Buddhism Simplified
Brief notes on Buddhist thought and practice
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The Prince's Compassion

Prince Siddhartha was so compassionate that even animals loved him. Perhaps it was because they sensed that he loved them.

Once, when he was playing, he saw some other boys hitting a snake. He confronted the boys and stopped them.

You may think that this was very unusual for a young boy. But remember, Buddhists believe that he had been cultivating compassion over many lifetimes.

There are many stories of the Buddha-to-be's previous births. They are written in a book called the Jataka Sutra.

In a famous Jataka story, the Bodhisattva (a kind of "Buddha in training") was also a prince. He and his brothers were playing in the woods, when he saw a mother tiger that had just given birth to seven cubs. She was so weak that she was dying, and her cubs were crying for food.

The Prince was filled with compassion. He wasn't able to just bring her something to eat, however; there was nothing available. So he sent his brothers away and did a very unusual thing. He gave his own body to the mother tiger as a meal! He sacrificed his own life for her.

But she was too weak to simply eat him as he was, so he cut his own throat, and lay where the mother tiger could drink his blood. This gave her enough strength to eat his flesh, and the mother tiger and her cubs were saved.

This is one of the many stories that demonstrate the extraordinary compassion that the young prince had developed in his previous lives.

  1. Would you save a snake if you saw someone hurting it? How about when you were a child?
  2. What do you think about the idea that the Buddha-to-be had "previous births"?
  3. What do you think of the Prince's sacrifice in the Jataka story? Why do you think the early monks told it?
Next time: Devadatta and the Swan

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