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Tales from Buddhist Traditions

Buddha
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Who Are You?

A Brahman priest once asked the Buddha: “Master, are you a deva [a god]?”
“No, Brahman, I am not a deva”, replied the Buddha.
“Are you a gandhabba [a kind of low-grade god; a celestial musician]?”
“No…”, said the Buddha.
“Perhaps you are… a yakkha [a kind of protector god, or sometimes a trickster spirit]?”
“No…”, he replied again.
“… a human being?” persisted the priest.
“No, Brahman, I am not a human being,” the Buddha answered.…
“Then what sort of being are you?…”
“Remember me, Brahman, as ‘awakened'” the Buddha finally told him.

translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


A Mother’s Sorrow

Mustard Seeds
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One day a young mother’s only child fell ill. Even as she was seeking help for him, the baby died. Yet, the mother refused to believe that her child was beyond help and she continued going from one person to the next asking them to do something for him.
When she saw the Buddha she ran to him and asked him to save her child.
He told her that her child would be saved if she could collect a single grain of mustard seed from the home of a family where no one had died.
The woman left him full of hope and hurried from house to house only to discover that no such home existed. All the families she spoke with told her the stories of how they had lost many of their members to death. Her heart heard their stories and she let herself be comforted by them.
Then she returned home, buried her child and slowly her pain changed form.
Only then did the woman seek out the Buddha once again. This time she told him how his kindness helped her accept the loss of her child.

– Traditional Buddhist Tale


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The Mosquito and the Carpenter

Once on a time when Brahmadatta was reigning in Benares, the Bodhisatta gained his livelihood as a trader. In these days in a border village in Kasi there dwelt a number of carpenters. And it chanced that one of them, a bald gray-haired man, was planing away at some wood with his head glistening like a copper bowl, when a mosquito settled on his scalp and stung him with its dart-like sting.
Said the carpenter to his son, who was seated hard by, “My boy, there’s a mosquito stinging me on the head. Do drive it away.”
“Hold still then father,” said the son. “One blow will settle it.”
(At that very time the Bodhisatta had reached that village in the way of trade, and was sitting in the carpenter’s shop.)
“Rid me of it!” cried the father.
“All right, father,” answered the son, who was behind the old man’s back, and, raising a sharp ax on high with intent to kill only the mosquito, he cleft his father’s head in two. So the old man fell dead on the spot.
Thought the Bodhisatta, who had been an eye witness of the whole scene:
“Better an enemy with sense, whose fear of vengeance deters from killing another.”
Then he recited these lines:
“Sense-lacking friends are worse than foes with sense;
Witness the son that sought the gnat to slay,
But cleft, poor fool, his father’s skull in two.”
So saying, the Bodhisatta rose up and went on his way. And as for the carpenter, his body was cremated by his kinsfolk.

Jataka Tales or Stories of the Buddha’s Former Lives