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Sasapaṇḍita Jātaka (No.316)

The Bodhisatta was once born as a hare. He lived with three friends: a monkey, a jackal, and an otter. The three lived in great friendship, and the hare was their guide in the good life. One day, the hare, observing the approach of the full-moon, told his friends that the next day would be a fast day and that they must collect food and give it to any beggar who approached them. The animals all went out very early in the morning, one by one; the otter found some fish buried in the sand; the jackal a dead lizard, some meat, and a pot of curds; and the monkey some fruits; and, finding that nobody appeared to claim them, each took them to his own dwelling. The hare had only kusa grass, which he could not offer to anyone. He therefore decided to give his own body, and, because of this brave decision, Sakka’s throne was heated. Disguised as a brahmin, he came to test the hare. He went first to the other animals in turn and they all offered him what they had. He then approached the hare, whom he asked for food. The hare asked him to collect faggots from the wood and make a fire. Then, telling the brahmin that he would give him his own body, without the brahmin having the necessity of killing him, he shook out any animals which might lurk in his fur, and then jumped into the fire as into a lotus-bed. By the power of Sakka, the fire remained as cool as snow, and Sakka revealed his identity. Then, so that the hare’s nobility might be known to all the world, he took some essence of the Himavā and painted the form of a hare in the moon, to remain there during this whole world-cycle. Having done this, he went to the hare and talked of the Dhamma, and then, making the hare lie down on his bed of grass, Sakka went back to his heaven.

The story was related in the course of giving thanks to a landowner of Sāvatthi who had entertained the Buddha and his monks for seven days. Ānanda is identified with the otter, Mahā-Moggallāna with the jackal, and Sāriputta with the monkey (J.iii.51‑6).

The story is included in the Cariyāpiṭaka (i.10) and in the Jātakamālā (No.6). It is also referred to in the Jayaddisa Jātaka (J.v.33). This Jātaka exemplifies the perfection of charity (dāna-pāramī). BuA.50.

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