.
When he had left, the serving woman hid the playboy in her
flower basket and smuggled him out of the mansion. He went
immediately to the king and told him the whole story, in a
very boastful way of course.
The next day the royal priest went to the palace as
usual. The king said, “Shall we gamble on the throw of the
dice?” The priest, expecting to win once more, agreed. Just as
before, the king recited his lucky charm:
“If tempted any woman will, for sure,
Give up her faithfulness and act impure.”
As usual the priest added:
⁸ There is here a visual and verbal pun on the state of mental blindness
that the
minister imposed on the young girl, “andha-bhūta” of one of the alternate
titles of
this story referring both to this state and to being blindfolded.
“Except my woman – faithful evermore!”
But lo and behold the dice fell in the king’s favor and
he took the priest’s money.
The king said, “Oh priest, your woman is no exception!
True faithfulness cannot be forced! Your plan was to snatch a
newborn baby girl, lock her up behind seven gates guarded
by seven guards, and force her to be good. But you have
failed. Any prisoner’s greatest wish is freedom!
“She blindfolded you and then her playboy lover gave
you that bump on your old bald head – which proves your
gates and guards were useless!”
The priest returned home and accused his lady. But in
the meantime, she had come up with a plan of her own. She
said, “No, no, my lord, I have been completely faithful to
you. No man has ever touched me except you! And I will
prove it in a trial by fire. I will walk on fire without being
burned to prove I speak the truth.”
She ordered the old servant woman to fetch her son, the
playboy. She was to tell him to take the lady by the hand and
prevent her from stepping in the flames. This the woman did.
On the day of the trial by fire, the priest’s lady said to
the crowd of onlookers, “I have never been touched by any
man except this priest, my master. By this truth, may the fire
have no power over me.”
Then, just as she was about to step into the fire, the
playboy leaped from the crowd and grabbed her hand. He
shouted, “Stop! Stop! How can this priest be so cruel as to
force this tender young lady into a raging fire!”
She shook her hand free and said to the priest, “My
lord, since this man has touched my hand, the trial by fire is
useless. But you can see my good intention!”
The priest realized he had been tricked. He beat her as
he drove her away forever. At last she was free of him, and
mistress of her own fate.
The Buddha said:
“The king in those days was I who have become the
The moral: “You can’t force someone to be good.”

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