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Bhisa Jātaka (No.488)

Once the Bodhisatta was born into a family that had a fortune of eight hundred million. He was called Mahā Kañcana and had six younger brothers (the eldest of them being Upakañcana) and a sister, Kañcanadevi. None of them would marry, and, on the death of their parents, they distributed their wealth, and, together with a servant man and maid, they went into the Himavā and became ascetics, gathering wild fruits for food. Later, they agreed that Mahā Kañcana, Kañcanadevi and the maid should be spared the task of collecting fruit and that the others should do this in turn. Each day the fruits collected were divided into lots and the gong was sounded. The ascetics would then come one by one and take each his or her share. By the glory of their virtues, Sakka’s throne trembled. In order to test them, for three days in succession he caused Mahā Kañcana’s share to disappear. On the third day, Mahā Kañcana summoned the others and asked the reason for this. Each protested his innocence and swore an oath that heavy curses should attend them if any were guilty of stealing so much as a lotus stalk (bhisa). In each case punishment was to be that in their next birth they should have lands, possessions, and other encumbrances — which, from an ascetic’s point of view, would be a grievous thing. At this gathering were also present the chief deity of the forest, an elephant escaped from a stake, a monkey who had once belonged to a snake charmer, and Sakka, who remained invisible. At the end of their protestations of innocence, Sakka inquired of Mahā Kañcana why they all so dreaded possessions; on hearing the explanation, he was greatly moved and asked pardon of the ascetics for his trick.

The story was related in the same circumstances as the Kusa Jātaka (q.v.)

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